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Note: All travel is subject to frequently changing governmental restrictions—please check federal, state and local advisories before scheduling trips. This post was updated July 20, 2020.

You might find that you have some of your 2020 travel budget leftover this year, due to spring travel restrictions. So if you do plan on traveling soon, why not make your travel experience even better and more enjoyable by treating yourself to a few travel upgrades? Luckily, the added comforts that come with upgrading your travel experience don’t have to completely destroy that budget surplus. So if you’re ready to travel, and ready to splurge just a little, here are some tips on how to improve your next vacation or trip for a lot less than you’d think.

RELATED: 11 crazy things only Orbitz Rewards members will understand

Try the “$20 trick” at hotels 

Flickr CC: John Rogers

This trick could be more effective than ever, due to low-occupancy rates. And while this $20 hotel room upgrade hack is not without controversy, you don’t have much to lose. Here’s how it goes: When you’re at the front desk of the hotel ready to check-in, slip a $20 bill when giving the front desk associate your credit card and ID. As you do this, ask if there are any complimentary room upgrades available. You may get the room upgrade that you’ve been dreaming of experiencing! This is a tactic that seasoned travelers tend to use, mostly in Las Vegas, but it’s worth a try while visiting other destinations. 

Upgrade your hotel experience with a rewards programs 

If you’re an Orbitz Rewards Platinum member (which you should be—it’s free to join!), enjoy extras when you book select hotels through Orbitz. Just look for properties marked “VIP Access” in your hotel search results. Perks vary by hotel, but they can include welcome gifts, free parking, complimentary food and drinks, or room upgrades. Taking advantage of your Platinum membership perks is a great way to upgrade your travel, so that you can feel like royalty!

Book the smallest car you’re willing to drive—and then hope for more

Most people choose the cheapest economy car, so basic vehicles are actually the ones in the highest demand. Often, car rental agencies will run out of them and then be forced to upgrade you to a mid-size or larger vehicle. If they don’t, ask—car rental agencies are usually wiling to be flexible, especially to loyal and very polite customers.

Get access to TSA Pre✓® for FREE

Flickr CC: albedo20

TSA Pre✓® will get you through airport security a lot faster—which could make or break your travel plans. Why not speed up the process if you can? There are a couple of ways in which you can get access to TSA Pre✓ for free! If you have a travel or business credit card, it may cover the application cost, which is otherwise $85 for a five-year membership. Another way you can get this for free is by using your Orbitz Rewards Platinum membership perks; you only have to stay 12 room nights annually to reach Platinum status!

Choose destinations that are experiencing their down season

If you’re planning a getaway, it may be wise to visit a destination where there are fewer crowds (like Las Vegas which is typically dirt cheap in December). Besides having more space to yourself and shorter wait times at area attractions, you’ll also likely get better service from hotel staff, since you won’t be competing with other travelers for their attention! But the real win is that you have a much better chance at landing a complimentary upgrade, since so many rooms will be unoccupied.

Book a club level hotel room

Flickr CC: s.yume

If you’re looking for another way to experience added comforts while on your trip, consider booking a club level room when you make your hotel reservations. These rooms often only cost a bit more, but they come loaded with perks! Hotels frequently dedicate a whole floor of their property to these rooms. They may come with a private workout area, free meals and snacks, and bigger, more comfortable rooms. Check into the details of your hotel before booking to see what their club level rooms offer, but this is a simple way to enjoy a more VIP experience for a little extra cost.

Snag an airport lounge pass and relax before your flight 

Flickr CC: MIKI Yoshihito

If you’re someone who has been desperately trying to avoid crowds these past few months, you’ll want to buy an airport lounge pass! With this pass, you can relax in a more private part of the airport without all the crowds. Plus, you can enjoy drinks, snacks and comfy seating. And access is much easier than you’d think. To buy a single lounge pass, check out a websites like LoungeBuddy; it takes only seconds to get one. Also, be sure to check your credit card perks: Many travel or business branded credit cards include access to a lounge membership program like Priority Pass, or offer several free day passes. If you haven’t yet activated this feature of your credit card, do so before your trip!

Bid your way to a first-class seat 

When you’re ready and able to travel internationally again, keep this trick in mind. It comes in handy when you’re really, really trying to avoid getting stuck in the middle seat while flying coach. If you want to experience first-class travel, try bidding on a first-class seat. Many airlines like Icelandair, TAP Portugal and Hawaiian Airlines offer this opportunity once you purchase a coach ticket. Just set your max bid price, and if you’re chosen for an upgrade, you’ll be billed for the winning bid amount. Talk about an easy way to get an upgrade! 

Stay loyal to a single airline

Choosing your flight solely by price might not always be the best approach. Being loyal to a single airline not only increases your chances of actually earning enough miles to cash in on a trip, but also gives you much more negotiating power, should you need a favor like a waived change fee or even an upgrade. Plus, if you go all in with a single airline like American or United and get their branded credit cards, you can earn miles on every day purchases, and will likely enjoy card perks like a free checked bag or the aforementioned lounge passes. And don’t forget: At, you can always earn your airline miles on top of your Orbitz Rewards travel dollars!

Travel during these times doesn’t have to be all stress, all the time. You can have an enjoyable trip by finding small ways to upgrade your travel experience!

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Tagged: Feature

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Natasha Gabrielle
Natasha is a freelance writer, blogger and traveler. After spending the last 2 years living and working in South Korea, she continues to travel the world and document her adventures at
Natasha Gabrielle

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