Insider flight tips from a seasoned business traveller
Unwind in an airport lounge
They may not seem as valuable when you travel domestic, but if you are travelling abroad go straight to the lounges. Some airlines love to indulge their top customers: the Virgin Atlantic clubhouse at Heathrow Airport has a Bumble & Bumble salon where you can get a free haircut before your flight. Most airlines have arrivals lounges too, in case you were not spoiled enough on board.
The ways in which you can access lounges depend on the airline. You may have a business or first class ticket, a high enough status with a frequent flyer program, or you can often buy a one-off pass. American Airlines passengers can buy one-day passes to the airline's Admiral lounges for $50. It can be worth the price if you have a long layover, need to freshen up in a place where you can securely leave you bags, or really want to get away from the crowds. And if your particular airline does not have its own lounge in the airport, there is likely a lounge of a sister airline you can access or one that belongs to your airline's alliance.
Freshen up on the go
If you cannot access a lounge, keep the moist towelette from the plane and use it to freshen up in the bathroom when you land. Colgate's Wisp disposable toothbrushes require no water and are surprisingly discreet to use. For on-the-go hair fixes, men can use soapy water instead of hair gel. Use your hands to run the lather through your hair and the soap will help keep it in place. For women, if you did not manage to bring anti-frizz or glossing products, a small amount of moisturizer can help control your hair and give it shine.
How to earn (and burn) frequent flyer miles
When you travel regularly, frequent flyer programs are the first and most important item to sort out. It may take a while before you have enough points to redeem free flights, but there are ways to get there faster and make the most of your points when you are ready to spend them.
Stick with one alliance
There are three major frequent flyer alliances that bring together the loyalty programs from several different airlines: Star Alliance (United, Continental, US Airways, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, and 21 more), One World (American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, and nine others) and Sky Team (Delta, Air France, KLM, plus 10 more). If it is only the difference of a few dollars, try to book with the airlines in one alliance to gather enough points for free flights.
Use your credit
Several credit cards offer frequent flyer points or other reward programs for the money you spend. For example, American Express has a great card with British Airways in which points earned add up to free tickets (they do not, however, count towards your status). Citibank also has a great deal with American Airlines, in which cardholders receive 30,000 points (just about the equivalent of a free flight from Miami to Peru) when you spend $750 within four months.
Tickets bought on points are typically refundable until just before your flight, but they also run out fast. Airlines set aside a number of tickets that can be bought using their specific loyalty points, as well as a limited number for points earned on sister airlines. It is worth locking these tickets in early and getting a refund later if your plans change.
One-way versus round-trip
If you are booking a trip with several legs, consider that some programs charge more than others for one-way tickets. For example, a one-way ticket costs half the points of a return ticket on British Airways, but Lufthansa charges three-fourths of a full ticket's worth.