Luxury travel isn’t so much about the destination as it is about the experience.
Luxury can be enjoyed just about anywhere – in cities and towns, on mountains and oceans…
But there are some tricks to getting luxury travel on a budget.
We went to members of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook for their tips. I also put a call out to the public relations community and received recommendations from them as well. I’ve pared down the deluge that came in to the 32 Tips I think you need to know.
Here they are.
Where to Luxury Travel on a Budget
- Go short-haul for short holidays and long-haul for extended stays. It’s simple. The longer the flight the more expensive it is. Go closer to home, save on travel and spend your savings on luxury accommodation, restaurants, spa treatments… If you have many months to travel, it’s worth traveling farther to less expensive destinations and staying longer. By spreading the cost of the flight over 60 or 90 days while staying in a destination like Thailand you can find luxury for less.
- Choose a cheap 5-star destination. I certainly don’t have the research resources to determine this so here are lists from other sites. An Australia perspective. An American perspective. A Canadian perspective.
- Go less central and less touristy. If you stay out of the center of things and off the beaten track you are more likely to get more for less. Research from Trivago suggests that staying within 1 km of Seattle city center could cost you $100/night more than outside that 1km circumference. Plus, staying outside the city center can get you into interesting neighborhoods so that you get a real feel for the city.
- Think Eastern Europe rather than Western Europe. If Europe is your destination, the east is definitely cheaper than the west. Think Budapest, Hungary; Prague, Czech Republic or Krakow, Poland. Think any of the countries south like Slovenia, Croatia or Romania. Think any of the more southerly countries such as Slovenia, Croatia and Romania.
- Travel the perimeter of Western Europe rather than the center. Cities that are farther out from the center tend to be less expensive. Think Porto, Portugal, Valetta, Malta or Athens, Greece. The same does not apply to northern Europe which is quite expensive.
- Choose the destination that has cheaper flights. Charles Thompson of the Solo Travel Society gave us this hot tip for Melbournians; Melbourne has one of the largest populations of Greeks outside Athens so flights to Athens are a tad cheaper. You can apply this idea in many places. Look for large immigrant populations near your home airport and you’ll likely discover where flights are less expensive for the distance.
- Use Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” button. Plug in your home airport and “everywhere” as your destination and you’ll get all sorts of destinations presented to you in order of least to most expensive. I wrote about how to effectively use it last week in Solo Travel on a Tight Budget: Easy as ABC.
- Check out the Solo Traveler Deals Page. On this page we list companies that have tours, cruises and other offerings for Solo Travelers. Tours and cruises with no or very low single supplements. You can also sign up for the Solo Traveler Advisory to get the deals into your inbox.
When to Find Luxury Travel on a Budget
- Judi & Janet from the Solo Travel Society (and many more) say: travel in the off season. Avoid the crowds. The locals are also more relaxed and friendly. Just watch out for gotchas like rainy season at the beach.
- Margaret from the Solo Travel Society says: visit places like museums late in the day. “I love museums and galleries. I try to go later in the day as they often sell discounted tickets near closing.”
- Anna and Wendy of the Solo Travel Society say: book last-minute deals. Book early or at the last minute. At the last minute you can find empty spaces on tours so that discounts are often found.
Luxury Accommodation on a Budget
- Use Booking.com with their 10% loyalty program. Use a hotel booking site such as Booking.com that rewards loyalty with a 10% credit if you sign up for their Genius program.
- Stay at a boutique hotel. Smaller hotels, with possibly fewer amenities than the chain hotels, may well offer more luxury for less money. Check out Mr. & Mrs. Smith’s Budget Boutique Hotels list and Luxury Link’s “This Week’s Steals” section. As usual, accommodation is the same price for double or single occupancy. It’s unfortunate but we haven’t got this issue beat yet.
- Debbie of the Solo Travel Society says: Use the Hotel Tonight app. “Hotels put extra inventory on this service for day-of sales.”
- B&B’s now have luxury options. Check out the Bed & Breakfasts from all over the world.
- Try a home exchange. This can save you big time on accommodation. Live like a local and stay for free. Home Exchange has 65,000+ worldwide listings. Read Free accommodation: try a home exchange
- Glamping options. Luxurious camping is not an oxymoron. Go to Glamping.com to find glamorous camping opportunities around the world.
- Apartment rentals can be more affordable than a hotel. Here are a few options.
- Airbnb is well known for booking apartments, homes or rooms. If you click here to book you’ll get a $20 credit as will I. (It may only be for your first booking. If you try a second booking please let me know if you still get the credit.)
- Homeaway for booking a holiday home.
- Vacation Home Rentals, another option for holiday rentals.
- Join the club and/or have the card. Hotels like the Fairmont have free clubs you can sign up for to get you free WiFi – a benefit that one gets at a hostel but, oddly, not yet at luxury hotels. Also, if you have an American Express card when booking at the Fairmont you may get a third night free.
- Use the Solo Traveler Accommodation Guide. Each listing in the guide is a recommendation from other solo travelers. Check it out for some great deals.
Save Money on the Things to Do
- Step up to the bar. You don’t have to stay at an uber-luxury hotel to enjoy some of the benefits. You can go to the bar for a drink, enjoy afternoon high tea or book yourself into their spa.
- Find the half-price ticket booths for theater. The prices are not always half price but by buying tickets on the day of performance at a half price booth you can save lots. Read Affordable New York, Affordable Toronto and Affordable London to find where in those cities.
- Experience that exclusive restaurant after hours. AskApril@askapril.com says “High end restaurants that are hard to get into, let alone afford, will be happy to serve you desert and a cappuccino after regular dinner hours. You’ll get the table, the luxury experience, the cuisine and the budget prices by skipping the meal.” Team that up with a night at the theatre and you have a real luxury experience.
- Take your main meal at special restaurants. Likewise, it’s also recommended to splurge on dining at noon hour when the prices are lower but the executive chef and kitchen are the same.
- Luxury car rentals for less. According to RentalCarReviews, Silvercar, an all-Audi car rental company, offers great luxury that doesn’t cost a great deal. “There isn’t a single location where the regular price from Silvercar for their premium Audi A4 is higher than a regular Full Size from the other companies. In a number of cases, Silvercar is less than half the price of either Hertz or Avis.”
- How about a limo for less? Blacklane offers black car service in 50 countries at a fraction of the cost of traditional limousine service, with as little as an hour’s notice. The reviews I read say that it’s more expensive than a taxi it’s definitely worth the service when compared to limo rates.
- Check out a City Pass to see if it will save you money on what you want to do.
- Mary of the Solo Travel Society says: watch for discounts sites like Groupon or GrabOne. You can choose your destination and search on deals. Here’s a link to Groupon Canada. For US Groupon sites your can start here and from their choose your specific city to find deals. GrabOne serves New Zealand, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Increase the Luxury of Your Flight Experience
- Get business class at economy fares. This tip came from The Travel Sisters. “We mainly travel in first class and business class flights but do not pay for the privilege. To do so, search for flight sales or mistake fares on business class. Sometimes airlines offer sales on business class flights where the price is the same as an economy flight would usually be. A good way to find these sales is to sign up for airline newsletters and follow certain twitter accounts such as @theflightdeal, @airfarewatchdog and @secretflying.
- Earn cash back through a third party site. The idea here is to buy your purchases through Splender. If you do they’ll share a percentage of their affiliate commission with you. You get 1 – 6% cash back from purchases that you make. As their PR said, “if someone normally buys plane tickets on Expedia, they can log onto Splender, click on Expedia (or any of the more than 800 merchants/retailers), which takes you directly to the Expedia website, and book their flight like they normally would.”
- Enjoy a little luxury before take-off. Read another Travel Money Tuesday post: Cheap Access to Lounge Luxury: 5 Tips. Check out the Priority Pass option for accessing lounges.
Negotiate a Great Travel Deal
- Erick of the Solo Travel Society says: do your own research. “Avoid travel agencies. It will take hours in front of your computer but it will be worth it.”
- Ashmani of the Solo Travel Society says: book months in advance. “Communicating directly with the hotels, back and forth, till a satisfactory deal is struck is worth the effort.”
And, of course, use travel rewards credit cards well. They are worth much more than their weight in travel dollars. Read Deciding on the Right Travel Rewards Credit Card.
See you next Friday!