Today (January 21, 2017): 8 tips for affordable luxury travel in 2017.
Now that 2017 is here, it’s time to start making travel plans. And while we all dream of traveling to far-flung destinations in ultraluxe hotels, nobody likes to break his/her wallet on a holiday. Today, I share with you 8 travel tips and tricks that I use to optimize my own travel spending. Feel free to share your own travel tips in the comments.
1. FIND THE CHEAPEST ROOM RATE ON TRIVAGO OR HOTELSCOMBINED
When I want to stay at a particular luxury hotel, I always start with an online search for the cheapest room rate at that hotel. This may sounds like mission impossible given the number of search engines that are available on the internet these days, but it is not difficult at all since two aggregator websites will do the job for you in just a few clicks! Trivago and Hotelscombined are two very helpful websites that check at once the price of a hotel room at hundreds of other sites (e.g. Ebookers, Booking.com, Otel.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Hotelopia, etc …) and then show you where you can book the cheapest rate. Try it out for yourself here (and find out how easy it is):
Once I found the cheapest rate for a hotel room on Trivago or Hotelscombined, my strategy to book that rate depends on the hotel type:
- If the hotel does not belong to a large hotel chain, then I book the room via Hotels.com using a Best Rate Guarantee; this not only enables me to book that room at the cheapest rate (found on Trivago or Hotelscombined), but in addition, I collect free hotel nights via Hotels.com’s excellent Rewards program (read here why I love Hotels.com so much).
- If the hotel is part of a large hotel chain (e.g. Starwood, Hilton, Marriott, IHG,Hyatt), then I make the booking directly on the official hotel website using a Best Rate Guarantee program; this will get me an additional 10-25% discount and enables me to collect loyalty points that I can redeem for free hotel nights.
2. GET UPGRADES AND OTHER VIP AMENITIES AT HOTELS VIA VIRTUOSO
Booking luxury hotels via Virtuoso is extremely rewarding, not so much in terms of saving money on the room rate, but rather in terms of special perks that you will receive at the property itself (e.g. upgrades, free dinners, free spa treatments, etc …). It’s the industry’s leading network of luxury travel advisors, spanning over 26 countries and 9,000 travel advisors. So when you book your holiday with Virtuoso, most of the time, you will be in touch with a Virtuoso travel agent and not make the booking online yourself. Virtuoso travel agents network with the world’s most luxurious hotels & resorts, most of them belonging to the portfolio of the world’s most exclusive hotel brands (such as Aman). The single best reason to book a stay through a Virtuoso travel agent is that it means value for money as it will get you access to the above mentioned special VIP perks. My favorite Virtuoso travel agency is Classic Travel, not only because of their excellent service, but also because they are one of the few Virtuoso travel agencies that offer an online booking tool.
3. FIND THE CHEAPEST FLIGHTS WITH GOOGLE
I have previously shared my trips & tricks to book the cheapest plane ticket. I mostly use the airfare search engine Kayak when planning my air travel. Kayak checks the price of your requested flight at tons of sites at once, including Orbitz and Cheaptickets, and allows flexibility in your travel dates. However, Kayak does not display all prices, so that is why I also check other online ticket-sellers as well (e.g. Travelocity, Hipmunk, Momondo, Hotwire, Skyscanner, and Expedia). Recently however, a new tool has helped me tremendously in finding the cheapest ticket: Google Flights. It’s a very simple tool: you just enter your travel dates and destination (city or country), hit ‘explore destinations’ and Google shows you a map where you can travel for the lowest price.
4. FOLLOW FAMOUS TRAVEL BLOGGERS
Many airlines and hotels have their own loyalty programs that allow you to earn points or miles that are redeemable for free flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals or shopping. Everybody should participate in these programs as they can save you tons of money by travelling (almost for) free as well as offer you tons of other perks. However, it does take quite some effort to get some basic knowledge of how to collect miles & points in the most efficient manner. One of the best tips is to subscribe to the newsletters of expert bloggers, so that you will be instantly updated on promotions and tricks for earning or spending your precious miles or hotel points. I hereby list my 6 favorite travel bloggers, that have helped me to travel for free (I am considering featuring my own frequent flyer section on my blog if there would be a genuine interest for that):
- The Points Guy
- Million Mile Secret
- Loyalty Lobby
- View from the Wing
- One mile at a time (my favorite blog)
- Head for Points
5. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR QATAR AIRWAYS SALES
Qatar Airways has launched some insanely cheap Business (and Economy) class ticket sales over the past years. Last week, they had a sale with Business Class fares from Europe and the USA to the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Oceania from as low as an incredible 1000 euros or 850 USD per person (depending on the city of your origin). Never before had I seen such a low Business Class fares, and in some occasions, they were cheaper than Economy Class fares offered by other carriers on the same routes. It makes one wonder how Qatar Airways can afford these incredibly low fares. Some of my readers were able to secure some terrific deals (eg. 1700 USD from New York to Singapore in Business Class). Although that sale has ended now, the chance are quite good that they will launch some new ones any time soon (I will drop you a note when that happens).
6. TRAVEL TO EMERGING DESTINATIONS
The most popular travel destinations are popular –and expensive – for a reason, and for good reason. Think Maldives or Seychelles, and you know that the superlative scenery will cost you at least a $1000 USD per night in high season (and that’s not even for a room in a top hotel). But some of us are looking for more profound and of the beaten-track experiences that these off-the-shelf tourist attractions just can’t offer, experiences that also allow you to save big on travel. Only few countries fit that profile and they are on my radar to visit in the near future, before the crowds – and with that a rise of room rates – arrive: Cuba, Iran and Mongolia all seem terrific travel destinations where one can still travel cheap without compromising too much on luxury.
7. BOOK NEWLY OPENED HOTELS
That’s one of the travel tricks that I have been using for years. I always try to stay at luxury hotels that just opened to make use of their often insane opening offers to lure guest. For instance, Soneva Jani in the Maldives and Six Senses Sil Pasyon in the Seychelles offered their guests discounts of more than 50% (including many extras) in the first weeks after they openend. Some hotels will even allow you to negotiate your own rate. For that reason, you may want to read my lists of the hottest new hotels of 2016 and 2017, and check whether one of the featured hotels is located along one of your future travel itineraries. Especially in Asia, there seems to be a boom in luxury hotels (e.g. China, Sri Lanka, Malaysia).
8. DON’T BE OBSESSED BY TRAVEL & LOYALTY
I have to admit, I used to be obsessed by loyalty programs in the past. I would book hotels and do mileage runs, with the simple goal of acquiring as much hotel points and airline miles as possible. Granted, this strategy has offered me plenty of awesome experiences, such as flying First Class in many of the world’s best airlines. However, over the years, I came to realize that loyalty became less rewarding (with many hotel and airline programs introducing massive devaluations) and that loyalty was determining my travel plans and not the other way around. That is why I left my obsession for loyalty programs behind me. By doing so, I noticed that I not only reduced my levels of travel-related stress (yes, loyalty can cause stress by making you want to maintain your elite status), but also that I introduced more variety in my travels by exploring new destinations, airlines and hotels. In fact, I am considering abandoning all my loyalty programs and just take a more relaxed approach when it comes to travel, especially since there are so many good travel deals out there these days that loyalty doesn’t seem to make much sense anymore.
Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when I reveal a new top 10 travel list.