You’ve probably seen it on TV. There’s Robin Leach is teeing off of the 17th hole at the Port Royal Golf Course. Or Joan Collins is sipping champagne in first class. Or Nicole Kidman is frolicking in the warm waters of the newest Jamaican resort.
And you’ve wondered: how do they do it?
Strictly between us, these perks are available to mere mortals, too. You just need to know how to do get the star treatment. Here are five sure-fire strategies.
1. Book off-season. There is no law that says you have to summer in the Hamptons or ski Vail and Telluride in the winter. These areas and many other ritzy destinations are just as beautiful (if not more) during the off-season.
Bermuda’s high season runs from June through September with average hotel rates around $350 to $400 a night. Pack a sweater and a light jacket in April and you can score the beautifully pink Hamilton Princess for $249. With the new low fares from USA 3000 and you and a golfing buddy can get in and out for less than $2300 for the week.
London has always been one of the priciest cities in the world with some of the most opulent hotels on the planet. However, London in the fall or winter is a bargain. Right now, British Airways has a special round trip fare in their World Traveler Plus Class for $398. Your travel planner can usually find a good hotel in a good location off season for ₤100 a night. Those same rooms can skyrocket to ₤250 a night or more during the summer months.
Travel when the others aren’t and you will reap the rewards.
2. Ask for an upgrade. As simple as it seems, many folks forget to ask for an upgrade. If you are traveling off-season, your odds improve exponentially. Does the hotel have a concierge-level offering a continental breakfast, private bar, appetizers, private pool, or spa? Chances are that the floor is at least partially occupied and there is no downside for the hotel to grant your request. Don’t hold back because you are floating, or flying either. A polite request can be turned down, of course, but a polite one has a much better chance of acceptance. It also does not hurt to be a member of their frequent traveler program.
3. Toot your horn. Are you celebrating a birthday, anniversary, wedding, or graduation? Let your travel agent know. A good travel planner will have the connections to make your experience more memorable. All of the travel suppliers want happy clients and will go out of their way for you if they can. Many honeymooners are upgraded on flights (no, it is not a good idea to just pretend). Complimentary spa treatments at resorts, flowers or wine on a cruise, or an upgrade to a luxury car are not unusual for special occasions.
4. Be a guinea pig. Have you heard the buzz about that great new resort or the latest luxury liner? The new hotel? Nothing ever goes as planned with a debut and this is a perfect time to reap the rewards. The Whitehouse, Sandals latest resort, was scheduled to open on Jamaica’s southern coast in February. As it turned out, they were not as ready as planned and the initial guests were offered the opportunity to come and enjoy what was open, and to be virtual guinea pigs.
What they got was a slightly flawed week — incomplete landscaping, missing artwork, and staff still learning the ropes. The reward: an additional week at any Sandals resort in the next year. A true two-for-one offer. Our clients are planning on returning later this year, courtesy of Sandals and paying to upgrade their room. Many new venues will offer some fabulous rewards to those brave enough to give it a shot.
5. Reposition your funds. If you are looking for the experience of a destination, spend your money on something other than the room. Honestly, how much time is really spent in a hotel room anyhow, unless you’re a honeymooner? If you have selected a fabulous resort with all the amenities, use the amenities. If it is an all-inclusive resort or cruise, no one will know the difference between the penthouse suite and the cargo hold. One of my most memorable (and impressive to my girlfriend) experiences was being met at the airport in Hong Kong with a vintage Rolls Royce from the Intercontinental Hotel — formerly The Regent.
Traveling is about exploration and new experiences. Some may not be as perfect as we like, but they are all part of the experience. While most of us can’t afford some of the luxuries of the rich and famous, we can certainly get a taste here and there if we play the hand we are dealt with some skill — and a little luck.
John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company which operates the Carlson Wagonlit Travel associate office in Arnold, Md. With a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective. or . Want to sound off about one of his columns? Try visiting .