≡ Menu

Cost effective first class travel

I’m going to let you in on a few secrets.

I’ve learned through a great deal of experience over the last several years about travel.  People often ask me about my travel habits because I do so much of it… and one of the common questions I get is “How much do you spend each year on travel???”

Honestly… quite a bit. But I recognize that my travel breadth and frequency is abnormal.  Also, as a sharp investor myself, I detest needlessly squandering money… and as such I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way for paying substantially less than everyone else, and to me, that’s like buying an undervalued stock.

The truth is, you don’t need to blow a lot of money to travel well and see the world.  And as I happen to be sitting on a plane as I write this having just enjoyed a nice nap, a great meal, and an endless supply of Tuscan wine, I’d like to share a little-known tip for flying well:

For long-haul international flights, economy seating can simply be too painful… a lot of airlines are now offering substantial discounts on business class fares (a few weeks ago I mentioned Finn Air’s roundtrip from JFK to Helsinki for under $2,000), but there are some even better deals out there:

American Airlines is one of the largest carriers in the world and part of the well-established “Oneworld Alliance” that has routes and hubs on every continent.   Each year, as a reward for its most valuable customers, the airline bestows 8 system-wide vouchers that can be used to upgrade any flight.

The vouchers are only good for one year, and if unused, they expire.  Most of these elite passengers who are granted the upgrade vouchers do not use all of them, and in order to make a few extra bucks, they post them for sale on eBay or Craigslist.

The average price range is around $200, which covers the cost of a 1-way upgrade to business class from economy.

Here’s how you do it (this works for American Airlines but other airlines have similar programs):

1) Find a potential supplier on eBay or Craigslist; you can even google “American Airlines upgrade site:craigslist.org [or ebay.com]”  You will have to search around for a bit, but they’re out there, especially towards the end of the year.

2) Once you find a willing seller, plan your itinerary online… say you want to go from Chicago to Mumbai and back. Pick a few dates, then put the itineraries on HOLD. Do not purchase yet.

3) CALL the airline (1-800-433-7300) and ask the agent the following question: “I have a friend who wants to let me use his VIP upgrade—is there upgrade availability for my flight?”

If the answer is yes, buy the ticket that you have on hold and write down the 6-character confirmation number.

4) Notify the person that you purchased the upgrade from to call the airline immediately and request the upgrade on your behalf. You will have to supply him with the confirmation number.

It’s important to note that this tactic is technically a violation of airline policy.  Frankly I don’t really care, just be sure that you don’t call the airline and say something like “Hey I just bought an upgrade from some guy I never met on eBay…” because they will not honor the upgrade.

So… for the additional price of about $400 roundtrip, you can be up front in the lay-flat seat snoozing away the entire trip.  To me, that’s well worth the price of admission.

** Disclaimer: the last time I did this was several months ago, and as airlines are constantly changing their policies, make sure you execute step 3 before you buy.

I’ll be sharing more specific tactics I use to travel well (and inexpensively) in future articles, but I’d really like to hear from you.   If you like this topic, let me know and share your personal tactics to high quality, low cost travel.

Our goal is simple: To help you achieve personal liberty and financial prosperity no matter what happens.

If you liked this post, please click the box below. You can watch a compelling video you’ll find very interesting.

Will you be prepared when everything we take for granted changes overnight?

Just think about this for a couple of minutes. What if the U.S. Dollar wasn’t the world’s reserve currency? Ponder that… what if…

Empires Rise, they peak, they decline, they collapse, this is the cycle of history.

This historical pattern has formed and is already underway in many parts of the world, including the United States.

Don’t be one of the millions of people who gets their savings, retirement, and investments wiped out.

Click the button below to watch the video.

About the author: Simon Black is an international investor, entrepreneur, permanent traveler, free man, and founder of Sovereign Man. His free daily e-letter and crash course is about using the experiences from his life and travels to help you achieve more freedom.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • will

    awesome. seems like you answered my question, personally. I am looking for someone that is of your caliber to kind of mentor me ….how about getting your own pilots license i know a place where you can get it for less the 10k. also how about hotel stays and drivers do you usually hire a driver. I am an international investor and like to travel as well however I am trying to figure out how to get the best hotel prices, and flights..

  • george hoskins

    no travel tips to offer but thanks for all of your insight. i’m up to here in casey publications (and i love em) but i open your mail first. thanks again, george hoskins

  • will

    I was also wondering about living arangements…do you only travel to certain areas? or do you just travel to all parts of the world and do you have a certain type or brand of hotel you prefer..thanks

  • bujjai

    Simon, Frankly I’d like to be you!! I’m semi-retired, living in Toronto, after 25 yrs in NYC as a banker. I just got divorced and am taking care of kids, so I cannot be “you” completely. But I’d like to travel maybe 7 days every month but would like to do it in a meaningful capacity, volunteerism, humanitarian, getting with the locals and really getting in deep with culture and “giving back” in some manner.

    Anyway, if you have thoughts along meaningful travel do let me know, otherwise, keep the travel tips and insights coming….Thanks. “jealously yours…but in a good way”. AK

  • bill huggins

    I always go to http://www.seatguru.com to get an overview of the seat layout on the plane I will be in. Then I book that seat when making my ticket purchase. No surprises when I board. It shows you the seat numbers to avoid and the best ones to snag….on long hauls, it makes a difference.

  • http://www.commoditytradingsolutions.com Nick P.

    Good tip Simon.

    The best travel cost saving measure I found is Skype. I pay 50 USD for a phone number and a basic plan.

    When I’m overseas as long as I have an internet connection I can call the US for free. This is because I have a US based Skype number. I used this in South America, Europe and several countries in Africa.

    With an unlocked cell phone with Wi-Fi capability and Skype to go, you can have all your contacts saved on your phone and use the free calling or just pop in a local SIM card and use a calling card.

  • Fabio Herrero

    I find that the internet site http://www.orbitz.com is quite good, or http://www.skyscanner.net/ you can find some small cheaper airlines.
    In Asia AirAsia, in South America LAN and in Europe Easyjet are good very cheaps alternatives, but they offer limited (when at all) seats in Business/First class.

  • http://www.qwealthreport.com Peter Macfarlane (Q Wealth Report)

    Airlines are really hurting at the moment. I already had an economy class booking for my family transatlantic on British Airways for next month and they recently sent an e-mail asking if we would like to upgrade for about $100 each way. Of course we accepted! You can always ask the station manager at the airport before boarding, if there is a chance to upgrade for a fee like this. Even if they don’t advertise it, the answer will quite often be yes.

  • Phillip

    Simon, No personal tactics to add, but please feel free to explore this topic more in future newsletters. I’ve recently returned to the US from a trip to the EU, and am planning a trip to South America in the near future, so this is of interest to me. Having divested myself of most of my “hands on” investments over the past several years and transitioned into more passive investments, lifestyle and locale changes are in order. I believe I discovered you just in time. Thanks!

  • Christine

    I actually purchase Amex points from people I find on Craigslist.com or Ebay.com 90-120k points usually cost me anywhere between $1,200-1,800. That’s really all you need to book a business class ticket depending on where you are going. Middle East usually requires higher points. The only airline I found thus far that doesn’t accept Amex points to be transferred is Lufthansa, I Have no idea why?

  • Expat X.

    I’ve used http://www.airlineconsolidator.com several times and have been able to get some very inexpensive international flights, albeit all coach.

  • BW

    I’d like to know about the airports and screening processes. Doug Casey mentioned in one of the reports that he knew of some travelers who had to fill out forms, when entering the US, which demanded that they fill in all the last 20 countries they had been to, or something to that effect. Maybe this doesn’t apply to U.S. citizens. Anyway, it would good to know.

    And do you manage to always eat somewhere nice before you fly? Do you only have one set of clothes, which I guess you get someone to dry clean or wash/dry just in time to catch your next flight out?

  • http://www.technicalities.blogg.no henke

    Hey Simon

    Thought I’d share some facts about Swedbank:

    SWED-A has over300% of its tangible equity exposed to the baltics, and 380% total exposure to emerging markets.

    With a 20% loan loss on this exposure, SWED-A’s tangible book value would decline by 67% (= 3 years of pre-loss profits)

    A 20% devaluation in local currency would actually m,ean an increase in SWEd-As equity because they have more asssets than liabilities in local currency, but the real problem is that 80% of their lending is made through loans in EUR and USD, and their clients have their deposits and incomes in local currency. So unless teh govt forces a conversion before devaluation, SWED is in deep sh*t.

    Loan loss provisions are way too low.
    Also, only 4,4% loan losses are reflected in the share price today.

    Swedish stress tests passed SWED barely at a 6% tier 1 ratio assumption at a theoretical 6,6% loan losses – but if loan losses go higher, they will quite obviously need capital injections. Since none of the other swedish banks are in a position that is anywhere near as bad, the govt will not relax these provisions as they sometimes do during times of stress, but rather force SWED to get money from the markets, which they will probably get, but at far lower prices than todays ridiculous shareprice of 60+ SEK.

    The question becomes: Do you think SWED will have only 4-6% loan losses in the baltics? I don’t. This is the number one short out there.


  • http://www.internationalman.com Smith

    BW— What Doug was referring to was the fact that on the (relatively) new US customs declaration forms, you must list all countries visited prior to your arrival in the US. So, if you visited 20 countries on your trip, you’re required to list all of them.

    Here’s the relevant form: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/sample_declaration_form.xml

  • Carlos

    Very useful tip! Keep these coming!

  • Branimir

    Mr. Black, I enjoy the “Notes from the Field” even more than Without Borders. Thanks for sharing! If you come through Bulgaria I would like to offer you assistance in whatever way necessary/possible. My email is included with this posting…

  • Victor

    Where does one learn how to fly a plane or helicopter. I am a civilian. What good schools are there in the USA (or better yet, a cheaper country in which to live and soak up some culture where one can learn to fly a helipcopter or plane)?

    Any recommendations?

  • Steve Loy

    I need some info seriously on Panama. I read your articles. So getting the gold bars out of the US, No problem, But how do you get them into Panama.
    They check at the airport. I have heard the police will take anything they want and you are lost. Yeh the president gets mad, but it still goes on.
    Any advice>>//
    Ready to move, and ready to move gold now!

  • http://www.flynothing.wordpress.com Naud


    I also used a systemwide VIP uprade last time it was great! Cost me 400$ one way though. I can’t find any of 200$’s! Not even on Craiglist.. can you e-mail me when you found one and when you’re not gonna use it?


Next post:

Previous post:

Read previous post:
Dispatch notes from Poland

Travel mishaps occur from time to time... though the airline completely losing my reservation is a new one for me....