There are generally two kinds of travelers. The first group saves for years and then goes on an all-out luxury vacation. The second group keeps the cost as low as possible, so they can travel more often. Where do you fit in?
If you feel like you have to choose between one option or the other – don’t. There’s actually a pretty logical compromise. Travel as low-budget as you can, but splurge when it counts.
How do you know what is or isn’t splurge-worthy when you’re traveling? Don’t worry – we’ll break it down for you.
Anything That Saves Time
If it’s going to save you time, spend your money. When you only have 1 or even 2 weeks of vacation, every single day counts. This goes double when it’s a weekend getaway. Spending an entire day traveling just for the sake of saving $50 or even $100 just isn’t worth it.
Direct flights are probably the most obvious place to choose time over money. Connecting flights will often leave you bored and waiting for hours in a nondescript airport. And we won’t even mention the possibility of your luggage getting lost in between those flights. Pay a little more, fly direct, and start your adventure sooner.
If you’re traveling by ground transportation (common in most of Europe and Asia), there are usually multiple train and bus options. Skip the bus if you can; it always takes the longest. Instead, opt for an express train, even if it’s a bit of a splurge. The higher speed and fewer stops could save you hours of travel time.
If this is going to be your one and only chance – don’t hesitate. Splurge and do it. You don’t want to regret saving a few dollars – or even a few hundred – by skipping breakfast with the giraffes in Kenya or sleeping under the Northern Lights.
If it makes your heart beat faster, it’s worth the money (assuming you can reasonably afford it). But here’s the thing: it has to be worth it to you.
A trip, tour, or experience might make all the top 10 lists of the year, but if it doesn’t interest you, then pass. Whether it’s horseback riding alongside an active volcano or staying in an overwater bungalow in Bali, only splurge if it’s the experience of your lifetime.
Let your passions pick your splurges. You’ll never regret it.
Amazing Local Cuisine
Food is one place most travelers tend to cut back their spending. After all, some of the tastiest meals you can buy are street food, right? It almost seems pointless to blow your budget at that cute little bistro, when you can pick up a sandwich right around the corner from your hotel.
But when you’re out of town, and especially out of the country, go ahead and spend your money on an amazing meal or two. There’s no better way to experience another culture than through their cuisine.
Ask the locals for their top hidden gems, where they go to impress a date. Or try out a culinary tour, like an olive oil tasting in Mykonos or a cooking lesson in Paris.
Do your research, make the reservations, and enjoy your meal without a drop of guilt.
Take a Private Tour
Tours are a fantastic way to see the tops sights and learn some interesting facts. Unfortunately, way too many people agree with that. And as a result, popular tours are often miserably crowded affairs. Standing shoulder to shoulder in a jam-packed room, standing on your tiptoes to try to see a painting? No, thanks.
Instead, find a private or small-group tour, with a limited number of people.
Some museums even offer “off-hour” exclusive tours. These usually take place before or after the museum opens and have very limited capacity. And they aren’t exactly inexpensive. But we guarantee that the experience is worth it! Looking up at the Sistine Chapel, without anyone crowding your view, is worth every euro.
A Souvenir You’ll Treasure Forever
Please don’t load up on shot glasses and keychains. Mass-produced tourist items such as those are generic, poorly made, and unworthy of your travel budget. You’re never going to look at your “I heart Sydney” magnet and feel like you’re back on an Australian beach.
Instead of buying a bunch of cheap trinkets, splurge on one amazing item that you will treasure forever, something that evokes the flavor of the place where you bought it. Handmade sandals from Capri, an om amulet from Tibet – you get the idea.
Quality over quantity for everything, and especially souvenirs.
Some upgrades will be worth the splurge, some won’t – only you can decide. Paying extra to fly first class on a short hop probably doesn’t make much sense. But on a long international flight, upgrading your seat will make a huge difference.
Think about it. Just having the option to stretch your legs and recline your seat already sounds like it’s worth the splurge, right? Eight hours of comfort are priceless.
Still not sure? When you land well-rested and ready to start your vacation, you’re actually saving money by making the most of your first day of vacation.
The Right Hotel
You might think it’s not worth the splurge, since all you’ll be doing in your room is sleeping. But spending extra on your hotel can make a huge difference to your overall travel experience.
Whenever possible, try to book a hotel as close to the action as possible. It might seem like a splurge, but you’ll end up saving both time and money by not having to travel back and forth every day. Whether that means beachfront or in the heart of the city is up to you and what you want to do during the day.
If you’re in Paris for the first time, go ahead – book that room with the view of the Eiffel Tower. Is there anything you’d rather see first thing in the morning?
Hire a Driver
This might be the ultimate splurge, especially when public transportation is so easily accessible. But the convenience of being picked up and dropped off at your hotel can’t be overstated.
Having a driver for the day will allow you to see so much more than if you take a bus or train. Not only can you ask to stop wherever you want, but a local driver can point out some unique “locals only” spots for a meal or a drink, or even some shopping.
It’s especially worth it if you want to visit more than one sight in a given day. A private car will save you the hassle of trying to coordinate bus or train schedules across town.
Go ahead and plan your travels as inexpensively as possible, but keep room in your budget for a splurge or two. We promise, it’s worth it!