We’ve spent what feels like eternity staying home to save lives – which, can I add was totally the right thing to do – but understandably, many of us are desperate to get travelling again, and some of us are actually beginning to, as the world slowly opens up.
One of the things I love about travel is actually the planning – researching new destinations and discovering what to see and do when I get there, and this was something that helped me keep sane during the last 18 months’ lockdowns.
While I couldn’t actually get on a plane, there was nothing stopping me dreaming about the places I’d love to go when I could.
It might be totally unrealistic, as we’re all about affordable luxury travel here at Ladies What Travel, but I particularly love daydreaming about the luxury holidays I’d have if money was no object. Over-water bungalows in the Maldives, a luxury African safari (with compulsory stay at Giraffe Manor ofc) a penthouse stay at The Plaza in New York (yes, that’s totally down to Home Alone 2)…you get the gist.
So, as a I Googled dream travel destinations repeatedly during the pandemic, I started putting together a bucket list of luxury escapes. This, of course, will never be complete, but I thought it’d be nice to share those luxury gems I’ve found so far with you.
Maybe like me, you enjoy a bit of travel window shopping, or perhaps after the travails of the last year you’re simply thinking f**k it, and getting ready to spend big on a blow-out trip (more on that later). Either way, I hope these beauties provide some travel inspiration and joy…
A luxury stay at a South African Vineyard
Just outside Franschhoek, in South Africa’s Cape Winelands, you’ll find the Leeu Estates, an exclusive five-star boutique hotel with 23 luxury room, suites and cottages, set amid 68 acres of vineyards.
The centrepiece is its 19th-century manor house, where many rooms offer guests spacious marble bathrooms, fireplaces and private terraces.
Of course, there’s a ‘wellness sanctuary’ (aka spa), with a heated infinity pool for total relaxation, and meals are cooked by award-winning chefs. Here there’s a focus on French-inspired dishes made from local produce in homage to the region’s history – French Huguenots settled in the valley in the 17th century, hence the name Franschhoek, which comes from the Dutch for “French corner”.
Coming out of lockdown, it launched a ‘Living the Leeu Life’ package where guests are whisked away from Cape Town International Airport by private helicopter, landing at one of the estates’ two helipads, before checking into the largest accommodation in the hotel, the 419m² Max House, an original gabled Cape Dutch building with its own courtyard and gardens in the midst of the Estates’ vineyards, as well as a private butler. I didn’t dare ask the price, but sounds lovely, doesn’t it?!
Charter a private yacht
For those that, understandably, still want to avoid the crowds, a great luxury holiday idea would be to head off into the sunset on your own private yacht.
There are several companies that can make this dream a reality, offering guests crewed charters at exotic locations around the world including the Caribbean, Seychelles, Maldives, Indonesia and Tahiti.
Yachts can be deceptively large – some the size of a tennis court, and often cabins even have their own private bathrooms.
You’ll get complete R&R, as the staff will be there to take care of all the hard work, leaving you to sunbathe, take in the sights, sip your wine and enjoy the delicious meals they rustle up.
If you worry that would get boring (what?!) the crew can also help you plan the perfect itinerary. Experts in their specific region, they’ll be able to recommend quiet islands and beautiful sightseeing spots.
One place I bet this would be amazing to do is Turkey. Remembering all the historic sites along the Antalian coast, including Simena’s amazing sunken city, and those clear turquoise waters, makes that a very appealing choice of destination.
So, reckon this is the dream trip for you? Well, be prepared to splash out big time. A sample price from Dream Yacht Charter for a seven-day trip sailing around the Maldives was £21,861. That’s based on 12 people on board, including the crew and all meals, and equates to 1,821 per person. Ah, how the other half live, eh?!
Go on a luxury safari in Africa
For me, the idea of a traditional safari conjures up images of uncomfortable campsites and basic facilities, but there are now a wide number of companies that offer travellers luxurious safari experiences, complete with treetop bedrooms or tented ‘suites’, mini spas and romantic candlelight dinners.
So, getting back to nature doesn’t have to mean slumming it!
You can sleep under the stars in comfort or enjoy watching a herd of elephants pass you by from the edge of your plunge pool, but travelling this decadently does come with a steep price tag.
For example, nightly rates at Wilderness Safari’s Little Kulala luxury camp in Namibia start from approximately £486 per person sharing – although that does include a hot air balloon ride over the dunes…
Private ski chalet with butler, anyone?
What could be better for luxury-loving skiers than a private chalet with its own butler?
When I visited the luxury ski destination Cortina D’ampezzo in Italy, I quickly discovered that I’d rather sip hot chocolate at the top of a mountain than ski down it, but I still wouldn’t say no to a snowy stay in a luxury mountain chalet!
Some chalets, like that offered by Hotel Le Coucou, in Meribel, France, even come with direct access to the ski slopes for those that actually want to get active, while the rest of us can take in the view from the balcony or stay in the warm and enjoy a day in your own private mini spa.
Stay on a private island!
Go big or go home, if you ask me, and you can’t get much more OTT than staying on a private island. If money is no object, you can pick from tropical paradises like the Caribbean, Seychelles or Maldives.
I’d love to tick off my bucket list dream of swimming with pigs in the Exumas, which makes the private Island of Over Yonder Cay look very appealing.
A former remote fishing outpost, the island has been transformed into a unique eco-friendly haven for those seeking authentic and sustainable barefoot luxury. It has four villas, allowing for a max of 28 guests, so you can band together with your friends and family to have the entire island all to yourself.
You can find similar spots all around the world – in Africa you can enjoy pristine beaches and tropical reefs from private islands in Tanzania , Zambia or Mozambique for example, where you can embrace a ‘Robinson Crusoe’ castaway-style holiday at somewhere like Azura Quilalea, or head to the classic luxury holiday destinations like the Cook Islands, Bora Bora or the Maldives, for a decadent stay in an overwater bungalow.
Niyama Private Islands look like a truly blowout luxury destination. The twin islands have ‘studios’ rather than hotel rooms, that are either on the beach or over the water, but the piece de resistance is it’s underwater restaurant, Subsix, which is reached by speedboat. Just insane.
Affordable luxury holidays
Now most of us, I’m guessing, will only be heading to the above hotels etc if we won the lottery, but it is possible to visit some of these amazing destinations on a more realistic budget.
I’m very excited to say that Justin and I – Covid and the UK government permitting – will be heading to the Maldives for two weeks this autumn, where we’ll be staying in a beachfront villa on a tiny island is the southern Laamu atoll. Excited would be an understatement!
Now, I cannot say this trip is cheap, but it is amazing value for a 12-night all-inclusive stay in the Maldives. Our total trip comes in at around £3,000 for the two of us, including flights, transfers and special bonuses including a spa treatment and daily guided snorkelling tours.
It took a lot of work to find and get at this price, but it does show you that experiences like this aren’t entirely out of reach. Sure, we won’t have a butler, and glass of champers will cost us extra, but it will still be an amazing luxury experience that I hope we will want to talk about forever.
I’ll be reporting back on our experience at the Rahaa Resort during and after our stay, so if you’d like to see whether our affordable luxury trip meets our expectations, be sure to follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for posts while I’m there, and head back to the blog in November and December for my full review!
In the meantime, for tips on how to enjoy the travel high life at low cost, be sure to check out our guide to affordable luxury travel!