Planning a vacation can be stress-inducing, especially when it comes to booking an essential to the whole experience: a hotel. With choices that range from boutique to traditional, finding the property that fits your needs takes a bit of research. For anyone looking to splurge on luxe accommodations for their next holiday, we know that you’ll want to spend additional time sourcing the best options because, hey, we all want to get the ultimate value for our dollar in this economy.
If you’re not planning to spend much time in your hotel room, opting for a budget-friendly hotel with bare necessities is always an option. However, we chatted with two luxury travel experts and a financial advisor for anyone looking for a property that offers the full package: excellent service, excursions, memorable fare, wellness, and spa services under one roof.
Wondering where to start on your hotel search? Stephanie Flor, founder of Around The World Beauty, a travel company that plans once-in-a-lifetime vacations for beauty enthusiasts, begins with two questions: “What is the vacation’s theme, and who are you going with?”
Now that we’ve got you thinking, let these experts be your holiday guides as you build and prepare to book your accommodations.
Be Flexible On The Location
Traveling always requires flexibility, and planning for a luxurious holiday is no exception. For example, Colleen O’Keefe, a luxury travel advisor at Embark Beyond, shares that Cabo has seen a massive price increase but recommends considering the northeastern coastline of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. “If you would be willing to check out Riviera Maya, you can get a much more luxe hotel for way less.” Additionally, Josh Geller, Embark Beyond luxury travel advisor, suggests considering a continent change if you want your budget to go further. “I recently had clients return from a luxe Thailand honeymoon that cost about 40% less than it would in other years,” he shares.
Speaking of exotic locations, Tanzania and Morocco should be on your list too. “[They offer] luxury experiences that will surprise you in regards to budget,” Flor tells TZR. Though she notes flight costs are typically your most significant travel investment. “You get all the luxe for half of the price once you land. We’re talking about safari glamping in Serengeti and queen-like living in Marrakesh, Morocco.”
Look Out For Red Flags
Red flags don’t just apply to love and relationships, so what should you be on the lookout for? Well, we know that some travelers love an all-inclusive, but O’Keefe advises being careful with booking all-in experiences. “There are some that are great,” she says. “But [for] others, it’s worth spending the extra money and choosing your meals and alcohol. After all, you’re on vacation. You should eat and drink what you want.”
She also says to skip breakfast and spa packages since plans can change mid-trip. However, if you want a tailor-made experience, she recommends utilizing the services of a travel advisor even if there’s a fee. “The perks we can offer you — VIP, breakfast, resort credits, and upgrades — are definitely a savings in the long run.”
And those extra coins often associated with a cityscape or nature-filled view, O’Keefe says, can be worth the additional fee, depending on the location. She doesn’t always recommend paying extra at city hotels because you’re typically not spending much time in the room. [“However], at a resort, it’s nice to see the water or the mountains when you are relaxing in the room,” she notes.
Don’t Forget To Budget
When planning a well-deserved holiday, Chelsea Barrows, CFP, Senior Lead Planner at Facet Wealth, advises balancing caring for yourself and your virtual checkbook. “You should have enough cash on hand to cover any credit card charges,” she advises. “Otherwise, you will be stuck paying extra fees and high-interest charges, significantly increasing the cost of your trip.”
And one more critical piece of advice you may not have considered: read the fine print before entering your credit card number. “You should check with the resort or hotel about any service fees and taxes,” Barrows explains. This is especially important when booking all-inclusive accommodations. “If the stay is all-inclusive, check out what that actually means. Often there are still upcharges for certain activities, top-shelf alcohol, or even for daily housekeeping depending upon the stay.”
Be Careful With Credit Cards
As a traveler that often uses points via my American Express Card (and uses the card often to accumulate them), I wanted to get her thoughts on using credit cards for vacation planning. For example, AMEX offers complimentary upgrades, late checkout, and daily breakfast for two and five times the points when booking through their travel portal.
Barrows suggests using these benefits wisely. “Points and benefits like this are definitely a great way to enhance your stay, but you should not use a credit card unless you can commit to paying it off in full.” In this case, she says, reading the fine print is important here too. For example, you’ll want to inquire about any charges for using any of these perks, what the dollar value of points translates to, and thoughtfully consider the fee for the card. “If you are taking advantage of the rewards often, paying for a card may be worth it, but otherwise, an annual fee of $500 or more can just be a needless expense.”
Nix the International Flights & Stay Stateside
With inflation driving up the price of everything, including airfare, reconsidering the cost of an international flight could mean spending more of your budget on a dream property stateside. For example, if you want a vacation that allows you to be social and relax, O’Keefe says Aspen is the place to be. “They have DJs, great restaurants, clubs, [and] everyone dresses to the nines.”
Now, are you thinking of adding Aspen to your list? We are too. When you do find yourself in Aspen, O’Keefe’s top property of choice is Hotel Jerome. However, O’Keefe also highly suggests domestic properties that offer full vacation experiences like the tranquil properties of Stanly Ranch in Napa and Amangiri in Utah and the social club-like resort The Breakers in Palm Beach.
With the right amount of planning, a luxury trip you’ll never forget is possible … and closer than you think!
La Botanica Wellness
This pick comes from one of our travel experts. Located in San Juan, Puerto Rico, this dog-friendly hotel is just two blocks from the beach and offers complimentary vegan Ayurvedic breakfast each morning. And if you’re seeking spa services, their wellness house offers regular massages and specialized Ayurvedic treatments.
Located in southern Utah, sitting on over 900 acres, the 34-suite resort offers picturesque scenery, with each suite featuring private terraces, fireplaces, king-size beds, and private courtyard entrances. Additionally, meals, daily group hikes, and custom itinerary planning services for their many excursion offerings like private air tours of Grand Canyon National Park and hot balloon rides are complimentary.
Stanly Ranch Napa
Stanly Ranch is just a short 50-minute ride from the Bay Area and is located on 712 acres of vineyard and ranch land. The wellness-centered resort features 135 cottages and guest rooms and a wellbeing center that offers yoga, facials, massage services, and holistic full-body treatments like cold plunge baths and therapeutic bodywork.
The Breakers Palm Beach
Nestled on 140 acres of oceanfront property, the historic Palm Beach gem features 538 guest rooms, ten restaurants, four pools, two golf courses, and a Forbes Five-Star spa.
The Oberoi, Marrakech
Not only does this five-star property boast mountain views and exceptional service—just check the review on TripAdvisor—you can book excursions that feature private helicopter tours of the Sahara Desert and one-on-one chef-led Moroccan culinary experiences.
Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui
With a short five-minute walk to the private white-sand beach along the Gulf of Thailand, this property offers villas with a private infinity pool and bar. If you’re up for excursions, windsurfing, golf, and access to a cruising boat that can make its way to Marine National Park are just a concierge call away.
Grand Velas Riviera Maya
With a perfect five-star rating on Tripadvisor, this oceanfront, all-inclusive property boasting a private white sand beach, eight restaurants, and three types of vacation experiences—the grand experience (romance), the zen experience (relaxation), and the ambassador experience (family)—sits on 80 acres of rich greenery.
This 101-room hotel offers well-appointed rooms featuring floor-to-ceiling windows, cashmere curtains, and Hermes bath and body products with picturesque views. And it’s located right on Aspen’s Main Street, just steps away from restaurants, nightlife, and art galleries.