Warning: The longer you put off your dream trip, the more elaborate it can become when you finally book it.

Apparently I’m a jet-setting rock star who vacations on a private boat, stays at exclusive resorts, and swims with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef. At least that’s who I pretended to be when I visited Australia a few years ago. 

Longing for the Land Down Under since I was old enough to understand I was born on the wrong continent (pristine beaches and year-round sun are more my speed), I put Australia on my must-visit list. 

But, life happened (you know how it goes). Between finding the time, the opportunity, and the budget, I hit 30 and still hadn’t set foot on Bondi Beach or snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef. 

Around the same time, I adopted a new mantra: No more waiting, just go! This was prompted by a friend’s father who was diagnosed with a debilitating and life-threatening disease right after retiring and right before taking a round-the-world dream trip with his wife. My heart ached for the family’s situation, and a fire was ignited in my soul—I didn’t want my someday-trip to become my never-trip.   

With refreshed priorities, careful planning, and many money-saving concessions, Mr. Trip Styler and I set aside the time and took the trip.

Viewfinder Tip: Create a no-excuses vacation fund combining savings, Expedia+ rewards points, and credit card points to maximize future travel opportunities.

Here’s where our rock star moment came in. You know those gossip mag photos of bathing suit-clad celebrities on yachts? That became us (minus the famous part). Since we’d waited so long to visit Oz, we were tired of making excuses. As a result, we went on a buck-wild booking frenzy while crafting our three-week itinerary, which had us visiting some of the East Coast’s most beautiful landscapes and exclusive properties. 

On the ground

“May I present you with your personal golf cart, madam?” was the phrase I remember most when we checked into qualia, an all-villa, crème-de-la-crème resort (Oprah stayed here) on the northernmost point of Hamilton Island. With the resort sprawling across more than 30 acres of tropical terrain, guests use golf carts to explore the grounds and drive up and down the lengthy hill to the beachfront, infinity-edge pool. Feeling fancy and free, we even took our buggy beyond the resort’s gates and explored the island at a crazy 15 mph.  

While perks such as a personal golf cart, Champagne welcome, and one-of-a-kind beach towels designed by a fashion insider come with the well-to-do territory, the frill that really flirted with my emotions was the personal beach drop-off. Consider this: You + your beau on a private swath of sand in the Whitsunday Islands.

Naturally, we took advantage of this amenity and brought a bottle of bubbly along for the ride. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. 

Since we couldn’t get enough of secluded sandy beaches, we booked a three-day sailing trip around the Whitsunday Islands on a luxury catamaran. Looking back, I’m glad we did it, but as I stepped onto the boat, I thought I’d lost my marbles because a) I started to see dollar signs everywhere I looked, and b) I get very, very seasick. Thankfully this was the most reasonable splurge of the trip, and the waters were calm due to constant stops on sand bar islands, not to mention the world-famous Whitehaven Beach (where the sand is so bright, it blinds you). 

The beachfront infinity pool at qualia

The final stop on our no-excuses, it’s-okay-to-splurge-once-in-a-while trip took us farther south, just above Brisbane, to a private, six-tent coral cay in the Great Barrier Reef. What drew us to Wilson Island (little sister to Heron Island) was the fact that we could walk off the beach and swim into an underwater paradise teeming with turtles, tropical fish, and (friendly) sharks. Add in an Italian chef who prepared all our meals, as well as on-demand chocolate and wine, and there wasn’t ONE moment when I thought to myself, “I really should’ve stayed home.”

Our Aussie adventure was worth every penny. And, speaking of (many) pennies, I can’t—and won’t—put a price on the experience. How do you even quantify lounging on a castaway beach, sailing around the Whitsundays, or swimming with turtles? In short, you don’t, because one or two splurges are well worth it.   

To where would you take your no-excuses trip?