We all enjoy life’s little luxuries, but often it can seem like we pay through the nose for them, especially when travelling. However it is possible to travel in relative luxury while still watching your pennies – here are a few things to keep in mind that should help.
Choose a destination that provides good value for money
It seems obvious, but the first step in planning a luxury trip on a budget is picking the right destination. This can be a difficult, but there is a good rule of thumb: the most visited cities are usually the most expensive cities, think London, New York and Paris. So avoid these destinations and choose somewhere either in a cheap country or off the beaten track. Choose your destination wisely; some cheap countries will have very poor standards of service so it can be difficult to find ‘luxury’. Look for countries with a developed or burgeoning tourist trade and then go to the lesser-known island or region.
Cheap destinations for luxury hotels include:
Europe: Croatia, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Ireland, Hungary, Bulgaria
Africa: Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia
Asia: Thailand, Goa (India), Cambodia, Macau, Beijing, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia
The Americas: Mexico, Ecuador, Nicaragua
Choose the optimum time to travel
To really get the best value you need to be very flexible on travel dates and times. Find out when the peak seasons are for your chosen destination and try to plan your trip for the ‘shoulder season’ or off season completely if the weather allows it. Flying mid-week is cheaper than flying at the weekends and the same goes for accommodation costs at many destinations. Another plus for off-peak travel is that you stand a better chance of getting an upgrade at your hotel or on your flight/train when there are empty rooms/seats. If you’re looking for a short luxury break then go in the winter and stay mid-week or on a Sunday night. Decide on a hotel and look on their website – often large hotels will have packages for off-peak times which include dinner and breakfast and sometimes even spa treatments.
Do it yourself
Book your plane tickets, accommodation and excursions yourself as it will work out cheaper than booking with a travel agent. There are many people who will tell you that for complicated trips to places that you’re unfamiliar with then it’s better to book through an agent as they can organise the stressful stuff for you, pull some strings to get you an upgrade on a special trip and take care of any problems that arise. But if you want luxury on a budget you can and should do it yourself. Don’t be intimidated by the thought of planning a complicated trip.
Do your research and get organised
Give yourself some time to plan and buy a good up-to-date guide book. Read up on the best places to eat, things to do and places to stay so that you can be well informed in your decisions. Also check online – plenty of travelers have ‘been there and done that’ so reading travel blogs and Trip Advisor reviews should really help you find the money saving tricks.
Bring the luxury
This also relies on you being organized, but if you know the kind of perks that make you feel like you’re being pampered then you should be able to arrange them yourself. For example, instead of paying for champagne on arrival you can bring your own with you; just ask room service to bring up an ice bucket. Or if you love massages don’t book yourself into the hotel spa (unless you can arrange it as part of your package), find out where you can get one nearby at a salon. This is especially true in Thailand where you’ll pay around $10 for a traditional Thai massage in most places, but in a five star hotel it’s around ten times that price.
Join a frequent flyer programme
If you’re a frequent flyer then join an air miles scheme like Qantas Points which is part of oneworld Alliance. This means that you also earn points when you travel with American Airlines, Jetstar and Emirates to name a few. You can collect points by shopping at Woolworths or dealing with telecoms partner Optus and car hire companies Avis and Budget. Use your points for an upgrade, and if you rack up enough points you are entitled to free upgrades!
Look elsewhere for accommodation
Consider staying at a bed and breakfast or guesthouse. The level of service is often very high and the price will be half what you would pay for a hotel. You can also use websites like Wimdu to rent out rooms in people’s homes, or rent apartments and villas direct with owners. If you can gather a group of friends or family together a villa holiday can be very affordable and luxurious – you’ll probably have your own pool and you can save money by making your own meals.
Lastly – remember the phrase “if you don’t ask you don’t get”. Make sure that the hotel or airline knows that you’re on a special trip (even if you aren’t!) when you are checking in and if necessary ask if they can do anything to make it more special. You never know, you might just get a free upgrade or bottle of wine. It’s always worth a try!