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Ultimate Travel Guide – Luxury On A Budget


Your Ultimate Travel Guide - Luxury On A Budget

It’s been a long week, the back yard needs work and to top it off you have to go and visit your in-laws - you need a vacation! I can feel your face turning green with envy while you're at home slugging away and your friends are relaxing on the beach or atop a mountain. Follow some of the tips in this travel guide and you'll be the one turning them green! (especially when you tell them the cost ;))

I’ve got your back 🙂

Let’s dive right in! By that I mean beach getaways. Yes, the ultimate lay on the sand and drink cocktails all day type of vacation. We all need them once in awhile or maybe more? You can get some of the cheapest vacations by booking all-inclusive this way.

hammock on the beach between two palm trees

This travel guide will tell you how: So a luxury beach vacation with all-inclusive unlimited cocktails on a budget that won’t burn a hole in your wallet - yes you read that right. I can get, for 2 adults and 2 children - optional ;), a 7 night stay at a 5-star hotel, all-inclusive for only $2120 total including flights for October. 3½ stars? OK then it’ll be $990 (from Canada to Mexico).

What Else?

Not everyone has $2000 lying around so let’s look at other ways you can save.

You’re strapped for cash but you just want to get away, right, well you can always go on standby. Some airlines will allow you to effectively sit in the sidelines until they give you a call and you’ll have to grab your things and head over to the airport, and FAST.

You usually only get a few hours notice but this depends on the airline. They are effectively filling up the empty seats with passengers that can go whenever they want. This option is great for people that run their own schedule as you can save a ton of money on flights which is often the largest cost of a vacation.

Some advice from Ross at Digital Nomad: If you're not checking in luggage , you can often find a multi-leg flight and depart earlier (only for single ticket holders). For example it can be cheaper flying to Dubai via Ireland with Emirates as opposed to taking your original flight.

Before You Go

Destination, destination, destination...

Mexico is cheaper than US, India is cheaper than Spain. Check out Skyscanner's post on some of the cheapest destinations for 2016. Note that the cheapest destinations in terms of value for money are not always the cheapest to fly to.

On That Note: Flight Comparison Tools

Most of you may already use the features of the flight comparison tools, Skyscanner and Kayak but there are a couple of tricks to save even more money. 

Skyscanner search

Start off with Skyscanner here. They allow you to search "Everywhere" so input your departure city and they'll give you a list of the cheapest destinations to fly to. If you're flexible on dates ensure you select "cheapest month" to find the cheapest time of the year to go. 

You'll end up with something like this:

Skyscanner list of cheapest destinations from toronto

Using this example from Toronto, Canada, lets say we want to go to the US. After briefly searching I found a flight in September to New York for $198 return. Not bad eh?

skyscanner prices TOR to NY

But we're not done. 

Lets head over to Kayak here and check we've got the best deal. So we've found the cheapest month and now the cheapest flight in that month. We'll cross reference that with Kayak using flexible dates. 

Kayak search

And that gives you a beautiful graph-like display of prices:

kayak search TOR to NY

So as we can see, the same date (depart 7th Sep, return 14th Sep) is the cheapest on Kayak, shown in a darker green. However this price is $25 more expensive. 

A few things to keep in mind when searching for flights:

  • Travel when it's off season. Go to Europe in Fall/Spring rather than Summer. 
  • Be Flexible. If you can find a vacation that's a really good price, but returns on Sunday at 4am, take it. Just make sure you arrange for some strong coffee on that Monday morning!
  • If you're having trouble finding a cheap flight with the tips above, try searching for last minute deals during the shoulder or off-season. For example, just after school holidays. 

Have good credit? Check out MyTravelTools post about using credit card points to travel even cheaper

There you go! You just saved $25 per person for spending a few minutes checking out different flight options. These are just two flight comparison tools but in my experience have consistently been the cheapest and are both easy to use. 

Hotel? Vacation Home? Log Cabin? 

Holiday Homes

Vacation rentals are not always expensive mansions, they can save you a lot of money if you’re travelling on a budget but still want a flair of luxury. When checking out your next destination type in google “[DESTINATION] Vacation Rentals” and see what comes up.

For example, a quick search on google came up with this. A 3 bed Villa in Jamaica with an entire oceanfront and staff of 4 for average $140 a night. Granted that’s not budget per se but if you have 2 families that want to team up it could be a great way to save. A little more searching and I found another villa for only $125/night. Now this is luxury on a budget. 


Airbnb is another option to help save you money on vacations. If you haven’t heard of it before I suggest you check out my other post here. Effectively, it’s an online marketplace where owners can rent out their rooms or entire properties to travelers like you. It’s a very trustworthy platform and I’ve used it at least 3 times in the past year. 

The thought of staying in a house where I’d never met the owner was at first very daunting, but now I’ve made some lifelong friends from it (hey Terry and Ping if you’re reading this!). Click here to get $40 travel credit from Airbnb.
House-sitting Or House-swap

A great recommendation from Thor at WorldWideWinther is house-sitting or a house-swap. It's pretty self explanatory but a great way to visit impressive locations and houses for very little money. 

Do not book a hotel in a tourist hot spot

This may already be too late and if it is, don’t worry. Just expect that the cost of items may be slightly higher, if not double in some cases. Look for hotels that are around residential dwellings. A good example is when I traveled to Tenerife with my family; we stayed in Puerto De La Cruz which was much less ‘touristy’ than the towns on the south of the island. It made for a much more enjoyable stay and you can really immerse yourself with the locals.

When You're There

So you scored a great deal on a flight and you’re one step closer to paradise. These are some of the ways you can save money at your holiday destination:

Go where the locals go

If you walk into a shop and they speak very good English but you’re in Argentina, this should raise your eyebrows. Don’t get me wrong, some people are just really great linguists but more often than not, if they’re all over you then they know you have money and will charge you for it! Go where the locals go.

Beware of taxis/cabs!

There are a few tips in this travel guide but this is a big one. Some countries, like Singapore, have a wonderful taxi service where all taxicab operators must charge the same rate by law, therefore you know you are being charged a correct and fair amount every time. However, depending on where you travel you may encounter some taxi drivers that will take you for granted. The key here is to ask a local how much a usual fare should cost from A to B, or ask hotel if they recommend a taxi service. Check for taxi/cab stands that have a printed list of prices, take a photo before your journey so you can show as evidence to the driver in the event of some confusion. Always make sure you know how much you're going to pay before you go.

Check out the bus/transit

OK so not exactly "luxury" but we're on a budget right? Yeah it might be in French, Spanish, Portuguese but they’re essentially all the same. In France from Disneyland, you can hail a taxi to take you for an hour drive to Paris city centre OR hop on the train that takes you there for a fraction of the cost and in half the time. Even if it’s not in English or your native language, you should at least give it a try.

There is most likely going to be an information booth somewhere in a train terminal, so worse comes to worse, just ask! Just don’t do what I did in Iceland - get on a bus for it to drive past my hotel and take me further than if I just walked in the first place!

Luxury On A Budget

Champagne, chocolate covered strawberries, you want LUXURY.  You want to feel like Royalty - trust me, I hear you! The best part of this travel guide: some great tips to help you travel in luxury but still be mindful of those precious pennies in your savings account:

Food, Glorious Food

Walk the streets and you guessed it! Go where the locals go. Tourist eateries are going to be a lot more expensive than the local restaurant. Me and my partner once strolled into an Italian restaurant in Rome to find no one spoke a word of English! The rest of the night was spent waving our arms for service and pointing at reasonably recognizable words on a menu. Crazy I know, but it made for such an entertaining night for everyone. Even if you end up ordering something that looks like nothing you have seen before, try it! You are travelling to experience something different after-all.

Massage, Facial, Pedicure - All Three? 

Find a local spa. In Bali, Indonesia I found an hour massage for only $5 AUD! That’s over 10x cheaper than in Australia. Yes I gave her a tip, I mean who wouldn’t that would just be stealing! Oftentimes there will be dedicated spa's that charge similar to back home, the key is looking for local spa's.

Cruise in Style

Forget those big companies with their massive coach/buses! Travel in style in one of these: 

toyota avaza in bali

This lovely guy took all 6 of us wherever we wanted for the whole day for only $37USD! You could pay similar on a coach tour but our driver took us anywhere we wanted. We got to see almost all of the sights in one day. Do some google research before you go to see if there is anyone offering a similar service. I found this guy via Tripadvisor, and if you’re heading to Bali sometime, let me know and I’ll give you his phone number 🙂

Now Go And Enjoy Yourself

So there you have it, the ultimate travel guide for luxury on a budget. No more excuses, get out there, go see the world, you won’t regret it!

About the Author Aaron Cresswell

Having traveled to 20 countries, Aaron has seen the sights and loves to share with you his hints and tips on how to save you money everyday. In his spare time Aaron enjoys bike riding, hiking and of course searching for ways to sensibly save you money! Hit the Facebook and Twitter buttons to connect :)

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