We often hear of lottery winners and retirees taking that “Big Trip” and I wonder how that is for them if they choose 5-Star options? Do they travel for travels sake, undertake “tick box” tourism, is their travel focused or themed, or just a general “see what we find”?
A few disclosures, then jump on me if you will.
My traveling days started young as my Father worked for Ansett Airlines, whilst traveling sub-load it was usually up the pointy end. Lucky little brat I was!
In later life traveling for work meant towards the front of the plane and 5-star accommodation. Great! Traveling a lot for business mostly is the pits, anyone who does it will confirm it’s mostly about airports, taxis, hotels, meeting rooms, strangers, late nights, emails and phone calls home. Jan and I have both had our share of that. In that situation at least 4 if not 5 star is essential to ensure space and services that facilitate getting the work done.
I have been fortunate enough to experience places like The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona and Wharekauhau, Palliser Bay, New Zealand. These places are right up there with the best of International style and luxury.
For our personal travel, we do not do 5-Star (let alone 7-Star) and we cut our cloth pretty fine, prefering to travel more, with a lower budget. In so doing, we tend to use 3-4 Star accommodation and fly Economy (with a few bells and whistles). Not to say there are not splurges and some way-better-than-average dining experiences in our mix.
For us, the real joy of traveling is found in the people and the experiences, so the less we spend on airfares and accommodation the more money for other stuff. Clean, comfortable, reasonably well-located accommodation is a must, but still achievable on a moderate budget. See Jan’s post on “AirBnB-ing it”.
Frankly, at our age, we want to travel as much as we can, as actively as we can, while we still can, with a little budgeting, self-planning, research and plenty of pragmatism. The possibilities of researching travel plans and booking on the web holds less and less risk, and is a load of fun to do. That’s where the journey begins.
We are not so much group tour people, but were recently very pleasantly surprised to find and talk to some smaller bespoke tour companies who cater more to our travel profile. Smaller groups, comfortable boutique accommodation, local guides and experience, flexible to individual preferences, both in Australia and Internationally.
Everyone has their own style of traveling, but for us the more authentic experiences we have of the location, the better. That probably involves walking down some side streets, talking to locals and getting lost occasionally – best, however, to know the general style of an area before embracing the “lost” experience.
Our best experiences have come from individual, people oriented experiences:
- a special piece of room service – see the hats with flowers – by a creatively inspired room service guy in Bali. He liked the fact that I had put a flower in my hatband the day before, which, of course, had wilted overnight, so he replaced it, along with one for Jan. As I write this, he’s become even more creative today; I really like that!
- an impromptu French lesson in Naoussa Restaurant, Santorini with a 4-year old; me trying to read him a story book in French, much to the mirth of he and his parents.
- That “booked out” restaurant in Venice, around the student area, which we talked our way into by flattering the Chef’s work, only to have the man himself, quite rotund, complete with Chef’s hat and grey beard join us at the table with a large cleaved slice of cheese (we saw the cleaver first and wondered …) and a bottle of wine, gratis, which we drank in toasts without a word of English.
I haven’t seen the Mona Lisa and been jostled in a crowd of “tick box” tourists vying for the best selfie with the lady herself; call me a heathen, but I don’t care. Staying in a 5-Star hotel is not going to get me any closer, or a better selfie!
For many of you, there is the million-star experience, in the middle of nowhere with the camper trailer, nobody else around and the Milky Way above, breathing a deep breath of clean desert air. Certainly that’s not exclusive to your accommodation rating, but there not much beats it.
So, to 5-Star or not to 5-Star? Right now that’s a “not”, for the authenticity reason (okay, and cash). But, we would not exclude ourselves from “more comfortable” options as we become less enamored of toting luggage up three flights of stairs etc.
We are grateful for the good health and mobility to do what we still can.
What is your preference for travel arrangements? What’s the big advantage in your choice for you? What’s your favourite splurge?