Last Wednesday was National Splurge Day. And while I've spent most of my life doing anything but splurging, sometimes even a die-hard budgetista gets the urge to indulge in a bit of frivolous spending now and then — especially when it comes to travel.
But what I don't like is overextending. Huge post-vacation charge card bills are a rest and relaxation buzz kill. Turns out there are ways to live the luxe life without breaking the bank. Author Kelly Ella Mazur compiled 101 of them in her e-book, "101 Tips for Luxury Travel… on a Budget." (The book is available on her website, www.kellyellamaz.com.)
Mazur says vacationing on a budget doesn't have to mean hostels and fast food.
"I've never done either of those things," says Mazur. "It's important to build in splurges."
For example, says Mazur, chances are you'll only visit a special city, like Rome, say, once — so it's important to take advantage of the experience while you're there.
"If you're on a very limited budget, then don't spend $500 a night on a hotel, but do enjoy a $10 glass of prosecco on a rooftop bar," she says. "Plan out your splurges in advance. If you're going to spend $200 on a fancy dinner, make sure it's going to be worth it. Do your research, read reviews, check things out ahead of time and make a reservation."
She's right — and that philosophy translates to most vacation situations.
Don't waste your splurge on overpriced, mediocre room service food or junky souvenirs. Spend your money on the things that will give you the most memory bang for your buck. (A trendy pair of reading glasses I picked up in Milan reminds me of my trip to Italy more than the expensive perfume I bought in the duty free shop at the airport.)
Here are more ways to save when you get the urge to splurge.
>>Plan a short escape, rather than an extended getaway. A few nights in a luxury hotel may be more relaxing than a week at a budget motel, and often, the included amenities can balance out the extra cost. A nicer hotel with a shuttle service can save you the cost of a rental car. A concierge can help you with hard-to-get reservations and tickets, and complimentary breakfast or cocktail hour gives you more money to spend on sightseeing.
>>Check Travelzoo.com for their "Hotels With Extras" list. Along with savings on deluxe rooms, you'll find a range of extra perks, including room upgrades, free breakfasts and discounts on parking and spa services. Sign up at SecretEscapes.com and you'll have access to a changing mix of luxury hotels and vacations at up to 70 percent off list price.
>>A staycation doesn't have to mean hanging out in lawn chairs on your patio. Mohegan Sun, (www.mohegansun.com), and Foxwoods, (www.foxwoods.com), both a short drive away, offer a variety of bargain-priced vacation packages, including spa stays and golf getaways.
>>Drinks or lunch at an area's trendiest restaurant gives you the opportunity to experience the lifestyles of the rich and famous, without a hefty dinner tab.
>>Take advantage of discounts. AAA and AARP members get deals at many hotels, cultural events and attractions. Entertainment Publications (entertainment.com), are regionalized directories of buy-one-get-one-free offers and discount coupons on hotels, restaurants and entertainment. (Currently, all books $9.99 with free shipping.)
>>When an opportunity to splurge on a shoestring presents itself, don't pass it up. On my last cruise, we'd booked a basic room. Just before departure, our travel agent called with an "upsell" offer. For an additional charge, we could upgrade our accommodations. We ended up with a fabulous cabin suite at about half its original cost.
>>Traveling off season will save you money. Right now, as snowbirds are leaving the warmer climates and traveling North to escape the heat, savvy splurgers are heading to points south to enjoy the beaches and attractions at a discount.