How to get into airport lounges without spending a ton of money

Spending time at the airport is not an idea of ​​a relaxing vacation, but it is nevertheless a necessity if you want to reach many far-flung travel destinations.

To make the experience of air travel a little less hectic and stressful, many travelers flock to airport lounges for a drink, a bite to eat, or a moment of rest before takeoff. Many of these exclusive spaces have become destinations in their own right, such as the new Delta Sky Club at Los Angeles International Airport and United Club at Newark Liberty International Airport.

"Airport lounges can be a great oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the terminal," said Zach Griff, senior reporter at The dot guy, told HuffPost. "While historically these outposts were restricted to members paying an annual fee, most lounges are now accessible to a variety of travelers."

That’s because you don’t need to splurge on an annual lounge membership or an expensive premium cabin ticket to enjoy the comforts and conveniences of an airport lounge. Below, Griff and other travel experts share their tips for getting into the lounge without stretching your budget.

Get a travel credit card

“Some premium credit cards may allow you access to the lounge, without the need to pay for an annual lounge subscription,” Griff said. "American Express offers a collection of lounges, some under the Centurion Lounges brand and others as affiliates, such as the Escape Lounge network and Delta Sky Clubs, that allow travelers to access these spaces without additional payment. ."

Many travelers opt for airline-branded credit cards, which offer free or discounted access to those specific airlines' lounges (in addition to other perks like extra miles). The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card and various Delta SkyMiles cards are popular examples. Still others, as Griff noted, prefer non-airline-specific travel reward cards that provide access to additional lounge options, like Centurion Lounges.

"I own the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, which gives me a free Priority Pass Select membership, giving me access to over 1,300 airport lounges around the world," said one travel blogger. Sean Lau.

The American Express Platinum Card is another popular choice for travelers, as it includes access to more than 1,400 lounges, including Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass Lounges, and Delta Sky Clubs (when flying with Delta). The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass card also includes Priority Pass access, but is limited to 10 free visits.

The Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport.

John Parra via Getty Images

The Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport.

"The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card provides unlimited access to all-inclusive amenities at Capital One Lounge and more than 1,300 Priority Pass lounges worldwide," noted the budgeting expert. Andrea Woroch. "And the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard includes Admirals Club membership for you and access for up to two guests or immediate family members traveling with you."

To determine the best travel rewards card for you, review the various benefits you’ll receive in addition to lounge access. Keep in mind that these cards tend to come with fairly high annual fees, so you’ll need to take that into account as well.

"I can justify the cost because I’m getting the maximum value from my American Express Platinum Card," said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The vacationer. "While its $695 annual fee is steep, lounge access, 5x points earned on flights, $200 per year Uber Cash, and a variety of other travel-related credits more than cover the cost."

Buy a single pass

Many airlines offer day passes for their lounges. All you need to do is travel with that particular airline and be prepared to pay a fee.

“Note that these are subject to capacity restrictions and can climb to $100 or more,” Griff said.

Still, it’s worth weighing the costs and benefits when facing a long layover or major delay, especially if you plan to eat during that time. You can also find very reasonable prices depending on the airport.

"Outside of the US, I’ve found lounges to be very inexpensive for day-to-day use," said Ravi Rothhost of "The Gaycation Travel Fair.” "During my last layover in Nairobi, Kenya, the Jomo Kenyatta airport lounge was only $30 for the day. That’s the price of a sandwich, snack and drink. For Me, it’s a victory!"

You can also find discounted airport lounge passes on websites such as let’s group.

To purchase a one-time pass, however, your best bet is to head straight to the lounge and inquire at the check-in counter. Not all lounges offer single-visit passes, and some might temporarily restrict them to avoid overcrowding. So if you go straight to the source, you won’t be wasting your money paying for access but not being able to enter due to capacity restrictions.

Go as a guest

Another way to get into an airport lounge without spending a lot of money is to travel with someone who has access.

“My favorite lounge is the Centurion Lounge at American Express. My American Express Platinum Card gives me and two guests free access to the entire Centurion Lounge Collection in the United States and around the world,” Dengler said.

Eligible AmEx cardholders may bring two guests into the Centurion Lounge (at least until February 1, 2023, when those who spend less than $75,000 in card purchases per year will be charged $50 per guest). Travelers with access to other types of lounges — like airline-specific clubs or Priority Pass lounges — can often bring their immediate family or other guests for free or at least a lower price.

Guest guidelines may vary depending on lounge type, capacity and reason for access (credit cards vs. paid memberships, etc.). Research the rules and don’t assume you can enter any room with your friend who has access.

If they can get you in for free, though, that’s a win-win. You enjoy the conveniences and they feel more justified in their choice of membership or credit card.

"Each year, I would estimate that I receive over $1,000 worth of free food and drink at Centurion Lounges for myself and my guests," Dengler noted.

Airport lounge guest passes can be a great way to save money if you're traveling with someone.
Airport lounge guest passes can be a great way to save money if you’re traveling with someone.

Use LoungeBuddy

"Consider using LoungeBuddya reservation service that allows you to purchase lounge access regardless of your ticket class or elite status,” said Stephanie Be, travel blogger and founder of the travel website. Buena.

Downloading the LoungeBuddy app is an easy and free way to see which lounges are available to you on any given day.

"You can enter any criteria that could potentially get you into the airport, such as being a certain credit card holder, a loyalty member of a relevant program, being on active duty in the U.S. military, or if you have airline status that would allow you airport lounge access,” the travel blogger said. Esther Susag. “Then you can enter your flight and it will show all the lounges you would have access to, as well as any that you can pay to use out of pocket. ”

Although you often have to pay to enter the lounge, LoungeBuddy can help you compare your options and streamline the process.

Request free access

Of course, lounges have specific guidelines that limit admission to paying members, travelers traveling in premium cabins, holders of certain credit cards, and those who meet other criteria. But certain circumstances can open access to others.

“If you are experiencing significant travel delays and are stuck at an airport due to aircraft or crew issues, ask customer service if they can give you free lounge access while you wait,” suggested Woroch. "It doesn’t hurt to ask!"

However you enter an airport lounge, try to stay informed about the different rules and amenities.

"If you’re considering using lounge access, do your research beforehand because there are different types of airport lounges with different access specifications," Susag said. “Some limit the number of uses per year, while others are unlimited. Also, if you are going to use an airport lounge, make sure you arrive at the airport early enough to take advantage of it!

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