More travelers are booking ‘up.’ Are you?

(Our travel trends story first appeared on NBC News in a slightly different form)

Consumers who got a taste of higher-end amenities during the last couple of years’ travel boom aren’t too keen to go back to basic economy.

And the travel industry doesn’t want them to.

“If revenge travel was then, emboldened travel is now,” said Erika Richter, a spokesperson for the American Society of Travel Advisors. The group sees customers taking advantage of the upgraded offerings operators are dangling.

With travel volumes still trending well ahead of pre-pandemic highs, “premium leisure travel is definitely on the rise,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group, which analyzes the travel industry.

At the top end of the market, the most deep-pocketed consumers are still spending heavily on high-dollar getaways and exclusive experiences. Now, airlines, hotels, and cruises are prodding passengers of less lavish means to go premium, too — in some cases revising down what counts as “luxury.”

Upgrading from basic

Caleb Cash-Tobey and his husband have been springing for larger rooms and suites than they used to. Each year, the Fort Smith, Arkansas-based couple takes one major trip as well as smaller monthly ones that they’re increasingly comfortable enhancing with extra amenities, such as evening turndown service and in-room breakfast.

“We’ve learned that we should take the experience when it is offered because some experiences are no longer available in the post-Covid world that we may have really enjoyed,” Cash-Tobey. One example: a Champagne-augmented tour of the British crown jewels that a favorite London hotel discontinued.

Kristin Winkaffe, a travel adviser with Avenue Two Travel in Columbus, Ohio, said customers are becoming “more inclined to treat themselves to experiences that they may not have considered a few years ago. They’re now prioritizing the quality of their vacations over budget constraints.”

The travel industry is happy to oblige

Both international and domestic airlines are increasing their premium cabin capacities, a pre-pandemic trend that shows no sign of letting up. Major carriers have been adding extra legroom in premium economy and expanding some business and first-class cabins, looking to nudge more flyers out of their cheapest seats and into pricier ones.

Delta Air Lines President Glen Hauenstein told investors in October that revenue from premium offerings jumped 17% from the prior year, “outperforming the main cabin by five points.” Its premium select tier for long-haul flights, situated between economy options and the upscale Delta One, was revamped in late 2022 and has performed “above expectations,” he said.

“The airlines have realized that if they price these products in the right way, they can coax enough people to trade up,” Harteveldt said. His firm found last year that 1 in 3 travelers either booked a premium option or considered one, down just slightly from 38% in 2022, “when we were still in the throes of revenge travel and when people still had more savings.”

Some consumers are shelling out on upgrades that are more about practicality than self-pampering.

“Since the pandemic, I now only book changeable airplane tickets and hotels,” said Cathy Raines of Washington, D.C. That typically adds about 15% to her bills, Raines said, but she thinks it’s worth it for the added flexibility.

Kristin Chambers, founder of the Boston-based luxury travel agency Travellustre, said many of her clients now ship their luggage ahead of arrival and book VIP services like airside pickups, expedited service at customs and immigration, or cars to hotels. “Travelers are increasingly willing to invest in aspects of their journey that will guarantee an elevated level of service,” she said.

Suitcase kids

Seattle resident Rebecca Ross and her husband have ruled out Airbnb-style accommodations without 24-hour staff. “Life is too short to be standing around with a roller bag and a double-parked car wondering how to get in. We’ve vowed that our lodging must have a front desk with a human,” she said. That sometimes means spending more but often just requires a little extra time to hunt down, she added.

Morning Consult report in September put it bluntly: “Forget first-class seats and penthouse suits — luxury travel is about customer service.” If that means redefining what counts as premium to include things like the ability to speak to a real support agent, the researchers found consumers may welcome it all the same.

First-class flights, fancy hotel stays, and fine dining hold less appeal now than simply “feeling relaxed,” “experiencing comfort” and great service, the report said, adding that brands can find opportunity by treating the latter as high end: “The experiences that comprise ‘new luxury’ don’t require the traveler to be affluent.”

The high end gets higher

Some amenities certainly do, though, and wealthy customers are scooping them up.

Many “ultra-high-net-worth individuals” ditched first-class seats on commercial flights for private jets during the pandemic, and the habit stuck, said Doug Gollan, founder of Private Jet Card Comparisons, a buyer’s guide to these services.

“New flyers racked up record-high private flight hours in 2021 and 2022, and 95% of these newcomers have continued to fly privately,” he said — at an average cost of about $40,000 for a two-hour trip.

Lodging operators have also seen strong demand from offerings aimed at higher-dollar guests. “Booking patterns continue to overwhelmingly favor premium suites, and some categories are booked months to years in advance,” said Gebhard Rainer, the CEO of Sandals Resorts International.

The company’s newest resort, Sandals St. Vincent and the Grenadines, won’t open until March, but its beachfront butler villas that start at $1,111 per person per night, and two-story overwater units starting at $1,570 per person per night, have already sold out dates well into 2025, Rainer said.

The Westin Poinsett Hotel in Greenville, South Carolina, put together a “Home Alone” themed holiday package with prices ranging from $599 to more than $1,000 a night — over-the-top rates for the local market during what’s usually a slow holiday season there. It sold out with 93 bookings and many guests asking about reservations for next year.

“I have been in the industry for 25 years between Washington, D.C., and Greenville, and by far this was the most successful package I have ever seen,” said John Geddes, the hotel’s sales and marketing director. “Guests were spending a minimum of four to five times the amount they would generally spend.”

Tour organizations and cruise lines report much the same.

“Travelers are willing to pay more for exclusive experiences,” said Terry Dale, CEO of the United States Tour Operators Association. As a result, organizers “are curating itineraries to include personalized services and experiences with more exclusivity, going beyond the standard offerings.”

Holland America, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Line, is seeing more guest bookings for premium spa services like its thermal suites and hydropool, said spokesperson Bill Zucker. “Our private cabanas are selling out regularly. And our new direct luggage service, where guests can have their luggage shipped directly to and from their home, is proving to be very popular,” he said.

Lindblad Expeditions, which operates National Geographic-branded cruises, replaced its Islander I luxury yacht with the more luxurious Islander II for Galapagos voyages in 2022, raising the average fare by 45%.

“Some nail-biting ensued,” said Lindblad Chief Commercial Officer Noah Brodsky, but the Islander II is already 78% booked for this year. That’s well ahead of historical trends, he said, “and an indication of the uptick in premiumization.”

Shop for Black Friday/Cyber Monday Travel Deals

(Courtesy Provincial Archives of Alberta, via Flickr Commons)

It’s that time of year again.

Thanksgiving, with all the food and travel that’s associated with it. And Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Buy Stuff ads galore.

Here at Stuck at The Airport, the shopping team is a bit overwhelmed with all the travel deals and alleged travel deals in our inbox. But we’ve pulled out some offers that look enticing and a few we’re going to try to nab ourselves.

Here are a few to get you started. And here’s to a safe Thanksgiving travel week. Let us know what you spot in the airports along your journey.



Red Roof is once again offering a week-long Black Friday flash sale, starting on Monday, November 20. 

Travelers who make a reservation at any Red Roof Inn®, Red Roof PLUS+, HomeTowne Studios by Red Roof, or The Red Collection property from November 20 through November 28, 2023, and stay between November 20, 2023, through February 29, 2024, will save 20% off their stay. Sale details on now.

Aqua-Aston Hospitality, which manages 25+ hotels and resorts across the Hawaiian Islands is offering 20% off at Aqua-Aston Hospitality’s properties on Oahu, Kauai, Maui and Hawaii Island. Sale dates: November 21 — 28, 2023. Stay dates: November 21, 2023 — December 20, 2024. Book online at during the booking window, use code CYBERSALE

For Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will be offering a 30% off best available rate promotion valid for bookings made from Friday, November 24 at 12:01 a.m. EST through Tuesday, November 28th at 11:59 p.m. EST for stays through June 30th, 2024. The promo code will be: CYBER23. 

Heading to Portland, Oregon?  One our favorite hotels, The Nines, is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a $299 deal. Each Sunday from now through January 2024, the Nines will offer $299 bookings: $99 for the room and $200 Food and Beverage credit to be used at the hotel’s, on-site restaurants, Urban Farmer and Departure. (They’ll also add a $30  ‘destination fee,’ but it’s still a great deal). Book here.

Most of the YOTEL properties around the world are participating in a Black Friday sales that offers 40% off stays booked by December 3 for stays through September 2024. Book here.  YOTELS not participating: YOTEL San Francisco, YOTELIAR London Gatwick, YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport (airside), YOTELAIR Paris Charles de Gaulle, and YOTEL AIR Amsterdam Schiphol. Blackout dates apply.


As we head into one of the busiest travel seasons, Hertz, Thrifty and Dollar are promising discounts on all vehicles for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (Details: Hertz (30%), Dollar (20%), Thrifty (15%).


Air Tahiti Nui is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month and offering its first-ever Tiare Pass. 250 passes that cost $1525 each will be available during a 25-hour flash, November 25 from 9 a.m. PST to November 26 at 10 a.m. PST.

The $1,525 price includes a round-trip from the US to each destination the airline serves and is valid for travel between December 1, 2023, and December 1, 2024 (included: one checked bag, onboard meal, and all taxes and fees.) The airline has flights that depart from Los Angeles (LAX) and Seattle (SEA) and flies Paris, Tahiti, Tokyo, and New Zealand.

NOTE: The Air Tahiti Nui sale is only bookable by calling the airline’s reservation team directly during the sale period. Find that phone # here.


ROAM is offering $100 off its fun, customizable hard-side luggage from now through November 27. Build your discounted ROAM luggage deal here.

We’ll keep sifting the emails for more travel deals for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Cool places & events to add to your ‘go’ list

Kentucky’s new GLASS National Art Museum

The Stuck at the Airport art team is based in Seattle, which is home to world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, the Chihuly Garden and Glass attraction, the Refact Glass Festival, and a bubbling glass art community. Down the road, in Tacoma, WA, there’s an entire Museum of Glass.

But we’re putting the newly opened GLASS National Art Museum, in Danville, Kentucky on our ‘go’ list. The just-opened museum is built around the collection of Stephen Rolfe Powell, an artist known as a hot glass master of color who died in 2019. He was highly regarded in the international glass world and his glass sculptures are in the collections of major art museums. He was also a professor at Danville, Kentucky’s Centre College for more than 35 years, where he founded a glass program.

The Art Center of the Bluegrass, a multipurpose space in Danville, acquired Powell’s collection and is displaying it along with works by other prominent glass artists. 

Find the Glass National National Art Museum at 408 West Main Street, Danville, KY. Hours: Tuesday – Friday 10:30 am – 6:30 pm. Admission: free.

(Photos courtesy GLASS National Art Museum).

Circus dinner theater: Teatro Zinzanni at Lotte Hotel Seattle

(Elena Gatilova in Teatro ZinZanni Residency at Lotte Hotel Seattle. Photo by Nate Watters)

Love, Chaos & Dinner. And maybe an overnight stay.

If you live in or near Seattle or are looking for a reason to head that way this holiday season or sometime before the end of March 2024, the rollicking theatrical cirque experience that is Teatro Zinzanni is a must-do.

The sumptuous dinner show is wacky and, at times, a wee bit racy. And there’s a stellar cast that leans into some tried and true vaudeville traditions while offering a steady stream of impressive and often heart-stopping acrobatics and funny stuff performed on and above the stage and, sometimes, in the audience.

There’s a storyline to the evening, but with all the singing, the shtick, and the ‘how can they do that?! feats on the trapeze and elsewhere – that won’t matter.

This is Teatro Zinzanni’s 25 anniversary and over the years the company’s giant cabaret tent has been in residence in several locations in and around Seattle.

This season, Teatro Zinzanni is in residence in the Grand Ballroom of the Sanctuary at Lotte Hotel Seattle so there’s no room for the entire tent.

But the mirrored walls, the wooden booths, the in-the-round seating, and the elevated live orchestra Teatro Zinzanni fans have come to expect are all here. And it’s clear that the Sanctuary, formerly the oldest church in downtown Seattle, is a perfect venue thanks to lots of stained glass, a 58-foot-high domed ceiling, and plenty of history.

Sleepover after the show

Lotte Hotel Seattle is one of the newer, high-end hotels in Seattle and an overnight here is a great pairing with an evening at Teatro Zinzanni.

Designed by industrial French designer Phillipe Starck, the hotel has 189 rooms, a spa, plenty of meeting space, great views over the city, the waterfront, and Elliott Bay, plus a cocktail lounge and restaurant on the top floor with a very reasonably priced Happy Hour.

The guestrooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, large mirrors, fun art, spacious bathrooms clad in travertine stone, and a cozy decor that takes inspiration from Pacific Northwest forests.

We spotted a lot of fun wood (real and referenced) throughout the hotel, from the front desk made out of a log from a 3,000-year-old Sequoia tree to the ‘wood’ carpeting in the hallways and in the rooms.

They’ve even got a discount package for anyone attending a Teatro Zinzanni show.

Travel tidbits from here and there

File under: Hotels we hope to visit

A bourbon-themed hotel? Yes.

File under: How we wish we could fly

We’re looking at the moon

Heading to Las Vegas? Visit this airport museum

Learn the real story behind Denver Airport’s Mustang

Hotel Amenity of the Week

The Stuck at The Airport team is still relearning some of its post-pandemic packing skills.

And we’ve called down or showed up at several of our hotel front desks asking for toothpaste, combs, and other items we’ve forgotten to replace in our travel kits.

We’ve also been forgetting to pack belts, sunglasses, and other accessories. So this new complimentary program from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants (part of IHG Hotels & Resorts) caught our attention.

Through a partnership with lifestyle retailer Anthropologie, beginning August 1 select Kimpton properties will offer guests the opportunity to borrow from a selection of stylish and seasonally-appropriate accessories kept at the front desk.

The accessories in the Forgot It? We’ve Got It! program will change with the season and right now includes several styles of sunglasses, handbags, and belts. Better yet, if you love what you borrow, you can buy that accessory on a special Kimpton/Anthropologie shopping site.

Smart right?

So we’re declaring this a top nomination for “Hotel Amenity of the Week.”

Have a hotel or airport amenity you’d like to nominate? Leave a note in the comment section below.