Q&A with Stephanie Chai: How to travel stylishly on a budget

Q&A with Stephanie Chai: How to travel stylishly on a budget

stephaniechaiStephanie Chai, the founder of  The Luxe Nomad, gave up her modelling career and venture into a travel startup. We asked Stephanie how she manage the more challenging lifestyle of an entrepreneur and tips to travel well.

1. Hi Stephanie! Can you tell our readers about yourself?
Once upon a time I was a model and TV host where I only had to work 1 to 2 days a week! Although I graduated from the University of Auckland, in Finance and International Business, I’ve never practiced . The day of my graduation, I handed my degree to my father and jumped on a plane to fly to Taiwan to shoot a TV commercial Life is funny with timing isn’t it?

Maybe I never wanted to be banker, but I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. It’s never for the money but for the idea of it. True entrepreneurship is about ideas and changing the world we live in – and that’s something I wanted to be a part of. I started The Luxe Nomad in July 2012 initally as a flash sales site which grew to today’s portal which focuses instead on the luxury villa market.

2. What is The Luxe Nomad?
Luxe Nomad Asia-Pacific’s leading luxury villa and hotel booking portal. We solved the issues of time and trust – by curating our property you can trust what we recommend, saving you time (aka hours and hours researching different places!). We are now expanding into Luxe Nomad management where you could check in to a villa or apartment withLuxe Nomad bedsheets, towels and toiletries!


3. How was it like to make a career transition from the modeling to a travel startup?
It’s a huge change. Imagine not creating a Powerpoint or Excel documents for years to presenting investment docs to potential investors. I went from my semi tai-tai life to working 7 days a week…and often to late at night!

I’m glad to say after 3 years, I have a better work-life balance. It wasn’t easy. Still, nothing compares to the fulfilment of working on your own thing. Every challenge we had wasn’t a negative but rather a ‘hmmm how do we solve this issue!’

4. What is a typical day for you at a travel startup?
Wake up, check social media and emails. Sleep a bit more. Really wake up. Emails, meetings and traveling! It’s always different.

5. What is the toughest part of running The Luxe Nomad?
I believe finding good talent and finding time to train them is always a challenge. There’s always a million things going on and speed is of the issue.

Travel with people you like. Stay in places you love.


6. What’s your motto when travelling for leisure?
Travel with people you like. Stay in places you love!

ubud bali

7. How would you describe your travelling style?
Last minute. Late to book, late to pack. Touch down and start googling what am I supposed to see in this place…

8. Is it possible to travel luxuriously when on a budget? If yes, how?

Yes, we’ve seen a huge rise in the vacation rental industry. For example we have some fantastic villas in Bali which are even $400 for 4 bedrooms for 8 pax. That’s $50 a night which I think is a pretty good deal.

9. Can you share with us the top three most luxurious yet budget-friendly travel destination?
Bangkok. There are a lots of places to stay and Thai baht is affordable.
Bali. If you go to quieter parts of Bali and eat local, it it cheap as its in Rupiah!
Siem Reap. Again due to lower currency again and the hotel rates are not that high.


10. What is the one thing you will advise someone to never do when traveling on a budget?
Pay peanut get monkey. My girlfriends and I once moved from our hotel to a guest house in Samui (we were young…just 21!) thinking we would save money and party more. What happened? We were robbed and found the cash in our luggages missing up to $1000.

11. What activities and destination would you recommend who someone who travels to getaway from work-related stress and rediscover their passion?
Stay at a wellness resort and switch off your phone! Or go to Bhutan for ultimate getting away from it all.

12. Holidays is when we take most photos and would love to look great. Share with us 5 must-have items to look fabulous throughout a trip? Sunnies, a hat, good filters, a tan and a smile.

stephanie chai

13. Besides The Luxe Nomad, name us a books/websites or other resources that makes a holiday a great one (if any).
Vanity Fair. Shantaram was a great read. Also check our our online magazine Wanderluxe!

14. What’s the biggest travel-related lesson you’ve learned since you’ve started your career?
When the airlines say the counter is shut…don’t give up! I have arrived at the airport 30 mins before take off and managed to talk my way on to the plane. Of course, it’s simply better to just be early!

15. What hopes do you have for The Luxe Nomad in the near future?
The we become an end to end company for everything to do with the luxury villa market.

photo credit: Stephanie Chai

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