Luxury travel does not always need to come with a luxury price tag. There are ways to add luxury to any vacation, even those on a strict budget. From choosing the right time to travel to making smart choices about where to stay, to utilizing perks you didn’t know you had, you have the ability to create a luxurious experience on your next vacation.
To help you, we’ve created the following 8 tips for adding luxury travel on a budget:
- Travel in the off-season to cheaper destinations
- Use layover programs
- Leverage credit card and membership perks
- Fly private (it’s cheaper than you think)
- Use first-class lounges
- Join a lounge program
- Don’t limit yourself to hotels in the city center
- Use a private terminal
Travel in the off-season to cheaper destinations
As you are already aware, traveling in a destination’s off-season can bring lower prices due to lower demand. But, for more impact, you can add to your savings by also visiting a less expensive location.
For example, you can visit the Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand in July (their off-season is July-October) for $85 per night:
Granted, it is off-season for a reason (in this case, the rainy season). However, if you are willing to travel during this time you not only save on lodging and airfare but also activities and food will typically be less during this time.
Use layover programs
The first thing we need to tackle is layovers. Did you know that there are some airlines that will allow you to extend your layover so that you can spend a few extra days for free? However, you have to pay for lodging but most of the time, it comes with no extra airline costs to layover a few extra days when you’re flying from A to B. For instance, if you are flying to London and happen to have a stopover in Canada, you can extend that stay and enjoy a few days in Canada before going on to your flight in London without paying extra.
Not every airline offers it but there are some incredible deals. One of the Airlines that offers stopover programs is Air Canada. They have an entire Air Canada Stopover Program where not only do they allow you to extend your layover for a few days and enjoy Canada but it also helps you book your hotel in the interim. The program offers transportation to and from the airport and gives you all the details of how you can extend and visit more of Canada when you’re on your way to your next vacation spot.
Another great one is in Madrid. If you have a layover that happens to be flying on Iberia Airlines and have a layover in Madrid they are more than happy to extend up to six nights so you can explore Madrid without any extra airline costs. You can check out their program. They help you get to your hotel, transportation to and from the airport, and give you options to explore their city. They allow you to extend your layover and take advantage of these tours.
You can also check out the Iceland Air Layover program which gives similar benefits. When booking your flight, perhaps a layover in Iceland will be ideal for you. You can also check out the Etihad Layover program. Some of the places will give you free lodging if you decide to spend the night and stay over and explore the city or the town. Other stopover programs you can check are Singapore Stopover and Portugal Layover. All these airlines want you to explore their cities and so they’re willing to help you with things and discounts. I highly recommend it if you have the time. Taking advantage of these opportunities can enhance your vacation. A lot of those airlines offer a lot of extra perks and things that make it worth your time.
Leverage your credit card and travel membership perks
Many travel credit cards today offer a number of perks. This can include the ability to upgrade your seats to first-class, getting access to first-class lounges, and upgrading your hotel rooms.
Depending on your credit card, you might also get access to advanced perks as well. For instance, if you have the higher American Express cards (platinum, etc), you have access to their Fine Hotels & Resorts program. This sometimes includes free nights, extra amenities, and upgrades.
If you happen to have a hotel credit card, these often include special perks as well. This can be free nights, free upgrades, and other special amenities and perks for their members.
If you don’t have a travel credit card to leverage but want one, a great resource for choosing is The Points Guy and Nerdwallet. Both websites have extensive reviews on travel credit options, costs, requirements, and more.
Fly private (it’s cheaper than you think)
Did you know there are companies that now have 30 passenger jets and they sell tickets per seat? You purchase it as if you’re buying a commercial flight, by just buying the number of seats you need. You’re not chartering the entire jet. This is a great way to fly and have a luxury experience without the luxury price tag.
Not only do you get to fly on a somewhat private jet (you are technically sharing it with other passengers), but you also get to depart and arrive in the private terminal. This means no long TSA lines, no parking issues, and the ability to arrive as little as 30 minutes or so from your departure time.
The company that brought this idea to our attention is JSX. Based in the U.S., they initially started in California but now have routes including the entire west coast, Las Vegas, and some cities in Texas, Florida, and New York.
As an example, a flight from Burbank (near Los Angeles) to San Francisco can be purchased for around $119 each way depending on the day.
To get another $20 off of your flight, use referral code ZQXA4B.
Use the lounges in your airport
If you are flying out of a commercial airport, first-class lounges are the immediate way to add luxury to your vacation. Not only do they provide more spacious, comfortable seating but also power outlets, clean bathrooms, showers, and free food and drinks (including an open bar).
When you know you will be waiting for a while before boarding your flight, or have a long layover, access to a first-class lounge is a luxury add-on that is surprisingly budget-friendly.
How to use the lounges
The cheapest way is free. This is possible If you have enough frequent flyer miles to be in one of the higher tiers. Another somewhat free option (free to get in, but you are paying on the front end) is through your credit card. Many airline credit cards include lounge access (such as the American Airlines credit card through Citibank). You often pay annual fees for these types of cards, but once paid you get unlimited access. Certain tiers of AMEX also offer entry to the Centurion Lounges as well as free membership to Priority Pass (a first-class lounge program – more about this below).
If you don’t have any of these there are several lounges that offer day passes. For example, if you’re flying with American Airlines from LA to London and you have a six-hour stopover in New York, you could get the day pass and use the lounge in LA while you’re waiting for your first flight and in New York while you’re waiting on your layover. It makes the whole day a lot more comfortable for you.
If you are using this option, the app LoungeBuddy shows you what lounges are available in each airport as well as whether a day pass is offered and the price.
Join a company that has access to all the lounges
As I mentioned above, another to access lounges is through a membership program. The way it works is that you pay a yearly fee for access to that company’s suite of lounges across the world.
One such company is Priority Pass. This is a company that has access to over 1300 lounges worldwide. Their membership comes in three varieties:
- $79 for the first year, but then you pay $32 per person to visit a lounge
- $253 for the first year, which includes 10 free visits then $32 per person after that and for guests
- $386 for the first year, which includes unlimited access for you and $32 per guest
Check foreign airlines
It’s common for people of a certain country to primarily trust its own airlines (ahem…Americans). But did you know many foreign airlines have far better amenities than a lot of domestic airlines do?
If you ever have an opportunity to fly on Singapore Airlines, for instance, we strongly encourage you to take it. Even the economy class has good food, free drinks, amazing service, and is very comfortable. That is why they are ranked as the number one airline.
Other highly ranked airlines are Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Japan Airlines. Each is valued for its impeccable service, comfort, and food. Even if you don’t fly first class with them, you will still have a luxury experience.
Don’t limit yourself to mainstream hotels in the city center
Hotels and resorts, especially those in the more popular parts of town, can easily create extra costs you don’t need to pay. By staying outside of popular areas and utilizing home rentals (such as Airbnb), you can have a luxury experience for far less.
When planning your vacation, be sure to check Airbnb, VRBO, and Google’s Vacation Rental portal for other options. This is especially true when traveling with a family or in a group. For instance, if you are a group of three couples, sharing a three-bedroom house will be cheaper than renting three luxury hotel rooms. Not only that, but you’ll have access to a kitchen (to save on meals) and can often find extra amenities such as private pools, community gym access, gated communities, amazing private views, and more.
When adding luxury to a budget, searching out these types of lodging alternatives is key.
We wrote an article all about saving money on Airbnb. You can read that here.
Access a private terminal
This option is more pricey than the others, but if it is within reach for you it can be a game-changer. Some airports now offer private terminal memberships even though you fly a standard commercial flight.
For instance, in Los Angeles, you will find the Private Suite (PS). Rather than park and access your flight through the LAX main terminals, you instead enter a private terminal. From the freely accessible parking, you enter pure luxury and completely bypass the pain of the main airport.
They offer their own TSA with no lines, first-class amenities, food, and a waiting area, and will drive you to the door of your airplane so you never touch the gate at all.
- Luxury Vacation Travel Tips – The Points Guy
- JSX Luxury Flights
- How to access first-class lounges
- Top 10 International Airlines
- Private Suite