Luxury travel on a budget

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Travelling as a student is easy. The checklist entails cheap accommodation, cheap booze and cheap travel. Hostels, £1 pints and interrailing across Europe covers this nicely. You are less worried about customer service as you’re accustomed to living in University accommodation where there is none! Hence a hostel in the back streets of Prague with a reception desk feels like the Ritz, compared with your usual accommodation.

However, when you begin earning money you might want a slightly richer experience during your time abroad. You might gain an appreciation for the finer things in life, or even rediscover them from past family holidays. Hotels above 2 stars become a viable option again, and you might even choose not to go for the cheapest option, in the name of some well-earned luxuries.

We outline a few strategies you can employ to make the best use of those hard-earned pounds to buy you a luxury experience on a budget.

Lounge access on Economy?

When you begin to prioritise customer service and convenience over cost, the options available to you can be overwhelming. Lounges at airports, up-market accommodation and more luxury travel become more attractive options. There are plenty of online services with detailed blogs and forums to help you. We love the travel blogs on the Money Saving Expert website.

Some great tips to secure lounge access include buying one off airport lounge passes from sites like Lounge Pass, Holiday Extras or Lounge Buddy which at £13.50 (with a 25% discount) could be cheaper than the cost of airport snacks and drinks.

Luxury locations on a budget

Sites like  Rome2rio,  SkyScanner and Kayak will help find and compare the cheapest travel routes and methods.  You can use the functionality on these websites to dig out economical flights to long haul destinations at short haul prices!

For instance, if you know you want to go away, but are flexible about where, then SkyScanner can really help you find some cracking deals. Just key your dates into the website, and choose the “Everywhere” option to let SkyScanner filter the cheapest flights to and from everywhere on those dates. Often this will uncover some options that you previously didn’t know would be affordable. For instance, next month it’s possible to travel to Switzerland, Norway or Spain for less than £50 return, and Morocco or Moldova for around £100!

Luxury accommodation for free

Sometimes you might want to treat yourself to a nice place to stay without having to spend money on expensive hotels. There are plenty of upmarket alternatives available which can be much better value for money than city hotels. One of these is the well-known service called AirBnB, which can get you an entire house, in the centre of town and an eager-to-please host, for less than the cost of the twin room in a 3* hotel.

Another more upmarket option is One Fine Stay which offers luxury city homes, penthouse apartments and mansion houses, which can work out to be very economical by the time the cost has been shared between a group of friends.

Or how about staying somewhere for completely free? Head over to MindMyHouse to check this dime out. This option would be to housesit for people when they are away. Whilst this will entail looking after plants and pets during your stay it will mean you get to stay in some really nice places without paying anything! The registration fee on some housesitting websites can be as little as £15 per year which is a pretty good bargain!

Bargain upgrades

Sometimes you can get the first-class experience without paying the full price and I can testify to this, as I recently travelled on Virgin Trains in the UK, one way in standard class from London to Birmingham, then by First Class on return.

By using the Trainline website I was able to see that travelling at 7:30pm instead of 6:30pm meant I could get a First Class ticket for just £12 more than the Economy fare. Even though Virgin’s standard class was a comfortable journey, the exceptional customer service I experienced in First Class was worth an extra £12 by far. I probably ate and drank my way through £20 worth of free coffee, juice and snacks, I would have spent in London anyway.

The same principles can be scaled to international travel and holiday-making. When travelling by plane, the SmartBill team often make use of priority boarding services which can cost less than £15 return, and this allows the passenger to board the plane first, gives them more comfortable seats and plenty of other benefits. Given the tight spaces available on some budget airlines it’s nice to treat yourself to a bit of comfort without breaking the bank.

So, next time you go away, remember some of these tips for a first class experience without the first class prices.

Thanks for reading!

Francis, SmartBill

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