Got R1.4m to splash on a hotel suite? 9 ways to holiday like the super rich
Scientists agree that money spent on memorable experiences — like travel — is money well spent. And how do the world’s most extravagantly wealthy make those memories? By dropping big bucks, writes Elizabeth Sleith
1. RENT YOUR OWN PRIVATE ISLAND
Jean Paul Sartre said it best when he opined: "Hell is other people." And for the ultra-rich, there can be no better cure for those pesky "other people" than a land mass which, for the duration of your stay, no-one else can reach. In short, a private island.
Turns out, the demand for this indulgence is so huge that there are several websites to help you narrow down your options. Try privateislandsonline.com (with 750 islands for sale or rent, from Brazil to the Bahamas to Tanzania); or villaguru.com/private-islands.
The latter only has 14, but one of them is Richard Branson's Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands. You can book a room for $5,000 (R74,800) per night and share the public areas with other people - yuck - or hire the whole place exclusively for up to 30 guests in 15 rooms from $77,500 (R1.1m) per night (plus a 2% tax).
For best rates, it's probably best to go to the source: see virginlimitededition.com/en.
2. FLY BY PRIVATE PLANE - OR IN A PERSONAL SUITE
A private jet is, naturally, the most exclusive way to fly. Whether you're buying or chartering, there's a wide range of planes to choose from, from basic and compact to dripping in over-the-top amenities.
For charters, the US-based Air Charter Service lists master suites, wellness centres (with on-board fitness equipment, such as spinning bikes), in-flight spas, boardrooms, and entertainment suites among the most lavish options.
The cost is entirely POA (price on asking), and is dependent on the route and type of plane. For some idea, though, the charter-jet company Fly Victor lists some typical prices on popular routes.
One-way from New York to London in a Gulfstream IV is from $60,850 (R905,000). Curious, I asked, and they responded almost immediately with an estimated £185,000 (R3.4m) fee to fly me from Joburg to New York on August 23 - "based on a one-way trip, depending on aircraft type and availability".
Incidentally, the world's largest private jet is also the world's largest aircraft - the Airbus A380. Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal allegedly spent $500m to turn one into what they call the "Flying Palace".
For top-end commercial flying, Etihad's The Residence is the only three-room suite on a commercial airline. It includes a living room, separate bedroom, en-suite shower and butler, as well as access to a secret lounge inside the first-class airport lounge. A one-way ticket from New York to Abu Dhabi costs around $29,000 (R433,000).
3. STAY IN THE HIGH ROLLERS' HOTEL ROOM
The Empathy Suite at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas is claimed to be the most expensive in the US - and possibly the world, at a staggering $100,000 (R1.4m) a night - with a minimum required stay of two nights.
The 836m² suite, designed by British conceptual artist Damien Hirst, includes a curved bar with seating for 13; a salt room designed for therapeutic treatments; and a cantilevered pool and jacuzzi overlooking The Strip.
Naturally, it's kitted out with artworks by Hirst, as well as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The price includes a butler, limo service, and a $10,000 credit to spend at the resort. Booking is by request only.
4. DODGE THE PAPS IN THE WORLD'S MOST SECRET AIRPORT LOUNGE
The Windsor Suites at London's Heathrow Airport have been called the world's most secretive and expensive airport lounge.
Access starts at $5,055 (R75,500) for just three hours. Officially, they accept a maximum group size of 12 per booking (priced from £2,750/R50,000 + VAT per person) but elite flyers have reportedly booked out the entire lounge for 100 people for $166,000.
For that you get a chauffeur, pictured, an escort to/from the plane, a private suite with a dedicated butler and a personal shopper who "knows where to find your favourite brands ... and will accompany you on a shopping trip - or do your shopping for you".
There's a separate lounge for bodyguards, nannies, assistants and other hangers-on.
VVVVVIP though you may be, you must be present for arrivals or departures (albeit in the background, enjoying snacks) while a minion does your paperwork and gets your passport stamped.
It's a post-911 world, and so you still have to step through a metal detector - but they have a private room for that.
Take heart from the fact that the FAQ at heathrowvip.com (its own private website nogal) includes: "Can you protect me from Paparazzi?"
The short answer is yes, with strategically draped black netting. A disclaimer, though: "We cannot guarantee long-distance photographs will not be taken."
5. CARRY THE WORLD'S MOST COVETED LUGGAGE
The name Louis Vuitton is synonymous with luxury luggage, but to an elite few in the know, brand Goyard is the one to want.
It was founded in Paris in 1853 (a year before LV) and is privately owned, so not answerable to shareholders.
Its travel goods include trunks, hat cases, weekender bags and carry cases for pets (pictured) - but you'll never see them advertised and you can't buy them (new) online.
It has just 19 shops around the world, where every customer gets one-on-one service by a white-gloved shop assistant.
Its list of celebrity clients is long, and includes Coco Chanel, Pablo Picasso, Meghan Markle and Kris Jenner. The latter was gifted a customised Goyard trunk last Christmas, emblazoned with the words "Rich as F***".
Goyard has a website, but prices are not mentioned - that would be tacky. They won't even e-mail you. "We do not provide any price or availability information on our products by e-mail or telephone. Our sales assistant will however be pleased to help you during your next visit in one of our boutiques."
For a rough idea, their 19th-century-style trunks reportedly sell for $59,000 (R740,000).
6. CHARTER A MEGAYACHT
The independent luxury guide Yacht Charter Fleet reports that the ultimate in sea-going excess has become "increasingly popular with those looking to embark on the hedonistic voyage of a bespoke vacation" - and they have 3,085 floating oases to choose from.
Most of the more extravagant ones are POA but here's one with a rather eye-watering price-tag: the 92m custom motor yacht Queen Miri can be yours for a week from about $2m (R30m) plus expenses.
It sleeps up to 36 guests in 18 rooms (plus 36 crew); and also has a spa, elevator, helipad, cinema, library, beach club, pool, tender garage (where you park the jet-skis etc), and wi-fi. It's also a certified Padi Dive Centre yacht, so you can learn to scuba dive too.
It's owned by US businessman Sheldon Adelson, the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, whose net worth is $38.2bn.
7. TAKE IN SOME DINNER THEATRE - WITH A DRAMATIC TWIST
Apparently, the first rule of Sublimotion in Ibiza, Spain, is that you do not talk about Sublimotion.
There are whisperings online about it being the world's most expensive restaurant, but inhouse they seem to reject even the term "restaurant" as too pedestrian. Nay, its "gastronomical performance art" and a "trip in time and space which can only be explained by experiencing it first hand".
Here's a hint: the 20-course tasting menu is served to just 12 diners a night, in an experience born from 10 Michelin-starred chefs working with composers, stage directors and illusionists.
That indescribable experience will cost you €1,500 (R25,000) per person, including wine and champagne. See sublimotionibiza.com.
A touch less pricy but also super elite is the three-Michelin starred UltraViolet in Shanghai. It only has one table, which seats 10 people, and also trades on theatricality. Visual and audio effects are thrown in as diners indulge in 10 - 20 courses, priced from $500 - $900 (R7,500 - R13,500) pp.
8. LANGUISH IN LUXURY ON A ROUND-THE-WORLD CRUISE
For those with extra time and cash on their hands, the ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn's Extraordinary Destinations cruise may be just the ticket.
Setting out from Miami this coming January, the cruise will carry up to 458 guests - and that's rather intimate in the cruise industry - to five continents, 36 countries, and 62 ports in 146 days.
The voyage will include 16 overnights in port - including in Dakar, Mombasa, Ho Chi Minh City and Cairns - and linger into the late evening another 18 times. That means more than one day exploring a port for every day relaxing at sea.
It's possible to book shorter legs of the trip, but the full monty is priced at $66,999 (R1m). It reaches its final destination, San Francisco, in May.
9. STAY IN THE WORLD'S FIRST SPACE HOTEL
If all goes according to plan, the Aurora Station will open its doors in 2022, offering guests - or "private citizen astronauts"- the chance to float in zero gravity and gaze upon Earth from space.
During a 12-day adventure, thrill-seekers who can spare around $9.5m (R143bn) will enjoy customisable private sleeping pods and "top-quality space food" as they fly 320km above Earth's surface, orbiting the planet every 90 minutes, which means they'll see around 16 sunrises and sunsets every 24 hours.
Before going into orbit, though, they'll have to undergo a three-month training programme, and once out there, there'll be work to do.
Guests will be required to help out in the operation of the station, with tasks including transferring cargo to select operations tasks. Relaxation time, however, will include zero-gravity ping pong.