I was browsing twitter one sunny afternoon In Chiangmai when it suddenly occurred to me that I follow quite a lot of luxury travel bloggers. Sitting there in a side street cafe drinking my Chang and chop-sticking away at a plate of 60-baht Pad Thai, I somehow found myself scrolling through image after image of exotic beaches and boutique 5* hotels.

This got me thinking a strange thought; if you swapped my current position (sitting on a creaky stool on a side street waiting for a wayward moped to plough into my table) to one of a higher standard of luxury, say, a rooftop bar surveying all of Chiangmai with a glass of champagne and some tasty lobster. Would this dramatically improve my travelling experience?

In essence, does spending more money and surrounding yourself in luxury actually add anything to the travelling experience? Or does it subtract from it?

An interesting question I thought, and then I looked at our own travelling experience and those we’ve met on the road who are in the same position and wondered if the end goal for a fledgling budget travel blogger would be to BECOME a luxury travel blogger?

Because aren’t we only budget travel bloggers simply because we can’t afford the luxury stuff?

Surely with success doesn’t opportunity come knocking? If a travel writer were to become an important ‘influencer’ in the eyes of a certain brand of hotel for example, would that budget travel blogger start forgoing their ‘niche’ and start living a more luxury style of travel? If opportunities were free and plentiful?

As I didn’t know the answer myself (unfortunately), I took to Twitter and posed this question:

Is everyone else a #budget #travel blogger wanting to be a #luxurytravel blogger too? Surely that’s how it works?

As it turned out I got a few responses which escalated into quite an interesting discussion around budget travel vs luxury travel.

Immediately I was brought into a conversation with @RTWBarefoot and @HeyImMichaela. The former I would sum up as being a pretty diehard ‘no frills attached’ budget travel blogger and the latter perhaps a more conservative traveller but one who would occasionally spend if it were necessary to do so.

While in discussion, I was keen to find answers to a few of my questions- specifically ‘if you had the money, would spending more for luxury travel be something you would do?’.

My first response from @RTWBarefoot was quite simply;

Like most people on twitter who get a response like that, I thought I’d just made an ass of myself with a stupid question so I had to concede a little;

We then starting talking about his traveling style which is strictly budget and why spending more money than necessary doesn’t even pop into his head. @HeyImMichaela also chipped in at this point and mentioned that;

So instead of talking about diehard travelling styles we were now getting a little bit closer to the meat of what I wanted to find out. Is it the ‘joy’ that is missing then, if we’re spending lots of money on a luxury travelling experience? And what about all those luxury travel bloggers who are already doing it?

Ok, so perhaps it’s that downward spiral (or in this case upward) of spending habits – the more money you have in your wallet, the faster it seems to disappear?

I asked about why there are so many people following these luxury travel blogs and why it’s such a big and exciting thing?

I can certainly see the reasoning behind that answer. It’s the same reason we watch films, read books or follow the lives of celebrities through the media.

But what I suppose I was really trying to figure out, was if you were given the opportunity to do these expensive activities, would this make it a better experience than if you were simply doing it on the cheap and missing out?

I kind of expected this response from @RTWBarefoot by now but @HeyImMichaela surprised me by saying;

Though this seemed to be limited to tours and excursions;

This intrigued me even more, so I went for a few specific examples of where you can do the activity for a reasonably cheap (or even free) price or pay extra to make your current 8/10 experience, a sure-fire 10/10 experience.

Again the response was against spending the money!

And when she found out how much it was…

I wanted to say ‘But look guys, you’re on a balloon floating over Bagan at sunrise! Think of the photo opportunities!’. (I must admit that when I was there you can’t help but feel a slight pang of jealousy at those ‘luxury travellers’ / ‘rich tourists’ riding those balloons.)

Instead I provided another example, the trek to Machu Picchu. This one is slightly different because it’s an entirely different way of experiencing the end result – which is of course the Machu Picchu archaeological site. There are numerous way of getting there, taking a bus, car, train or of course hiking for days. I would class taking the hike a way of improving that 8/10 score up towards the 10/10 mark (unless you really hated it which might – and has for some people we’ve met – bring it waaay down). Taking a hike over the bus or train is obviously going to increase the cost – maybe by as much as $100-200. But surely the value factor here is as plain as day?

Again, the answer was pretty categorically a ‘no’ especially because of the cost factor involved and the fact that the end result was the same.

Trains and Buses are cheaper and faster so why not?

I replied to this with a little sagely wisdom, though I forgot the author of this line but this seemed to do the trick, and I might have messed with @HeyImMichaela mind a little;

But @RTWBarefoot was not to be perturbed;

I suppose the only conclusion I can draw from this little debate is that it’s pretty much down to personal preference. If you’re a diehard budget travel blogger you may feel as if a slice of luxury is ‘out of the norm’ and perhaps feel uncomfortable or even guilty about spending $50 on a single meal or $300 on a balloon ride over Bagan. Not only that but perhaps these sorts of activities and costs don’t even come into your head – you simply ignore them as it’s not an important part of your travelling experience.

If you’re more of the average traveller (like perhaps 80% of all travellers out there), then you may feel that ‘value for money’ is the important thing. Once in a lifetime opportunities should not hold a price tag or if they do, it shouldn’t be an issue to spend the money doing something you’ve always dreamed about doing (even if there is a cheaper, less luxurious alternative). But on the whole you wouldn’t want to feel ripped off in your daily outgoings and may even try to spend as little as possible when it comes to food and other activities.

I’ve yet to hear from a luxury travel blogger defending the need to spend extra money for a better experience and I’d be really interested if there are any out there who want to share their thoughts on this topic.

As for me? I suppose I would fall under the average traveller category. I’m certainly not averse to doing something that costs a little extra for the experience factor (for instance our Salkantay Trek) but I’m not going to be stupid or reckless about it and perhaps splash $300 on a balloon ride over Bagan. Though had I know before we came travelling would I have budgeted for it and spent it anyway? I really don’t know!

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