Travel—even when you’re on a tight budget—is one of life’s greatest luxuries. The chance to take a few days off work, hop on a plane, pay for a hotel room, and take yourself out to a new restaurant is a privilege that most of the 7.5 billion people on this earth do not experience regularly.
And while the very act of travel is a luxury, obviously there are different levels to this luxury. While some travelers are perfectly happy in a $25 per night shared room in a hostel, others are more comfortable in a $2,500 per night penthouse suite or a $25,000 per night private villa.
But just because there are hotel rooms out there in the world that cost more than your yearly salary doesn’t mean you’ll never get to experience some of the world’s greatest luxury travel experiences, like Michelin-starred restaurants, world-famous hotels, and one of those fancy lay-flat seats in business class. In fact, if you know where, when, and how to spend your travel dollars, you too can travel like a rich person—without going into debt.
1. Never Pay for First Class
Yes, flying in a lay-flat seat is fun, but it’s simply not worth it. It’s usually 3-10 times the price of a regular ticket, meaning you’re wasting hundreds—probably thousands—of dollars just to be comfortable for a few hours. And don’t forget that comfortable is a relative term here, since no matter how much money you pay, you’re still eating microwaved food within smelling distance of farty strangers, all while hurtling through the sky in a tin can. We all know the best part about first class is actually just having a flight attendant be nice to you, anyways. Once you’ve made your first billion, it’s fine to pay people to be nice to you, but it’s truly a waste of money until then.
2. Stay Loyal to an Airline
Just because you should never pay for first class doesn’t mean that you should never fly first class. Accumulating miles and linking your mileage to credit card spending can get you at the top of the list for free upgrades. Plus, airlines have made it easier to upgrade your seat for free with miles or even buy a first-class ticket with miles. Sometimes your preferred airline is more expensive than the competition, so a good rule of thumb is to only stay loyal up to a point—usually around $100 or 20 percent of the ticket price.
3. Choose Your Luggage Wisely and Never Pack More Than You Can Carry
You know what’s not luxurious? Dragging a checked bag through narrow cobblestone streets while sweating your butt off and getting frustrated when you can’t find your hotel. Backpackers have already figured this out, but you’ll be just as happy with a small rolling bag as you’d be with a backpack. This is an absolutely essential part of packing.