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When you travel, it seems you’re endlessly barraged with a choice of upgrades you’re encouraged to spend extra money on. This may include everything from pre-choosing your seats on flights to upgrading to a better hotel room or springing for fast passes at a theme park. With so many options to spend more money to presumably get something more, how do you know when an upgrade is actually worth it? We consulted the experts to find out.

RELATED: How to bid on a First Class upgrade—and win

Tasty meal served on board of airplane on the table

Indulging in a First Class flight upgrade

Everyone has that dream of taking a Business or even First Class flight but those premier cabin tickets don’t come cheap. “We don’t believe there is a situation—unless you’re uber well off, of course—where handing over the cash for a Business or First Class flight is worth the dollars,” says blogger Jeff Miller of This is especially true of shorter domestic flights where you might not even benefit from a premium meal or need the added leg space. But if you are eying an upgrade, there are ways smarter travelers can experience those $5,000 airfares for just a few hundred dollars. “Choosing the right credit card can reap sign-on bonuses and ongoing earn [of miles],” says Miller. “First Class is as opulent as people think, and doesn’t need a whole lot of cash to make it a reality.” Airlines also sometimes offer day-of upgrades at the ticket counter for long-haul flights. “These are typically offered if economy is oversold or business class is lightly sold,” says travel writer Ramsey Qubein of DailyTravelTips on Instagram. Most airlines allow you to pay with miles or your credit card. “Sometimes these can be as low as a few hundred dollars, which is definitely worth it when compared to the actual cost of the ticket,” he says.

Verdict: If you’re booked on a long flight and can get the upgrade using your miles or by paying just a few hundred dollars more, do it!

Choosing a seat on a flight

There’s nothing worse than getting a bad seat on your flight (hello, middle seat in that last row that doesn’t recline), so paying up to choose your seat, especially on longer flights, is generally a good move. “Use the website SeatGuru to see seat reviews by past travelers specific to your aircraft configuration, and then choose the best one,” says Jordan Bishop, founder of the travel points blog Yore Oyster and editor at How I Travel. Alternatively, ask for an exit row seat when you check in at the airport—they’ve got extra leg room!

Verdict: If you’re trying to sit together with friends and family, and you’re on  a longer flight, paying a little extra to choose your seats is usually worth it.

Snagging a room with a view

If you’re vacationing in a naturally beautiful setting like a beach or the mountains, or somewhere with really unforgettable scenery like Manhattan or Las Vegas, the extra cost for the better vista is completely worth it—where else in town can you get such amazing birds-eye views, after all? “You likely won’t miss the extra $50 or $75 for the room with a view, but you’ll definitely regret not splurging for it,” says Bishop. Warning: Not all Vegas view rooms are created equal. Do some online research first as some so-called Strip view rooms hardly offer a Strip view at all. One spot to check out (and get a room with a view) is the newly revamped Las Vegas Palms Casino Resort which sits off Strip and thus offers expansive views.

Verdict: If you’re visiting a city or natural setting with great views, it’s worth ponying up to enjoy them from the comfort of your room!

Rear view of tourist in the hotel room pulling the curtains to see the view

Springing for club level at your hotel

Hotels often offer upgrades to their club level (think VIP floor) at check-in, which can be a good bargain because the difference may be cheaper than if you had paid for a club level room outright. “Consider what is important to you,” says Quebin. “If you are overseas, most club levels offer comped drinks so if you are going to have a few in the bar, a club lounge may be worth it, considering it tacks on breakfast and a few other preferred services usually.” Club levels may also come with other perks like better views, free WiFi, gifts like fruit baskets, or added services like packing and unpacking.

Verdict: It’s usually worth it if you have the time to take advantage of the freebies that come with.

Padding the maitre d’

This upgrade is becoming less relevant, as even supremely luxurious and romantic dining destinations are eliminating the position of maitre d’. However, if you do encounter a maitre d’ while dining out, a tip could help you snag the best table in the house—maybe in a secluded spot off to the side or near a fountain, garden or great view. A tip could also help you smooth over special requests like adding unexpected guests to your reservation. “If you’re a visitor in a city, or you don’t return to that particular restaurant often, slipping a $20 bill (or a $50 bill, if it’s a really nice place) is a totally legitimate way to get a better table or some special treatment for the night,” says Bishop. “It’s very rare for someone to accept the tip without offering something in return, so it generally works out in your favor.”

Verdict: If you’re out for a special occasion or are looking to really impress your dining companion with a great table, the extra money is worth the added tip.

ALSO: Here’s one that is definitely worth it—join Orbitz Reward for free and travel your way to TSA Pre✓and other travel perks!

Cocktails by the pool with beach in the background. There are sun lounges with towels. The drinks are Pina coladas with fruit. Copy space (Cocktails by the pool with beach in the background. There are sun lounges with towels. The drinks are Pina colad

Getting add-ons at all-inclusive resorts

If you’ve ever booked an all-inclusive resort, you probably know that they are, ironically, rarely all-inclusive. As soon as you reach the end of the booking process, you’re presented with a host of add-on options, ranging from airport transfers to water sports. “In this case, the value of the add-ons depends on your plans,” says Jenny Smith, a former travel agent and now travel blogger and founder of How To Move To New Zealand. For example, if your only goal is to sip cocktails and lounge by the pool, don’t bother buying package extras. “If there’s something you’ve been dying to do, however, go ahead and splurge — you’ll have even more fun, and you don’t have to live with the regret of missing out,” says Smith. In other cases, it’s all about priorities: Foodies should definitely splurge on the upgraded restaurant options, while adventurous types might want to spend their extra dollars on excursions—though it’s always worth checking if the latter can be booked for a better price independently.

Verdict: Depends. Research things like excursions to see if you can book something better and cheaper on your own.

Happy family having fun in an amusement park riding on a fun water ride - lifestyle concepts

Purchasing “skip the line” passes

“It’s the most important investment of your life,” says travel editor Bryce Gruber of The Luxury Spot, who is also a mom of 5 young children. “Imagine you spent thousands on airfare, probably thousands more on rooms and food, and by the time you get to the theme park—the whole point of your trip—you spend the entire time hot, sweaty and wondering how much longer you can endure screaming kids,” she says. Skipping the line is basically trip insurance. For example, with the Disney FastPass, you can schedule a time to go on each ride. During peak times, the regular lines can be 2 hours long; with the FastPass, you can schedule your ride time and save more than an hour of waiting.

Verdict: Worth it. Especially with little kids who don’t have the patience for spending hours in line. Plus, at the end of the day, you’re getting more thrills and more rides for your money, and isn’t that why you’re at the park in the first place?

Lodz, Poland - 26th April, 2016: Colorful and modern cars parked on the public parking on the street. Often find a free parking place in the city center is a very difficult.


Paying for a rental car upgrade

So you’ve booked your car and the attendant  behind the desk offers to upgrade you for a few dollars more—decline! It’s not in your best interests. “In our experience, this hasn’t necessarily resulted in a better vehicle. In fact, in one experience, they didn’t have a vehicle in our category (compact), tried to get us to pay for an upgrade and then we ended up with an intermediate vehicle at no extra cost anyhow since they had no compacts left,” says Miller. “They’ll always try and get an extra dollar out of you at the desk. If you were comfortable with what you booked online when you were on top of your budget and making a rational, conscious decision, stick with it,” says Miller.

Verdict: Don’t! If the rental company doesn’t have the smaller car you reserved, you’ll get a free upgrade anyway.

Close up of cruise ship balconies

Splurging for a balcony on a cruise

Whether you get that balcony room is really based on how and where you’re cruising. Consider the scenery you’ll be passing, and if you’ll be spending most of your daylight hours on land or out to sea. If you are in the right setting and the timing works, go for it. “Splurging  on a balcony or suite on a ship is completely worth it,” says travel journalist Lisa Niver of We Said Go Travel, who worked onboard Princess, Royal Caribbean and Renaissance Cruises for seven years. “In Alaska, you have private viewing of whales and glaciers from your room. If you are on a river cruise, you can see the mountains along the shoreline in your bathrobe while having your breakfast on your private balcony,” she says. “It is more space and privacy—I love it. I always tell people book the room that will make you happy,” says Niver.

Verdict: If the cruise is going to spend a lot of time near a shoreline and offer great views, it’s worth the upgrade.

Buying the drink package on a cruise

Since cruise lines often limit (or completely prohibit) guests from bringing alcohol on board, a drink package might seem like an economical choice for heavy tipplers, says Quebin. Packages also let you pay once, so you don’t have to pay up every time you want a drink. But be sure to do the math first: Cruise drink packages are generally not worth it unless you drink quite a bit, says Quebin. “Take a look at the menu prices before deciding.” Many cruise lines give you a few days to make the decision of whether to tack on the drink package.

Verdict: While the convenience of a drink package is nice, unless you’re a true booze hound, it may not be worth it.

Springing for travel insurance

Extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes are becoming more and more common, so the chances of having to cancel your vacation as a result of an “act of God” are on the rise, too. But unlike European travelers who see trip insurance as an essential purchase, many Americans think of it as a nice-to-have. Beyond natural disasters, “Travel insurance can protect you in the event of a medical emergency, a missed flight, lost, stolen or damaged baggage, and even reimburse you at least 75% of the nonrefundable trip costs if you cancel for any reason,” says  25-year travel industry veteran and Seven Corners CEO Justin Tysdal. The key things to consider are your health (what are the chances you’ll get sick and have to cancel), your own health insurance policy (many already cover you while abroad), and how prone your destination is to disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and political unrest. If you do decide you’re a good candidate for travel insurance and plan to travel more than twice in 2019, consider purchasing an annual travel insurance policy. “Annual travel insurance policies protect holders providing up to $1,000,000 of comprehensive medical coverage for travel outside of your home country, along with an extensive network of providers and 24-hour travel assistance,” says Tysdal.

Verdict: If you’ve booked a pricey trip with non-refundable flights and hotels, are traveling to a disaster-prone area or are prone to illness, then do it. If not, you probably don’t need it.

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