While passing through an airport, have you ever spied a door labeled "VIP Lounge"? Most major airports have such lounges, each usually tied to a particular airline. And behind their mysterious doors, you'll find perks such as comfy chairs, television, an open bar, a more upscale atmosphere, and more peace and quiet than the rest of the airport.
To qualify for entrance into these rooms, you generally either need to be flying first class on that airline, or to have paid an annual membership fee -- typically several hundred dollars. A recent BusinessWeek article stated that American Airlines, owned by AMR (NYSE: AMR ) , has 38 "Admirals Clubs" that charge $450 and up in annual fees.
If that price tag has you gasping, remember that it's only for one airline's lounges. If you travel on several carriers, and want VIP treatment from each, it will really cost you. But well-informed travelers can employ a service called Priority Pass, which offers customers unlimited entry into more than 500 lounges of many different airlines in 275 cities worldwide, all for a relatively inexpensive $400 per year. There are other pricing options, too, such as paying $99 per year, plus $24 per visit to any lounge.
If you're not interested in buying the pass, but you carry a Platinum or Centurion American Express (NYSE: AXP ) card, you'll be welcomed in the lounges of American, Delta (NYSE: DAL ) , Northwest (NYSE: NWA ) , and Continental (NYSE: CAL ) -- as long as you're flying that airline that day.
Find an agent
Here's another travel tip: Consider using the services of a travel agent. They typically cost you nothing, earning their reward in commissions from travel companies. Good ones can steer you toward good deals, along with offering valuable itinerary advice.
I've recently heard of, but haven't tried, the new tripology.com website, a matchmaking service for travelers and travel agents. It aims to hook you up with agents who specialize in your interests (cruises, hotels, flights, travel packages, tours, etc.). There's no charge for the service, so why not give it a whirl? VIP treatment could be closer, and more affordable, than you think.