Luxury vacations aren't just for the super-rich these days. Thanks to a proliferation of deals and discounts, just about anyone can travel like the jetset class on a road-trip budget. You just need to know where to look.
Relax in the warm waters of the Caribbean, treat yourself to a spa experience in the Appalachian Mountains, or spend some time on a yacht off the shores of Vietnam. No matter what type of adventure you prefer, you can find incredible deals without sacrificing five-star service.
Of course, one person's affordable is another's budget buster. It’s important to know what we mean by “affordable.” Well, based on the fees resorts typically charge, we've settled on $200 a day as an upper limit on lodgings and experiences we'd consider within a realistic budget.
And that’s a lot less than the $388 a night the average family is paying to stay on-site at Walt Disney World! And with vacation packages that can take you all over the globe, these are the sorts of luxury trips that will live forever in your fondest memories.
So update your passport, pack a bag, and keep your wallet modestly filled. You can vacation like royalty without paying a king's ransom at any of these luxury destinations.
Experience the beauty of the Caribbean for less on the Dominican Republic island of Cayo Levantado. A summertime stay at the Luxury Bahia Principe resort on Cayo Levantado starts at just $160 per person, per night, says Diana Arellano, the resort’s manager of tourism.
Start in the Dominican town of Samaná, then take a short ferry ride to the island—starting from Bahia Principe’s private dock. The resort itself is packed with exclusive comforts, including six incredible restaurants, whirlpools and swimming pools, and views of the azure waters. There’s even an on-site theater.
This combination of elite access and affordability catapulted this Bahia Principe property to No. 1 on TripAdvisor’s list of all-inclusive Caribbean vacations in 2019. Worldwide, it was ranked 17th best in 2018, which is pretty good considering the everyman prices.
User reviews call the resort “the most beautiful place,” and, simply, “paradise.” All-inclusive services include everything from friendly reception to scuba and diving lessons in the resort pool. Room service is available 24 hours a day, and there’s even a scent menu to make your stay as relaxing as possible.
If you never thought you could afford a luxury Caribbean vacation, Bahia Principe is here to prove otherwise.
Luxury for less is hiding in the gorgeous countryside of the Appalachian foothills. Wheeling, West Virginia, is the home of the Oglebay Resort, a full-service lodging and activity center on a 406-acre nature preserve.
Whatever you like to do to relax, Oglebay has you covered. If you’re a golf fan, you might recognize the on-site Speidel Golf Club, which hosted the Ladies Professional Golf Association’s Wheeling Classic for more than a decade. Play a few holes while the family enjoys skiing, drive-in movies, or the fully accredited Good Zoo.
If you prefer getting back to nature, enjoy nearby Schenk Lake and the Bisonnette Gardens. And for those who truly want to pamper themselves, there’s the West Spa at Oglebay Resort. You can even enjoy horseback riding or low-key hikes on well-maintained country trails.
Best of all? Room rates start at $179 per night, with plenty of upgraded lodge rooms for under $200.
Once upon a time, only the very rich could celebrate retirement or a golden anniversary at a chateau in the French countryside. Then Airbnb swooped in like a fairy-tale prince and made beautiful, historic properties available to the masses.
Chateau de Miserai stands in the fields of Lower Normandy, just 90 minutes from Paris, but a world away from the big-city hubbub. Sit in the sun and watch the (real!) watermill turn, or relax in an on-site jacuzzi.
The chateau rests on the edge of a small lake, complete with a sandy beach. The property’s green gardens are ideal for outdoor events, or just for watching the kids run around like woodland sprites.
The property owners offer four menus' worth of delivered meal options, so you won’t have to worry about anything—except the inevitable end of this once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Perhaps the most astounding thing about Chateau de Miserai is the price tag: just $159 per night at the time of this writing.
Oh, and with its close proximity to Paris, this location is an ideal homebase for an exciting, comprehensive trip to France. After a night in this historic lodging, you’ll be hard-pressed to say au revoir.
If you’ve ever tried to take a peek at the Book of Kells at Trinity College’s Old Library in Dublin, you’ve probably run into a problem: Everyone else is there trying to do the same thing. The crowds can ruin the experience. Plus, what’s more luxurious than special access?
LetzGo City Tours in Dublin, Ireland, offers an early-access tour of the beautiful Old Library at Trinity, at the heart of the city. While you’re at it, the experienced tour guides will take you around Dublin Castle Gardens, a 13th-century estate that transports visitors back to the age of chivalry.
That’s just one of the affordable luxury experiences available in the Republic of Ireland, says Frank Kelly, founding director of bespoke Irish vacation organizer Hennessy & Furlong. To make the most of these deals, you’ll have to time your trip carefully, Kelly says.
“Ireland has a wide range of luxury experiences,” Kelly says. “Many of these are more affordable on the shoulder season. Airfares from the U.S. to Ireland are also good value during the shoulder and off-peak season.”
“Shoulder season” in Ireland takes place during spring and fall, incidentally. And once you arrive on your low-cost flight, local guide services can take you beyond the standard tourist fare. Hennessy & Furlong, for instance, offers a unique afternoon tea experience at a 16th century country manor near Limerick—all for around $110 per person, depending on the size of your group.
Ever think about visiting Concord, New Hampshire? The city doesn’t pop up on many vacation bucket lists. That could be about to change, though; the state’s capital city is in the midst of a major tourism push, which means local lodgings have a vested interest in offering attractive rates.
Concord makes a good home base for a luxury experience of New England. It’s close to country activities like apple picking and unforgettable hikes. At the same time, it has a thriving historic Main Street brimming with small-town charm.
Speaking of downtown Concord, a boutique hotel, appropriately named The Hotel Concord, offers unique rooms for as little as $189. At the time of this writing, The Hotel Concord even offers affordable vacation packages, including a date-night special that includes a movie at nearby Red River Theater, a one-night stay, and turndown service for just $179.
Explore the $14 million restoration of Concord’s Main Street on a free walking tour (brochure available here). Have an incredible New England dinner at Newick’s Lobster House, and enjoy shopping at the Steeplegate Mall.
Concord’s got something for everyone, and, for now at least, you can experience it all without risking your retirement fund.
Sometimes, you just need to pack up the family and head for the nearest white-sand beach. Unfortunately, that usually means popular resort towns like Pensacola, Florida—and the hefty prices that go along with high-demand areas.
That’s why we were excited to hear from Becca Poling, a representative of ONE Club Gulf Shores, a 45-hole golf course and lifestyle community located in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Poling offers the beach town as a lesser-known vacation destination that has all the charm of its high-dollar counterparts, without the crowds—or price tag.
“Gulf Shores has 32 miles of sugary quartz sand beaches, family activities, acres upon acres of preserved land with trails galore, and year-round festivals and events,” Poling says. “Gulf Shores is not as popular as Pensacola or Destin, which makes it less touristy and less expensive, while still being located on the beautiful Gulf Coast.”
How much less expensive? Well, families can rent vacation lodgings near the beach for less than $1,000 per week, even in the busy August season, Poling says. Oh, and if you’re an avid golfer, ONE Club offers all 45 holes, plus family-pleasing amenities like a spa and restaurant.
Also, it won’t break the bank, Poling says.
“Aside from the luxurious amenities, ONE Club is very affordable for families up against neighboring hotels and resorts,” she says.
Ha Long Bay on Vietnam’s coast is one of the most beautiful waterways in the world. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, packed with extraordinary limestone pillars and hundreds of unoccupied islands. And believe it or not, you can cruise this beautiful seascape for around $140 per night.
It’s all made possible by a service called GetMyBoat, which is sort of like the Airbnb of watercraft. GetMyBoat representative Val Streif explained the advantages of a small-craft experience of Vietnam’s ocean adventures.
“Cruises do not have to be big, obnoxious Carnival/Royal Caribbean type ships,” says Streif. “In fact, there are tons that are stunning and understated.”
The Ha Long Bay excursion is a perfect example. A local guide will pick you up from your landlocked hotel, drive you to the dock, and help you into your personal cabin onboard. The cruise takes you to stunning natural wonders like Surprising Cave and Titop Island, keeping you well-fed on a diet of authentic Vietnamese food.
At just $140 per person, this two-day, one-night cruise is the ideal way to experience one of the world’s saltwater dreamscapes.
For Latin American luxury at a discount, check out a fully secured resort in Central America. That’s sage advice from Rob Harper of travel agency network Namu.
“For visitors interested in that old-world Spanish colonial charm that can be found in few places in Latin America, Guatemala is perfect,” Harper says. “Antigua [a city in the central mountains of Guatemala] is less expensive than Cartagena and less crowded.”
When Harper says “less expensive,” he really means it.
“Whereas properties like Casa San Agustin in Cartagena and the Sofitel Santa Clara run $500-plus per night, visitors to Antigua can pay less than half for quality hotel stays,” he says. “Food is [also] less expensive. Compare the price for a top notch meal at a place like La Panza Verde in Antigua to other major metropolitan areas in Latin America—bang for the buck is quite big.”
One great example of this affordable elegance is The Laguna Lodge on the shores of Lake Atitlan. As of this writing, visitors can book the Moximon Suite for as little as $195 per night. Amenities include an on-site restaurant, a spa, and guided tours of the gorgeous, history-rich countryside.
The Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, is the home of Aspira Spa, which offers a full range of massage, salon services, and wellness packages. When you’re in the mood for the type of vacation that melts away your worries, reinvigorating you for the inevitable return to daily life, you could do a lot worse than the Osthoff.
While a typical stay runs north of our budget cutoff, the resort offers season-specific deals that allow anyone to experience the lakefront lodging’s elegance for well under $200. A Winter Romance package gives guests a night in the Resort, a $50 credit with the Aspira Spa, and $50 worth of food and drink.
The Spring Getaway package, available May 1 through May 23, offers a guest room and $20 in food credits for just $189. These prices are subject to change of course; check out the Resort’s current menu of deals here.
The trouble with most island getaways is that they’re awfully crowded with fellow sightseers. Not so at New Zealand’s Slipper Island Resort. The tiny slice of paradise that is Slipper Island is occupied almost exclusively by the resort, which features all sorts of plush lodgings, from glamping spots to chalets, most of which are under $200 per night, depending on when you book.
Walk across a true private island without the noise and activity of the city. Charter a fishing boat and catch your dinner. Or, our personal favorite, simply relax on the beach and watch the waves roll in. New Zealand’s sunny climate is ideal for sunbathing; just saying.
Get your friends and family in on the action and you can even rent the entire island for the night! A private island—now that’s luxury. Believe it or not, it’s also affordable.
Photo Credit: Slipper Island Resort