How Budget Travel Can Be Luxurious

To some, just the words “budget travel” can elicit visions of scratchy sheets, thin walls and bad coffee. Let’s be honest, that doesn’t sound too luxurious, does it? When approached correctly, budget travel doesn’t mean skimping or losing sight of any of the comforts of travel.

luxurious budget travel
Having a beautiful beach like this all to yourself is one of the ultimate luxuries. Photo: Brian Akamine

Budgets can perhaps impact what you do during your travels, but they don’t have to impact the overall experiences you take away from your travels.

But how would you define luxury? Does it mean finding yourself in a plush, cozy robe ordering room service while the kids are at the resort’s kids club? Or does it mean not having to worry about the stressors of daily life when you are not on vacation? In reading the Family Traveler Spotlight section on Top Flight Family, you’ll find that each family defines luxury differently. And therein lies the beauty of each of our travel experiences.

Throughout our travels, we have found our taste may not always be for the most expensive or opulent locations, but instead for the places where we can enjoy the beauty around us in a more solitary setting. Budget travel often means looking at other options for putting a roof over your head on vacation.

luxurious budget travel
Gorgeous and solitary sunsets. Photo credit: Wanderlocity/Kayla Keigley

Take our recent vacation to Oahu, Hawaii, we rented a small house through VRBO located on a quiet side of the island, away from all things touristy. Our friends happened to be there at the same time as us and stayed at the Four Seasons Resort at Oahu Ko Olina.

Our experiences during our time in Hawaii were completely different. From the moment we arrived in Honolulu, we were whisked into a quiet, self-paced, relaxing vacation. We grabbed our rental car and headed to the quiet, peaceful beach front home we rented for the week for a fraction of the cost of the cost of one of their nights at Ko Olina.

Our rental home was situated in a tiny community in a quiet neighborhood on the more “local” side of the island. There were houses on both sides of us, but we had an unrestricted view of the water, a beach right off our patio, all the comforts of a home (which is perfect when traveling with small kids) and breathtaking sunsets. We were able to eat meals on the beach without another soul in sight. We had white sand right in front of us and fell asleep to waves crashing on the beach. Our coffee was enjoyed outside on the patio while our kids played in the tide pools and the birds sang.

luxurious budget travel
A quiet, local beach, off the beaten path meant meeting sea turtles one on one. Photo credit: Wanderlocity/Kayla Keigley

We spent a day with our friends at Ko Olina and it was wonderful. It is a gorgeous resort filled with opulence from the moment you arrive. From the sweeping views in the lobby, we headed to the pool and beach area, where there were people everywhere. Rows and rows and rows of beach chairs lined up—filled with people. A lagoon for swimming, filled with people. Neighboring resorts filled with people. Now, granted, there was someone taking my order for lunch, drinks and even brought us sunscreen and cleaned our sunglasses for us, which was lovely. I am not knocking luxury resorts or hotels in any way, in fact, I love them as much as the next traveler. They provide a sense of extravagance. But, for our family, solitude and the beach go hand in hand for a relaxing vacation.

Don’t worry though, if you still want to enjoy those plush robes or epic kids’ clubs, there are plenty of easy ways to find great hotels and resorts at a fraction of the price, making everything more budget friendly. Our favorite is to use SPG Hot Escapes. Each week they share hot deals for the next six weeks of booking at Starwood Hotels—think W Hotels, Le Meridien, Westin—marked down to a fraction of the cost. Otherwise, stick to other options for lodging such as home rentals.

Budget travel also means not eating out at fancy restaurants for every meal. Our travel tip is to enjoy those restaurants at lunch, not dinner, as meals are cheaper (and more kid-friendly) during the day. Perhaps, with a shift in perspective, the most luxurious part of your vacation might be that relaxing picnic you enjoyed with food from a local food truck in the park. For us, that is what travel is all about. Immersing ourselves in the simple moments of the places we are traveling to. And that is easy to do on a budget without sacrifices.

Often, getting off the beaten path and away from the tourist-centric locations also means less costly options for lodging, food, drinks and activities. Our rental home in Hawaii meant meeting the local caretakers who not only shared an awesome Hawaiian meal with us where we dove into a conversation about island life, but they also took us to a secret beach to check out the sunbathing sea turtles. A total highlight for all three of our daughters. Had we stayed in Waikiki, we wouldn’t have been afforded these awesome opportunities that provided a rich cultural experience for our family.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—or in the case of travel—the comforts and delights you experience while traveling can be found wherever you are willing to look.

About Kayla Keigley

Kayla KeigleyKayla Keigley is a wife, mom to three daughters under the age of 7, public health professional and an enthusiastic wanderer and traveler. Kayla and her husband believe travel is best done off the beaten path and strive to raise their daughters as global citizens, by fostering a love for language, culture, food and adventure. Follow her on her blog or on Instagram.

Click here to read Kayla's articles

Budget travel doesn’t have to mean skimping or losing sight of any of the comforts of travel. Here's how to achieve luxurious budget travel.

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