Okay, so you can't afford flights on private jets and five-star hotel stays. Don't sweat it. Few people can.
But don't let the usually astronomical prices of "the good life" hold you back. If you want a taste of how the other half lives—and shops and travels and eats—a few smart strategies and good timing can bring the price tag down to a level within almost anyone's budget. Here's how to go about it.
Fly on a Private Jet … for a Coach-Class Fare
JetSuite, a unique flight aggregation service, sells seats on private jets that are about to depart for places like Martha's Vineyard and the Bahamas. For travelers who can book at the last minute—with a few friends, usually—it's an opportunity to skip security lines and travel like a CEO, at a price on par with coach. Recent deals, which had to be booked on the day of travel or at most one day ahead, include a one-way flight from North Kingstown, RI, to Vineyard Harbor (Martha's Vineyard) for up to six people, and Oakland to San Jose, Calif., for up to four people, for $536.
MarketWatch pointed out that JetSuite is one of several services offering discounted private jet bookings. Others include Surf Air and Flight Air Taxi. In most cases, to get the best deal you'll have to be extremely flexible with your schedule, and be ready to head to a private runway with a few buddies at the drop of a hat. That's a small price to pay for snagging a cheap flight that otherwise would cost thousands.
Eat in a Swanky Restaurant … for Half Price
Even the finest restaurants have trouble attracting a crowd at the early bird special time of 5 or 5:30 p.m. To fill tables during these slow periods, restaurants have been turning to discounting services such as Groupon Reserve, which typically give diners 20% or 30% off for reserving a table before the peak dinner rush, or they simply offer their own early-dinner deals.
Recent Groupon Reserve deals with a 5 p.m. reservation time included 30% off at Italiannissimo in Manhattan's Upper East Side, Bissap Baobob in San Francisco, or Mela in Boston. Unlike the usual Groupon deal, with Groupon Reserve there's no prepayment required, and no need to hand the server a printout or flash a smartphone screen. The discount is automatically factored into your reservation, and yes, it's applied to the table's entire bill—booze included.
This summer, the Wall Street Journal also called attention to high-end restaurants that have dipped into the realm of "early bird" deals without making them seem like only something your grandparents in Scottsdale would go for—and without bothering with any coupon site or online service. For example, Recette, in Manhattan's Greenwich Village, has a Summer Supper special from 5:30 to 7 p.m. only featuring four courses for $40. Normally, the restaurant's multi-course tasting menus start at $78.
Enjoy a First-Rate Hotel … for $25
Rooms at the Savoy Hotel in Miami Beach generally start at around $250 during the off season. But a summer special is being offered to guests for just $25. The catch? The deal doesn't include a hotel room. It's a promotion aimed at travelers—and locals in particular—who want a taste of high-end hotel amenities at a cheap price, and who are already set with accommodations. The $25 grants a guest access to the Savoy's plush pool area, fitness center, and beachfront, with all the pool recliners, towels, and free wi-fi you want.
The Savoy's day pass deal is one of several in South Florida highlighted recently by the Miami Herald. The "day-cation" promotions sometimes come with perks like spa treatments and lunch, though when those extras are included the package tends to cost a lot more than $25. On the flip side, daily deals for, well, day-only deals at hotels from sites like Travelzoo and Groupon sometimes mean that guests can take advantage of non-room hotel and resort amenities for even less than $25 per person.
Many high-end Caribbean resorts also welcome visitors to partake of their amenities even if they haven't booked a room. Understandably, such resort day passes are often marketed to cruise passengers, who obviously have no need for overnight accommodations but who might enjoy kicking back at the pool, swimming on the private beach, and taking advantage of the resort's buffet while the ship is in port. The cruise experts at CruiseCritic rounded up a long list of Caribbean resorts offering day passes, which cost as little as $12 per person.