It may seem as if the phrase affordable luxury travel is an oxymoron, and admittedly it is something that's tough to do — unless of course you are an expert jet-setter. There are plenty of travel influencers and enthusiasts out there who might look like they've spent a fortune on their trips (picture-perfect accommodations, meals that look like they're from a Michelin-star restaurant, etc), but they're on a budget just like you are.
So what's the difference? Over time they've cultivated some serious tips and hacks to make every travel experience feel just a bit fancier — regardless of where they're headed or how much (or little) they've got to spend. For example, by planning your trip based on the cheapest cities, you're already saving a ton. But even if you're heading to notoriously spendy spots like Paris, there are still a few tried-and-true ways to make it whole lot more affordable — without sacrificing the chic life.
As a travel expert and the blogger behind Bridges and Balloons, Victoria Watts Kennedy has certainly gathered a few of these for herself, whether that include knowing where to find the most inexpensive tickets or booking stays at creative (but nonetheless luxe) alternatives to four-star hotels. Ahead, learn just how she does it, with five pro tips to getting more out of your next vacay, but paying a whole lot less.
Try An Airbnb Upgrade
The mega popular rental site has been consistently adding to its repertoire, and besides its new adventure options, Airbnb now lets you choose from an extra curated and verified list of properties, Airbnb Plus. "[It's] a great shortcut to finding stylish places to stay around the world," Watts Kennedy says. "All properties have to meet a rigorous criteria, including top-class amenities, great reviews, and beautiful character. Although not as cheap as some Airbnbs, they still tend to be cheaper than hotels of the same quality."
If you're a bonafide foodie, you'll obviously want to set aside some money for at least one epic meal, but you can offset those costs by getting creative about the others. "It’s a good idea to allocate some budget to high-end meals you can afford and then save money at other times by eating street food, going for picnics, or self-catering at your apartment — which is another reason Airbnb is a good idea," says Watts Kennedy.
Even by grabbing local ingredients at a nearby market, you can still have a meal that captures the spirit of where you're staying (fresh seafood or exotic produce you can't get at home) but will cost you way less than going to a restaurant. Plus, the activity of shopping and cooking can create just as special of a memory — if not more so — than eating out.
Think Outside Your Hotel
This goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned tip. Watts Kennedy confesses that if you have decided to splurge on a fancy hotel or resort, you can offset the cost by heading elsewhere for food, cocktails, and even some services that can be much more costly in-house. "One of the problems of staying in a luxury hotel is that everything tends to be expensive," she explains. "So even if you find a good deal for the actual accommodation, all the extras can soon add up, for example meals, drinks, room service, laundry, and transportation. We would recommend getting these things outside of the hotel, like going to different bars and restaurants, and organizing any transfers or tours separately."
Hostels Can Be Luxurious, Too
Not all hostels are created equally, as Watt Kennedy explains. And in fact, some can even be a lot cooler than a hotel. "Even the most budgeted holiday can have a touch of luxury by choosing to stay in a luxury hostel," she says "These places really redefine the hostel genre and are a fun, social way to see a city. Kash of Budget Traveller has written a whole book with a guide to the best ones around the world."
Utilize Affordable Flying Hacks
Sites like Secret Flying are specifically devoted to highlighting shockingly good prices on even round trip flights to places like Beijing, Barcelona, Johannesburg, and Bangkok. Watts Kennedy loves using the site to find amazing deals to different luxury destinations.