I have got a confession to make: I am a picky traveller.
Don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and I feel rather lucky about how much I managed to fly in the last 15 years—actually, more than I ever thought I would in a lifetime. However, I have never felt too comfortable about backpacking trips and hostels. I’ve always admired people who can spend their gap year wandering the globe from youth hostel to youth hostel without a second thought, but that has never been my teacup. (To be brutally honest, the mere idea of finding bedbugs on a shabby hostel scares me so much, I have recurring nightmares about it). As I grow older though, I notice these pet peeves have only increased, and this reflects in the way I organize my holidays.
To me, a perfect holiday has nothing to do with a huge budget, caviar over breakfast or flying on my own private jet (which by the way, I don’t own yet. If you do have a spare one to share though, I’ll be glad to borrow it. THANKYOUVERYMUCH), but it’s all about comfort, organization and all those nice little details that can make the difference.
So, how can you plan a five stars trip in a budget? Is it possible to travel like a Royal without bankrupting? Spoiler: It is and I am telling you how.
These are my five tips for a luxury holiday on a budget.
Be flexible with your dates
This is probably The One Ring of the tips: the tip to rule them all. In order to travel in style, being flexible with your dates can mean all the difference between a budget-friendly and a bankrupting trip. Most flight companies offer big sales during off-peak season and the same applies to hotels, including high-end and five stars ones. Whether you are visiting an exotic island or domestic destination, don’t be shy to compare fares through different websites and travel agencies. You can save up a fair amount by using your fidelity points too (Sebastian and I are always offered good discounts through Booking since we are frequent flyers).
Plan ahead all your city tours
Most companies offer huge discounts on their tours and organized events when booked in advance. Last Summer, for instance, we saved about 30% of the price on a Danube luxury cruise experience by simply booking online. And let me tell you something: champagne tastes twice better when you make a good deal.
If possible, book your dinner/lunch in advance too
There are a few things that can spoil a fun trip so fast like endlessly wandering for a nice restaurant. Walking around only to discover that every place is full and overpriced after a long tiring day is quite disheartening. (And I don’t know about you guys, but I am not any nicer when tired AND hungry.) During our planning sessions before a holiday, we usually invest time to research about good restaurants and culinary experiences, and although it may sound like a hassle, it is less time-consuming than looking for a good place on the spot. Money-wise is smarter too since you can find reasonable offers for the best places. When in Budapest last month, we chose to book in Café New York, the Four Seasons Hotel, and the Mazel Tov restaurant among others. They were all impressive value and the food was nothing but exquisite.
Make your research on designer outlets and sales
Are you into designer fashion? Then, I would recommend making a little research on your destination: the number of luxury outlets and seasonal sales available can be shockingly high sometimes. If you are going to splurge extra cash in something fabulous, be sure you obtain the best value for your money. What about vintage? If the pre-loved market is your cup of tea, do not forget to make some research too! To me, haunting for bargains abroad is one of the biggest pleasures (and I have got a nice personal collection to prove it!)
When in doubt, upgrade the experience
Please, visualize this scene in your mind: you are chilling in that wonderful sky garden at dusk after a wonderful city tour. The views are breathtaking and the day was a memorable one. You would gladly drink a good glass of wine to celebrate now but when you reach for the menu— surprise, it is like £500, plus the blood of your first-born child! Familiar with the situation? Look, we have all been there which is the reason to upgrade with extras when offered during booking. Most of the times, you will end up saving money (and avoiding a hangover due to cheap drinks too…)