For those of you that are interested in having a luxury travel experience but don’t have the luxury travel budget, I have a few suggestions.
To have luxury travel on a budget means to be very selective about the things you spend your money on.
The Hotel: My suggestion is to avoid spending a large amount of money on your hotel if you are on a budget. Obviously, the hotel or even hostel should be safe and clean, but your hotel is just a place to stay at night and nothing more. Airbnb is a great option for those on a tight budget. It usually allows you to prepare your own meals if necessary, which only makes it easier to allocate your funds elsewhere.
You want to put your finances into having the most luxurious experiences. This means researching unique and special places you want to spend your time while you travel.
Coffee & Tea: Although, you might not be staying in the most luxurious hotel, you can certainly have coffee there. Having a coffee or tea at a high end rooftop or five star hotel is affordable for almost anyone. It may be slightly more than the coffee or tea they serve in a local cafe, but it is the most affordable way to enjoy your time in a luxurious setting. In my opinion this should really be considered a morning or afternoon activity.
Afternoon Tea Service: If a traditional afternoon tea service is more your speed, then consider doing this in lieu of lunch.
Wine: When you budget your money accordingly, it is totally affordable to enjoy a nice glass or bottle of wine at a high end lounge. Notice I said ‘nice’ not most expensive.
A single glass of wine is a great way to enjoy a luxurious environment on a budget. I suggest lingering over your wine if this is what you choose to do. If you are only having one glass then you deserve sip slowly and enjoy it. After that if you are still in the mood for another drink, scope out a place nearby that is more in your price range.
Sharing a bottle between friends is also a great option. I suggest finding the 5 least expensive wines on the menu and choosing between them. It is important to look at the wine list online ahead of time if your budget is very tight. The last thing you want is a nasty surprise that you or someone you are with can’t afford.
Aperitivo: This is a blessing for any struggling artist (or student). For those of you unfamiliar with concept of aperitivo, the price of the wine also includes little aperitifs to nibble on, making this the ultimate way to enjoy a high end environment on a budget. Especially if you subscribe to the drink more, eat less philosophy. (Which I totally do.)
The only caveat is that aperitivo isn’t done everywhere. It is done throughout Italy, but less so outside of Italy. That being said, whatever city you are in, it is definitely worth the time to see if any Italian restaurants have an aperitivo in the evening.
Lunch & Dinner: Food is the thing that can make or break a traveler’s experience. If you love high end and Michelin rated restaurants, but can’t afford them while you travel, consider changing the way you eat out.
Find the places that you are willing to spend more on, and keep a tight budget everywhere else. One really nice lunch or dinner every day or every couple of days when you travel is so much better than just okay meals for every meal. You need to ask yourself what is more important at any given restaurant.
Do you want to go to a high end restaurant because of the food or the ambience? Answering this question will guide you in knowing how much you should spend there.
For those of you that select a restaurant primarily for it’s food, I suggest you change the way you think about your meal. If there is a specific dish you have been waiting to try then you absolutely should, this is not a question. However, you should think about the meal in parts, and limit yourself to having just the part or parts of that meal you feel are most important.
Maybe that means having only an appetizer or only an entree. Perhaps that means eliminating wine, or only getting a dessert? If you are only getting a dessert, I suggest you select places that can accommodate this when you dine out. Also, avoid places with a set course menu.
If ambience is what you are after, then a cocktail at the bar (if there is one) and an appetizer might be the most affordable option for you. To be clear showing up to a busy high end restaurant at 18:30 to take up a perfectly good table, and only order one appetizer to share is absolutely not what I am suggesting. You should always call ahead to see if the restaurant is willing to be flexible with you.
Art & Culture: Exposing yourself to art and culture is the most essential part of travel. Of course you should budget your funds so that you can go to different museums. Planning ahead is key in order to take advantage free or half price museum days. Consider looking beyond what is conventional. For example, if you cannot go to a major music hall, then look for small classical or jazz performances instead. A performance schedule for a local conservatory might be a good place to start your search.
Spa Days Abroad: While not totally essential, an afternoon at a luxurious spa is a great way to treat yourself while you travel. I suggest looking into a few day spas at various hotels or otherwise, and fitting one into your travel schedule if budget allows.
There is often a local beauty or spa treatment that is unique to where you are traveling. Most treatments also come with hammam or sauna access which I encourage you to take full advantage of.
Gifts: To those on a who seek luxury on a budget, my advice is to not buy souvenirs for friends and family. Unless your parents have paid for your travels, no one expects you to bring them back something made in China but bought in France. Avoid tourist kiosks and put your money to good use elsewhere. Keep the funds you have and use them to enjoy your travels.
If you absolutely must buy gifts, then buy local candy to share with friends and family. Not a box each of course, but enough so that you can give everyone at least 3 pieces. I suggest putting them into clear party favour bags once you arrive home.
Go Vintage: If you are in France or Italy and want to come home with a special designer piece, but can’t afford to buy new, then go vintage. Coming home with a delicate scarf or chic felted hat from a cute little vintage shop is a great way to make the most of your souvenir budget while you travel.
Even if the only thing you can afford is the least expensive thing in the store, it will hold sentimental significance longer than any snow globe ever could. You are coming home with a small bit of stylish local history that you can wear for years to come.