Travelling on a budget can be a fun way to meet people and experience new things, but what if you feel like a little bit of luxury? Maybe it’s for a special occasion or you just want to unwind and recharge; there things you can do to get the experience of luxury travel without the extortionate prices. Guest writer Emma shares her tips
Choose the right destination
As obvious as it sounds, choosing a destination is the biggest thing that will make a difference to whether or not you can get affordable luxury on your trip. South East Asia is famous for its excellent hospitality and low prices, but there are also parts of Europe, Africa and the Americas where you can stay in a luxury four or five star hotel for $100 – $200 per night. Here are a few places to consider: Beijing, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ecuador, Egypt, Goa (India), Hungary, Ireland, Macau, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Poland, Portugal, Tunisia, Turkey.
Book really early or really late
If you’re planning a trip ahead of time then you should book it yourself, it will be much cheaper than booking with a travel agent. Booking flights at least three months ahead is often the cheapest way to do it, but use Google flights and Skyscanner to see price variations.
If you want to go at the last minute often you will get excellent value for money with a travel agent as they are trying to get rid of their last few packages. However you will have to be flexible on what day you wish to travel and exactly where you want to go – you could even go for a secret deal where you don’t find out your hotel name until after you have booked. It’s normally easy to figure it out using the hotel description and a quick internet search.
Travel out of season
Do not plan a trip during peak season if you are trying to save money as everything will be expensive – your accommodation, flights, meals out and excursions. The ‘shoulder season’ is either side of peak season and ‘off season’ is the quietest and cheapest time to go. Find out when these are and what the weather will be like, and then decide what works best for you. During off-peak season you stand a better chance of getting an upgrade at your hotel or on your flight/train as there are empty rooms/seats.
Join a frequent flyer programme
If you’re a frequent flyer then join an air miles scheme which means that you also earn points when you travel. You can use your points for an upgrade, and if you rack up enough points you are entitled to free upgrades!
Deal direct as much as possible
If you decide to book a hotel, call them directly and ask over the phone for their best deals. You will usually get the cheapest rate direct and you also have a better chance of getting an upgrade on arrival (if you’re very nice to the receptionist). Paying up front for your hotel at the time of booking will also guarantee you a discount. Make sure to get good travel insurance which covers pre-paid and non-refundable expenses.
If you don’t fancy a hotel or it’s out of your price range consider staying at a bed and breakfast or guesthouse, the level of service is usually very high and the cost will be much lower. Use a website like Wimdu to rent out rooms in people’s homes, or rent apartments and villas direct from the owner. 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.
Get organised and go off the beaten track
If you have time buy a guide book and plan your trip so that you know the best places to go outside the tourist areas. Prices will be significantly cheaper if you’re going out for a meal, and you can usually find cheaper ways to see the sights than following the usual tourist trail. Other things you can organise yourself are the little luxuries like champagne in the room (buy it in a supermarket and ask room service for an ice bucket) or a massage (a local therapist will be much cheaper than the hotel spa).
Follow the advice of fellow travelers
When you’ve decided what you want to see and do, get online and read some travel blogs and Trip Advisor reviews which should really help you find the best way to do it. For example, when visiting London recently we were very keen to see the view from London’s tallest building The Shard. Tickets to the viewing platform are £25 each.
We decided that we’d rather visit the Gong bar at the Shangri-La instead. The bar is on floor 52, so the view wasn’t exactly the same as the viewing platform on floor 72 but it was still pretty amazing. We knew from Tripadvisor about the minimum spend of £30 each, but we preferred the luxury of relaxing and enjoying the view while drinking cocktails rather than simply going to a viewing gallery.
I’ve always been told “If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” and this is certainly a maxim which has served me well! Of course, you should always be polite and friendly, but it really doesn’t hurt to let the person checking you in at the airline or hotel know that this is a special trip. If they don’t offer you an upgrade, don’t be afraid to ask – the worst that they can say is no, and occasionally you will catch someone in a good mood who will be happy to make your day!
Women’s Accommodation Network – Women Travel has a network of women owned accommodation around the world, try this on your next trip.