Guilt-Free Travel Hacking: Finally Living Large On A Modest Budget

Guilt-Free Travel Hacking
La Reserve Hotel

Travel hacking is one way to save money on travel. This post is part of a travel hack rarely discussed. It sets up the stage and provides some insights into more extravagant spending. We'll also explore whether more luxurious living is really worth the price.

When I got to the 4th floor of my hotel there was Ryan Seacrest, hanging outside of my room with his dad. They were waiting for their wives and heading out for dinner.

Choosing to be chill rather than starstruck, I just said, “How’s it going guys?” as I passed. They were staying on the same floor of our boutique hotel and responded with a friendly, “not too much.”

Ryan shot to fame as the host of American Idol and is one of the most successful media personalities on the planet with an estimated $300M fortune.

How was he able to create so much wealth by being just a reality show personality? By creating his own company, Ryan Seacrest Media and producing hit shows like “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

It's A Small World After All – Travel Hack Your Way

It’s funny because here we were, staying at the same hotel, getting the same service, breathing the same air, but with such significantly different net worths.

His suite probably had a view of the Eiffel Tower and cost 3X as much, and I’m sure he paid for his parents' suite as well. But for the most part, we lived exactly the same for three nights. Then, he had to leave, while we got to stay for a week.

I realized something interesting long ago. While it’s hard to live it up year round like a celebrity, it’s easier to live it up each year for 2 – 6 weeks. As a result, the older I get, the more I gravitate towards “making these trips count.” The gap in lifestyle between the really rich and the rest of us is narrowing.

A lot of extremely wealthy people are workaholics and don’t take much more than six weeks off a year because they can’t. Their success demands they work around the clock, which is quite frankly, a paradox of success. 

I’d much rather be a nobody with modest financial means and max freedom, than a CEO with thousands of shareholders or a celebrity who is always under media scrutiny. How about you?

La Reserve, Paris

I stayed at a boutique hotel called La Reserve in Paris, situated midway between the Champs-Elysées and the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The hotel opened in 2015 after a careful remodel to recreate the Belle Époque style of the 19th century. There're only 26 suites and 14 rooms, making the place feel more like a large residence than a hotel.

The hotel is unique because it caters to a clientele that values service and privacy. There are hidden doors that lead to private libraries, bathrooms and spas. Even the outside brunch area in front of the hotel is blocked by large hedges so guests can eat in private (see pic). That’s where I first saw Ryan and his family eating breakfast.

La Reserve, Paris - travel hacking
The front of La Reserve in Paris

We pulled up in our Uber in sweats, hoodies and backpacks on the first evening from Budapest. I’m sure they were surprised, but they didn’t show it.

Instead, they rapidly took our bags up to our room, handed us two glasses of Michel Reybier champagne and gave us an intimate tour of the hotel. 

According to the concierge, the entire staff was very happy to see us because we had a reservation for seven nights instead of the typical one-to-three nights.

After observing what the other guests wore, we self-conciously felt underdressed. It seemed as though every gentleman wore an Armani suit and every woman wore an ensemble of Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Manolo.

But hey, we are Americans and enjoy comfort over style. Besides, there’s only one Financial Samurai hoodie in the world and it’s a priceless collector's item!

Unlike some startups that have the courage to spend more on business retreats each month than they make in operating profits each month, Financial Samurai Inc is cost conscious because we aren’t spending other people’s money. As a result, we budgeted $20,000 for all expenses for 15-days of travel for two people in Europe.

It costs a lot to get our Travel category off the ground, but we are determined to provide unique travel insights from a personal finance angle. We love to travel, and there's nothing better than doing what you love for work.

Travel Hacking The Junior Suite Deluxe

La Reserve Hotel Nightly Rate In Paris

We stayed in the Junior Suite Deluxe on the 4th floor. As you can tell from the pricing menu, we’re close to the bottom of the list. There’s no way we could afford to stay in a more expensive room since I’m only a personal finance blogger.

Why pay 9000 € a night for the Presidential Suite when you can pay a more reasonable 1700 € a night for the Junior Suite Deluxe and gain access to the same amenities and service? Good value baby! It's all about managing business expenses in order to not go out of business.

At ~$2,000 a night, the Junior Suite Deluxe cost 10x the average nightly hotel rate we paid in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest. But that's why we were staying in such inexpensive places the first week were in Europe, to afford the second week. We realized Paris makes San Francisco feel like the Midwest in terms of cost, so we budgeted accordingly.

~$2,000 a night is completely beyond what our normal budget is for a business trip. But in order to write about what it's like to live in a luxury hotel and listen to the sentiments of EU citizens before writing my Brexit post, you've got to actually stay in one for an extended period of time. Sacrifices must be made to write such in-depth posts.

So was it worth it? Let's discuss some of the positives:

  • Every time we got back to our suite, it felt more like a home instead of a hotel due to the size (~500 sqft). Our master bedroom in SF, bathroom, and sanctuary is about ~550 sqft, so the size matched. The only difference is in SF we have a view of the ocean, and this suite has a view of the inner courtyard.
  • It wasn’t until the third day that we realized our fully stocked fridge was completely free except for the alcohol. I’m a huge natural fruit juice drinker and they had organic mango, pineapple, orange, and apple juices. They also had endless bottles of slightly flavored Evian water which was a real treat. They also gave us homemade chocolate marshmallows and artisan chocolates from the two-star Michelin restaurant, Le Gabriel downstairs. Yum! Who doesn't love free treats?
  • Our suite was at the end of the hotel, so it was extremely private. The doors were four inches thick, and there was a vestibule to our door for extra peace and quiet. The quality of the craftsmanship was impeccable. As someone who has spent the past two years slowly remodeling his fixer in Golden Gate Heights, I appreciated all the details of the room down to the velvet wrapped TV.
  • Room service was superb. One evening at 9:30pm, we asked food services to deliver a meal at 11:30pm, and they were spot on time. The housekeepers always did an amazing job cleaning and made each night feel like the first.
  • The WiFi was excellent, unlike in Czech, Austria, and Hungary. As business travelers, fast and reliable wifi is extremely important. Wifi is the first thing I check after I arrive at a hotel since because of its high cost, I don't use international roaming. I always want my readership here to feel like I'm giving maximum effort with consistently three posts a week even while I'm traveling.

And here are some misses:

  • We could hear some remodeling noises from the building next door at about 8:30am one morning. But we were already awake for our trip to Versailles, so it wasn’t a big deal.
  • The elevator at the other end of the hotel leading to the pool was out of order for two nights, which meant we had to take the elevator closest to us, which was fine. But then we had to walk across the fancy lobby/eating area in our bathrobes to get to the indoor pool. It was a bit embarrassing, but it was then that we saw another familiar face, Lukas Haas, who’s been in such movies as Inception and The Revenant, dining with his model girlfriend and another lady friend. It's interesting how extremely thin some movie actors are when seen in person.
  • La reserve hotel poolAfter spending an hour in the indoor pool and another 30 minutes in a nifty starlit steam room, we traversed back through the eating area to find Lukas and friends still dining away. I noticed them looking at us as we walked by because I was staring straight at them. At first I couldn't remember who he was, so I had to do a double take. He smiled and one of the women turned around to check out who we were. I smiled back, but declined to give an autograph or wave. That would just be too awkward in our bathrobes.

The Verdict On Living In A Luxury Hotel

The experience was 3X nicer that our previous hotels, but cost 8-10X more. Therefore, from a financial perspective, it's hard to justify the cost unless you have endless sums of money.

For special occasions, such as a honeymoon, a 10 year wedding anniversary, a big promotion, a 40th birthday party, or a gift to your parents, staying at a luxury hotel is absolutely worth it. Unforgettable experiences are priceless.

Here's a video of our room for you to get a better idea of what $1,500 – $2,000 a night costs. Remember, Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so there is tremendous price inflation.

This room would probably cost closer to $750 – $1,000 a night in San Francisco and $1,000 – $1,500 a night in Manhattan.

Living It Up On A Budget

The best way never to be homesick on vacation or on business is to simply own a vacation property everywhere you regularly go. However, it’s just economically silly to buy a pied-a-terre in so many different places. Thus, the next closest thing is renting a wonderful spot that feels like home.

If you've gotten to the end of this post wondering whether a frugal person like me who drives a Honda Fit has gone completely bonkers paying $14,000 for a week's hotel stay, well done, and not to worry. My entire stay was free! Travel hacking to the rescue!

To feel comfortable spending so extravagantly, I'd have to be making well over a million bucks a year and be worth at least $20 million. Although, we have decided that having a net worth of $10 million is good enough to retire early.

Due to the complimentary week's stay in Paris, we only ended up spending $9,000 on everything for our 15-day trip. Our budget was $20,000. The $11,000 in savings will be used to build the company's cash reserves to prepare for harder times ahead. Travel hacking for the win!

Best Travel Hacking Tip

The best travel hacking tip is having rich friends! My friend is part of a holiday resorts club. He buys 60 nights a year of credit at various luxury properties around the world.

Given he had extra nights, he decided to give me and my wife a week to use. He wasn't going to use it. Just don't forget to renew and bring your passport!

I truly believe part of getting ahead is having rich and connected friends. They will make your life easier. Even if you don't have rich friends, travel hacking with credit cards and going during off hours is worth it.

The second best travel hacking tip is to be a travel blogger. As a travel blogger, you can legitimately deduct your travel expenses from your online travel blogging income.

Best Travel Rewards Credit Card

Looking for the best travel rewards credit card to enjoy more free travel? My favorite is the Capital One Venture Rewards card out of over one hundred I've reviewed so far. I've traveled to over 60 countries in my lifetime and always use travel rewards points to get free airfare.

There are a lot of benefits to having one of the best international travel credit cards.

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Disclosure: Credit card terms and features are subject to change.

Update 2023. It's funny re-reading this post today. I'm a stay at home dad now to a boy (6) and a 3-year old daughter. As a result, my wife and I have decided not to travel internationally. At least not the youngest turns 5 years old. Here's the best time to travel internationally with kids. IF we travel, we want our children to remember their travels.

We've just been going to Sonoma and Lake Tahoe for our travels. They are great places within a four-hour drive away.

79 thoughts on “Guilt-Free Travel Hacking: Finally Living Large On A Modest Budget”

  1. I love the idea of this luxury travel. We’re currently slow traveling the world with our children. The youngest is 1 currently. You never know what life will throw at you so why wait? You’ll get to keep those memories even if the kids don’t.

  2. I disagree that children under 5 don’t remember their travel adventures. My three boys are 7.5, 5 and almost 4 and we visit Italy for 2-3 weeks every other year. The older ones vividly remember chasing pigeons in the Campo of Siena and climbing olive trees at our rental apartment outside Radda in Chianti in 2016 (they were 5.5 and 3 at the time) and they all talk about exploring a rainy Verona, chestnut battles with Papa in various playgrounds, watching the Giro di Lombardia at a rifugio above Lake Como, exploring the forests and Alpenzoo in Innsbruck and other adventures from our trip this year. (Full disclosure: I grew up overseas from ages 2-14 and remember all sorts of adventures all over the globe and am completely biased in favor of as much travel as possible for your entire lifetime.)

    On a more practical note, the earlier you get them used to exploring their world and the different people and cultures that share it, the more open-minded and inquisitive they seem to be. It’s also a great family adventure! They become more adaptable & resilient as they deal with things that aren’t the same as home. And it can be done frugally with advance planning — our 22 day Italy trip (airfare, apartments, rental station wagon, food, souvenirs, city sightseeing passes, daily gelato) for our family of 5 was under $7,500 total.

    1. It’s easy to remember things when you are between 3-5 if you are only 7-8. But unfortunately, those memories fade as you get older.

      Glad you are enjoying your travels!

  3. Wow ! Now I feel much better. The most I have ever spent on a trip was last year when I went to Boston to run the Boston Marathon. Round trip air fare on Jet Blue with upgraded roomier seats for the wife and I from LAX, 1 night at the LAX Marriott, 5 nights at the Boston Hilton, food, marathon jackets, shirts etc. and transportation totaled $6000.
    That comes out to about $230 a mile for the marathon :) But if I ever qualify again, I would do it again in a heartbeat at twice the price.

  4. I stayed in a $1200 per night over water bungalow at the Intercontinental Thalasso Resort in Bora Bora for my honeymoon. It was absolutely worth it. The property and accommodations were absolutely first class. The best part was it was free at 40k IHG hotel points per night.

  5. My favorite use of points has been the Intercontinental Marseille Hotel Dieu with IHG points.

    Guess: You did consulting for the hotel.

  6. Did you…

    1. Negotiate a better (7-night) rate, then 2. Write off all of your travel expenses as legitimate business expenses, thus reducing your total spend by approx 35% (or your tax rate) of your 20k budget?


    The best part is that (as you mentioned in a previous post), for someone who’d like to start a blog or a business that might necessarily include travel as a legitimate expense, the IRS gives you a couple of years to get your business off the ground before you have to show profit.

    Your post helped clarify my husband and my approach to investing in out of state multifamily properties. While we are not Samurai and our budget is modest, according to our accountant, expenses we incur while looking for new properties are deductible. Discount travel! Hooray! It makes me wonder how this lesson could be applied in other areas of our lives.

    Thanks for the great reads

    1. Hi Jill,

      Good guess. For the first week of our trip, what you mention is the right strategy and I go into more detail in this post: The Best Way To Travel For Free And Reduce Your Taxable Income. My profitable non-travel business is currently subsidizing my travel business expansion plans, so I’m still making an overall profit and paying plenty of taxes unfortunately. But one day, I have a belief that if I stick with travel writing long enough, I can create a business line that could generate a significant and recurring revenue stream. Every business takes capital risk. But since I love travel, this is a risk I’m willing to take.

      Now that I’ve written part II coming up, I’m actually surprised nobody has figured it out. Once people read the post, they’ll realize how simple the answer really is I think!

      Enjoy your house hunting travels… preferably in glorious places!



  7. David Michael

    I suggest you use your travel hacking skills for creating adventures rather than bathing in luxury. Try trekking in Nepal to Everest Base Camp for a month, Hiking Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya, living for a month with a tribe in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, bicycle across the USA from Oregon to Maine self contained by yourself, or volunteer in the refugee camps of Jordan.

    I had an adventure tour company for 20 years with free flights and hotel, wherever and whenever. I spent an occasional night in the best and most expensive hotels. Luxury, yes full of luxury in stuff and things. Personally, I found most people in first class too stuffy and full of themselves to be much fun or down to earth. Even on Italian cruise ships I would seek the second class because that’s where all the fun and action was. I am not impressed with obsessive wealth.

    As a minimum, with all of your money and time, venture into the Grand Canyon on foot and hike from the North to the South Rim. That’s luxury! We all have different ideas of luxury, but for me, super expensive hotels and the constant quest for more wealth is a wasted enterprise. Our wealth in the USA is in our public lands of the American West. They are a treasure that no hotel can match. And…you can camp for a few dollars a night. Now…that’s luxury!

    1. David,

      Agreed. Spending several days in Angkor Wat, Cambodia last year and hiking all those trails in 105 degree heat was amazing! I should write about that trip, as it was one of the best. The only post where I mentioned the Angor Wat trip was in this derivative topic, Living In An Expensive City Can Make You More Empathetic, Richer, And Happier.

      You’ve given me some ideas of writing about my time in India, Zambia (2 years), and China (6 months) for future posts. For balance, I like to personally go on more rugged adventures one year and more luxurious adventures the next year. It keeps things fun and interesting. The juxtaposition helps me appreciate each type. I entitled this post “FINALLY living large” b/c I never do when traveling, so this was a fun experience to record.

      In the meantime, I think you’ll enjoy:

      What Is Capitalism? To Understand Let’s First Explore Communist China

      A View From The Edge Of The World: The DMZ, North Korea

      Any specific adventures you think I should take? I do have my M1 motorcycle license and am still relatively fit to do multi-day hikes. How about the 3 day Inca trail hike to Machu Picchu? I went there as a kid, and want to go back. Or maybe the Galapagos Islands and do some scuba? Just concerned about the zika virus.



      1. I hiked Machu Picchu a few years ago with my now wife. It was fantastic. A few things to know:

        1. There are many Inca trails (that is, trails used by the Inca to get to and from Machu Picchu). There is one “official” Inca Trail, but it has a number of restrictions, such a maximum number of people allowed on the trail per day, no horses/mules (which means you need to pay somebody to carry your stuff).

        2. The “Inca Trail” books up WAY in advance (9+ months). However, there are a number of other awesome trails, such as the Salkantay Trail (the one we did). They tend to be a bit tougher, but they have different restrictions (mules are allowed).

        3. Get to Cusco (where pretty much all the hikes start) a few days early to get acclimated to the climate. My wife had MAJOR altitude sickness the first night (where we camped at 15,000+ feet). The chances of getting altitude sickness is reduced for each day you’re at altitude.

        Also, if you really want to do the Grand Canyon like a bad-ass, do rim-to-rim in one day. It’s a great challenge and you don’t have to deal with trying to get a campsite in the Grand Canyon (which books up 6+ months in advance).

  8. Alright…I’ll be honest. I’m jealous. Looking forward to Part Two, like many others.

    Best I’ve been in was a suite at the Swissotel in Chicago. My guess is it was around $650 a night (since their regular rooms go for around $450), but I can’t be sure. It was paid for by the groom in a wedding I attended (it’s my girlfriend’s uncle). He’s a reputable attorney, marrying another reputable attorney, so they had a few bags of cash laying around to throw at it.

    Also, as far as Seacrest is concerned, if he truly is valued at $300 Million, he chooses to be that busy. He could easily scale back to just hosting American Idol and allowing his production companies and other subsidiaries to run themselves with a General Manager. If he’s driven, I get it; but I don’t give him sympathy for his schedule.

  9. The wallpaper is gorgeous! The most expensive hotel I’ve paid for was a B&B in upstate New York. We had an entire outbuilding to ourselves and the grounds were gorgeous. The owner was nice, but a little too friendly. She definitely interrupted some celebrating.

  10. Most people are commenting on the cost of your hotel stay (free) or the celebrities you met, but I’m more interested in a comment you made earlier in your post:

    “A lot of extremely wealthy people are workaholics and don’t take much more than six weeks off a year because they can’t.”

    I’m interested to see how many of your readers are actually able to take 6 week of vacation a year! Unless you’ve managed to put together a phenomenally popular lifestyle blog, or are a business owner, I doubt many people are even taking half of that much time off.

    In that same paragraph you said:

    “I’d much rather be a nobody with modest financial means and max freedom, than a CEO with thousands of shareholders or a celebrity who is always under media scrutiny. How about you?”

    I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. I think that most celebrities lives must suck. Yes, you have tons of money, but you’re severely limited in how you can enjoy it because you can’t go out in public without being swarmed. You were able to plan a trip to Versailles. Can you imagine if Ryan Seacrest tried to just pop in and join a public tour? He’d be swamped.

    I’d MUCH rather have less money and a lot more freedom. I don’t think any amount of money is worth the loss of your ability to enjoy it.

    1. Jeff, To your comment above, I’ve been at a Fortune 50 company for 15 years. I get 4 weeks of vacation every year plus holidays and take everyone!

      And no paparazzi follow me around…

      1. Yup – what’s the use of having money if you can’t enjoy it? I’d take $10M and total anonymity/freedom over $100M and being world famous.

        And, I’d argue that there’s no use in having time if you don’t have enough money to enjoy it. The amount of money needed to enjoy your spare time is different for everybody (some people need the $2,000/night room that Sam stayed in and some people are happy staying in $15/night hostels), but without “enough” money you can’t enjoy your time.

    2. Ah, that’s why I said “don’t take much more than 6 weeks a year.”

      Most people I know take around 4 weeks a year.

      But ever since I started regularly going to Europe and seeing how they take 8 weeks off a year, I decided to follow suite starting in 2007. For the last 5 years of work, I took 5 weeks, 5 weeks, 6 weeks, 6 weeks, and 7 weeks off. Makes getting laid off easier when you demand to take all your vacation days and then some of your rollover days :)

      It’s all strategic my friend when it comes to engineering your layoff whoo hoo!

      Thank goodness for Europeans teach us how to live a more balanced life.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. I manage a team in Australia where everybody gets 6 weeks of vacation to start and more depending on seniority. Having 6 weeks a year to get out and see the world sounds fantastic.

        An equally large issue for me, however, is that I can’t take more than 1 week of vacation at a time. So, even though I have 3 weeks of vacation, I never get a truly long vacation to unplug and enjoy. I usually find that by the end of a week of vacation I’m JUST starting to relax…and then it’s back to work.

  11. Sounds totally awesome, and I thought the $600/night hotel that I stayed in Japan was fancy… this was on a totally different level. Can’t wait to hear more in Part 2.

    Funny I had to look up who Ryan Seacrest was… my excuse is that we don’t have TV at home. :D

  12. Hmm I’m going to guess made a social media marketing strategy for the hotel. Stayed in a $500 a night Paris once and I thought that was bad. My buddy got us into the nicest hotel in Costa Rica w credit card reward points one time

  13. Damn it Sam! My wife, daughter and myself went to Hawaii for our fist time ever this month. We decided to do it in style and budgeted $20,000.00 for the week” which we spent almost every penny of it.” I’ve been feeling a little guilty about it until I read your post. I started thinking as I was reading, ” hell if a frugal guy like Sam can spend 20k on a trip mine doesn’t look so bad in comparison. Than I get to the part where half your trip was free. Damn you!! I’m dying to know how you did it.

    Thanks, Bill

    1. HAHAHA, hilarious. $20,000 for a week?! What the heck did you spend the money on? Did you have a private yacht take y’all out to sea w/ all you can eat caviar and champagne every night while dolphins swam a long side under the sunset?

      1. Not quite! But a pretty good time nonetheless.

        Airfare $6000. For 3- 1st class airfare
        Hotel $5400.00 6 nights in a very nice condo at the Kannapali alii
        Golf $2100. 2 rounds for 3 people at Kapalua with rental clubs and drinks.
        Snorkel cruise for 3 $500
        Lua for 3. $500
        Fishing for 2. $450 ” Dolphins actually did swim around the boat!”
        Dinner out with friends at Ruth Chris’s $700
        Taxis and shuttles $500
        Souvenirs, tips, meals $2000

        Grand total $18,150

        If I went back again I”m sure I could have just as good of time for half the money. I’d still splurge for the golf at Kapalua though.” My Wimbledon”

        I do realize that some people would consider this wasteful, heck, I consider it wasteful, however for our family this was definitely a trip of a lifetime!

        Thanks, Bill

        1. Ah, very nice breakdown! I used to be a super avid golfer and got down to a 9.8 handi. But that was two years ago and I quit to play tennis “full time” after getting bumped to 5.0. But now I’m probably going to get bumped back down to 4.5 after a winless season playing w/ a 4.5 against two 5.0s every time and can play more golf.

          What’s your handi? I remember telling myself that in order for me to ever pay more than $300 for a round of golf, I had to break a 10 handi as self motivation. Oh, the other reason why I stopped was due to heavy allergies to grass and stuff.

          1. Currently a 12. I averaged a 5 in my twenties and thirties. Mid forties now and my glory years are gone, I’m still fairly competitive but as my game slowly gets worse I now appreciate playing great courses more than playing great, it’s easier these day to let my ego go and just enjoy the place I’m at. Omg! I sound old

  14. Man.. what a cliffhanger.

    My outlandish guess? You actually somehow completed your refinance+$180k principal pay down with an elite financial institution in Paris, as well as transferred a few healthy accounts from your domestic institution to said French bank. As gratitude for your hefty investment with them, they comped you a week at a high-brow boutique hotel that they manage assets for! Everybody wins.

    Looking forward to part 2.

    1. LOL, no. But good guess. I only paid down $130,000 actually. Thank goodness the almost 4 month refinance is over! What a PITA! I’ll finally need to start my first new payment in August next month. It’s been nice not having a payment for two months.

  15. I like that you go to places like this. I’ll just live vicariously through you.

    Years ago I walked through a mall and felt like I didn’t belong. I wasn’t rich enough or whatever. I know, sounds silly, but that’s how I felt.

    If I was in a place like that, I wouldn’t be comfortable. And going to the pool walking by people eating is strange too.

    Whenever I go to someplace new, I feel it out. It’s something fun to do, but that’s why it’s not home. And when it’s not my digs, I understand I’m the guest. I’m very much on my Ps and Qs.

    Recently I was in Cambria and I went to sit on the rocks looking at the ocean. A lady chewed me out saying I was destroying the environment and that the ground I was on could cave in. Being the visitor, I apologized and went on my way.

    1. Don’t destroy the precious artifacts Mike! You don’t want to be listed in the “tourists behaving badly” articles out there :)

      I’ve actually got some much nicer videos of some great free places I visited, but it would be too showy.

  16. Hi Sam

    The room is tres beau, the best part of course being the 360 TV! It would be so cool if there was some kind of analytical tool that can weigh the cost of your business trip against the future revenue earned from writing about it and I guess the projected revenue from acquiring new readers from advertising in Paris!

  17. Loved the twist in the story at the end.

    If I can respectfully suggest one correction? Ryan Seacrest is not married.

    Really looking forward to hear how you managed to get the stay covered? I’ve got a friend over in Paris right now and I’m sure he’d have loved to know that before going there.

  18. I’m making my biggest rip yet to Hawaii next week but the nightly expense doesn’t come very close to yours. Good to see you got an almost-free trip out of it though! It sounds like you’re having an amazing trip. Thanks for the information on the chase sapphire card, unfortunately missed the train on that one, but for the next trip it will surely be a purchase. Looking forward to part 2!

  19. Love the MTV cribs video! You should definitely make more small videos like this in your posts. Have you ever thought about converting some of your popular posts into podcasts (or even videos?)? I’ve been driving too much lately and listening to podcasts instead of music–it would be great to get more Financial Samurai on the go. Some bloggers turn posts into podcasts by almost reading them verbatim, thinking that some subscribers don’t have time to read a post, but have time to listen! Just a thought :)

    1. I think I may just give it a go, again. I’ll just record stuff on my iphone and upload it. Forget about a fancy mic, studio, scrubbing, intro, etc. Just publish!

      I’m thinking of having a he-said, she-said dialogue podcast. May be fun!

  20. J’adore Paris! What a fun video. The travel hacking I’ve done isn’t that impressive, but was still quite enjoyable – I got upgraded from the cheapest room at a resort to a private villa bungalow in Cancun once simply by asking. Going off-peak helped too. I’ve also had several free hotel stays by being a frequent customer with And I’ve received travel vouchers from airlines when the media consoles didn’t work or my flights got cancelled. Looking forward to part deux.

  21. Ok, now I HAVE to read the second post! :)

    I knew you wouldn’t spend that kind of $$$$$ on a hotel.

    One section I especially liked:

    “A lot of extremely wealthy people are workaholics and don’t take much more than six weeks off a year because they can’t. Their success demands they work around the clock, which is quite frankly, a paradox of success. I’d much rather be a nobody with modest financial means and max freedom, than a CEO with thousands of shareholders or a celebrity who is always under media scrutiny. How about you?”

    In particular, this stands out:

    “Their success demands they work around the clock, which is quite frankly, a paradox of success.”

    I’ve been thinking a LOT about this issue lately — the fact that many people are wealthy in terms of money but poor in terms of time. I’m just about at the point where I can’t take it any longer and need to make some changes.

    I’ll let you know if I do anything drastic. :)

    1. It is crazy that after reaching your “enough” money, there are people who STILL slave away to make more.

      I hope you do make the move! But don’t do so w/out negotiating a severance first. It’s the most amazing thing to not work and still get paid by your old employer!

      1. We’re on the same page. ;)

        I’ve just realized the fact that I’m simply working for “more” for no real purpose — I already have enough!!!!

        Update coming…

  22. The Green Swan

    I can’t wait to hear more next week and find out how in the world you got this amazing hotel stay for free! For someone who lives so frugally, did you ever feel out of place staying here? I can understand you felt odd arriving in sweats and walking through the lobby in your bathrobe, but what about on the other days?

    I’m fortunate that my wife works for a large hotel company which in turn offers us pretty nice hotel discounts. Now if we could only take full advantage of this and travel a bit more!

    1. I did feel out of place, which is way instead of spending 50 Euros for breakfast in the dining area, we went out and got groceries (watermelon in the fridge). We only had shorts, t-shirts, sweats, and jeans. Way out of place. But the staff made us feel comfortable, so kudos to them.

  23. The Alchemist

    Thanks for posting the room video! It confirmed my suspicion that, in general, expensive hotel rooms really are not “all that”. I mean, yes, it’s nice… but not two-grand-a-night nice. It’s just a room. It seems the real value of the two grand (or more) is indeed the other hotel amenities and the privacy. I can certainly understand how important that is for the famous (and rich)—they’re buying a haven where they won’t be pestered by a prying public. (Although I admit that I would have no clue who either Ryan Secrest or that other guy was if I ran smack into them.)

    For myself, as long as the room itself is clean and quiet I don’t need bells and whistles (and TV’s that pop out of the console!). When it comes to travel, I regard the hotel as just a place to sleep; I’ll be spending the majority of my time out and about doing stuff, so excessive spending on the crash pad seems silly. I will say that if you’re spending a week in a hotel, living out of a suitcase, a little extra space is handy. I shared a wonderful week in London with a couple of girlfriends once, in a typical London-sized hotel room… now THAT was a challenge!

    That being said… if it’s FREE, that hotel room is AWESOME!! Nice work there, Sam. Can’t wait to hear how you did it.

    1. Yes, part of the reason why I wanted to highlight the room is because it’s nice, but I don’t think it’s $2,000 nice! Rooms for $500 or less in Paris are pretty comparable. And the $200/night room I got in Prague was not bad and good enough as we spent most of the day walking around.

      In other words, the gap between the top and the middle is not that great. So no need to kill yourself to get there or be envious of how such folks live.

      I’m sure you had a lot of fun in that London hotel room with your girlfriends at a fraction of the cost!

      1. I kind of thought the same thing — yeah that room is nice, but it is not THAT much fancier than the rooms or airbnbs I normally stay in for a fraction of the cost. Being in the heart of Paris is part of the cost of course. You can get super fancy in south or southeast Asia for a lot less, but it is a different ambiance (one I think I personally prefer – but I’ve never been to Paris!).

  24. I will wait until reading part two before passing judgment on this. But rest assured, I’m totally ready to judge!

  25. Frugal Familia

    Hmmm, I had a feeling something was up as I was reading this post. Looking forward to part II !!

  26. Fiscally Free

    You completely lost me until you revealed it was all free.
    A couple years ago my wife and I spent 25 days in Europe and only spent about $10,000. We went all over and had an incredible time, but managed to keep the budget reasonable. I will probably write a post about it soon.

  27. Dollar Engineer

    Love the travel hacking, well done! I’ve built up a nice reserve of points, and have some free trips coming up. As long as I’m in line with my normal spending earning those big sign up bonuses is so valuable. I actually have the chase sapphire card and it is definitely one of the more valuable one. Anyway can’t wait for part 2!

  28. Really nice post, I was expecting a little more about financing and how to deduct some of the business trips as a guide. Still a great insight into the high lifestyle.
    Did you consider looking into booking apps, or to rent an entire apartment/villa (airbnb, bookster, or other )?

  29. Financial Canadian

    Sam, it sounds like you had a great trip and really enjoyed every minute of it.

    I’m going to publicly post my guess for how you got the free stay here, on the off chance I’m right (that way I can brag about it later ;) ). My guess is that you won some sort of contest!

    Any highlights of the trip for you? I’ve always wanted to see Europe.

    1. Great guess! No. I never win anything, except being able to live and work in America, the greatest country in the world.

      I enjoyed Prague Castle when it started hailing in the middle of our walk. The Budapest baths at Gellert Hotel. And of course, The French Open.

  30. Thanks for the video! The hotel is beautiful and helped give me a vision for a update to my dark wood furniture-and also I enjoyed seeing that fabulous bathroom! I loved hearing the voice of Sam, the star of The Financial Samurai, as well!!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the video. I may do more now that I know how to upload videos onto Youtube and embed them on my site. Too lazy to try before. But, I did shoot a video walking 200 feet down in the tunnels at the DMZ in North/South Korea if you didn’t see it. Didn’t do much talking though.

      Respect to all podcasters out there who edit brilliantly and have a likable voice.

  31. Apathy Ends

    I think the most expensive hotel I stayed at is a Hilton, probably $250 a night? Work paid so I didn’t pay to much attention.

    Just booked 2 round trip tickets to Cancun for a destination wedding using points – our cars is pretty good for travel but not as good as the Chase card above so I am going to switch it up

    You gave Ryan Seacrest 3 free hours of consulting in exchange for a week in Paris?

  32. Chuck White

    Thanks, I really enjoyed your blog in Paris so far, very interested to see how you got it for free.
    My family and I are traveling to Seattle and I was freaking out about paying $2000 for 4 days. So basically to me it seems like a lot.
    I’m used to getting better deals no matter where I travel, but for some reason this time I could not find a deal.
    Oh well, I’ve done well this year with the market, so I’ll take it.
    Thanks to you.

    1. You won’t regret spending money on great experiences. Well, unless you didn’t properly budget for them.

      I thought back to the time I spent like $1,300 a ticket for Wimbledon in 2014. It was a crazy amount, but I don’t regret it one bit. Watching Federer and Nadal at Center Court while next to the Royal Box was an experience I’ll never forget.

      Spend on experiences you value as much as possible.

  33. As someone with family on the continent (Prague and London) I really enjoyed this information. Thank you for sharing!

  34. Great post Sam! Loved the video tour too. Now just looking forward to Part 2 – I was totally assuming you were doing this on points, so curiosity is clearly peaked. I really appreciate the view of 3X nicer but 8-10X the cost. I think that is something we should all consider when looking at “luxury” items (whether something to purchase or on experiences). I’ve never been overseas and it is in the plan for the next few years. Flight points are already in the bank.

    1. You gotta go overseas and see the world Vicki! It’s an amazing world out there, full of life, love, culture, and different perspectives.

      If there was a mandatory study abroad/ visit abroad exchange program for every able bodied citizen in the US, I think there’d be a lot more love, empathy, and understanding.

  35. Matt @ Distilled Dollar

    I can’t believe it. I had so much to say until I read the last few paragraphs. Your stay was FREE!! AHH!

    That is too amazing. I can’t wait for part deux.

    As for how you accomplished this task, you obviously were brought in by Ryan & Lukas to either, A) be their personal advisor for all money related items or, B) hear their pitch for why you three should star in the next Hollywood blockbuster.

    To be safe, I’ll vote for option B as I’m guessing they already have individuals helping them with their finances. Congrats on the upcoming new gig! :)

    1. What were you going to say before the end of my post?! Judge me! I want to hear it.

      Great guess! You might be the winner! A new reality show entitled, “Why Don’t I Have Any Money Left? Perhaps Because You Spent It All!” with your host, Ryan & Lukas!

      1. Matt @ Distilled Dollar

        Not necessarily judge per say. Nothing is good or bad, only thinking makes it so, as Shakespeare put it.

        My attitude reading it was, “awesome! If Sam can build his way to living such a luxurious lifestyle, then that gives me additional inspiration to do the same as I learn from him.” I’m not sure I’d spend 11k on 1 week space it out over 11 weeks in a place such as South America.

        I was only going to comment on how your values must have grown as your income and financial freedom have grown. For me, there is a tinge of guilt if I spend more than $100 on a meal. Then again, I have also noticed my tolerance has expanded as my income and career become more established. Back in the day $40 would have been way too much.

  36. I really enjoyed this post, thanks so much for sharing! I can honestly say that I am not a big travel hacker. The most expensive hotel I have stayed at was a fancy Marriott in downtown DC which was comped because I was working for the company at that time. Other than that, it’s generally run of the mill Marriotts all the way using the Marriott reward points we accrue each month through our credit card.

    I have no idea how you got a free week at the hotel, but can’t wait to find out!

  37. PhysicianOnFIRE

    A free week at a posh Parisian boutique hotel? Sign me up for part II and whatever you did to score that deal.

    I had to look up Lukas Haas, but I would probably recognize him in real life. He’s like a waifish Jason Mraz. Sadly, I know exactly who Ryan Seacrest is.


    1. I didn’t know Lukas’ name either and had to google him and get some hints from the concierge. But he’s been in so many movies. He’s part of Leonardo di Caprio’s wildpack.

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