We are unrepentant lovers of luxury travel, especially when someone else pays for it. But we have occasionally opened up our own wallets for some. It can be a smallish splurge in the grand scheme of the vacation’s total cost but have an outsize value in terms of making us feel as pampered as we somehow got the (mistaken) idea we deserve.
Here are a few splurges to consider for yourself or, if you’re a generous gift-giver, to someone else going on a cruise, a honeymoon, an anniversary trip or a high-end illicit tryst.
Luxury Travel Splurge #1 – Ship your Luggage
We knew about luggage shipping services but had never used one. But our “divergent” yet equally distressing packing styles made the idea more and more appealing.
Brunette (mentally) adds a zero to whatever her stuff weighs. If it really weighs 4 pounds she announces that it’s 40 pounds and struggles with it accordingly. Blonde packs absurd quantities of clothing that she can barely lift on to the scale at the airport while she tries desperately to divert the agent’s gaze from the number that is being (accusingly) displayed.
This past summer the wonderful folks at Luggage Forward gave us the chance to sample the luxury of shipping our luggage. We were thrilled. Of course Brunette had a thousand questions – do I have to take it somewhere (no, they come to your home and get it), will I have to put in a special box (no, just your regular suitcase) and how do I know it will be there in time (they know how to do this and it just is). Blonde’s response was “great” and just figured it would all more or less take care of itself and it did.
Traveling without a big bag was a great feeling as was buzzing right by baggage claim when we got to Lisbon. We had already received emails from Luggage Forward letting us know our bags were waiting at our hotel so there was zero stress, cart-grabbing,, tipping in the wrong currency or swearing involved. Apparently we are not exactly the first people to discover this service as the concierge had a large collection of pre-shipped bags waiting for hotel guests who had not yet arrived.
One of the other benefits of shipping our luggage was that, because it was going to Portugal, we had to ship it out about two weeks before we left on the trip. That sounded like a hassle at first but was actually a real benefit. No last minute rummaging around in our closets and getting all stressed out right before leaving on the trip. We stressed out ahead of time and were serene goddesses when the day came to depart. That was a luxury in itself.
Luxury Travel Splurge #2 – Pimp your ride
You won’t find us on 13 hour bus rides through Kyrgyzstan or engaging in other unpleasant transportation options that can be avoided. We prefer to build character by smelling wine, not wiffy passengers.
When going to a first-time destination that requires a long overnight flight we almost always book a private ride to pick us up at the airport. We know that when we’re groggy we’re more ripe for being scammed and just generally in need of a friendly face and a sign with our names on it. Another sneaky thing we have learned is that if you book a hotel’s car service they will usually let you check in earlier and that can be very valuable.
For greater luxury thrills you can pimp your ride by taking a helicopter or seaplane to a resort island instead of a slow ferry.
You can book the first class cabin on the train or ferry (almost guaranteeing yourself fewer crying children).
If you have the miles or money to upgrade your flight do so for at least for the trip home (if not round-trip). You will not regret it. (Ask a certain blonde who recently flew home from Buenos Aires in Business Class when she was exhausted from traipsing all over Patagonia.)
Luxury Travel Splurge #3 – Hire a photographer for an hour or two
We like to have pictures of the two of us together on our trips. However, that depends on the kindness (or entrapment) of strangers. And then at least one of us invariably hates the way we look.
We often see families where someone (usually the mom) is taking the picture but obviously it isn’t a complete picture of the family or group of friends or whatever. (We use this as a way to seem nice by offering to take a picture with everyone in it and then hurriedly asking them to return the favor.)
But for as little as $250 you can book a professional photoshoot in more than 300 locations around the world with Flytographer . We did this when we were in Maroma, Mexico this past summer. As you can see, we look somewhat better in the second picture
They spend time upfront making sure they know what you want from the shoot and show up on-time with a professional photographer who gets down to business. Within 5 days you have an array of pictures from which to choose. And you look better but not so suspiciously so that you’re unrecognizable!
Luxury Travel Splurge #4 – Arrange for a day pass at a resort
We’ve done this several places and always enjoy trying to pass as being posher than we are. Some high-end properties don’t make it obvious on their websites that this is possible, However, if you reach out to their concierge and they are not overly booked they may sell you a day pass to use the premises.
Two properties where we did this recently were in Mexico. One was the Four Seasons in Punta Mita and the other was Casa Velas in Puerto Vallarta. Again, this option is not always available but if you plan ahead and ask nicely (as opposed to pulling up out front in an old truck with inner tubes, beer bottles and Granny falling out) you have a good chance. Also, if you are staying at a sister property (as we were with Casa Velas) or are a high-level frequent sleeper with a chain, it’s well worth a try.
Luxury Travel Splurge #5 – Hire a private guide
We often do private walking tours or hire a private guide who every now and then is also a driver. In South Africa we hired a private guide/driver to take us on a tour of vineyards. As two of the cheapest drunks ever to disgrace their Irish heritage we cannot drive and drink but we didn’t want to be part of a huge group. So for a couple hundred (at most) dollars we had a cheerful driver, in a nice clean car who carted our increasingly giddy selves around for a day of imbibing.
Often your hotel concierge can recommend someone (not a bad idea if you also want that person to be a driver as you want to know they’ve had to pass muster with some vaguely responsible party). If you just want someone to show you around a city on foot there are lots of ways to find a reputable, experienced guide. Some resources are Tours By Locals, expert private guides from Viator , simple Google searches or travel advice forums such as the ones for each country on Trip Advisor.
Ideally also find reviews of the guides. For example, by typing in Rome, Italy on Trip Advisor and putting in the search box “private guides” almost 2,500 examples came up and each one has reviews. Make sure the person has proper credentials as a tour guide, speaks your language well and will customize the itinerary to your interests.
Luxury travel round-up
Luxury is whatever you think it is. We tend to think it’s creating special memories. We have regretted many a smocked peasant blouse purchased in some misguided moment when we thought we would look great dressed as Hungarian peasant farmers in our home towns.
But we have not regretted any of the splurges we’ve made that created special memories.
And it doesn’t have to be luxury to be special, but it sure doesn’t hurt either!
FCC Required Disclosure: Let’s see, this sucker could take a while. Luggage Forward shipped our luggage to Portugal for free so we completely made up the part about enjoying that. Flytographer gave us a free photo shoot but the “Before” shot we used is really not of the two of us but, alarmingly, one of the women in it is our paternal grandmother! The Four Seasons Punta Mita and Casa Velas comped us on our day passes and Blonde is dating the shirtless man with the poodle. Think that covers it.