Pay more, get more? In travel, that’s unconventional advice

1-Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 3.31.25 PMIf you’ve ever traveled on business, then Chris McGinnis’ name is probably synonymous with smart traveling. He’s the co-host of the Friday afternoon #Travelskills chat on Twitter, and has been a columnist, consultant, on-air television commentator and blogger for media outlets ranging from the BBC to Fortune. He publishes two popular business travel blogs, The Ticket, for Atlanta-area road warriors, and the Bay Area Traveler, for business travelers from the San Francisco Bay Area.

What makes him the world’s smartest traveler? McGinnis is a quiet contrarian. When other travel experts try to help you find the best deal, regardless of the cost, he goes against the grain. “Don’t automatically gravitate toward the lowest possible price when buying travel,” he says, “because you will end up getting what you pay for.” Instead, he advises paying a “small premium” for a better product, like a better economy-class seat for a long flight, such as an exit row or bulkhead seat, or booking a slightly more expensive nonstop flight instead of a one stop. “Upgrade to a balcony room on a cruise ship or book slightly more upscale hotel — or just a room with a view of the ocean — and I believe that you will dramatically improve the quality of your trip,” he adds. “You don’t have to splurge, just take one step up, and I think you’ll find a world of difference.” In an industry obsessed by bargains, that’s smart advice.

The World’s Smartest Traveler is a weekly series about the visionaries who inspire us to travel smarter. Its curator, Christopher Elliott, is the author of the upcoming book, How to Be The World’s Smartest Traveler (National Geographic Books). Want to nominate someone for this feature? Send Chris a note.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • bodega3

    I have never heard of this person. His advice is what those in our business provide for our clients.

  • toniv

    Pay more, get more…sounds pretty standard to me.

  • ckinthemj

    I understand and appreciate “pay more get more,” but the travel-industry — especially airlines — have been squeezing more and more money out of travelers while delivering less and less. At least that’s my perception, which, as the saying goes, is reality.

  • Kairho

    Didn’t we just have a woman as the “world’s smartest traveler” a week or two ago? Isn’t that a contradiction? Does this honor only last a few days until one goes back into the pool with the rest of us stupid travelers?

  • Joe Farrell

    As soon as airlines actually decide to provide more . . . and deliver . . I’ll pay more.

    To provide a little different perspective, we traveled to Kauai for our 25th anniversary, never having been to the island. If we wanted a standard hotel room and coach airfare we would have paid about $3000 for a couple for 8 nights. Instead, we splurged and spent $4500 for first class airfare and a 2 bedroom condo with a partial ocean view [the full ocean view would have been $1000 more]. This condo had Wolf appliances, granite counters, marble sitdown showers, nice flooring etc etc – it was a VERY nice place to spend 8 nights.

    Now, we could have spent that money to get the full ocean view but what got instead was a rooster, 2 hens and brood of chicks that came by every morning for a visit, came by in the afternoons and honestly, if chickens and humans can become friends, we did. They actively sought us out after a couple of days and we only fed them very sparingly. So it was not merely food. Now, if we paid for the full ocean view we never would have met this brood – because chickens cannot fly that high to reach the balconies 2 stories up with the full ocean view.

    Sometimes, there is a benefit to not splurging all the way. . . . and BTW – the first class space was worth it on the 5 hour flights because they had real duvets and pillows – that was very nice. . . .

  • y_p_w

    I’ve heard of him, but then again I check his blog on the San Francisco Chronicle website. Ironically the syndicated republishing of entries is where I first heard of Mr. Elliott.

  • Justin

    Downvote trolls strike again!

    Advice is common sense. Similar to comparing stays in a youth hostel to a hotel. All breaks down to one’s financial means and purposes for travel.

    Privacy + More tour oriented – Hotels are great

    Don’t mind shared living quarters, swapping stories, meeting up with other travelers – Try a Hostel

    There’s never one size fits all traveling.

  • TonyA_says

    Is this an advertisement?
    Never heard of the guy. Sorry.
    Also there is no concrete advice or example.
    Reading flyertalk propaganda is better.

  • TonyA_says

    I’ll go out on a limb. I say those who listen to this kind of trash are NOT the world’s smartest travelers. Too many blogs :-)

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Exactly what I was thinking. Even his common sense advice isn’t good for everyone. If you happen to be the sort of traveler who never is at the hotel except when you’re asleep, then that’s not a smart splurge for you. (And if you’re the sort who really enjoys a better hotel, you won’t need this guy to tell you to that you probably won’t be pleased by the cheapest possible accommodations.) I’m pretty sure he must have better advice than this, but this is such a fluffy, useless write-up it makes him sound silly.

  • Travelnut

    I, too, could write a travel column for fancy big-city blogs. If this is the depth of the advice I’d need to dream up every week. Next week: “Avoid hotels with hourly rates.” My friends actually tell me I should be a travel writer. Maybe I should give it a whirl! How hard can it be?

    Whether I pay up depends. For flights, if it’s more than four hours in the air, and for overseas flights, I see if I can afford first or business. If more than two hours, I might do economy plus. But for short hops, anything over coach is a total waste of money. For hotels, I would pay up more for location than for how nice the hotel is. I don’t need a big fancy room but I do want it to be convenient to what I’m doing.

  • TonyA_says

    Seriously, I think I’m gonna buy 150,000 airline miles for $2250 and use it to get first class international award travel seats.
    Then I will have my picture taken while dining on caviar and sipping champagne, and call myself one of the world’s smartest travelers.
    I’ll make sure I have a wider grin than this guy :)

  • bodega3

    I travel, therefore I know it all it is how a lot of these blogger get started. But don’t get me started on travel writers. When I was with a very popular tour company, we had them coming out of the wood work trying to get ‘free’ trips for writing about our tours. I don’t read travel articles because of that.

  • TonyA_says

    Do you notice something in common with all their blogs?
    They are full of airline credit card banners, pop ups or whatever can get your attention to sign up.

  • Justin

    Agreed. Lots of fluff and little subtance.

  • Justin

    Here I’ve paid to travel and what I should have done is offered to “write about my experience” to get pro bono perks? Geez, I’m not hip to the lastest scheme.

  • Justin


    Sign up for 60,000 point loyalty credit cards (one for you and spouse), acquire 120,000 points, and earn the rest. Cash in points for first class ticket, tout your brand loyalty, and write a blog!

  • For those of you just tuning in, this is a new weekly series from the people who I consider some of the smartest travelers in the business. And I’ve known Chris personally for many years. When it comes to business travel, he really knows a lot — in fact, he showed me the ropes when I was just getting started in the industry.

    One other thing, folks. If you disagree with his advice, feel free to say so. But kindly refrain from any personal attacks. Thanks.

  • TonyA_says

    ¡Suficiente! No más tarjetas de crédito

  • TonyA_says

    You are in the Bay Area and I assume you cater to business travelers.
    I wonder do most business travelers read this stuff? Or do they prefer blogs like the middle seat by Scott McCartney?

  • Justin

    LOL. Por favor, toma solo uno or dos mas tarjetas? Lo siento para espanol terible, estudia espanol en escuela cuando 15 y recuerdo pequeno.

    My reference on Credit cards was to Op as fyi.

  • BillCCC

    It’s kind of like Peoples most beautiful people, it changes all the time although previous winners haven’t gone anywhere. I’m thinking that Chris is splitting smartest traveler into multiple categories. Remeeber you can get on the list if you buy his book.

  • Judy Serie Nagy

    I enjoy reading the BAT, but I travel out of SFO so lots of the content is relevant. What’s described above is just part of McGinnis’ appeal, since I agree with him on spending a little more to be comfortable and happy when travelling … I often have to fight my husband on this topic, he’s a free-lunch believer.

  • TheBride

    Nothing new here for people who travel fairly regularly!

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