I think what people consider “luxury” versus “normal” or even “budget friendly” when it comes to travel is all in the eye of the beholder. To me, saying that something is a “luxury” item when it comes to travel really means that (i) it’s a bit more money than I would normally spend to eat, drink, tour someplace or have a roof over my head or (ii) it’s not really necessary to enjoy where you are but it sure is a nice experience. So, here are a few things that I think of as “luxury” when it comes to our travels.
Flying First/Business Class
The older I get, the more babyish I get about traveling in coach. Don’t get me wrong, if it’s a domestic flight of less than 5 hours, coach suits me just fine. If Steve is traveling with me, I always go for extra leg room seats because he is 6’4 and he needs it to be comfortable.
However, flights across the pond, flights longer than 6-7 hours and red eye flights where you really need to get some sleep, I don’t want to do them unless I can afford to buy a business class ticket or have enough miles to get one. This year we are flying business class to France in August, Fiji in November and then Argentina in 2019. I sometimes feel guilty about the splurge but it really does make a difference to wake up feeling refreshed and not miserable from jet lag. I hate losing even one day of my vacation to feeling groggy and grumpy and business class helps so, so much.
I have done plenty of group excursions in my travels. Sure, some of them have been great and we have met some nice people. In general, though, I prefer a private tour where it’s just me and Steve or me and whomever I am with for the trip. I have been on so many group trips where someone’s kid had a massive, screaming meltdown, a person doesn’t feel well and wants to go back early, or someone is “that person” that loudly complains or is always pushing their way to the front or being obnoxious, etc…
Of course, private tours are much more expensive as the guide has to make up for not having a larger group. My favorite private tours to date have been our tour of the Vatican with Paola Barbieri and our private snorkeling, shark swim and BBQ island lunch with Bora Bora Romantic Tours (plus, check out our hottie of a tour guide!!!).
Okay, this is definitely subjective. What I consider luxury, someone else may consider their average hotel. To me, it’s a “luxury” hotel if its costing me on average more than $500 a night. I make allowances for expensive cities like New York, Paris, London, etc…and have paid upwards of $1,000 a night.
I’ll also splurge for special occasions like anniversaries or birthdays but I really do try to be budget sensible for the most part so these splurges seem extra special.
My favorite splurges have been the St. Regis Bora Bora (Overwater bungalow), Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas and the Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley. This year we are splurging with one night (our last night of the trip) at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris and January 2019 we will be staying in Elizabeth Taylor’s old bedroom suite of her former private villa in Puerto Vallarta – I can’t wait to take a bath in her heart shaped bathtub!
Fine Dining and Good Wine
I love good food and wine. I especially enjoy good wine and Steve and I have made a point of visiting several wine regions in the U.S. and abroad to learn as much about wine as possible. When we are on vacation, much of our schedule revolves around where we are going to eat for that day. I start out planning what to do for lunch and at lunch we are already talking about what to do for dinner. It’s a curse.
I love fancy restaurants and getting dressed up but I also like casual beach side shacks and authentic local food so we usually have 2-3 “nice” meals on a vacation balanced out by some super casual places. I’m in trip planning mode for our August France trip right now. So far, I have decided that we will definitely be doing a lunch at the 2 Michelin starred Chevre D’or in Eze during the French Riviera portion of our visit. I can’t make up my mind about where to eat in Paris our last night.
One of my other favorite fancy lunches was my birthday lunch at La Sponda in Positano in 2016 – it was magical.
Luxury touches make such a big difference when traveling but I also believe in being financially responsible. I never want to come home from a trip and regretting that I spent “X Amount” on something when I get home and see my credit card bill. Travel should be fun but not to the point of hurting your bank account beyond repair. I think we have learned to balance that out by staying in moderate hotels or even AirBNBs for some vacations and then splurging on others. It’s worked pretty well for us so far!