I am fully committed to a standard of living in luxury called, "high-low living." Meaning, I enjoy the finest things in life without necessarily sacrificing my whole paycheck to do so. I have traveled all over the world as a concierge for premium properties and a-list VIP's (we will not drop names now!) and, over my 15 years in the travel industry, I've learned a thing or two about saving money. Today I'm sharing my secrets for blending a fantasy lifestyle with today's financial realities.
I've appeared on television programs throughout the country to talk about unique ways to enhance your life, without breaking the bank. From the South Side of Chicago to the Savoy in London, it's how I live my life. Here are a few tips for traveling like a celebrity... and, you know, still keeping a roof over your head.
Save On Your Reservation
Fancy national online booking agents can save you money, but, at times, you can save a little more by booking through a hotel's website. Make your reservations on a Wednesday. Typically, hotels lower rates during the week, in hopes of raising their occupancy for the weekend. If you are staying with a small group, often times, you can negotiate with the hotel reservation manager directly. It doesn't always work, but it never hurts to ask.
After booking, call the property, speak to a person and ask questions. Savvy travelers can sometimes get a better deal and, at the very least, you'll connect with a real life individual who could potentially enhance your experience. Just be nice, cool and polite. If you're overly demanding or talk down to an employee, you will not get you want you want.
Get to Know the Staff
I travel and stay at many different hotels. I bond with the front desk staff and (usually) it saves me money. It all starts at check-in. If you're staying for one night, simply ask if an upgrade is available. Unless they're booked, a hotel staff will work with you to maximize your experience with them. Ask about the hotel bar and restaurant, sometimes your inquiry will result in complimentary drink vouchers or a free continental breakfast. Treat the concierge and bellman as though they are your best friends. Treat them well because they know everything about their city, including ways to save you money at surround attractions.
Finding homestyle comfort in a hotel is tough for a lot of people. The first thing you want to do is bring pictures or personal reminders of home. The two or three days away can be tough adjustment, especially for kids. A great way to make them feel welcome is to ask the concierge or front desk staff for milk and cookies in your room. Some hotels will offer free welcome services, so make sure to ask.
Have the concierge prepare a list of moderately-priced, family-friendly restaurants. Ask the valet staff and service personnel as well. By asking around, you will minimize the risk of walking into an establishment with a price point that you didn't see coming until you took a look at the menu ($85 sirloin! Wait, what!?).
Use Technology to Shop
Ask your concierge or front desk about programs that offer special rates to visitors. Some department stores offer discounts or free gifts to out-of-town shoppers. Also, technology has adapted to save you moolah! Lots of it! Consider downloading (we're partial, obviously) the Choose Chicago mobile app, which features geo-targeted couponing that's easily redeemable at countless local attractions, stores and restaurants.
Find Special Programs that Combine Savings
Chicago has a program called City Pass, which will save you money on local attractions. Chicago's CTA offers three-day passes for the public transit system, which will definitely save you money as you explore the city. Most hotels sell these items, just ask. Another great resource are Chicago's Visitor Information Centers, which feature helpful staff to guide you through our city experience and explain special money saving programs and opportunities.
I hope these tips do you some good. Remember, "High-low living", means more living; not less. Enjoy!