SO here’s the thing. I am TOTALLY SPOILED when it comes to travel. I am a hotel snob, overly-picky restaurant picker, and hater of long lines. It’s really a wonder I like to travel at all, but I do! I love it!
Over the years I have honed these 10 tips for traveling like semi-royalty on a teacher’s salary. And today, I’m sharing them with y’all. You’re welcome.
How to Travel Luxuriously for Less:
1. It’s All About the Loyalty, Baby.
It’s time to settle down and pick one already. Choose an airline and sign up for their points program. Then, sign up for the credit card program for that airline, and use it for everything you possibly can. Pay it off weekly or bi-weekly, but seriously, everything from dog food to car payments goes on there. With most programs, when you purchase that airline’s airfare using the card, you get double points/miles/segments/whatever.
We are loyal to one airline, and based on our normal spending and booking Jason’s business travel, we get a free flight every few months. This allows us to do some “fun” trips we otherwise wouldn’t do. Once you reach “status”, you’ll start getting some first-class upgrades, which makes the trip feel a little more luxurious right from the start.
2. Hotels Have Points Too.
While airline rewards programs are all pretty similar, hotel programs are not. Choose a hotel group with a program that works best for you and your travel priorities, and stick to that hotel whenever you can. We are actually members for two hotel chains, and with Jason’s travel, we earn a few free nights every couple of months. Many of these hotels have unique signature or boutique partner hotels that you can use your points on if you want something out-of-the-box.
3. Know Your Perks.
Once you are a loyal member of an airline and 1-2 hotel chains for awhile, you will start feeling like a VIP at those places. Because you are! Hotels know a good customer when they see
one all the points on your account. This can get you access to the Concierge Lounge for complimentary appetizers, a higher floor or room upgrade, or even free breakfast. If you act like you are quite used to these perks (“So which floor is the concierge lounge on? Thanks!”) then no one will blink an eye.
4. Look the Part.
If you want to be treated like a VIP, you have to look like one. This means no yoga pants and sweatshirts on the plane, people! No sneakers, no crocs, no messy ponytails. Put on real clothes! You can still look nice AND be comfy at the same time. (See my Travel Style Pinterest board for ideas.) Do your hair, put on an actual outfit, and buy yourself some luggage that doesn’t look like it’s been through a zombie apocalypse. Plus, you can stop for drinks or dinner on your way to the hotel instead of waiting to check in and change clothes.
5. Have Brunch at the Most Over-the-Top Hotel in the Area.
You don’t have to spend a thousand bucks a night to enjoy what they have to offer. Before heading over to Universal Studios, we had brunch at the Ritz in Orlando, and it was so so so good. All the little fancy-pants touches that make you feel like a queen. For a pretty reasonable price, actually! We walked around the lobby and pool oohing and ahhing (and shamelessy posting selfies), and we got to stand out front while the valet pulled our car around after. And that’s really what you want from the Ritz anyway, amiright?
6. Don’t Over-schedule “Activities”
I get it, you want to do #allofthethings when you are visiting a new place, but that can get both expensive and exhausting. Pick one or two that you will really love, even if they cost a little more, and leave the rest of the time unscheduled. Relax at the pool, take a walk through some shops, or just sleep in. All of those are free, and your trip will be more relaxed. You can save your money and energy for one or two unforgettable experiences.
7. Sit at the Bar.
If there is a restaurant that looks amazing but that you know will break the bank if you actually eat there, visit the bar for a pre-dinner drink. You know you’ll be eating later somewhere else, so it will be easy to stick to just one drink, and you can soak up some of the ambiance and “who’s who” feel of a fancy-schmancy place for a half hour or so. Few things are more luxurious that a really well-made, unique cocktail, so order one you’ve never tried before. You might even make some friends — we usually end up talking to the bartender or other people at the bar and getting some great suggestions of insider things to do in town.
8. Split dinner.
If you really do want more than a drink at the pricey place, try splitting a large meal between the two of you. If you order an appetizer or salads, the server probably won’t mind. The last time we were in Orlando, we both really wanted an amazing steak, so we split the $72 one — the best one on the menu — and were still both full. That’s what we’d pay for two meals at a moderately-priced restaurant, so we didn’t feel guilty. Totally worth it.
Bring Your Own Bottle of Wine, of course. When you retire to your room, you can pour yourselves a nice glass of (nearly free!) wine and sit out on the balcony. Just as nice as if you bought a $12 glass of wine from the bar, except you can now have half a bottle for that price. Not that I would do that. Obviously. (Just don’t forget to BYO corkscrew or a bottle that’s screw-top. Most frustrating night ever.)
10. Leave Your Daily Life at Home.
The whole point of vacation — especially a luxury vacation — is to escape the grind. If you’re spending time and money to get away, you need to make your investment count. Hanging out on social media, watching television, sending emails… all of that stuff can wait until you get back. It will still be there, trust me. My best tip is to enjoy every moment — and take lots of pictures, of course.
Thinking about planning a trip? Here are some of our favorite “luxury for less” trips!
Have any great tips to add? I would love to hear ’em!