So, we’re not all millionaires yet, right? And I don’t care what anyone says, even though perhaps it’s a little less authentic to stay in a Five Star hotel, if budget travelers could afford to, they probably would! But, unfortunately sometimes we do need to travel on somewhat of a budget. And really in today’s day and age, it’s always smart to be conscious about the money you’re spending, even if you’ve got alot. Why pay more when you don’t have to? Of course, planning a luxurious vacation on a budget is a challenge but there are several tricks and tips I have learned over the years that have always helped me travel in style–even when I was a poor college student. Attaining luxury on a budget may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. As a luxury connoisseur, I have always been a picky traveler–I would rather be at home than somewhere that I’m scared to touch the sheets. So even on a budget, I always did my best to find affordable luxury. I’ve found that the trick is to mix in budget activities and dining with a bit more upscale accommodations. Here is my best advice for how to have a luxurious vacation even if you aren’t loaded yet! A sort of guide for how to live the high life for less!
Finding a Luxurious Hotel on a Budget
Finding Luxury accommodations on a budget will probably be your biggest challenge. It’s difficult, but not impossible. First, consider shortening your ideal trip by a day or two. Cutting out a night or two will immediately free up a lot of your budget and you’ll be able to make your trip more luxurious when you’re away.
To score better deals at luxe hotels avoid peak season and travel during the so-called off-season. Believe it or not, this doesn’t always mean that this is the worst weather in a destination. It usually just means avoiding school breaks and holidays like Christmas and Easter. Check out shoulder seasons when weather may still be good but tourism hasn’t quite picked up.
Hotels that are in need of business often will post deals on sale sites like Jetsetter and Vacationist. Also, Mrs. and Mr. Smith, who list pricy luxury hotels also have a budget boutique section that I like to look at since I trust their taste! Sometimes, I’ll even check and see what hotels are offered on the sale sites and then call them directly to see what deals I can get. Often, if they’re able to cut out the middle man, they’ll be able to offer even deeper discounts.
Boutique hotels also often offer more affordable luxurious accommodations than bigger brand name hotels. When I was in Australia with my best friend just after college, we found a boutique hotel in Sydney for just about $30 more dollars a night per person than a hostel if we shared a room.
Finally, consider location. Look a little outside the most popular areas and you’ll likely find better deals on nicer places. Looking in neighborhoods that are not the most popular for tourists often offer the best deals–just be careful that it’s not too far. You don’t want to end up reinvesting your savings back into cab fare. Consider though, staying in a business district on the weekend where it’s less popular but still Five Star.
And don’t forget to fight dirty–tell them if you’re traveling for a special celebration–hotels love throwing in little treats for honeymooners and birthdays! You’d be surprised!
Even if you can’t afford to stay at a Five Star resort, you can still take advantage of their amenities. You can buy a little piece of heaven for a couple hours if you visit the hotel bar or restaurant. Check and see if there is an afternoon tea or simply come for a soda. One non-alcoholic drink won’t set you back too much.
Choose Your Activities
You’ll be surprised how many top attractions in cities are affordable or free. For example, there are plenty of free museums or at least days where fees are waived. You just have to do your research in advance. In New York, museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art actually only have a suggested amount to pay but you can pay anything you like even though it’s not advertised. Instead, museums may say “suggested ticket price” or something along those lines.
The more research you do for a vacation, the more money you can typically save. Here are some tips to save money on your vacation activities:
Most parks and outdoor attractions are free and this is often where locals actually hang out. Central Park for instance is the best place to hang in NYC and it’s totally free!
Bring your student ID with you, which can snag you major discounts and sometimes even free admission sometimes. Even if you’re no longer a student, if it’s not expired, it will work. Some museums also offer teacher discounts so bring your I.D.
Where to Eat
While I love a good Michelin-starred restaurant, if you’re on a budget you should consider those places that locals rave about. Not only to they usually have the best food but you’ll also have an authentic, local dining experience.
If you have your heart set on visiting some of the city’s best dining options, instead of going for dinner, check them out for lunch or brunch. Entrees will be cheaper but you’ll still get to enjoy the ambiance and views.
Also, when booking your hotel or Bed and Breakfast, try and see if you can get a food and beverage credit at the hotel, or have them give you breakfast included with your room. This will save you time and money.
I’m a big believer in suffering through the flight so that I can enjoy using that money on my vacation. Traveling Business or First Class these days can cost you an arm and a leg! For Long -Haul flights the prices can literally be 10 times the cost of an economy ticket, setting you back about 10,000 or more to sit comfortably in the sky. While I hate Coach and use any reason to splurge on Business, when I’m trying to save money this is where I typically start. It’s such a short part of the vacation and the money I save can go a long way. Check out my tips for how to make Coach more bearable here.