I spent 33 hours traveling home – here’s what I could’ve done differently


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Can you imagine traveling 33 hours from your destination back home. I did just that, from Cuenca, Ecuador to Quito, Ecuador to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and finally Charlotte, North Carolina.

We’ve all been there – picking the cheapest option always seems like a good idea in the moment. But for me, my wildly lengthy trip could’ve been cut down with the right credit card perks, and even with my long layovers, I could’ve had a much more comfortable experience.

My experience

My trip included a 12-hour layover in Quito, one overnight flight and an additional seven-hour layover in Florida.

My only saving grace was my mother being a Priority Pass Select member which allowed me access to Quito’s 24-hour Layover Stay lounge using it.

With Priority Pass Select, I was able to spend four hours in the lounge. This gave me access to complimentary food and drinks, WiFi, a nap area and (most importantly) a shower. Seeing as I could only use the lounge for four hours, but would be at the Quito airport for 12, I basically sat on a chair by a trash can for eight hours before entering the lounge.

If I had been doubtful of the benefits of lounge access before this trip, I’m certainly converted now. My mom qualified for Priority Pass Select because of her Platinum Card® from American Express – I simply showed the lounge attendant a photo of her priority pass and it seemed to do the trick.

Thankfully, I had the right hardware to receive lounge access in Quito. But Florida was a different matter.

Additional options that could’ve helped

Looking back, I’ve found there a more than a few credit cards and perks that could’ve made my travel experience easier either by making my long layovers more enjoyable or enabling me to book a better flight itinerary.

Lounge Passes

Having lounge access at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport would’ve helped make my experience more comfortable. Unfortunately, FLL one of the airports left off the Priority Pass Select access list, but it does have United Airlines and Delta Sky Club lounges.

Delta Sky Club

The Delta Sky Club in FLL would’ve been my first choice, but as of November 2018, Delta has discontinued the sale of the Single Visit Passes to their lounges. In the past, a Single Visit Pass cost $59 or 5,000 Delta SkyMiles®. For me to get access today, I would either need an annual membership to Delta Sky Club (worth $845 or 84,500 Delta SkyMiles®), an international business class ticket or own a Delta co-branded credit card that offers access.

The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card (and the business version) are the only co-branded cards that offer complimentary lounge access as one of its perks. But seeing as I’d never pay a $550 annual fee, the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card would’ve been my cost-effective, second best bet, as you can enjoy Sky Club access at the rate of $39 per person, per visit, for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight. It also has a much lower $250 annual fee.

United Club

My second lounge option would’ve been the United Club at FLL. Anyone flying United on a particular day can gain access to the United Club for $59 per person, or general membership for $550 per year/70,000 miles.

I could’ve also gained access with the United℠ Explorer Card. This card comes with 2 one-time passes each year, deposited into your account after account opening and on every Cardmember anniversary.

Welcome bonuses

Another option for when it comes to a more comfortable travel experience is a credit card welcome bonus. This would’ve enabled me to book a better route en lieu of camping out in lounges for hours on end.

The current Platinum Delta Amex welcome offer is 60,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) when you spend $3,000 in your first three months (offer ends 10/28/20).

With the Platinum card, I probably could’ve gotten one of my flights at a significant discount (so long as I had met the qualifying spend in time) and made it a more direct flight. The card also would’ve gotten me access to the Fort Lauderdale Delta Sky Club for a low rate.

The bottom line

My travel experience could’ve been made much easier (and much more relaxed) with the right cards. Take my experience as an example of what not to do and as inspiration for how to travel in the future.

Editorial disclosure: All reviews are prepared by Bankrate.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.