Luxury for Less
There are certain travel experiences that appear to be the sole domain of the one percent: jetting off on private planes, sailing to intimate ports of call; and decompressing at destination spas. The good news is that affordable versions are accessible to the average traveler; you just have to know where to look.
Sail Away on a Yacht
Windstar Cruises differentiates itself with a fleet of luxurious yachts — a welcome change from the floating cities that now commandeer the seas. Prices for its various ships typically start at around $3,999 (per person, per week including meals and entertainment); however, current fare specials on its site are showing prices starting at just $1,199 per week per person — a great deal considering what you get: a small ship size (the largest caps out at 310 passengers) that allows it to dock at ports the ocean liners can’t. The price includes all meals, an ocean-view cabin, a champagne welcome reception and access to watersports equipment from its own private platform.
Join the Jet Set
Private jet company JetSuite, whose fares typically start at around $4,000 (plus a $50,000 membership fee), recently launched a more affordable venture called JetSuiteX. Think of it as a hybrid public/private charter, since it operates as a public service, yet possesses the features of a private jet. It will employ 30-seat Embraer E135 jets with fares starting at just $109 one way — sans membership fees. While you’ll be traveling with more people than the JetSuite option, the tradeoff is private terminals (translation: no more waiting in long lines for everything). The jet-set lifestyle continues onboard with leather seats, complimentary wine, and no overhead luggage bins. There are currently five routes on the West Coast. Service to Las Vegas began in April, while flights to Bozeman, Montana will take off on June 30.
Decompress at a Destination Spa
All-inclusive prices at high-end spas such as Canyon Ranch typically start at around $500 a night per person; the high price tag negates the point of a stress-free vacation for the average person. As an alternative, day passes are available at many destination spas, which can be a great deal if you’re already vacationing (or living) near one. Day rates at the acclaimed Miraval Resort in Arizona start at $299, and include fitness classes, access to spa facilities, a gourmet lunch and more. The tropical Standard Spa, Miami Beach offers day passes starting at $75, which gets you access to its globally inspired indoor and outdoor baths (including a mud lounge and Arctic plunge pool), a salt-water pool, and fitness classes. The sprawling Lodge at Woodloch offers numerous day spa rates, which include spa treatments, gourmet meals and access to its luxe spa facilities, such as a massaging waterfall pool.
Book that Dream Safari
It’s not uncommon for the average private safari camp in Africa to cost about $1,000 a night, putting it out of reach for many travelers. Luckily, the dollar is currently strong in South Africa, plus we’re heading into low season (between May and September), when prices drop even further. Even better, the weather is ideal for safaris, thanks to little rain and cooler temperatures. Animal sightings are also likely, making now the time to book that bucket list trip. At the budget end, the most affordable private camps are going for about $150 a night per person. Look for deals at Kruger, Sabi Sand, and Madikwe.
Stay in a Castle
Thanks to Airbnb, staying at a castle is more accessible than ever. Augill Castle (pictured) in Northern England is less than an hour from the incredibly scenic Lake District, and rates start at just $205 a night. It was built in 1841 and comes complete with turrets, secret doors and 15 acres to explore. The family lives on site, but it’s large enough to pretend that you are the lord of the manor. Just an hour from Paris is the country retreat Chateau de Miserai, starting at $164 a night. The grounds include a lake with a beach and kayaks, and an outdoor Jacuzzi. Or stay in a real medieval castle (and national monument) for $152 a night in Galway, Ireland. The castle was built in the 1400s and recently restored by its current owner. Expect spiral staircases, wood-burning stoves and battlements.