As published in aluxurytravelblog on 31.07.2014
Traveling in luxury is something most people dream of and very few people manage. Some of it depends on where you were born but a lot of it surprisingly also depends on smart planning. After all those years of my parents hammering it down my head it finally starts making sense how important planning is. To summarize, there are 5 cheats one needs to follow to be able to travel in style… on a budget.
1. Time is money
Though you might have heard this in a different context, it is as relevant here as well. When you book a hotel and when you plan on actually taking the trip both have a huge implication on how much you will end up spending. For example we all know that flight tickets booked in advance or during certain sales could save as much as half your flight costs but the same might not be true for Hotels. Hotels especially to prop up their occupancy rates offer a lot of last moment booking discounts. So if you are aware of certain hotels following this practise, you can stroll up there on the day you land and take a room for a significant price cut or an upgrade.
2. Its all in the timing
Though you can probably score a significant discount on the day of arrival, it’s only relevant if there’s actually a room free. There are thousands of people reading this article and having the same idea as you and thousands more ready to book. When you plan your trip is very important. Off seasons are periods of less or no activity for that particular destination and tend to vary from place to place. But all accommodations and/or attractions offer significant discounts sometimes up to 50-60% on their rate card. It means you can probably stay at a higher star hotel and be treated like a king (because of the lower number of guests) all in your normal budget.
3. Planning is saving
All this is well and good but how do you actually plan a trip according to seasons and advance bookings and what not. It’s pretty simple actually. There are tonnes of online trip planners, review sites and travel blogs to help you shortlist. Also on sites like trip advisor you can search through various filters to figure out destinations, seasonality, hotel categories and prices and ratings on various parameters. Once you shortlist, it’s just a question of elimination. Also if you’re not up for all this research, you can just call up your favourite travel agent for some suggestions. Chances are, you might get a good deal there too.
4. Budget is the king
There is always a dilemma on how much to spend when you’re already saving so much. Always create a budget first and work backwards. That you will end up exceeding it despite all the safeguards is a given, how much over the budget you go is what’s important. We normally keep a 10-15% buffer in hand in case we give in to some impulse and chose to do something we feel is a must do. Anything over that is poor budget planning. Work backwards to see the kind of accommodations you can fit in and where. If you are in a city, head for the business areas on a weekend and the touristy areas on a weekday and you could probably score some extra discounts even in season. Also it is important to check out whether the area you’re staying in has some local transport options. Stuck in the middle of nowhere even with a deal for the room, you would end up spending as much just on conveyance.
5. Know where to book
Now that you know all the moot points about how and when, the third and most important question is where. The first priority should be points or miles. People have thousands of miles and/or points on their loyalty cards and sit on them without doing a thing till they expire. You can be smart and book through them. Many cards have partnerships with the best hotels in town and offers only for members. Miles can also be exchanged for tickets and upgrades which can score you a business class ticket on an economy fare. If you’re out of points, hard luck but online sites like Agoda.com & hotel.com can probably get you a better deal than even your travel agent brother-in-law. Certain other sites like lastminute.com give you significant discounts on what they call secret hotels. If online is not your game, call up or go in person to the front desk of your choice of hotel and chances are that your good looks, personality, dimpled smile or plain dumb luck can score you a handful of discounts or upgrades. They have rooms and they want people to stay in it is a win win situation for everyone concerned.
If any of the above have worked for you in the past, or you’ve just seen it and given it a try, do share with all of us, how it went and if you have any special tips of your own.