Luxury travel: Necessity or root of all evil?
We know people and travel companies who say they are all about luxury travel. Others practically have steam-clouds of indignation coming out of their ears at the mention of luxury.
Is luxury high thread-count sheets? A butler with a silver tray (and an imperious attitude)? A personal sommelier? Someone who unpacks for you, presses your clothes and shakes you into your Spanx? (The last would be a real luxury, but no one may have thought to offer it yet.)
Or is luxury a privileged, inauthentic way of life and travel? Is it a way for snooty one-percenters to flaunt their wealth? Is it something most people can never afford?
Relax everyone. Luxury travel is whatever it means to you.
And you can pay full fare for it or be clever about using loyalty programs to get points that cover many of the costs.
So this is what luxury travel means to us. We hope you will comment at the end and tell us what luxury travel means to you.
Luxury travel in terms of accommodations
A really good and unexpected upgrade.
This is from a time we stayed for free on SPG points at the Westin Dragonara Resort Malta and they upgraded us to the penthouse. To our amazement it included an “electronics butler” who failed (through absolutely no fault of his) to show us how to watch television. Then a maid appeared and startled us as we sipped our complimentary champagne overlooking the Mediterranean from our expansive balcony.
The moral of this story is; befriend the concierge in advance of arriving at the property. (Joseph, we will always love you!)
A good view.
Staying free on points again! Because they knew we were very important travel writers (at least that’s what we told them) we got chocolates and wine and fruit delivered to the room. It was luxury to enjoy our beverage looking out over the Persian Gulf at the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi.
A private beach or swimming pool.
The pool in our private “villa” at Kura Kura Resort in Indonesia (not free by any means). It provided Brunette with the luxury of a “natural swimming experience” in the mornings, as Blonde snored obliviously on.
The fact that when a friend was later informed of this he told Brunette he’d seen her “au naturel” on Google Earth, and she believed him, made it even better!
A butler to draw a bath.
OK, this was an experience Brunette had once at the St. Regis in Singapore but something doesn’t have to happen all the time to count. (And yes, it was free with SPG points.)
And it was made even better when the Google Earth prank-playing friend sent a bottle of champagne to our room!
Luxury travel in terms of transportation
Flying Business Class
Yes, the picture is bad but everything else in Business Class with Qatar Airways was pure indulgence – especially the fact that Brunette won the tickets from a contest she entered on Facebook!
Flying, via helicopter from Island Hoppers, to our hotel on the main island from a resort on Tokoriki in Fiji provided spectacular views. It wasn’t free, but half price was a deal we didn’t try very hard to resist!
On our next visit to Fiji we decided to go for another luxury experience; flying on a seaplane. When we inquired about the prices they were too high. We bartered to no avail.
But then we hung around (20 minutes) until the next flight was going on a round trip to Castaway Island with two passengers. We re-approached the man doing the bookings and asked if we could join them for half price (not within their earshot of course). Ta da! Our fabulous first seaplane ride!
Being driven across the tarmac to our plane
The only people we had ever seen in semi-real life being driven to or from airplanes were politicians or criminals (sometimes those are interchangeable). We were giggling, selfie-begging luxury poseurs when Qatar Airways put us in a BMW and drove us to our plane (and they didn’t even handcuff us – until later)!
Private car and driver
We were having our freebie stay at the St. Regis in Singapore so we sprung for their car service from the airport. Although we paid for something like a 1989 Ford Taurus they sent a Bentley. However, once again by asking to have our pictures taken we revealed that we were not to the manor born.
Luxury travel in terms of experiences
Genuinely nice, warm people.
OK, to be honest this food was, um, lousy. And this beautiful scene was on the side of a rocky, dusty, twisty highway in Bhutan. Garishly painted trucks from India belched diesel fuel on us as we ate.
But this was a luxury because the very kind people of Bhutan – in this case our guide and drivers – sat and ate with us and told us a little about their lives.
Good food and pretty scenery are easier to come by than the chance to personally experience the charm, subtle humor and shyness of the Bhutanese. They also tend to be very private so it was a privilege that they would share a meal with us.
Sometimes the people are fellow travelers.
Blonde met Shelby, an alternative Brunette in case of a need to resupply, on the Bhutan trip. She became such an immediate good friend that months later we were in Lima enjoying wondrous concoctions at Astrid y Gaston.
Luxury travel in terms of food
No false choices are needed!
Why are there so many arguments about eating locally versus eating in well regarded restaurants?
This was an excellent restaurant in Calella de Palafrugell, Spain. The food was sourced locally, prepared by a local chef and served in a locally owned restaurant. We will never again think of octopus or calamari so lovingly again.
Luxury travel in terms of the environment
Overlooking False Bay in Australia was an unforgettable experience, which is saying a lot as Blonde forgets almost everything. And it didn’t hurt that we’d hired a private driver/guide for the day who also knew where to go to take the best pictures!
Teeming fish (which always make Brunette hungry for fish which is sort of awful of her).
Healthy oceans and reefs for snorkeling are perhaps our favorite luxury. Our cruise to the Yasawa Islands with Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji gave us two opportunities a day to snorkel among bright soft coral and crowds of fish.
It was not a “luxury” ship. It was probably a 3 star ship, but it had all we needed. The beauty of Fiji above and below the water and the warm, friendly staff made the whole experience a “luxury”.
Ditto the Galapagos
Just being fortunate enough to get to visit the Galapagos is a luxury. The hiking, the snorkeling, the fascinating information which we have totally forgotten, and being somewhere that is truly like nowhere else on earth is a luxury. Try to experience it sometime at whatever level your budget can endure.
Traveling with the right company – or none at all
A luxury that actually can’t be bought (although Blonde will at least come along for a high price) is having someone you enjoy traveling with. We have some history where that is concerned!
Our travel partners of choice are always each other. (Of course if George Clooney invites Blonde to go somewhere – anywhere – Brunette will be left wondering what caused that cloud of dust where her sister used to be.)
We can’t always travel together. (Brunette has one of those “family” things.)
Sometimes Blonde goes on her own or with a friend she knows can stand her and vice versa. We know travel can test any relationship so we prefer to leave men at home (rather than face homicide charges in a foreign country).
So that’s what is luxury to us.
What is it to you? Do tell! (We promise not to tell anyone but the butler.)