When we travel, we always make airport lounges a part of our journey. Sometimes, we’ll go to one airport and visit several lounges! Quite honestly, airport lounge access has made travel an order of magnitude better for us.
There’s really nothing better than going to an airport and, after fighting your way through security, settling down in a place with comfortable chairs, free food, free drinks, and more to just relax before a flight.
When we fly, we always take our Priority Pass to get into over 1,200 lounges at airports around the world (and get discounts at several restaurants!) If you travel, consider getting a Priority Pass Membership and stop paying for drinks and food at the airport!
If you’ve only visited one or two, you may wonder if having airport lounge access all the time is worth the cost.
If you’ve never been in an airport lounge at all, you probably don’t know what it even costs, let alone what you get for that money.
We think you’ll agree that you’d prefer to be in a lounge than not.
Lounge Admission Prices
The cost of getting into an airport lounge varies widely, of course, depending on the quality. I’ve seen some as low as $30.
Others can be over $75. I think most are in the $50-60 range for basic access.
Some will even let you pay to just come in and get a shower.
You can often purchase memberships to networks of lounges. For example, Delta Sky Clubs charge an annual rate of about $500. Other networks, like American Express Centurion Lounges, don’t have memberships.
You can only get in if you have specific Amex cards. Priority Pass (our favorite) and Lounge Buddy have memberships that reduce your costs significantly.
All that is to say that airport lounge access can seem expensive. But you may want to consider all the benefits before you dismiss it as too expensive.
So, what are those great benefits?
Benefits of Airport Lounge Access
How much money do you spend when you go to an airport? Do you buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner? How about beer and wine?
Do you buy a newspaper at the newsstand or sit and drink coffee in crowded cafés?
If you’re like most people, you probably do at least one of these. Here are some of the many benefits you get at airport lounges.
Food at airport lounges
If you’re like me, then you usually buy something to eat or drink when you’re at the airport. I tend to get to the airport at least a couple of hours before any flight.
This usually means I am there for one meal or at least will need a snack.
Those costs add up, right?
If you eat a meal at a fast food place, it’s going to cost you $10. If you go to a restaurant and buy a normal meal with a soda, you’re probably already at least looking at $15-20.
And if you have a couple of drinks, add another $15.
Lounges rarely offer full table service meals to anyone except business/first-class fliers. But they just about always offer decent food.
Soups, veg and non-veg main courses, desserts, and sodas are things you’ll find regularly, and they are usually pretty good.
The coffee in lounges is almost always good quality. Many offer Nespresso, Illy, and Starbucks, or coffee of similar quality.
Alcohol at airport lounges
Most good lounges also offer basic complimentary alcoholic beverages as well. That means you can have a beer, mixed drink, or wine with your meal or on its own.
All you need to think about is the tip. And even then, only if tipping is customary in the country you’re visiting.
Many lounges even have self-service alcoholic beverages. If you like a drink when you’re waiting for your flight, having airport lounge access will save you a LOT of money!
Showers at airport lounges
One of my favorite airport lounge perks is being able to have a shower before or after a flight. Actually, until I did it, I didn’t even know how much I appreciated it.
Many lounges have complimentary showers, which includes towels, soap, shampoo, and conditioner. Generally, you’ll have to reserve a spot when you get into the lounge.
And trust me when I say this: You’re getting onto a cramped plane, and there’s almost nothing better than the feeling of a shower right before that!
Newspapers and Magazines
No need to pay inflated prices for newspapers and magazines in the terminals. Most lounges have them available right there.
Some you can even take with you if you like. Just be sure to ask.
Every lounge we’ve been to has free, decent Wi-Fi that is almost always better than anywhere else in the airport (if the airport offers it at all).
Are you on a work trip or just need some space to finish up a blog post? Perhaps you’re just looking for a quiet spot to catch up online.
Most airport lounges have at least a few spaces to get work done. Some even have computers and printers you can use for free.
A lot of lounges also have fax machines and copiers if you need access to that sort of thing.
Spas at airport lounges
Some of the higher-end lounges offer spa services. This is not really my thing, but if you appreciate a massage or a manicure/pedicure, you can get spa services for free at some of the high-end lounges and at a reduced cost in others.
Lockers and storage
While it’s not common, I have seen a few lounges around the world that have storage lockers so you don’t need to keep your luggage with you at all times.
Most of the lockers I’ve used were big enough to accommodate a large carry-on bag.
This is great when you’re in a nicer airport and you want to go out and explore.
How to Get Free Lounge Access
Well, it’s hard to get into a lounge for free (but not impossible), so let’s call this “almost free”!
Some airport lounges are expensive. Some are cheaper. But there are ways you can get access to airport lounges for free. It’s rare that we travel to an airport that has lounges we can’t use.
And guess what? We don’t pay a dime. Well, sort of.
How? We have three great credit cards:
- The Delta Reserve Card by American Express
- The American Express Platinum
- The Chase Sapphire Reserve Card
This means we have access to airport lounges in just about every airport in the world that we know of!
Credit Cards We Use
Delta Reserve Amex
Until recently, the Delta Reserve Amex was our go-to card for lounge access. And it still is when we’re in the U.S.. We live in Atlanta, so we use Delta Airlines all the time.
I have Platinum status, Halef has gold, so we’re kinda loyal to Delta.
The card is $450 a year and comes with a few decent benefits, but it is not really a lucrative card if you don’t live in the U.S. and don’t fly Delta regularly.
Most of the benefits are directly related to Delta (priority boarding, lounge access, no bag fees, etc).
Since almost all of our travel originates from the United States, we keep it around for the Delta Sky Club lounge access. That said, we’re getting ready for our round the world trip.
This means most of our travel will originate elsewhere in places that don’t have Sky Clubs. Since we get most of the benefits of the Delta Reserve American Express on other cards, we will probably end up ditching it in a couple of years when we leave Atlanta.
You can see a full list of benefits here.
This is a card we just applied for so we can check out the benefits. It’s $550 yearly, so it’s not cheap. Even at such a high yearly price, it still comes with some great benefits.
A couple that you might like are the $200 yearly airline fee credit (baggage, upgrades, etc) and the roughly $200 a year in Uber credits.
If you use those, then this card is basically $150 per year.
If you’re flying on Delta, it includes Sky Club access. But again, you have to be flying Delta on the day you access the Club.
One of the best benefits of the Amex Platinum card is the free Priority Pass membership. This card gives you airport lounge access at over 1,000 locations around the world.
You can even take a guest in for free at most of them.
Finally, you get access to the American Express Centurion Lounge network. If you’ve never been to a Centurion Lounge, you’re in for a treat. These are some of the most luxurious lounges in the world.
Basically, wherever you are, you’ll find a lounge if you have this card.
You can read more on maximizing the benefits of the Amex Platinum here.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a Visa card that will set you back $450 a year. That’s seems like a heck of a lot of money, doesn’t it??
Well, yes, until you see the benefits.
We believe this is currently the best travel card on the market – and the cheapest, considering what you get from it. In addition to all the benefits you’ll see below, they often have great sign up bonuses for their Chase Ultimate Rewards program.
Everyone should carry this card. Here’s why we have it and why we think you should get it, too:
$300 yearly travel credit
First, Chase will give you a $300 credit every year on your travel. That means if you book a flight, bus, cruise, hotel, taxi, and much more, you’ll get u $300 back.
If you’re getting this card for travel, you’ll have no worries meeting this $300. And Chase is really good at crediting this money quickly. Sometimes in a day or so.
So that brings your yearly cost for the card to just $150.
But wait, there’s more!
When you use the card to pay for your trip (see details in the agreement), Chase will provide you with travel insurance. You don’t need to do anything.
Our favorite travel insurance provider is World Nomads and we used to use them when we needed insurance. But we don’t always do that now because Chase covers this for free.
For us, this easily saves us a couple hundred dollars each year.
This is the biggest one for us and probably the main reason you’re reading this page! The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a free Priority Pass.
Priority Pass gives you access to over 1,000 airport lounges around the world. It can really save you money.
An example: I was recently in India, which involved:
- Dinner in The Club at ATL in Atlanta
- Breakfast and a shower during my connection in Paris at Charles de Gaulle
- Lunch in Mumbai before my flight to Jaipur
- Breakfast in Jaipur before my flight back to Mumbai
- Dinner and a shower at GVK Lounge Mumbai on my way home
- Breakfast and a shower at Charles de Gaulle
I didn’t have to pay for anything. I estimate I saved over $200 compared to what I might have spent if I had to remain in the regular parts of these airports.
For me, airport lounges are invaluable, not just from a financial perspective, but for my sanity as well!
There are many other benefits to having the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Here are a few others
- $100 credit towards Global Entry
- Rental car insurance waiver
- Lost/delayed luggage protection
- No international transaction fees
- Purchase protection
- Roadside assistance
- Extended warranty on purchases
In other words, that $450 per year that you’re paying is nothing compared to the benefits you receive.
Lounge access without a credit card
What if you don’t have either of these cards?
Well, you have a couple of options…
Tag Along with someone
Are you too proud to beg? Yes? Well, this is probably not for you and you should skip over this section.
But if you don’t mind being that person, read on.
If you’re brave enough, you can always stand outside a lounge and just ask someone if they’d mind you coming in with them. It’s not as long a shot as you might think.
There are people out there who would be happy to bring you in as a guest. Of course, this is something you’d have to be comfortable with.
But if you’re into saving money at the airport, then it never hurts to try!
And guess what? You’re never going to see these people again anyway, right?
Priority Pass Lounge Access
Hands down, we think the Sapphire Reserve card is the best card to use for the everyday traveler who isn’t loyal to a specific airline.
Even though it’s $450, the benefits it comes with make it better than free.
The $300 travel credit and the free travel insurance alone zero out the yearly costs for us. But it’s the access to all those lounges that really make the difference.
Just being able to get a shower sometimes makes the whole thing worth it.
But what if you already have the card you want and just want access to over 1,000 lounges?
Great news! You can buy a Priority Pass on its own. They start at $99 a year, which allows you to get into their network of lounges for just $32 – no need for another credit card.
There are also Priority Pass options that give you 10 free visits a year and others that allow you unlimited access, and more. Just click below to get yours today!
Full disclosure: If you buy a Priority Pass using one of our links, we’ll receive a commission, but it won’t increase the cost to you.
Are Airport Lounges Worth It?
In my opinion, yes.
But it really depends on your flying habits. If you fly a lot, then definitely – especially if you have a credit card or purchase a Priority Pass. From a financial perspective, you just need to figure out how much you’d spend at the airport if you were there without access versus the cost of going into a lounge.
Take the following costs into consideration:
Then, figure out how much you’re paying for airport lounge access. Is it through your credit card? Did you get a Priority Pass? Did you pay full price?
Depending on the direction those numbers take you in, you’ll know if it’s worth it or not.
From a sanity standpoint, I don’t think there’s a question. It’s totally worth it.
We’re currently making a decision about the Amex Platinum card. It may end up being our go-to card for airport lounge access when we start traveling around the world because we will only need one card to access everything.
With this card Halef can take me into the Centurion Lounges for free. And Priority Pass clubs usually offer guest access, too.
The downside, of course, is that it is an American Express card. A lot of the places we’re going to be traveling to don’t take it.
So we will still need a Visa or MasterCard when we travel.
Hopefully, this post gives you a bit more information about airport lounge access and the benefits of having it.
If you have any questions about the post, or have anything to add, please let us know in the comments!
Read some of our reviews of Airport Lounges Around the World.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.