VIP Travel Tips: Shared Private Flights, Airpass and More!
Traveling can be a hassle, however there are services out there that can make the journey more enjoyable for the person you support. Flying private is an easy answer, but not everyone is able to or wants to pay what it costs to charter a private plane or buy their own.
Here are some travel services that can help your principal have a more enjoyable travel experience and feel like the VIP they are.
Shared Private Flights
Commercial flights are a pain, and even first class is starting to feel a bit less that these days. Now there are actually shared private flights that can make travel more enjoyable such as Rise and SurfAir. Both of these programs allow for unlimited flying and there are no fees for flight changes. They also have private terminals and wonderful concierge teams. Although these companies do not fly all over the country at the moment, keep an eye on them as plans for expanding locations are on the horizon.
The Airpass program is great if the person you support is constantly booking last minute first class flights, or is constantly making changes. How it works is you buy at least $10,000 in credits from American Airlines towards the program for a one-year period and are able to book flights at a set rate. There's something called a "y-up" fare, which allows you to purchase an economy ticket and get an upgrade to first class if there's availability. I like how easy and quick it is to book the flights, that there always seems to be y-up flights available, how fantastic the customer service is and how painless it is to make a flight change.
Expedited Security Lines
There are several programs that allow for expedited security lines at commercial airports. I highly recommend making sure your principal has a Known Traveler ID for domestic travel in order to breeze through security, but there are others as well, such as Clear and Global Entry. If you need to choose just one for your principal and if he/she regularly does both domestic and international travel, look into Global Entry; it gives expedited security when returning from international trips as well as access to TSA Precheck.
VIP Customs Concierge
Many international airports offer VIP customs concierge services which can make arrivals and departures less of a hassle. If you are using a travel agent, be sure to ask them if this is an option or you can research the airport to see if it is offered there. Sometimes it saves time and sometimes it just allows for the person you support to not heave to deal with lines themselves, but either way, it is a more relaxing option.
First Class Airport Lounges
Sometimes your principal might not be on a first class flight, however they still can get access to first class lounges through a day pass or through Priority Pass. With Priority Pass you choose a membership level and pay an annual fee for access to a variety of lounges, making the wait for a flight a little bit more comfortable. If your principal already has an elite status on an airline, then they might be entitled to access without having first class tickets purchased, so I recommend checking on that. Also, some credit cards such as AMEX Centurion provide this as a perk so check to see if your principal already has that as well.
There are websites which have reviews of airport lounges if you wish to look into the quality. Two websites I recommend are Skytrax and Loungeguide.net. Some airports actually have several lounges for same the same airline, so it can help save your principal time knowing exactly which one you recommend as the best.
Door to door luggage shipping is a nice convenience, especially if your principal will be traveling with heavy and/or bulky items (ex: bicycle, kayak, etc.). I have used Luggage Forward and Luggage Free and both have been great; I recommend picking one of those companies based on the quoted total cost. They both offer international shipping, bookings are easy and customer service is very helpful.
There are so many car service companies out there and you might have some a great go-to's for your principal's usual locations, but for new places, especially when it comes to international travel, Blacklane is a great option to keep handy. In my experience, the drivers are professional and reliable and the rates are the best I've found in a global car service company. The only downside is that sometimes you don't get a driver assigned until closer to the pickup date, but when you are shopping around for a company to use in a new location, this is a great one to add to your bookmarks.
If your principal needs to rent a car in the US, Silvercar really takes the hassle out of the whole rental experience. There's no lines and no paperwork; the biggest hassle is downloading the app. They always get a comfortable A4, which is great since it cuts down on decisions.
If the accommodations your principal is staying at includes concierge service, I wanted to point out a few great ways to utilize their services. The below list is from an article in the Art of Manliness:
Get a replacement toothbrush/comb/razor
Offer restaurant recommendations, as well as book and confirm reservations
Call a taxi
Offer advice on attractions and museums to visit, and even procure tickets
Give tips on which attractions/exhibits may be temporarily closed
Dispense advice on what areas/times there will likely be traffic
Execute a super romantic date
Help attain a replacement passport if one is lost
Keep in mind that the concierge team can start helping hotel guests (or their assistants) upon booking, so don't hesitate to reach out before your principal is checked in. One time I had the concierge at a major hotel receive several shipments in advance of my principal's stay, store then until his arrival, ensure the items in the packages were laid out nicely in his room before he arrived and I even had them put up a few decorations that were in one of the boxes.
Grocery Pre-Stock Service
Some hotels and vacation rentals (especially villa rentals) offer the option to have groceries pre-stocked in your accommodation upon arrival. It's always nice to come "home" after a long day of travel to a well-stocked fridge containing all of your favorite foods, and chances are your principal feels the same. This is something you could connect with the concierge about, however if the hotel or rental doesn't offer that service through them, do a little research and see if there's a local service that can provide that service. You could even take advantage of the myriad of delivery apps that are available these days (ex: Instacart, GetMe, Postmates, etc.) and work with the concierge to arrange delivery. Another alternative would be to hire a one-time errand runner through a site such as TaskRabbit to complete the task in full.
If your principal is staying somewhere with a decent kitchen, you could offer to hire a private chef if you think they would enjoy staying eating in at some point in their stay. This is a great opportunity to utilize the concierge if that's a resource, but now there are all sorts of websites that make searching and hiring one a snap, such as HireAChef.com and Personal Chef Search.
If you are booking an international trip and want to ensure top quality, do research to find a top travel agent. It's always great to start by searching on top travel sites, such as Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, but I do recommend using an agent that is part of the Virtuoso network if you want to ensure they can pull strings to help you book seemingly impossible, extravagant trips (ex: closing down the Roman Colosseum for a private showing).
I want to close with knowing preferences. Knowing if your principal prefers an aisle seat, needs the concierge to provide printed boarding passes before a flight or has dietary preferences which should be noted on pre-ordered in-flight meals can make or break their mood. Similarly, if there's something they might need to remember to pack in order to ensure more comfortable travel (ex: earplugs for an overnight flight), be sure to remind them or add that item to a travel checklist. Making travel as personalized as possible will make your principal feel more comfortable and will really top off their VIP experience.
What are your favorite travel resources? Please share in the comments below!