Planning a luxury vacation is often associated with flying first-class, sightseeing from the back of a limo, and staying in hillside villas or ultra-luxurious resorts. But for savvy travelers, it’s possible to get a taste of glitz and glamor without staying in a five-star property. Saving money on accommodations means you can still take advantage of luxury experiences. Here are a few ways to have a five-star vacation without the five-star price tag.
Book a Spa Treatment
Treat yourself to a trip to the spa at a nearby five-star hotel and turn your experience into a day of indulgence. Whether you opt for a massage or just a simple mani-pedi, booking a treatment at an upscale property often grants you complimentary access to its facilities, including the pool and sauna. Relieve stress and tension with aromatherapy or hot stone treatments. Then, spend the rest of the day relaxing as you make your way between the hot tub and tranquility rooms.
Experience Fine Dining
Experience five-star dining at an upscale restaurant by gorging on a signature dish or regional specialty. Many hotels feature Michelin-star restaurants, and you can still experience these enticing meals if you aren't a guest. Savvy travelers know that lunchtime is the best time to visit fine dining establishments since prices at dinnertime are slightly higher, but menu items often remain the same. If indulging on a gourmet meal really cuts into your budget, then dine elsewhere and visit the hotel for a decadent dessert or after-dinner cocktail at the bar. Showing up at a popular hotel restaurant after hours will also mean less of a wait to get in.
Rent a Cabana on the Beach or by the Pool
Seek solace by accessing a private beach at an oceanside resort or luxury hotel and revel in an afternoon of uninterrupted sunbathing and refreshing catnaps. These enticing stretches of sun-drenched sands are often reserved exclusively for hotel guests, but most properties also welcome non guests with paid admission. Visit the hotel's tranquil private beach for the day and sign up for activities like stand-up paddle yoga or sea kayaking and book a beachfront massage. Not heading to the shore? Many hotels also allow non-guests to rent a poolside cabana for an afternoon. Call ahead and reserve a spot, then spend your afternoon ordering drinks and snacks from the pool clubhouse and relaxing like you own the place.
Take a Cooking Class
Home chefs and food lovers can gain local insight into a destination’s culinary scene by participating in a cooking class. Hands-on, step-by-step instructions led by established chefs from destinations around the world allow you to combine your passion for food and travel, and return home with a new set of cooking skills. The École Ritz Escoffier situated inside the Ritz Paris offers an extensive portfolio of cooking classes where eager students can choose to learn the techniques of grilling meats and vegetables at the hotel’s beautifully landscaped garden, craft delicate éclairs and macarons in a pastry session, or prepare the hotel’s specialities of veal medallion and delectable roasted duck breast during a half or full-day class. If you're staying in an Airbnb or other rental with a kitchen, you can bring these skills back with you and prepare a five-star meal of your own.
Participate in Rooftop Activities
Set against the city lights and dazzling skyscrapers, hotel rooftops provide a pretty backdrop for some much-needed rest and relaxation. Non guests are often invited to participate in seasonal activities with a fee. Whether you sip cocktails at a rooftop bar, sign up for sunrise yoga, or catch a special movie night, keep an eye on the event boards at the hotels around you so you can take advantage of all the extras they have to offer.