Where do the stars go to unwind in between film productions, photo shoots or concert tours? Money’s not exactly a limiting factor for A-list celebrities, which puts the world’s most-exclusive resorts and private retreats at their fingertips — heck, some of them even own their own straight-out-of-paradise islands.
For all of us who aren’t exactly household-name jetsetters, the good news is that more than a few celebrity vacation destinations can be enjoyed without breaking the bank. If you’re hankering to soak up the same sand-between-your-toes sunsets, mountain vistas and swoon-worthy waters as Hollywood heavyweights and rock legends, allow us to present a few options!
The white-sand beaches, coconut palms and reef-studded waters of the Bahamas — just a hop, skip and a jump from South Florida — are a perennial celebrity magnet. But you needn’t shell out ridiculous amounts of money to enjoy this corner of the Lucayan Archipelago on the outskirts of the Caribbean zone. Even if a private airplane or cruise ship lie outside your price range, you can nab an affordable flight to Nassau and then island-hop by ferry, hitting up such jewels as the world-famous Blue Holes of Andros, breathtakingly beautiful Treasure Cay Beach in the Abacos, and the shops and sands of Lucaya on Grand Bahama.
Once a mining boomtown, the Rocky Mountain village of Aspen has become one of the favorite American playgrounds for the famous and the well-heeled — not least for the legendary ski slopes. The real estate may be unbelievably expensive, but you can sample the mountain glamour while happily (and cheaply) camped amid the Southern Rockies sublimity of the White River National Forest in Aspen’s hinterland. Fly in to the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport or road-trip your way to town from Denver or Colorado Springs, soaking up some jaw-dropping scenery along the way.
No guarantees you’ll end up sharing a few glasses of wine or a couple of Negronis with George Clooney, but you can certainly soak up the same soaring scenery he and his fellow superstars enjoy on the mountain-cupped shores of Italy’s third-biggest and best-known lake. You won’t have the place to yourself by any stretch of the imagination, but you can enjoy a relatively budget-minded appreciation of Lake Como’s celebrated splendor by daytripping there from Milan, visiting during the off-season, and/or eschewing the pricey accommodations of Bellagio for a more affordable perch in Varenna or even Como itself — or communities removed from, but still close to, the lakeshore.
The Greek Islands
The sun-burnished Mediterranean dreamscapes of the Greek Islands rank among the iconic celebrity retreats anywhere, and no question you can spend a very pretty penny trying to hobnob with the A-listers at the fanciest beach clubs. But plenty of Grecian beauty and staggering history — not to mention delectable cuisine — awaits you off the beaten (and glitzed-up) path: Instead of Mykonos or Santorini, for example, try less-thronged islands such as Symi (in the Dodecanese) or Paros (in the Cyclades). You can also shave off some expenses by choosing accommodations where you can cook some of your own meals or visiting in the spring or autumn shoulder seasons.
The beach is calling your name.
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Cabo San Lucas
This resort hotspot on the very southern tip of Baja California, set where the Sea of Cortez meets the tropical Pacific, sees a regular funnel of beach-bumming celebs, from Cameron Diaz and Christina Aguilera to Ryan Seacrest and (what do you know?) Mr. Clooney. Despite the preponderance of pricey beachfront resorts, it’s quite possible to find more reasonable lodging rates here, and many signature activities — from snorkeling and kayaking to sport-fishing and whale-watching — aren’t prohibitively expensive.
Booking a Celebrity-Worthy Getaway
Tempted? You should be — these are some gorgeous locales, and it’s fun to kick back in the sort of place you can imagine Brad Pitt or Beyonce doing the same. You can save all the more money by being savvy about booking airfare and hotel/resort reservations. Typically, you’ll want to lock down your plane tickets for international travel three to six months in advance; err toward the farther-out end of that window if you’re hoping to hit up a destination in its peak season (and apply the same long-range planning for accommodations). Kayak, Travelocity and other third-party travel sites make a great jumping-off point for airfare research; if any flights catch your eye, try cross-referencing them on the actual website of the airline in question.
Happy budget-oriented, celebrity-style travels!