View of Varenna town at Lake Como, Italy.

joci03 / iStock.com

Traveling in style is a big part of why it’s good to be rich. Jet-setting to ultra-luxe vacation spots on a moment’s notice is the epitome of the high life, and when money is no object, why not spend your holidays in paradise?

But most people are lucky to get two weeks of hard-earned vacation time per year, and they have to scrimp and save to make every dollar count when they’re able to get away.

Even so, ordinary people with average incomes can follow in the pedicured footsteps of the monied class if they know the secrets to hitting high-end havens on a budget. Here’s where the ultra-rich spend their vacations and some tips on how you can, too.

The French Riviera

The French Riviera, or Côte d’Azur, is the Mediterranean coastline of Southeast France — and it has been one of the most popular vacation destinations for the ultra-rich for more than a century.

“The location has been highly prestigious ever since the 1800s, but it has since experienced a further surge in popularity due to the rise of jet-setting in the mid-20th century,” said Scott Poniewaz, who has spent 15 years as an executive in the luxury travel and deals space and currently leads EXEC, a travel and lifestyle benefits solution for individuals and organizations.

“The area boasts vast open beaches and is a frequent favorite amongst yacht owners and racing fans due to the glistening oceans and the annual hosting of the Grand Prix,” he continued. “It is also a notable location for the film auteurs and enthusiasts who attend the Cannes Film Festival.

Visit the Playground of the Rich — Even if You’re Not

While Côte d’Azur is known for hosting the world’s elite, Poniewaz insists the average person can arrange a visit without borrowing a millionaire’s bank account.

“There are numerous ways to make the trip more affordable, including traveling by train rather than by air, staying in an apartment rather than a hotel and mostly sticking to the smaller towns and locales,” he said.

Lake Como, Italy

Poniewaz also cited Lake Como as a particularly luxurious vacation destination that’s popular among not just garden variety millionaires, but rich celebrities, too. “In fact, George Clooney has made Lake Como his home,” he said.

“The area is noteworthy for its beautiful vistas and neoclassical villas. European aristocrats have taken a liking to this spot over the years, no doubt due to the 1920s-inspired decadence of the location. There is a competitive selection of islands to choose from, each with its own appeal.

“For example, Portofino is a famous fishing village known for its sense of peace and tranquility, whereas Costa Smeralda is busier, supporting various hotels and restaurants.”

The Non-Clooney Alternative

Poniewaz says you don’t have to be on the Hollywood A-list to afford a trip to Lake Como.

“The key is to time your visit so it occurs during the off-season, preferably in April or September, just before and after the peak,” he said. “You can also save money by limiting your visit to a day trip or a short break away from your main holiday.”

The Maldives

The Maldives is known as a haven for millionaires and billionaires because they can afford its unique blend of exclusivity and extravagance. Most people cannot.

“Accommodation prices can soar to staggering heights, with some villas commanding upwards of $50,000 per night,” said Saya Nagori, travel expert and CEO of Wander DC.

“For the ultra-wealthy, these costs are mere drops in the ocean. These opulent villas often boast private pools with direct access to the turquoise waters, lavish bathrooms with oceanfront views and a host of other amenities that cater to discerning tastes.”

When You Visit Determines What You’ll Pay

You might be able to afford a Maldives vacation — the trick is going when the throngs of rich people are elsewhere.

“For the average traveler seeking a Maldivian adventure, timing is everything,” said Nagori. “The off-season presents an opportunity to experience this destination without breaking the bank. Accommodation rates during these periods can plummet to as low as $1,000 per night.”

According to Conde Nast Traveler, the Maldives’s off-season is May through August.

“Going beyond the exclusive resorts frequented by the ultra-rich can also lead to more affordable options,” said Nagori. “The key to unlocking Maldivian paradise for the average traveler lies in strategic planning. By considering the off-season, exploring less frequented areas and embracing budget-friendly accommodations, the Maldives can transform from an unattainable dream into a reality.”

Private Islands in Paradise

For regular people, a lavish vacation involves a trip to the islands — but the ultra-rich get islands all to themselves.

Justin Crabbe, travel expert and founder of private charter jet company Jettly, said, “The very wealthy are drawn to private islands in regions like the Caribbean and French Polynesia, particularly celebrities who want complete privacy.”

An Island to Yourself for a Regular Traveler? Yeah, Maybe

Private islands are the ultimate in exclusivity, but the savviest travelers can find ways to vacation like billionaires even when they can’t spend like them.

“Budget tourists can now afford those idyllic beach villas and overwater bungalows in Bora Bora or the Maldives because of sporadic special offers from luxury resorts,” said Crabbe.

“Monitoring flash sale websites can save a ton of money. In the meantime, inexpensive private island getaways can be had with all-inclusive packages, particularly in the Caribbean.”

The World’s Elite Ski Destinations

Mountain towns with world-class skiing pull out all the stops to draw the wealthy travelers with money to burn.

“With their ultra-lavish chalets and slope-side amenities, mountain vacation spots like Aspen, Colorado, Switzerland and Canada’s Rocky Mountains entice millionaires,” said Crabbe.

Hit the Slopes at Downhill Prices

Skiing is an expensive sport, but even modest earners can enjoy a vacation on the world’s most coveted peaks.

“Lesser-known resort communities like Park City, Utah, or Mont Tremblant, Quebec, provide great skiing at more affordable prices,” said Crabbe.

“The summertime is important. In April and May, hotel rates at many upscale ski resorts can drop by more than 80%. Another new, reasonably priced ski destination with gorgeous mountain landscapes is Slovenia. Whatever the destination, spending money on après ski cocktails, ski passes and equipment rentals may be expensive, so planning ahead of time will help you save money.”

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