Everyone dreams of luxury but what is luxe to one person may not be to another. For me, I try to use loyalty points/miles to stay in luxury hotels, fly long haul business class and use the savings to upgrade my experiences along the way with private guides, helicopter tours and some fancy chocolates (otherwise known as opposite my daily life). Everyday, I am thankful for the many places I’ve traveled to, the incredible experiences and the indulgent desserts -I’m also grateful that my AMEX card hasn’t yet said “no”. My true luxury is being able to experience the many cultures, meet the people and be curious.
Growing up in Philadelphia, I never dreamed I’d visit Africa on safari, walk among the Moai of Easter Island, fly over the iconic Twelve Apostles in Australia and Milford Sound in New Zealand, stay in 5 star hotels or be among people who drink champagne all day long (ok, this one is a one-off with UK colleagues but still surreal). In my daily life, I am the weirdo with only two handbags (winter and summer), someone who doesn’t get weekly manicures and hates to shop (you can see how I am saving money for travel).
So here are a few of my favorite luxe experiences of the past few years – some written on the blog and a few yet to post.
Luxury Tent “My Glamping Room”
Elephant Camp in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – The memory of being escorted to my tent/room and laughing aloud when told this was it still brings a smile to my face. I had left a real two person tent in the Okavango Delta of Botswana so you might laugh too at the “camping” aspect of this.
Luxury Air Plane – Thai A380 business class
On my recent RTW trip, I tried hard to find a business class award seat on a A380 plane, what I refer to as “the double decker plane”. Two planes in one, it was exciting to try this jumbo plane that seats over 500 passengers on my flight to Paris from Bangkok with Thai Airways. I would be seated in business class on the top deck in a 1-2-1 config with a window in my own private pod space. In my seat, it felt like a regular plane until it didn’t -we floated up on takeoff and I felt like I was floating in a dream. Despite the near 1am departure and the 12 hr 40 min flying time ahead, it was like flying for the first time as a kid eager to explore and play – I tried to stay awake and experience everything that I could. At one point, I had my face and hands pressed on the window looking out into the heavens and the millions of bright stars with nary a light below – it was magic! For me, this curiousity and surprise is always a luxury to savor every moment.
Hotel Amenities that are luxury (to me at least):
My rooftop balcony in New York City at The Muse Hotel – I was upgraded to this room and in the land of super small New York rooms, this was a refreshing change.
Feeding my inner “cookie monster” with chocolate chip cookies at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston – what a nice surprise from the hotel. Cookies are always a luxury to me –
The quickest way to my happy place – Voodoo Doughnuts and a bottle of red wine at The Vintage Plaza, a Kimpton Hotel, in Portland, Oregon
Monaco – the principality of luxury
On a private tour from the cruise port, we would visit Monte Carlo in Monaco where you are surrounded by wealth and luxuries. At the Monte Carlo casino, I would hand over my passport before I could gain access after they verified I was not an international spy! The small casino was surprising – slot machines that I play in Vegas in one area and private high roller rooms elsewhere. I ventured over to the tables and played a bit there with the other day tourists – It was fun to visit the iconic casino. As is my luck (none) in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, the Monte Carlo house kept my money too! I did bring a chip home as a souvenir and imagine that I will return someday at night, arriving by luxury car dressed for the red carpet and pretending to live the life of the uber wealthy if only for one night – a bit of a Cinderella dream.
After experiencing the lux hotels, airlines, restaurants and other experiences in my own version of “Fantasy Island”, I come home to my real life -back to where I make my own bed, cook my own meals and commute in traffic each day. What I’ve gained from my travels is a very rich life, not in monetary terms (because of the AMEX bills), but a life of experiences and that’s the best luxury for me.