While we were itching to try the world-famous hot springs at the Tabacon resort in Costa Rica, we were not eager to pay hundreds of dollars per night for a hotel room on that property. Instead, for less than $50, we purchased day passes to the exotic landscaped pool and hot springs with thermal waterfalls and stayed at a less expensive resort down the street, which still came with a heated swim-up bar and a night view of the lava flow. The lesson? You don't necessarily need to stay overnight to enjoy world-renowned perks.
Here are other ways to enjoy luxury travel on a shoestring.
Auctions: Various vacation packages are sold through online auctions. Tim Smith of Smile-therapy.com, a positive living web site, recommends Luxury Link to bid for savings of up to 65 percent on high-end hotel packages, which frequently include food, spa services, wine and more. Packages are available for executive style Tuscan villas and elite safari lodge resorts in the wilds of Africa for a fraction of the regular cost. Check www.luxurylink.com for more details. Bidding for vacation packages begins at $1 at www.Skyauction.com, where it's possible to pick up luxury vacations at steep discounts. Special promotions are featured in the "hot deals" section and the "auctions closing soon" option.
Airlines: Certain airlines are known for their swank, even at the economy level. On a Middle East Air flight from Kuwait City to Beirut, for example, our coach seats came with starched meal linens, upscale appetizers, real china and flatware (no plastic). What's more, accommodating stewards offered a complimentary selection of wine and a golden-ticket drawing for free round-trip transportation to any of the airline's destinations. Similarly, Thai Airways is known for its luxurious silk passenger pillows and restaurant-style menus. Learn more about your favorite airline's frequent flyer miles program, and study the policy for free first-class upgrades on your next trip, and receive even more bang for your buck.
Civic lessons: Local governments, civic groups and visitors bureaus feature regional travel, entertainment and resort promotions. The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.miamiandbeaches.com) provides a comprehensive menu of travel options, including a "special offer" tab, which has a list of 70 regional promotions and discounts. Vacation sales — accommodations, spa packages and museum packages — are abundant in Miami during the summer months, which is the off-season for Southern Florida. Convention bureaus throughout the country feature regional promotions.