The Rich Don't Travel like the Rest of Us

By Long, Rob | Newsweek International, April 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Rich Don't Travel like the Rest of Us


Long, Rob, Newsweek International


Byline: Rob Long

Let's be honest with each other, just for a moment. The real thrill of a first- or business-class seat on the airplane doesn't come with the hot towel or the freshly baked cookie. It comes before takeoff, as you nestle into your seat, sip your champagne and pretend not to notice the lumbering hordes of unfortunates squeezing by.

You stare idly out the window, or flip through a copy of the in-flight magazine, as the river of sad, upgrade-challenged passengers flows on, hands full of babies, boxes and oversize carry-ons, wheeling and pushing and dragging their possessions to a seat barely big enough for an 8-year-old, and with just enough room in the overhead bin for a paperback book.

You pretend not to notice, but you do. And you notice them noticing you, and you feel their envy and maybe their anger and--let's be very, very honest here--it somehow makes the seat you're in even more spacious, and the champagne you're drinking just a little more bubbly. It's human nature, I guess, that the best way to enjoy the things you have is to enjoy them directly in front of someone who doesn't have them.

Or maybe it's just what the not-so-rich do when they're lucky enough to cadge an upgrade. Because rich people, actual rich people--as opposed to people who travel a lot on business, or use a certain credit card, or know how to work the frequent-flier angle--aren't all that crazy about consuming conspicuously. They're not even on the plane, sipping champagne and rolling their eyes at the steerage class. They're on their own plane, sipping whatever they want to sip, going wherever they want to go.

And where they're going, you won't run into them. The superrich tend not to think in terms of renting a hotel room, but of renting an entire island. Necker Island, in the Caribbean, goes for about $22,000 per night, and comes with a staff of 30. A cheaper option might be the Loire Valley's Chateau de la Guillonniere, which goes for a doable 10,000 euro a week in the high season. But to be rich is really to be rich in options, so for some high-end travelers who want to split the difference between an island and an ordinary hotel room, there's the Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand, which offers multibedroom villas for the no-sweat fee of around $5,000 a night.

And when they do decide to go slumming at, say, the Ritz in Paris or the Four Seasons in Maui, you can be sure that they don't stand haplessly at the front desk, waiting to check in. …

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