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Vacations are something we all look forward to. Since the airlines started charging for everything from baggage to where you sit, the cost of travel has been increasing for many travelers. This has made it more difficult to plan a trip and led some to even eliminate the number of getaways they take.
There is a group in the population, however, that's not being hit very hard by these changes in how the airlines charge for baggage—those with elite status.
Airline loyalty is being rewarded more than ever now that at least one free bag isn’t a promise for all. Depending on the status you reach on a particular airline, you could check one, two, or even three free bags every time you travel.
Achieving gold (or silver or platinum) status may seem unattainable for the average traveler, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be easier than you think. You no longer have to be a weekly business traveler to obtain elite status with an airline. Even if you just fly a few times a year, it may be possible to end up in one of the top tiers of these programs.
It doesn’t have to be a big investment either. With a few tweaks to your regularly scheduled travel, you may find yourself checking your luggage for free, receiving upgrades to business and first class, and whizzing your way through the quicker security lines.
Enjoy spacious first class.
To get started, pick your favorite airline. The first thing you want to think about is where your loyalty should go. Look at the airlines you have flown with in the last year. Was there one you flew more often than most? Is one of the airlines at your local airport(s) so it's the most convenient?
You need to ask yourself these questions so you know where it’s going to be easiest to get your status. You also want to know where you would get the most use out of elite status if you could obtain it.
Now that you have picked one, put your focus on that airline—or at least its alliance. Once you have decided which airline you want to obtain status with, that doesn't mean that you have to fly that airline every time. Most airlines have an alliance with a few other airlines so you can pool them on your way to those first class seats.
If you want to obtain status on American Airlines, for example, you can fly a dozen different airlines within the One World Alliance and receive elite qualifying points on American. Just be sure to check before you fly on what the rules are.
Enjoy the view.
Ask about a challenge. Some airlines will offer an elite qualifying challenge so that you can earn status quicker. This is great if you find yourself with a lot of travel in a short period of time when that might not be the norm the rest of the year. Some airlines have unadvertised deals so you can quickly match the status you have in another program. It can't hurt to call and ask.
Finally, think about how it all adds up. A Caribbean or European vacation and a few business trips could get you into the elite group quicker than you may have imagined. If it's going to cost you only $10-$20 a flight more sometimes to fly the airline you are looking for status on, it is well worth it considering you will save more than that on baggage every time you fly during your elite period. On the other hand, if you find that there is no consistency and it's going to cost you much more stick with one airline, it may be worth it to just look for the best fare you can get and try to squeeze it all in a carry-on.