With our recent, more luxury travel in Southeast Asia, people have mistaken us for being ‘rich’. Of course this is not even close to the truth. We are not, never have been and have no aspirations to be rich. What we are however, is good at ‘keeping up appearances’. Much of the misconception comes from our ‘luxury travel’ lifestyle which we have been doing more often of late, only because we are better at making it cheap. Fact is there is a lot of affordable luxury travel in Southeast Asia to be had and we have become experts at finding it. Experts at frugal pampering and romance on a budget. Living in Bangkok, with a cat, we have been travelling for shorter periods and make the most of the short breaks.
The obvious way to cut costs is using budget airlines but we have got to the extent where it is rare that we chose the destination. Destinations now follow cheap flights and offers with budget airlines. We wait for flight offers and promotions and book long in advance. In the past year we flew to many top destinations (from Bangkok) for under $100. In 2013 alone we travelled to Kolkata India ($90), Hanoi Vietnam ($80), Bali Indonesia ($90) and again next month we will fly to Penang Malaysia ($60).
When it comes to accommodation we always book online and in advance using Agoda. Prices are not only a whole lot cheaper than walk-in or even groupon / coupon rates but we’ve been offered ‘press rates’ which are pricier than online booking. We even once booked from a hotel lobby (Sikkim Himalayas) to not only find lower rates than walk-in but were also given a room upgrade. For luxury travel we always book in advance and generally stay in more than one hotel in the given destination. Instead of staying throughout our stay in mid-priced hotels, we book 1 night (maybe 2) in a luxury resort then the rest of our stay in lower budget hotels. An example is next month, a luxury hotel in Phuket which costs us $220 a night. The going ‘promotional’ rate through the hotel website is $468 for the same room. Savings are ridiculous.
We always travel independently, not only is it cheaper but we enjoy it and it is something we have always done. Again, travelling to Phuket we will forward to the luxury resort on a smaller island just off the coast of Phuket (Koh Yao Yai). Contacting the hotel we get a quote for airport transfer at $92 (for two). Travelling independently we will pay $22 (again for two). The additional hassles involved are flagging down a taxi, then a short wait at the ferry pier. $70 saved with very little inconvenience endured.
Okay this is where we look really cheap? As expected high prices are reflected at luxury resorts for food and drink. For Thailand specifically you will be lucky to find a bottle of wine for less than $35. We therefore bring our own wine ($10 each). Obviously for flights and carry-on baggage this doesn’t really work so with taxi journeys to resorts we often stock up at local supermarkets en route. When staying at luxury resorts we then eat out all the time, not because it is cheaper but because with many luxury resorts they don’t offer authentic foods and cater for ‘tourist tastes’ and of course the eating out experience is ultimately ten times better (for us anyway).