Luxury travel agent reveals 7 tips for traveling in style without it costing the earth
Speaking for myself, here: there were times these past two years where the mere sight of a jumbo Toblerone in the “discount” aisle of my local store felt as close as I’d get to a holiday, spiriting my mind to duty-free airport shops across the pre-pandemic world.
But finally, the world is opening up again like a rare flower that smells of suncream. Finally, Toblerone is back on the pre-departure breakfast menu.
Trouble is, following Christmas splurges, money, can often be tighter at this time of year. It has left us wondering: how can you holiday like royalty without blowing the winter energy bill?
Here, Tom Marchant, co-founder of bespoke luxury travel agency Black Tomato, shares seven of his tried-and-true tips for traveling the world without it costing the Earth.
Travel out of season
"Notably, for the budget-conscious, green season (the safari term for warm, but sometimes rainy months) is a great time for safaris with better rates at lodges with equally as compelling, animal sightings. It’s worth researching (or speaking to a travel expert about) "shoulder seasons" when thinking about specific destinations. You will find better value and fewer tourists, especially in popular places like the Caribbean."
Related: How I’m planning my Tanzanian safari with points and miles
"For Spring, I’d suggest Morocco, warm and inviting with a plethora of glamorous places to stay in Marrakech, the Atlas Mountains, and Skoura.
"On the safari front, springtime is an excellent idea, especially in Kenya. While it will rain off and on, it usually comes suddenly and then disappears, and the green season is a wonderful time to spot the Big Five!"
"Another benefit to off-season travel is that not only will the destination feel more authentic, but you’ll be helping to support local economies and ecosystems year-round, outside of peak-visitor months."
Splurge on one or two standout experiences
"I recommended doing this as a way to memorably bookend a trip with unique and special moments — a hot air balloon adventure at sunrise, a gourmet picnic after an epic trail hike, or a beautiful boat journey to watch the sunset in a secluded bay.
Related: 13 beautiful destinations in Europe to see an epic sunset
"Of course, it’s nice to pepper excursions throughout, but having something truly extraordinary arranged at the start, quickly immerses you into holiday-mode, while a remarkable highlight to look forward to ends your trip on a high, and it may also help to soften the blow slightly of having to return home."
"This is a great way to experience luxury travel, while the rest of the itinerary can be more low-key."
Go where your budget will take you further
"For example, Spain is a great choice for honeymooning couples on a budget. Offering an enticing combination of experiences, Spain has a longer season compared to some other destinations, so you can really go year-round. Plus, it offers everything people want to go to Europe for food, culture, wine and vibrant nightlife too."
Related: The cheapest way to use points and miles to book a trip to Spain
"Although for the beach you obviously need to be there for the warmer seasons, it’s a little less explored and expensive than Italy for those where budget is important, and still with outstanding cuisine and culture.
"For the more intrepid, another appealing "value" destination is Sri Lanka, which is cheaper than India. The same goes for Guatemala, versus more expensive Costa Rica."
Book early and consider traveling midweek
"The sooner you book, the more choice of room categories you have and the cheaper flights will be. Bucket-list properties like the iconic Four Seasons Grand Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera and stunning Italian property and Black Tomato favorite; Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Lake Como (already busy in January for summer), usually have a handful of entry-level rooms that book up far in advance."
"Once those are snapped up, you’ll pay double, triple, or more to stay there, and while of course, it’s lovely to have a big suite, you’ll have access to the same restaurants, pools and facilities regardless of which room you’re in."
Related: 10 all-inclusive resorts in Europe for winter sun and snow
"For shorter breaks, traveling midweek is usually a good hack if you can spare the time off. As tour operators, we have access to preferential hotel rates and can often manage to find availability with our hotel partners, which couldn’t otherwise be found. But, booking early will always improve the chances of success, and this applies to the most coveted tours and experiences as well."
Travel "low and slow"
"A trend we’ve seen for a while is the desire to be more "grounded" – quite literally – by traveling "low and slow". That means flying into one place and then traveling by car, train, foot or bicycle to explore further, rather than making multiple flights across the itinerary."
"Taking fewer internal flights will save on costs and allow travelers to take longer with their journey and to dwell in the landscape and soak up the atmosphere."
Related: From Crete to Croatia: 11 best hiking spots in Europe
"Sicily is a wonderful option for a culturally rich experience best absorbed by driving, cycling or walking. Always choose to include some "low and slow" forms of travel.
"Personally, I love taking a walking tour and using public transport, to really get beneath the skin of a destination."
Travel in larger groups
"Given the time that family and friends have often been forced to spend apart over the last couple of years, it makes sense that we’re seeing a surge in groups looking to connect with each other on special trips away together.
"Whether that’s large families or groups of friends who are looking forward to a big getaway, now the coast is clearer to plan an overseas holiday."
"The bottom line? renting out a luxury Scandinavian lodge – like the spectacular Aurora Lodge – or a gorgeous Ibizan villa, can not only cost much less per person than a luxe hotel, but potentially it will be a more special and spectacular option."
Avoid the beaten track
"It may sound obvious, but staying away from the typical tourist trail can work out to be highly beneficial from both a budget and an experience point of view."
"Take Istria in Croatia, for example. It is somewhat of a hidden gem to visit and a place that the herd tends to ignore. With fresh seafood and azure waters, great wine, beautiful scenery and villages, but much better prices than neighboring Italy, it’s an incredible and much more affordable alternative."
"The same goes for where you eat. When in a destination, go to local neighborhood restaurants, away from the main drag – the food will be more authentic and without the price tag tailored for tourists. Also, seek out local suppliers and tours that can get you the inside track and steer you away from the crowds of visitors and instead to where the locals like to hang out."