5 tricks for traveling first class on an economy budget

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There’s no better feeling than setting your out of office reply, packing your bag and setting off to explore a new city … except when you get to do it style, traveling in luxury with first class seats, fancy accommodations and five-star food. While these perks tend to carry a hefty price tag, it is possible to experience them without racking up your credit card bill. We tapped travel experts for their tricks of the trade for upgrading your travel experience on a budget.

FIRST THINGS FIRST: BOOK SMART

Where you decide to go — and what time of year you plan to do it — can make all the difference in how much your trip costs. When it comes to keeping the price down (and having more money to spend on dining and activities), being flexible is key. Since plane tickets often make up a large chunk of the cost of a trip, be flexible with time of year, travel dates and locations, and utilize alerts to snag flights when prices dip. Considering off-season travel can also get you plane tickets and hotels at much lower prices — meaning that bump up to a first-class ticket or a reservation at a five-star hotel may be more attainable.

RENT AN APARTMENT OR HOUSE INSTEAD OF A HOTEL

When it comes to accommodations, thinking outside of the box can lead to some pretty posh digs. Traditionally, we tend to stay in hotels when we travel, whether it be an all-inclusive resort or a boutique hotel. But home-share options like VRBO and Airbnb are becoming more and more popular, and they aren’t only good for snagging cheap rooms and apartments. These sites list luxury properties are vetted and reviewed by past consumers and give you all the amenities of a five-star hotel and then some.

GO TO THE AIRPORT LOUNGE

If you find yourself at the airport for an extended layover, delay or cancellation, you should consider going to the lounge. Contrary to popular belief, they’re not just for first class ticket holders and frequent flyers. Instead of spending hours roaming the airport in search of overpriced meals and sitting in the uncomfortable chairs at the gate, hanging out in the lounge gives you access to free food, WiFi, comfortable seating, and in some places, a place to sleep, shower and formally dine.

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