Visiting beautiful, ‘luxury’ destinations doesn’t have to cost a fortune if you know what you’re doing. I love finding holiday deals (like everyone else), and have now worked out the best method for me when it comes to doing luxury travel on a budget.
I nearly always book my flights and accommodation separately, as I find I can get a better price if I shop around for both individually. Like most people I imagine, what makes a ‘luxury holiday’ for me is 3 things: the accommodation, the location and the food – so I spend to get these things right and save on everything else. In short, I do a lot of research and a lot of budgeting.
Picking a destination: SAVE
If you have no idea where you want to go, try the KAYAK Explore tool, this lets you put in your departure airport, time of travel and budget, and then shows you all the possible flight prices anywhere in the world, to give you a really good idea of the cheapest places to fly to.
For stunning beach destinations, you can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean Coast, and a slightly cheaper, but equally as beautiful alternative, is Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. Indonesia and South East Asia are home to some of the world’s most incredible beaches, and are even cheaper in comparison (on average) when it comes to food and accommodation etc., but you have to factor in the pricier long-haul flights of course. Consider going slightly out of season to save money.
If you have somewhere in mind you want to go to, like Bali for example, make sure you research way in advance the cheapest month to book tickets. For Indonesia in general, a good time to buy for summer is November / December.
As well as the KAYAK Explore tool, Skyscanner is great for finding the best deals on flights, as it searches through more flight providers worldwide than anywhere else. When you put in your departure and arrival airports, also tick ‘add nearby airports’, as somewhere else might be a bit cheaper than your number one airport choices. Instead of putting in specific travel dates, select ‘whole month’ to give you an overview of the cheapest days to travel.
Airport transfers: SAVE
This is always one to bear in mind before booking your holiday, as you might think you’ve found a great deal on a luxury hotel, but it ends up being 3 hours from the airport and costs you a crazy amount to get there.
With hotels, they’ll often provide information on their website about an airport shuttle service, which is usually the easiest ‘cheaper’ option. The public bus would be cheaper still, but these can be tricky to work out especially in a foreign country after a long flight. I would suggest if an airport shuttle service isn’t on offer or easy to find, just hop in a taxi when you get there. In my experience, the meter price nearly always comes out cheaper than pre-paid taxis.
First on the list for experiencing a luxury holiday is the location you decide to stay in. What kind of holiday are you looking for – somewhere quiet and relaxing, somewhere lively and exciting, or a mix between the two? Whatever it is, it’s definitely worth spending more to be in a nicer area if you want to enjoy a ‘luxury’ holiday.
If your desired location is going to be too expensive, look at the surrounding areas too. Usually beach destinations get cheaper the more inland you go, so consider somewhere a little further away from the hotspots. But then again make sure you’re near enough to good transport links to reach the places you want to visit during your stay.
For me, a luxury holiday means luxury accommodation, so I dedicate a large amount of the budget to this, but always try to find a deal where possible. I’ll start by searching Secret Escapes and Voyage Privé, as they are free to join and you can find some gorgeous places for fairly reasonable prices – they even throw in some cools extras sometimes like a free 3-course dinner or spa access per guest. I also try looking at booking.com for deals on luxury hotels, but the best for great accommodation on a budget has got to be Airbnb.
Airbnb doesn’t just offer cheap rooms in someone’s house, there’s loads of luxurious villas, penthouse suites and fancy apartments available too, and usually at a fraction of the price you’d normally pay for a hotel of equal standard. Many even come with a daily room cleaning service, pool and breakfast, just like a hotel – if not better! Read more about my experience using Airbnb in Santorini.
This is really down to personal preference, but when I go on holiday I’m most interested in seeing the beaches, national parks, historical attractions and local villages to soak up the atmosphere – which are all relatively cheap, if not free. Lots of sights offer student discounts too (in Europe anyway), so make sure you bring your student ID with you if you have one.
When it comes to beaches (my favourite part), I tend to stay clear of the main touristy ones as they are often overcrowded and more expensive if you want anything like a sunbed or place to go for lunch. Do some research and ask the locals what their favourite beach is, they usually know where to find the best spot away from the tourist traps.
Getting around: SAVE
If you can get to grips with the bus system, you’ll save yourself a small fortune in travel costs – most of the main sights and attractions will have easy direct bus connections anyway. Taxi boats and passenger ferries are usually fairly inexpensive if you want to move between islands. Hiring a bike can be a cheap and fun way to get around and see the surroundings, and better still, walking is free!
Last on my list to complete a perfect luxury holiday, is of course…the food. A holiday wouldn’t be a holiday without great food and drink in my opinion. I will always save on breakfast, lunch and snacks, to spend on a delicious dinner and cocktails. Before I go, I like to check out the best restaurants on TripAdvisor and make a priority list of the ones I just have to visit. It’s all about balance really; if you’re spending less in the day, then you can afford to splash out in the evening – that’s the way I see it anyway!
Of course, this is just the method I use when trying to achieve luxury travel on a budget. If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them! Get in touch with me.