How to be a frugal first class traveller

Hi Frugalistas!  What does frugal but first class mean to you?  Is frugal but first class a contradiction?  Of course not, or I wouldn’t have a blog!  I absolutely believe that everyone can travel, and can have a first class experience, regardless of their budget.  Here’s how:

Frugal first class travellers plan and research

Investing time in working out where to go, your itinerary, where to stay and what to do is key.  While turning up in a new destination without a plan sounds romantic, planning ahead allows you to work out exactly where you are going and staying – finding that place that is perfect for both your style and your budget.

view of roof tops in Bellagio and Lake Como

Planning ahead scored me this view to die for on Lake Como

Working out the best deals on airlines, accommodation and sight seeing is an easy way to save a lot of money, without scrimping on quality or your time away.  Working out a basic itinerary for each place you visit allows you to booked time entry in advance for popular destinations and skip the queue – long queues are never first class, regardless of how much you spent getting there!

Frugal first class travellers appreciate local

Local food, local public transport and small local-run hotels are an easy way to make your trip cheaper and more memorable.  A Hilton or InterContinental is the same everywhere, but that small family run 10 or 20 room hotel will have charm and personality all of its own.

wooden paddle of foie gras with sprig of parsley and slices of bread

Foie gras definitely says “France” to me

Eating at a family run restaurant – often with Dad cooking out the back while Mum and the kids do front of house not only saves money, but will give you some of your most memorable meals.  A club sandwich from room service? Meh……

Frugal first class travellers splurge on what is important and save on what isn’t

Regular readers will have noticed that I don’t travel Economy (Coach) on long haul flights.  To me, a Business or First Class seat is what is really important.  Other travellers are more than happy to sit down the back, but will kill for that Michelin star meal, or that 5 star hotel.

Mixing and matching is the aim of the game – splurge on the activities that will bring you genuine comfort, joy and happiness, and save on the things that you regard as an unnecessary expense.

hotel room with king bed and lounge suite

Splurging in cheaper cities such as Istanbul is one of my favorite strategies

I’ve been known to get off a First Class flight and hop on the train with the backpackers rather than take a chauffeur ride – for me getting into town quickly is what is important.

Frugal first class travellers pack light

Lugging a huge suitcase is never first class, unless you have someone to schlep it for you of course.  Pack light and you can be more “nimble” in your travels, use public transport with ease, and have far less stuff to lose or leave behind.

Frugal first class travellers take advantage of travel hacks

Booking flights on frequent flyer points, booking a suite in a cheaper hotel or buying museum passes to beat the queue and other travel hacks are easy ways to save money or have a better experience for the same budget.  What are your favorite hacks?

Frugal first class travellers understand that “first class” is a relative term

If you’ve been sleeping in dorms and living on pizza slices or instant noodles for a week, a night in a single room with an en suite and a simple café meal can be first class.  For others, it is a night in a pricy hotel, or a single, fabulous meal.  Frugal first class travellers don’t let others define what “first class” means.

Frugal first class travellers spend time doing the things they love…..

Not the things they think they “should” do.  Trawling round an art gallery because “everyone” says you should is not first class if you’d rather be at the beach or enjoying the passing parade from a café.  Doing things you “should” do rather than what you want to do is a waste of both time and money.

tropical sunset with palm trees and water

If your heart says sunsets, go with the sunset and forget the museum

Frugal first class travellers know the best deals and sights are off the main drag

From the Ramblas in Barcelona to the Champs Elysees in Paris, the savvy frugal first class traveller knows the best food, best shopping and best people watching is actually away from the tourist hordes.  Head to where the locals are, and enjoy!

archway and laneway in Antibes backstreets

Head off the main drag – you won’t be disappointed

Finding your own private corner or hidden gem not in your guide book is exhilarating and will add so much to your experience, without costing a cent.

Frugal first class travellers are open minded and forgiving

Trains and planes will be late, the weather will turn bad, and museums will be closed unexpectedly for renovations.  Frugal first class travellers don’t stress over things they can’t control.  They also have a plan B, a healthy sense of humour and the ability to be Zen about the most stressful situations…..

Stressing and getting angry and/or upset over things you can’t control is never first class – and just ruins your experience.  Deal with the drama calmly and maturely, then breathe, release and move on….

What are your favorite tips for a frugal, but definitely first class experience?


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6 Comments on “How to be a frugal first class traveller”

  1. Dougherty Kay 30/06/2014 at 11:29 pm #

    My sister and I rely heavily on points we get from credit cards and I promiscuously switch cards to get sign-up bonuses. There was a time when airline loyalty paid off but those days are over! Our best card has been the Starwood AMEX because they have so many brands all over the world and you can often stretch your miles with cash + points rates. I admire your stance that frugal first class includes not doing coach! I’m not there yet but do business class whenever I can finagle it with miles or some way other than paying the full cost of it. We do so much research before we go on a trip so we can have the best experiences and never fail to be amazed by people who go somewhere without plans or reservations!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 01/07/2014 at 6:15 am #

      Thanks Kay, credit card options do vary depending where you live, but it is definitely worth reading up on the specialty travel hacking websites, subscribing to travel hacking newsletters and learning as much as you can about how to travel up front for less. People can also check out the points aggregating websites where the sites claim savings on business class of up to 70%

  2. Heather 01/07/2014 at 8:57 am #

    Mixing and matching is totally the way to go! We usually fly economy, but splurge on great food and nice hotels. I’ve started hacking more and more, as it makes it possible to go even more places. Even a little bit of hacking can really pay off.

  3. Dianne W 02/07/2014 at 4:18 am #

    Agree with every one of your points. I used to fly economy on long flights, but not for the past 12 years. It’s business class or not going for me now – to Asia, Australia, or Europe. Sometimes I use points one way and pay for the other, depends on the trip.

    Sometimes points are really hard to redeem, especially on complex itineraries. I have used an award booking service once and the guy knew tricks I never would’ve figured out. It was very very worth the $100 fee. And there are quite a few points blogs that I like to read for ideas, easily found through the front page on .

    I like to stay in small hotels with great reviews. I have favorites all over the world and return to the best, where I’m welcomed like long-lost family. I like to budget $50-100 per night, but will spend more for the first 2 or 3 nights after long flights. Some tourism training schools run their own hotels, staffed by students. These are great finds and very reasonable, the one in Hue Vietnam comes to mind.

    My last comment would be I always choose a hotel near public transportation, for me riding in taxis is an unnecessary expense (except in terrible weather in NYC). For an upcoming trip that will include Berlin I will look for a hotel within 1km of the airport bus, the savings vs. taking a taxi will buy a nice meal.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 02/07/2014 at 6:20 am #

      Thanks Dianne for sharing such great advice based on your own experiences. I agree completely about staying near public transport – another easy way to save money without compromising quality.

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