You don’t have to be a million-miler with status on every airline to gain access to those bastions of airport tranquility. Remind the kids to be on their best behavior–lounges are a quiet respite for travelers–and get into an airport lounge with our insider tips.
1. Shop Around for the Best Credit Card Privileges for You
Various airline credit cards and others, too, offer ways to gain annual lounge access or at least gift members with a few day passes per year. When you sign up for a credit card, be sure to inquire what, if any, airport lounge benefits are included, so you can weigh your options. As a general rule, the higher the annual fee, the more perks you’ll get. If you travel frequently enough, it can actually be worth paying the $500 annual fee for a credit card that gets you lounge access all over the world for the whole family.
The AAdvantage Exec World Elite MasterCard, for example, has an annual fee of $450, but gets you and your family members, plus up to two guests, complimentary lounge access at American Airlines lounges and reciprocal lounges across the globe.
When you bite the bullet and fork over the $450 annual fee for the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, one of the best ones out there for frequent travelers, you get a complimentary subscription to Priority Pass, which includes access to over 1,200 airport lounges around the world. And the American Express Platinum card ($550 annual fee) gets members access to some 1,300 global airport lounges, including Centurion Lounges, the most luxurious lounges in U.S. airports.
2. Purchase Annual Lounge Access From the Airline
The most straight-forward, no-credit-card-necessary way to guarantee lounge access is to pay for it directly with the airline of your choosing. Annual lounge memberships aren’t cheap, but they can be worth it depending on how often you fly. Usually, the higher your status with any particular airline, the lower the buy-in will be for that airline’s lounge pass. With that in mind, advises frequent flier, Valerie Joy Wilson of Trusted Travel Girl: “When you have a standing airline status, you often buy in at a lower fee, so if you are about to hit a new status tier (with an airline’s loyalty program), you may want to hold off on purchasing lounge access until you do.”
3. Buy a Day Pass
Travelers flying in business class or first class are almost always given access to the airline’s (or a partner’s) lounge. And for families traveling in coach, purchasing a day pass at lounges is sometimes an attractive option, especially on long layovers. Prices generally range from around $45 to $60 per day at most airport lounges, and while it costs more than hitting an airport restaurant, lounges come with more perks than just complimentary food. There are usually onsite showers you can use at no fee, as well as quiet nooks for sleeping and working. And for paying parents traveling with dependents under the ages of 21, complimentary club access is usually provided for your kids.
4. Just Ask
It might be frowned upon, but it’s hardly illegal for a lounge member to bring a guest they don’t know.
“At the risk of pointing out the obvious, lounge access isn’t exactly a high-security area. Just ask someone who is about to go in to be their guest,” says Laura Longwell of the travel blog, Travel Addicts, “Travelers with lounge access can bring a guest in with them and if someone is traveling alone, they will usually say yes.” While that doesn’t bode well for a family hanging outside an airport lounge, looking to ride in on another lounge member’s coattails, it can be a handy trick worth trying–especially for parents traveling solo or with an infant. Of course, it helps to be polite and neatly dressed when asking a stranger if you can be their plus-one. After all, you’re more or less representing the person who says yes to letting you come in with them, and if you come off as well-mannered and polite, you’re more likely to get the green light.
5. Be App-Savvy
Frequent traveler Nick Brennan of My UK Sim Card recommends joining the Facebook group, Be My Guest, an “airport lounge sharing community,” where air travelers in the U.S. and abroad can let other members know which lounge they are about to access in case somebody who’s at the same airport wants to join as a guest. And Brennan also points to the LoungeBuddy as a great app to download before you travel. It has comprehensive information about which lounge passes are available in airports around the world, with price information for day passes, user reviews, hours and amenities, among a slew of other useful information.