Planning any type of trip can be stressful when your funds are limited, but you have a real task at hand if you expect luxury for less. Obviously, a true “luxury” vacation is going to be more expensive since higher end always costs more with almost no exceptions.
Fortunately, there are ways to score luxury for less if you’re crafty, willing to do things differently, and able to plan ahead. Here are seven tips that can help you book sheer luxury for less than you think:
#1: Use frequent flyer miles to travel far for cheap
One of the biggest travel expenses you’ll face on any trip is the cost of airfare, if you plan to fly. Round-trip domestic flights typically cost at least $300 outside of major sales, and international flights can cost $1,000 or more.
Picking up an airline credit card or travel credit card is the best way to cover the costs of a big luxury trip. Many airline cards offer big bonuses of 50,000 miles or more that can be used for two round-trip domestic flights or a single international flight.
#2: Use more miles to upgrade to business class
If you really want the luxury feel, you can also try to rack up enough miles for a business class flight. How many miles you’ll need depends on the type of airline currency you earn, but business flights are easily twice the cost of economy or more.
For example, a round-trip off-peak economy flight from the U.S. to Europe costs just 45,000 American AAdvantage miles. A Business MileSAAver fare, on the other hand, will set you back 115,000 miles.
#3: Use hotel credit cards to splurge for a pricey pad
Hotel credit cards let you redeem points for an array of luxury hotels around the world. The list includes properties that offer overwater bungalows, luxury resorts in the Maldives, and properties in thriving destinations like Paris and Rome.
The best way to rack up hotel points in a hurry is by signing up for a few new cards to earn signup bonuses. Keep in mind, however, you can also sign up for flexible cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. This card lets you transfer points 1:1 to top hotel programs like Marriott, Hyatt, Ritz Carlton, and IHG Rewards.
The Hilton Aspire Card is another good one when it comes to booking luxury hotels for cheap or free. It does have a hefty annual fee, but it comes with a free weekend night every year, automatic Hilton Diamond status, 100,000 points after you meet a minimum spending requirement, a $250 airline credit, and a $250 resort credit. Use your Hilton points to stay at the classy Hilton Imperial Dubrovnik in Croatia or the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. Either option can leave you in the lap of luxury for free when you use points.
#4: Pick your destination wisely
Before you get a hotel credit card, it helps to know where you want to go. Picking your destination is an important part of the process since booking luxury for less works a lot better in some spots than others.
The best way to find better award availability and lower rates is to travel outside the biggest cities and consider staying off the beaten path. Consider Eastern Europe instead of Western Europe, for example. Or, consider staying in the countryside instead of smack dab in the middle of town.
Make sure to consider destinations and hotel programs that can get you there to find the right fit.
#5: Keep your options open
If there’s one best tip that can help you book a luxury trip for a price you can afford, it’s to not get your heart set on a specific location. Picking a destination and going there at all costs is the best way to spend more than you have to.
To save money, you have to let the deals guide your way. If you’re trying to score airfare on the cheap without airline miles, consider checking out websites like The Flight Deal and Secret Flying. Both uncover short-term deals on airfare to destinations around the world, and you can frequently find sale fares to other countries for $400 or less.
Also consider shopping hotel deals and keeping your options open. Many travel discounters like Expedia and Groupon Getaways offer weekly sales to spots around the globe, and some of them include airfare.
#6: Pick up a card with airport lounge access
If you want to hit the airport in style and luxury, you’ll also want to make sure you have airport lounge access. This perk will let you avoid the crowded terminal and relax in a lounge with food, booze, and free internet instead.
You can pay to get into certain airport lounges, but you can also pick up a card that offers this perk as a cardmember benefit. Some of the top cards that offer airport lounge access include the Chase Sapphire Reserve® and The Platinum Card® from American Express.
#7: Consider a cruise
Last but not least, don’t forget about the merits of cruising as a luxury travel option. While some of the lower tier cruise lines are better known for herding guests around like cattle, there are plenty of mid-tier cruise lines that let their guests relax in style.
You can also save a bundle on luxury cruises if you’re able to book last-minute. Vacation to Go’s 90-minute ticket connects potential cruisers with unsold cabins on last-minute cruises for up to 82 percent off. If you’re able to swing a last-minute trip, these offers are good to peruse on a regular basis. And, don’t forget that most of your expenses are included on a cruise. Once you’ve paid your fare and required tips, your food, lodging, and entertainment are taken care of.
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