If you like to travel and appreciate the finer things in life, you might dream of a posh vacation. Maybe your fantasy is staying at a sprawling resort by the sea or an urban boutique hotel with a spectacular rooftop bar. Or perhaps you dream of immersive experiences, liking a private cooking class with a local chef or a wine-tasting tour through Napa Valley.
But then reality kicks in. You look at your actual budget and realize you probably can’t make that fantasy a reality.
Or could you? It just so happens there are a few ways to snag luxury travel for less. Learn more here, including:
• Which destinations can help you afford luxury travel
• Tips for traveling posh for less
Average Cost of an Affordable Luxury Vacation
It’s hard to give just one number here, since costs will vary depending on the number of travelers, your destination, and how long you plan to stay. But expect to pay a few thousand dollars.
Recent surveys indicate that the cost strictly for travel (airline tickets, parking, car rental) for a family of four on a four-day domestic trip can easily nudge close to $2,000. And that’s not including lodging or food, let alone expenses for attractions and entertainment, which can easily add another $1,000 to that sum.
So make sure to decide where to keep a travel fund and nurture it, and then work to keep your vacation’s price tag from busting your budget.
Destinations Where You Get More for Less
According to crowd-sourced travel expense site Budget Your Trip, here are a few places where you can get more bang for your buck. The average prices listed below are for two people for a week on a high-end trip. Your cost may vary, but this should give you an idea of destinations where you can travel luxuriously for less than you might think.
• Thailand $4,675
• Mexico $4,091
• Portugal $3,807
• Slovakia $3,311
• Costa Rica $3,098
• Vietnam $2,077
• Morocco $1,475
Obviously, if you are traveling domestically, you’ll save money by avoiding air travel. If you can drive to a nearby city or resort, you can reallocate dollars to lodging or entertainment.
Recommended: Where to Find Book Now, Pay Later Vacations
7 Tips for Traveling Posh
If you want to travel in luxury on a budget, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
1. Visit Off-Season
It’s generally true that if you want to visit a popular destination at the same time that everyone else wants to go there, you’re likely to pay more. If your summer travel takes you to a popular beach destination, you’ll pay more than if you visit it in the off season. A week of shopping and cafe hopping in Paris may be pricey in July, but what if you went in March or November? You might be able to afford a junior suite at the hotel you’ve been eyeing vs. a standard room. The more flexible that you can be with your travel dates or destination, the more likely you’re able to travel in luxury at a reduced cost.
One way that families afford to travel is by traveling during the off season or shoulder season, which is the bridge between high season, when everyone wants to go, and the low season, where demand is much diminished.
Book a (Semi-) Private Plane
Some ultra-glamorous experiences have a surprisingly manageable price. An example: With the rising cost of airfare, you may be able to fly a semi-private jet for not much more than flying commercial. While booking a private plane will likely cost more than flying with a traditional airline (especially if you usually travel basic economy), the added cost may be worth the trade off for the extra luxury and convenience. Plus, you get bragging rights to drop the phrase “private jet” into your conversation.
With a semi-private flight, 15 to 30 passengers fly on a predetermined route and schedule. Carriers include Aero, Blade, Surf Air, and Set Jet. Typical flights go from California to Mexican getaway destinations, or New York to vacation islands off the Eastern seaboard.
Prices can be similar to first-class flights: $200 and up for a short hop; into four figures for ones that are longer flights. Bonuses include avoiding the draining experience of going through long security lines at major airports, as these carriers often use smaller private terminals.
You may also be able to use credit card rewards to help defray some of the costs.
Book New Hotels
If you’re wondering how to save money on hotels and travel in luxury for less, look into booking a brand new hotel. Sometimes new hotels will offer discounts when they first open. They might not have all the kinks worked out yet, plus they need to start building a clientele.
Just make sure that you stay flexible with your plans, since hotels don’t always open on time — consider booking your stay with a travel credit card that offers trip insurance if your hotel is still under construction.
Recommended: How Does Credit Card Travel Insurance Work?
Skip the Hotel
Another luxury travel tip is to consider alternative forms of lodging. Rather than stay in a chain hotel, you might be able to find an alternate vacation rental that gives you a more elegant and authentic experience at a similar price point.
For instance, instead of booking into a small and expensive Los Angeles hotel room, you might stay in an Airbnb or VRBO apartment in a cool neighborhood. Having, say, a whole one-bedroom to yourself can make for a stay that’s more posh and memorable.
If you are traveling with pets, you may be able to find a place that is more pet-friendly and allows you to skip hotel pet fees.
Use a Travel Agent
If you prefer elegant travel, consider using a travel agent that specializes in luxury travel. Many travel agents have access to special deals or know of ways to travel in luxury on a budget. It’s possible to come out ahead even after paying the agent their commission.
Redeem Your Rewards
Another way to travel in luxury for less is to consider using your credit card miles or credit card cash back to travel. As one example, many airlines allow you to redeem miles for business class flights, often at very reasonable rates. Or if you don’t have enough miles for a free ticket, you could buy an economy class ticket and use your rewards to bump up to business class.
Either way, when you arrive at your destination relaxed and rested after using your miles to fly business class at a fraction of the cash cost, you’ll definitely feel like you’ve traveled in style.
You may also get other bonuses. Some hotel rewards programs will offer a free night when you book three, free breakfast, and other perks for being a member. Working those freebies and discounts can really pay off.
Also, you may have points from renting a car from the same agency every time. That can give you an affordable set of wheels for the weekend so you and your bff can stay at a posh spa together.
Plan a High-Low Trip
Another way to travel posh is to prioritize what’s important to you and allocate more of your travel budget there. For instance, if you want to go to London for the theater and high tea, you can fly economy and stay in a basic hotel so you can enjoy those luxurious experiences.
Or if it’s your dream to spend a week somewhere near Cancun or Tulum and snorkel every day, make that snorkel time your top priority, budget for it, and then find a small, relaxed hotel versus one of the mega-resorts to save on your lodging bill.
A luxury trip doesn’t always have to break the bank. Instead, set a budget and decide beforehand what types of lodging, experiences, and activities are most important to you. If you have the money set aside for it, don’t be afraid to splurge on something that is meaningful to you. Often those types of experiences can make memories that stay with you forever. Remember, not every aspect of a trip needs to be five-star in order for you to savor a posh getaway.
Whether you want to travel more or get a better ROI for your travel dollar, SoFi can help. SoFi Travel is a new service exclusively for SoFi members that lets you budget, plan, and book your next trip in a convenient one-stop shop. SoFi takes the guessing game out of how much you can afford for that honeymoon, family vacation, or quick getaway — and we help you save too.
Photo credit: iStock/Astronaut Images
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