Tips to Afford Travel Luxury on a Budget
For a budget traveler, luxury travel seems to be out of reach. Most of us don’t want to drill a hole in our pockets to taste the finer things while traveling. However, it cannot be denied that a few luxuries enrich your travel experiences. So, there is no harm in putting some time and effort into making “affordable luxury” a reality. From flying comfortably and staying in grand hotels to indulging in fine dining and enjoying private tours – there is so much you can do to enhance your experiences. Splurge on the aspects that give you maximum happiness. You can’t have it all. Decide what you consider luxury and your desired level of extravagance. Do some research, plan ahead, and try some tips & hacks to convert your budget trip into a luxury one without breaking the bank.
Research is Crucial
No pain, no gain. Without putting in the effort, you are not going to get results. If you want subsidized luxury, you have to put in lots of hours researching the various options, deals, offers, discounts, etc. The more you save, the more you will have to splurge on luxuries. Check travel blogs/vlogs, browse the net, compare prices, reach out to fellow travelers & locals, talk to acquaintances, consult travel agents, follow travel influencers, read books/reviews, and so on. There are tons of information available all around you. Take everything with a pinch of salt as there are lots of myths circulating. If you want to get pampered within a limited budget, do thorough research before planning a trip. Options like Vacation Made Easy make life much easier for travelers
Travel in Off-Season/Shoulder Season
This is one of the easiest ways to enjoy luxuries at much lower costs. The ongoing season determines how much you would be spending on a vacation. During the low season, everyone offers subsidized rates to attract more customers. You can visit a destination for half the price during the off-season than in the high season. If you travel in non-peak times, you might be able to book a 5-star hotel at the same rates that you would pay for a 3-star hotel in peak season. It’s also easy to find deals and offers on sightseeing, tours, local transport, food, airfare, etc.
Traveling in the off-season/shoulder season is not always a bad idea. Europe is equally beautiful in winter, and India enjoys moderate temperatures even in October & March. The weather may not be perfect but the destination would be less crowded. If you are okay with facing slight inconveniences due to unreliable weather conditions, traveling in the offseason is one of the best ways to upgrade your vacation from budget to luxury.
Look for a Lesser-known Destination
Visiting a well-known destination turns out expensive. Everything is in demand and so comes with a higher price tag. Opt for a slightly lesser-known location, and you can enjoy the ultimate luxury without digging deep into your pockets. It’s not a bad trade-off. A tourist hub is not necessarily better than an off-beat destination. Why flock to Maldives, Lake Geneva, and Paris, when the Andaman Islands, Lake Bled, and Lyon are equally stunning? Choose a less-hyped location or an emerging destination and you will be able to enjoy all the fineries without the crowds and queues. Such tourist-free destinations give you an opportunity to enjoy the local culture and authentic experiences without any touristy traps.
Look for Ways to Upgrade Your Flying Experiences
Traveling in Business Class is the ultimate way to travel in style. However, Business Class is never cheap and usually costs three to four times more than an Economy Class ticket. Here are a few tricks that may help you secure a coveted seat in the Business Class without messing up your budget big time.
- Redeem your points/miles to upgrade to Business Class. This is definitely the best way to use your points.
- Apply for a card and frequent flyer that offers good value for your points and miles. Wait for the right time to sign up for the card so that you get the best sign-up bonuses. Add yourself to the mailing list of airlines to be notified early when they have a sale.
- Keep a lookout for airline sales and other lucrative offers like “2 for 1 flight fares”- your companion travels free if you buy one Business Class ticket. However, such offers are not as good as they sound. In most cases, you have to pay extra taxes.
- If Business Class is out of reach, settle for Premium Economy on long-haul flights. You may not get a flatbed, but you will have more leg space, roomier seats, better food, priority check-in/boarding, etc.
- Some airlines allow you to bid for an upgrade to a higher class. There is no harm in trying.
- Apply for a Priority Pass so that you can have lounges to freshen up, eat, and relax. Several premium cards also give access to lounges.
- Book in advance if you want good deals for Business and Premium classes. Be flexible with dates
- Fly during less busy travel days and time slots, so you can get better rates. Look for other ways to get better fares in Business Class like multi-stop flights, long layovers, etc.
- Many times airlines offer upgrades on the flight and at the check-in counters at discounted rates. Ask them if you are eying that Business Class seat.
Find Luxury Accommodation for Less
Nothing elevates your travel experience more than staying in a luxe hotel. So, look for ways to stay in better accommodation.
- Book hotels in advance to get the best rates for high-end hotels. Just make sure that they are refundable.
- If you want to stay in the city center, opt for a vacation rental instead of a hotel. Otherwise, stay outside of the main tourist areas.
- Looking for a glitzy villa? Stay in the outskirts and you will get great deals. Just check the public transport or rent a car
- Compare prices on third-party websites like Booking.com and check the hotel website before making a booking. You might be missing a promotional deal or seasonal offers.
- Call the hotel directly to see if they can offer you something better.
- Travel in a group, so that you can rent a luxurious villa and split the cost. It will be much cheaper than renting a room in a mid-range hotel room
- Check newly-opened hotels. They want to get established and give introductory offers to build a loyal clientele.
- Don’t rule out 5-star hotels from your search. They come in all price ranges and you can find something that suits your budget.
- All-inclusive is not always expensive. Check and compare before ruling them out.
- Boutique hotels may have fewer amenities but they compensate with their charm, character, personalized service, and unique designs. They cost considerably less but may be more luxurious than a few of the high-end hotels.
- Let go of the views. Choose Garden-view rooms instead of Ocean-view and prices would be way cheaper. You will still get a taste of luxury as you have access to all other hotel amenities.
- Consult your travel agent, as sometimes they offer upgrades, credits, and special prices that are not available on the net.
- Consider Glamping (luxury camping). It offers you all the luxuries of an upmarket hotel, but usually at a lesser cost.
- Use Credit Card points/ Frequent flyer miles to book or upgrade your room
- Join a Loyalty Program of a hotel chain. Try to book the same chain wherever you go. You will always receive offers, free nights, upgrades, free breakfast, happy hours, and lots more. However, do not become a slave to a loyalty program. Don’t decide your travel plans based on your points and loyalty programs.
Enjoy fine dining on a Budget
Love eating in a Michelin-starred restaurant but can’t afford the extravagant prices? Don’t lose hope. You can still enjoy fine dining if you try to be innovative. Plan a lunch instead of a dinner while visiting a high-end restaurant, as the set menu is always cheaper during lunch hours. When you are dining out in a plush joint, focus on the specialties, local cuisine, and regional beverages. You can skip the usual drinks and food for some other day. Better still, just order coffee and dessert so that you can soak in the luxury, experience, and vibes of the place without paying a hefty price. Look for local restaurants and hidden gems that will serve you regional delicacies at very competitive rates. Eateries in suburbs would be less expensive than in tourist areas, so you can target them. Check sites like Travelzoo and Groupon to find offers for restaurants, activities, spa treatments, etc. Even Credit cards have a tie-up with lots of eating places.
Upgrade your Local Travel
It is not pleasant carrying heavy luggage on complicated public transport. Taxis, though expensive, make life much easier and more comfortable. Uber has made traveling within the city affordable to a large extent. Pre-booking taxis to and fro from the airport should always be looked into. Call/mail the hotel to find out about their airport shuttle. Rent a luxury car for a brush with luxury. The difference is not that big and you will feel extravagant. Buying a train pass also helps in making your local travel convenient, as you can travel everywhere without bothering about buying tickets. They usually come with discount vouchers for local cafes and eateries.
Travel where your Currency goes further
Plan your vacation to a country where your currency is worth more, and everything would look affordable. People coming from the USA and Europe find most South-Eastern countries cheap. They are able to enjoy all the luxuries that they could never afford in their country. Keep track of currencies that are plummeting and plan a trip there. You will be able to live king-size. The UK pound was in the doldrums in the wake of Brexit, so that was a good time to take a vacation in the UK. It means that you would be able to buy more things for less.
All of us are excited by luxury, but no point in getting swayed by good offers and making hasty decisions. Invest in an upscale resort only if you plan to spend most of your time in the resort. If you are going to be busy the whole day sightseeing, why spend on the hotel? Use the money for dining, taxis, private tours, etc. If you have your eyes set on a lavish property, try to save money for it by compromising on your accommodations on the other nights. The budget hotel may not be up to the mark, but you have something dreamy to look forward to. Flying Business Class makes no sense for a 2-hour flight. Use the money elsewhere. Business Class on a long-haul flight will give you that sense of luxury & comfort that you were looking for. Spending money on exclusive adventures also makes sense. Wild-beast Migration and the Northern Lights are some of the once-in-a-lifetime experiences that should be enjoyed in the best way possible.
Don’t assume that luxe experiences are only for the rich. Follow these tips and hacks that will take your money further and help you indulge in a few luxuries from time to time