A luxury escape has all the right ingredients required to put your daily life on hold: chauffeured arrivals, private islands, a hillside estate villa, and a weekend spent driving some of the world’s most lavishing supercars. Whether you travel all the time or once a year, this isn’t your average vacation. Luxury experiences like these are classified as “a once in a lifetime opportunity,” the ones that may require a rigorous savings plan.
Injecting a bit of glamour into every escape, without the hefty price tag, can quickly become your norm if you start the planning process early and correctly. After all, every smart traveler is on the hunt for the best deal, right?
First, define your sense of luxury in order to establish your starting point. Is it the flight, the hotel, the on-the-ground experiences, or all of the above? Luxury travel can start at the very beginning of the trip, even if it’s on a budget. Let’s look at Thailand as an example – Southeast Asia’s hub for turquoise beaches, tiny private islands, and an unmatched hospitality sector.
Plan and Book the Experience Before You Fly
Strategic thinking, planning, and loyalty programs are crucial at this stage. To counter the high fares required to fly to Thailand, converting existing rewards points/miles (in my case, Chase Sapphire Preferred) into its cash equivalent covered approximately 70% of an economy class ticket. Now, how do you elevate the in-flight experience? Many airlines will allow confirmed economy passengers to bid for a Business Class upgrade a week before the flight date. Wait for the bid email, set your price, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be flying with the elite crowd in no time.
With a business class ticket in hand, continue making the most of every moment on your journey to Thailand. American Express has a partnership with Uber that allow passengers to earn double the points on all Uber travel. Get a luxury ride to the airport via Uber Black and pay the fare with points! After check-in, enjoy a glass of champagne courtesy of the complimentary lounge access.
Quick note: Some airlines (only Emirates in my experience) will revoke your access to the Business Class Lounge if your upgrade was done via a bid. I haven’t experience the same on any other airline. However, if you’re a holder of an American Express Platinum card, Emirates NBD Platinum, or any other travel credit card program, check to see if you can utilize your lounge access feature within the airport.
Where to Indulge Your Obsession
Whether you fancy the high-rise suites in Bangkok, Phuket’s secluded villas overlooking the Andaman Sea, or a Lanna-style cabin nestled within Chiang Mai’s tropical grounds, Thailand continues to redefine excellence when it comes to delivering a luxury experience.
Luxury accommodations can cost thousands of dollars. The key is knowing where and how to book luxury on the low. Websites such as Orbitz and Hotels.com are a great starting point. By actively using Orbitz, you will begin to unlock special “insider” pricing. With a 15% off coupon combined with $35 in Orbucks (Orbitz’s online currency), on top of already discounted prices, I was able to secure a one-bedroom suite at the Oriental Residence Bangkok for $99/night.
Via Hotels.com, for every 10 nights booked, you will receive 1 free night along with access to secret prices. With your free nights and pre-negotiated rates, begin selecting the luxury accommodation of your choice. The Mandarava Resort & Spa in Phuket fits the bill offering a delicate combination of elements – natural waterfalls, lush greenery, and tropical villas perched on a hillside overlooking Karon Beach. I redeemed (2) free nights via Hotels.com and a 15% off coupon.
Another great tactic that allows you to book a luxury hotel room at a low cost is to keep an eye out for the “Early Bird” special and free night offers. Advance booking will allow you to secure heavily discounted rates and a free night at top hotels such as the Khum Phaya Resort & Spa in Chiang Mai. Take things a step further and spark up conversation with concierge on arrival. Inquire about any special deals that are available during your stay that you can capitalize on such as discounted spa vouchers.
Luxury travel is not restricted to just accommodations and business class flights. The on-the-ground experiences are essential as well. Here are a few things to consider:
Blue Elephant, Phuket
Experience royal Thai cuisine inside a historic mansion where every room resembles the residence of Phuket’s elite crowd. An average three-course meal with drinks will cost approximately $65 USD.
Bai Thai Cooking Class, Bangkok
Nestled away from the crowded streets in Bangkok’s residential district, within a charming two-story loft, is the Bai Thai Cooking School. Join a mixed group or throw your own private event with stir-fired chicken, spicy grilled beef, and water chestnut in coconut milk on the menu.
Blue Tao Elephant Village, Chiang Mai
Enjoy an all-day private elephant interaction tour were you will spend time learning how to be an elephant keeper for a day. Activities include preparing meals, feeding, and bathing your elephant in their natural environments.
You don’t have to be rich to indulge in the luxury lifestyle. Give Thailand your presence for a week and get lost in the magic of this fascinating destination. Travel smart and come prepared. Luxury awaits, be there!