Tips for how to cut the cost of a fancy trip.
Who doesn’t like the idea of a luxury vacation? Ponying up the money for an upscale getaway, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as appealing as going on one. Fortunately, says Joel Widzer, an expert on saving money on travel and the author of the book “The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel,” there are ways to cut the cost of a fancy trip. Here, he shares tips for a lavish getaway on a limited budget.
• Be a hotel loyalist. Favoring one hotel brand, such as Marriott, Starwood, Hilton or Hyatt, has major saving benefits, according to Widzer. “Hotel brands reward frequent guests who sign up for their loyalty programs with room upgrades, free hotel nights and free breakfast, and they even waive annoying fees such as the cost of valet parking,” he said.
Loyalty pays off at independently owned properties, too. If you’re a traveler who returns to the same destination often, say Paris or Lake Tahoe, Nev., it’s a good idea to keep staying at the same hotel there. Widzer, for example, used to stay at the same luxury boutique property on his frequent trips to Santiago, Chile, and by his third visit, he was treated to freebies such as a minifridge stocked with his favorite snacks, free airport transfers and upgrades to a one-bedroom suite — perks worth several thousand dollars over time.
• Use credit-card points on high-end chain hotels. Those points you accumulate every time you put a charge on your card aren’t just good for buying airline tickets, Widzer said. With certain credit cards, travelers can redeem the points they earn for accommodations at luxury hotels, like using points earned on a Chase Ultimate Rewards card toward stays at Ritz-Carlton properties around the world.
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• Travel when others aren’t. When destinations have fewer travelers, prices are lower. Head to Sardinia in August, for example, and sky-high hotel rates and inflated prices are in store. But a trip in October means mild weather and prices at hotels and on services such as boat rentals that are up to 50 percent lower than during peak season.
• Consider a package tour. Planning an upscale vacation without using a luxury- tour provider for a major city or a popular destination such as Maui isn’t difficult, but it is logistically harder to pull off an affordable yet lavish getaway to less common destinations such as Ethiopia or on themed multicity trips, such as the capital cities of the former Eastern bloc. In instances like these, Widzer said, it’s cheaper to rely on a company that specializes in upscale tours (Abercrombie & Kent and Tauck are two).