While traveling on a shoestring budget is fun and challenging in its own right, treating yourself to a luxury vacation is something we all that dream about. I mean who doesn’t like to be pampered every now and then?
You may think that high-end resorts in exotic destinations are a dream that will never come true but with the right strategy, you can be there in no time! Just check out my recent trip to South Africa, while it was a luxury trip in every sense of the word, I also saved money by following a few simple rules.
#1 Start Planning Early
When it comes to luxury trips, starting early is my biggest tip. A cheap 5-star extravagant trip isn’t going to fall into your lap two weeks before you leave. As discussed in the video above, I start planning all my trips, and especially luxury, at least 6 months ahead of time. Please note, this doesn’t mean I am booking everything this far in advance! It simply means I begin my research, figuring out the average cost of everything at any given destination.
Remember, this is just cursory research. Don’t think of this as a time to have 20 tabs open, different search engines in each, with you pulling out your hair trying to find the cheapest flight to your destination. You simply want to document the general cost of things. Flights from X to Y cost $Z. Luxury hotels in Y destination cost $Z. Breakfast costs about $Z a day. Lunch costs about $Z a day. Dinner costs about $Z a day. And so on and so forth.
#2 Target Cheap Destinations
Hotels and flights are your two biggest expenses, if you save money on a flight, you can splurge a bit more on hotels or excursions! I always use Skyscanner’s everywhere tool when brainstorming trips. Their tool allows you to input your home airport and search everywhere for specific dates, or even a whole month if you’re super flexible. Scroll through and find out what places are cheap to get to from where you are. This comes in handy because even if you are splurging you probably can’t blow the bank on everything. When I was searching for flights I found a cheap fare to South Africa. Since I scored such an amazing deal on the flight it made my dream of staying at Ivory Lodge in Sabi Sands a reality!
Protip: Also get familiar with destinations that are cheap once you arrive. Places like Thailand, Vietnam, and South Africa are far cheaper to travel around than Switzerland and Finland. Of course, food and transport will be cheaper in Thailand than in Switzerland but will 5-star hotels and lavish excursions! Need some inspiration? Check out my previous article on best cheap travel destinations!
#3 Stay Organized
Organization is the key to planning any trip, especially a longer one, without going crazy. I personally love excel and use it for every trip I plan. You can download the exact template I use for planning trips here. Seriously, download it for yourself and I promise it will make life easier!
If you stay organized and start outlining costs early, you can start saving for the trip ASAP. My excel sheet showed me I wasn’t saving fast enough to stay in South Africa in lavish luxury for 10 days, but I could for 7!
#4 Discover Your Dream Hotels Now
While I am doing my initial research, I make a list of all the dream hotels I want to stay at. I price out what the average cost per night is and add it to my excel sheet. I also check the hotel’s website since luxury hotels tend to offer deals like “Stay X nights, Receive one night free”.
#5 Set Price Alerts
If you have read other articles from me you know that I love price alerts. They pretty much do all the work for you and I don’t understand why more people don’t take advantage of them. Set alerts for different flight routes and even different days or weekends if you’re flexible. Set price alerts on the list of dream hotels you just made, as well as hotel price alerts for entire cities. As the emails roll in you can book your trip knowing that while you are splurging you’re also getting the best price!
#6 Pick One Thing to Splurge On
If you are taking a longer trip, don’t be afraid to stay at wildly different accommodation types. Before I could afford longer luxury vacations I would book most nights at hostels or low-cost hotels, and near the end of the trip add on a luxury stay somewhere.
#7 Book Extravagant, but Travel Cheaply
Just because you are staying at a magnificent 5-star hotel doesn’t mean you have to spring for the private driver to take you there or the extravagant, and expensive, meal in their restaurant.
While in South Africa, I saved money by renting a car instead of paying for drivers. Showing up to 21 Nettleton, a gorgeous mansion on a hill in Cape Town, in my tiny Volkswagen golf was a funny sight. The staff there are used to luxury cars or fancy drivers for their guests and they lightheartedly commented on it. We had a laugh and I was happy, in the long run, it saved me money! I had my own car to drive all over Cape Town and saved a ton of money on not having to pay for tours or drivers.
In my next article, I will be giving you tons of tips on planning a last minute weekend getaway.
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