How to Bring Luxury to Your Vacation When Traveling on a Budget

Instagram and TikTok are full of images of luxury hotels and lavish travel experiences. From huge infinity pools to glamorous yachts to lavish room services, there’s no shortage of pricey vacation deals.

But while the appeal is obvious, not all of us have the budget to stay at a Four Seasons or an Aman. And while you can technically afford this type of accommodation, it’s not always where people want to spend those precious vacation dollars.

But there are ways to bring a touch of luxury to your travels without breaking the bank. Below, travel experts share their tips for making an affordable vacation a little more luxurious.

Go to a fancy hotel bar for a drink

“I love bars in luxury hotels – the design, the atmosphere and the cocktails!” said Jessica van Dop DeJesus, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The gourmet traveler. “I always add a hotel bar experience to my itinerary. Although some can be pricey, it’s worth stopping in for a martini to unwind after a long day of sightseeing.

These pleasant hotel bars often offer happy hour deals and reasonably priced snacks. Ben Julius, founder of the travel platform Tourist tripsometimes goes a step further and also books a restaurant reservation.

“You can eat in the famous gardens of the Four Seasons in Mexico City or enjoy the gold-leaf ceiling bar at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech even if you’re not a hotel guest,” he said.

In addition to bringing an upscale vibe to your vacation, having a drink or a bite to eat at a luxury hotel can give you the opportunity to experience the rest of the property.

“Many luxury hotels don’t allow people to walk past the lobby unless they are hotel guests,” said travel blogger and television host The Carmine. “However, these hotels tend to let you in and explore if you have a drink at the bar. This is how I was able to walk around the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. I made a reservation for drinks at Skyview Bar. The bar has a minimum spend per person, but it’s much cheaper than booking a room at the Burj Al Arab.

Luxury hotels like the Four Seasons in Philadelphia tend to have impressive bars where non-guests can stop in for a cocktail or a bite to eat.

Get a day pass at a resort

“I always think it would be nice to stay at some of the big luxury resorts, but then my bank balance brings me back to reality,” said Claire Summers, the travel blogger behind Claire’s Itchy Feet. “Besides, I know I’m going to be bored after a few days there anyway. So the best way I’ve found to add a touch of luxury to my travels is to book a day pass at one of the luxury resorts.”

Day passes essentially allow you to be a guest at a high-end hotel or resort for the day without paying for an expensive room, so you get access to amenities and features like a luxurious experience by the swimming pool.

“Often they can cost as little as $50 a day, which makes them very economical,” Summers explained. “These day passes aren’t advertised often, so you’ll have to call or visit the hotel and ask in person.”

La Carmina uses day passes to experience pools and cabanas at beautiful hotels.

“Sites like ResortPass.com also allow you to browse day passes for hundreds of hotels around the world, which is an easy way to find a hotel day pass and make a reservation,” he said. she noted.

Keep an eye out for offers

For the consumer credit expert Andrea Worochthe way to bring a bit of luxury to a budget vacation is to skimp on transportation while looking for bargains on hotels or activities.

“Personally, I’d rather save on airfare and hotel then splurge on great restaurants, spa and other activities because that’s what you really remember,” he said. she stated.

Woroch recommended saving on flights by booking economy class and taking public transport to further reduce travel costs.

“But look for better accommodation deals using apps like HotelTonight which offer premium hotels for up to 70% off,” she said. “You can incorporate luxury travel activities like spa services and great restaurants by researching deals in advance using Groupon or LivingSocial, as you can search for daily deals based on the destination you are traveling to .”

Make an appointment at the spa

“Another option to add a little luxury to your vacation is to visit a spa in the area and book a massage,” said Katie McIntosh, travel blogger and creator of Katie’s Show. “You can relax and feel luxurious without completely ruining your budget.”

You might even be able to land a relatively reasonably priced appointment at a nice hotel spa.

“Book a spa treatment at a luxury hotel between Monday and Thursday because rates are usually more affordable,” van Dop DeJesus suggested. “Hotels like the Mandarin Oriental DC allow spa guests to use the other amenities like gym, pool and sauna when you book a treatment. Some hotels also offer lunches at their spas, allowing you to turn the experience into a full-day event.

Booking a treatment or purchasing a day pass at a hotel spa can add a touch of luxury and relaxation to a vacation.

wundervisuals via Getty Images

Booking a treatment or purchasing a day pass at a hotel spa can add a touch of luxury and relaxation to a vacation.

Stephanie Huston, the travel blogger behind Steph explores the world, recommended to book a day pass, rather than a treatment. Take advantage of all the amenities ― even bath products and hairdryers ― and remember to pack a nice change of clothes so you can get ready for an evening there.

“If you’re looking for the experience of a luxury hotel spa―without the $500 massage price―I’ve found that many places offer a full or half-day pass at a fraction of the cost of using their facilities, often including sauna, steam room, cold plunge, hot tub, lounge area, showers,” Huston said. “So get rambling and make a day of it. Pack some snacks, a book, turn off phone notifications like you’re in for a two-hour massage, maybe treat yourself to the purchase of a face or body mask (or discreetly bring your own).

Bring your own bath bombs

Even if you can’t afford a lavish spa appointment or day pass, consider creating your own spa environment wherever you are staying during your vacation. This might involve bringing your own bathroom products.

“If you have your own room with a tub, bring your own bath bombs so it still feels like a luxurious vacation experiencesuggested Isabel Leong, travel blogger at beautiful around the world.

Just make sure your bath products of choice are securely packaged and meet TSA requirements if you’re traveling by plane and don’t check a bag.

Book a private driver

“An easy way to feel luxurious without the price of a luxury hotel is to book a private driver to pick you up from the airport,” McIntosh said. “They’re not so expensive that it’ll break the bank, but certainly provide a luxurious feel while making the day trip much more convenient.”

Indeed, there is something special about the experience of getting off a plane or a train and seeing someone with a sign with your name on it, getting help with your luggage and to be taken to your accommodation.

Stay in a charming hotel

High-end hotel chains charge a premium for high-quality hospitality, but you can often find similar special experiences for less by booking something more independent.

“I recommend looking for smaller boutique hotels rather than big chains,” Julius said. “These properties may not always have the extra amenities you’d find at a Four Seasons or an Aman, but the hospitality experience and local knowledge of a boutique hotel can be so much more authentic and memorable than even one of the most luxurious chains.”

Forget the overpriced minibar and room service wines.  Instead, get a bottle from a local store.

Johner Images via Getty Images

Forget the overpriced minibar and room service wines. Instead, get a bottle from a local store.

Buy wine from a store for your room

Sure, ordering a nice bottle of wine through room service might sound fancy, but if you’re on a budget, you can recreate the experience ― minus the extra charge ― by purchasing a bottle from a local store instead.

“Instead of overpriced room service wines, buy them from the local supermarket and pop the cork from the comfort of your room,” Leong suggested.

Book a high-end rental with a group

Another way to enjoy luxury on a budget is to split the costs with others. Victoria Yore, travel blogger at follow me awayrecommended to book a posh vacation rental with a group.

“Even though vacation rental booked through sites like VRBO is $600 a night, shared with a group, the price isn’t that bad and you can stay somewhere epic without breaking the bank,” he said. she stated. “That could mean beachfront, with an indoor pool, in the mountains and more.”

Choose a less popular destination

“Another tip for cheap luxury travel is to go somewhere obscure,” says one travel blogger Rocky Trifari. “By choosing less popular destinations, you can select locations based on hotel specials, favorable exchange rates, and cost-of-living considerations.”

Trifari chose their destinations based on these factors while traveling Europe on a budget. Yore also suggested traveling to a country where things are cheaper with your currency.

“There are often fantastic luxury boutique hotels available for a fraction of the cost of a trip to a popular and expensive location,” she said.

Use points and rewards programs

“One of the best ways to enjoy a luxury experience while traveling on a budget is through credit card points and rewards programs,” Trifari said. “If you qualify for a new card with a significant sign-up bonus, you may be able to redeem those ‘free points’ later as ‘currency’ to redeem for various five-star experiences.”

He cautioned, however, that you should ensure that your minimum spending qualifying amount does not exceed the amount of money you would normally spend.