Okay, so I admit it, I like a little luxury when traveling. Be it flying Business or First Class, and staying in nice hotels, especially rooms with a view. And yes, I like to eat out in decent restaurants too and maybe indulge in a bit of shopping as I go. But, alas, these things must be paid for, and I am sadly no trust fund heiress.
Until asked by TravelAwaits for some tips and tricks on how to make luxury travel a little more affordable, I wasn’t even aware that I had any. But stepping back and watching myself as I was planning the next trip, I realized that I have traveled the world always incorporating some tricks that do save me some money as I go, and often has me traveling in a bit more luxury than I would otherwise have done. Here is what I tend to do:
1. Make Travel A Priority And Save Up
Before it comes to planning the next trip, you’ve got to have the money in the bank, because there is nothing more depressing than continuing to pay off a vacation that is already a distant memory on your credit card. I have a separate account for travel and try to save a certain percentage of my income every month. When I am close to a trip, I forgo things like takeout coffee, or frivolous food expenses, thinking instead that the money saved on a paper cup of coffee drunk in a hurry can instead be spent on a coffee served on a Parisian café terrace.
2. Put Your VPN On
When it finally comes to researching and booking a trip, I tend to look at flights, hotels, car hires, etc. on one computer, and then either switch devices, or put on my VPN (Virtual Private Network). Travel websites remember when you searched for a flight, and every time you go back to the website on the same device, the price goes up. It should not happen and should not be legal, but it happens, and you can save lots of money by simply hiding the identity of your computer.
3. Join Loyalty Programs
I have so many loyalty cards, I have to keep them in a separate wallet. But to be honest, you don’t even need many cards. As long as you are a member of one airline that is part of, say, One World, you can earn miles with other airlines belonging to that group with the same card. These loyalty programs are especially worthwhile if you tend to do long hauls or are truly loyal to one airline. I was lucky enough — for a couple of years, that my husband had earned Platinum status with Etihad because he used the company for business travel when he was working on a global project, and he was allowed to upgrade my status to gold, so I was constantly upgraded to First Class. It was nice while it lasted. But either way, it is certainly worth trying to achieve a higher level within the loyalty program for all sorts of reasons, be they upgrades, extra baggage allowance, lounge access, or special treats.
4. Upgrading Your Flight
Once your flight duration hits a certain number of hours, it is simply nicer to sit in Business Class or even First Class, no doubt about it. For short flights, I’d rather save the money, but when it is longer, or overnight, comfort is king, as otherwise, you lose the next day, your first day at your destination, by being utterly exhausted. There are websites, such as Fly Luxury for Less, where you can shop around for cheap Business Class flights, or you can use the air miles from your airline’s loyalty program to upgrade. It is often worthwhile buying extra air miles to get that upgrade. My favorite trick is to check in late and then ask for a (paid) upgrade, managing to get last-minute upgrades for much less money than if I had booked it early.
5. Get On Airlines’ Mailing Lists
Agreed, most of the time, you will press delete when the email hits your inbox, but during times when you are planning your travel schedule, being up to date with special offers available from airlines, quite literally, pays. Most airlines have slump periods when they try and drum up business and offer either amazing deals, or double loyalty points, or both. Often these deals are for a very limited and specific period of time, but sometimes, they allow you to book well in advance and you can snap up a great deal.
6. Book A Room On The Club Lounge Floor
Many hotels, certainly most bigger chains, have Club Room floors, or a Club Level. On these floors, the rooms are slightly better, and, most importantly, there is a Club Lounge. That is a lounge where, basically, you get free food and drink, complimentary Wi-Fi, a cocktail happy hour (worth it in countries such as Egypt or Japan, where alcohol is pricey), free coffee, and water throughout the day. The rooms on these floors tend to be pricier, for obvious reasons, but sometimes the price difference is very little, and other times, you can snag an upgrade through your hotel loyalty program. These rooms are not really worth it, if you are out and about all day sightseeing, but if you are planning to spend a bit of time in your hotel or are traveling with someone who is constantly hungry (teenage grandkids, maybe?) or needs coffee on drip-fed, it can save a fair bit of money.
7. Take Public Transport
My favorite thing to do when somewhere new is to take a local bus and get my bearings. It is so much easier to hop in a taxi, agreed, but sitting on a bus — not a guided bus tour — with the locals and seeing the city go by, is a cheap way of spotting interesting places. No, you won’t get a running commentary, but it is cheaper and infinitely more fun. In Paris, for example, you could not do better than the Bus Routes 72, along the Seine, or 42 from the Eiffel Tower down the Champs-Elysées. In many cities, your day pass also includes ferries on the river or harbor, and again, hopping on one of those is cheaper and more fun than an organized, touristy cruise.
8. Find Wi-Fi Hotspots
One of the first things I do when landing in a new country is either buy a local SIM card at the airport or turn my mobile data roaming off on my own phone. Even a minute of roaming can cost you a small fortune, and instead, I am always on the lookout for free Wi-Fi spots, be they fast food restaurants, department stores, or like in Paris, public parks. It all depends on how long I am planning to stay in a certain country. If longer, then a cheap local SIM with a data package is easier. But if I am only somewhere for a weekend, looking for free Wi-Fi is cheaper. Apps like Wi-Fi Finder can help.
9. Shop And Claim VAT Refunds
Sometimes the shopping abroad is simply irresistible, be it buying luxury designer labels in Paris or emptying the local Zara in Spain. And to save, all you have to do is claim the tax. This is quite simple: You either look out for the Tax-Free logo on the front of a store or ask a shop assistant. Usually, you must spend over a certain amount and ask at the counter for the tax refund form. Then, you keep that form and your newly purchased items together — do not wear them! — and show them at the airport at a special window, place the items in your suitcase before checking in, and sit back and wait for the refund to arrive in your bank account. In places such as Europe, where VAT can be nearly 20 percent, that gives you a nice little sum to put in the piggy bank for the next vacation.
Oh, and one final thing. If you book a hotel room and it asks you to pay extra for breakfast, don’t, unless you are out in the countryside somewhere. In a city, there is always a café nearby where coffee and a croissant will cost a lot less than in the hotel, and this way you will not just save money, but also create memories as you go.
TravelAwaits has a wide range of travel tips for our readers. Here are just a few: