By Jennifer Openshaw
RISMEDIA, April 2, 2007-(MarketWatch)-Whatever happened to the glory days of air travel, when you could stroll through a quiet and orderly airport in a well-pressed suit carrying only a snappy-looking briefcase?
These days we schlep from line to line like pack animals in our rumpled attire, clutching a skimpy snack to eat on the plane. Is there a way to recapture some-or any-of the comforts and dignity of the old days?
I've found four new perks designed especially for weary road warriors, available at some airports nationwide. Some are more expensive than others. They may or may not fit onto your expense report — that's for you to decide. But they're worth a try. If nothing else, you'll get the energy and attitude to keep your journey going for yet another day.
Muscles tense from meetings and from lugging that luggage will be thanking you for stopping for a short massage in the terminal. These mini-massages are done without oils or lotions, so no worries about messing up your business attire. Just have a seat on the padded massage chair, lean forward and rest your face on the padded pillow and let the licensed practitioners work on your travel stress.
I've found two competing companies with mini-massage outlets in several busy U.S. airports:
XpresSpa has outlets at New York's JFK, and at airports in Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham, Philadelphia and San Francisco. A fifteen-minute seated massage of your neck, back and shoulders is $32, and 25 minutes is $45. If you think this is only for women, think again: XpresSpa says its clientele is more than 50% male.
Massage Bar is a less expensive option – fifteen minutes for around $20, and thirty minutes for $29. Currently there is one outlet at Washington's Dulles International airport and two each in Nashville, Newark, and Seattle.
Tired of crowded business lounges and down-market beer and sandwich places? Try the quiet calm of Vino Volo. Now open in Dulles, Seattle and Sacramento, and scheduled to open in JFK and Baltimore soon, Vino Volo is a wine bar with the feel of a private retreat for harried travelers.
Instead of hunching down in a plastic chair in the boarding area, laptop balanced on your knees, sink into the Italian leather club chairs and spread your reports across the gleaming wooden table. Or sit quietly tasting a flight of local wines and do no work at all, the best travel indulgence I can think of. Prices for individual glasses of wine range from $7 to $44 (don't worry, most are closer to $7).
You can also taste a wine flight (a series of three glasses) of several wines. The price varies according to the type of wine. Not a bad place to pick up a gift or two, either- Vino Volo is set up beyond security check points.
Doug Tomlinson, founder and chief executive, spent years on the road himself and created what he'd long hoped to find in an airport, but never did.
"This is an airport lounge for the rest of us," he says.
Because they have an excellent array of small meals and treats, you can skip the on board snack box and instead buy a Vino Volo "grab and go" meal of smoked salmon rolls ($7) or a duck confit and lentil salad ($11). Cool.
Park and eat
Following the Vino Volo theme a bit further, I expect the air-traveler carry-out meal to become mainstream pretty soon. If the airlines can sell you a snack box for $5, why can't others play that game? Surely people want more than four choices, and surely they'd pay a bit more for a real meal. I found a great concept, recently started at Los Angeles International, in this case not tied to wine bars but to a parking service.
If you use the WallyPark parking lot outside of LAX and take the shuttle to the airport, you can now also order a SkyMeal to receive as you board the shuttle. Not just a sandwich, mind you, but dishes such as Flash Seared Ahi Tuna ($28.95) and Brown Sugar Glazed Salmon ($27.95) in small soft-sided coolers to carry on board. You'll make your seatmate jealous – and probably everyone else on the plane.
Leave the luggage – and the lugging – to someone else
Lugging the luggage always wears on me. What if it was just mysteriously taken care of and I could once again stroll confidently through the airport carrying only a snappy-looking briefcase? It used to be that luggage forwarding services were designed to handle bags that exceed airline weight restrictions. But the concept is going more mainstream as more discover it.
Luggage Free says their business has doubled in the past few years. They handle not only bulky business luggage but also skis, bikes, and golf clubs. Also worth a look are Luggage Concierge and Luggage Forward. Yes, it's a bit more expensive than the Vino Volo glass of wine, perhaps $100 to $400 per transfer depending on what, where, and how fast. But you can avoid the lines and the lugging and get door-to-door service and better insurance coverage. Nice, especially if you really deserve a break.
I do this travel thing a lot, and I do think I deserve a break once in a while. So do you. Enjoy.
Jennifer Openshaw, author of the upcoming book, "The Millionaire Zone," is CEO of winningadvice.com. She is also host of ABC Radio's "Winning Advice with Jennifer Openshaw" and appears frequently on such shows as the CBS Early Show and Good Morning America. E-mail her at Openshaw@winningadvice.com.