Having taken the fashion world by storm, private flash-sale sites are now all the rage in the travel world. With an air of exclusivity, they offer lower prices — and more prestige — than the average discount travel site.
But according to Peter Greenberg, CBS News Travel editor, in addition to its privileges, membership has its limitations, too.
“These ‘private-member’sites are something of a marketing gimmick,” he said. “It’s a smart strategy for travel providers: Hotels can unload excess rooms or sell limited package deals to a targeted group when there may not be enough inventory — or time — to make an annoucement. Besides, no luxury company wants to officially announce a discount.
“They’re not difficult to join as long as you have a valid email address, [but] consumers feel like they’re getting a ‘special’ deal,” he said. “There are some good bargains.” Here are a few worth checking out:
Ideeli’s travel site (ideeli.com/travel) offers about 20 deals per week, with up to 75% off retail pricing. The site uses an inventory-based booking method rather than vouchers, so you can choose specific dates. The company has a robust cruise component, and airline deals are sometimes also available.
Sign-up is free; no referrals needed.
Sales go live: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at 10 a.m.
Current deal: A seven-night stay at the Pavilions, an adults-only five-star resort on Thailand’s Phuket Island, with perks, is $1,815 per person — a 57% discount. The price doesn’t include airfare.
This private-sale site geared toward parents recently expanded into travel deals. All deals at Totsy.com are designed with tired parents in mind and an emphasis on rest and relaxation (hello, spas!).
Interesting perk: For every first purchase, a tree is planted in Peru.
Sales go live: Fridays at 9 a.m., and they’re available through Thursday at 10 a.m.
Current deal: A two-night winter stay at the Sagamore in South Beach for $655 (regularly over $1,000). Includes a $100 Totsy credit.
Gilt Groupe’s Jetsetter.com offers three options:
1. Flash sales: Up to 40 are offered each week at about 50% off published prices.
2. Jetsetter 24/7: Similar to sites like Orbitz that offer competitive pricing, it hawks deals up to 20% less than competitors.
3. Personal travel planning: One-on-one travel booking advice with an expert for $200. If you book a hotel with Jetsetter, you get $100 credited toward the stay. Membership for the rest of the site is free.
Sales go live: Daily, usually at 3 p.m.
Current deal: Stay at the super-hip block-long Gansevoort in Miami, starting at $140 a night.
Bonus: amNewYork readers can sign up for Jetsetter without the usual wait; go to jetsetter.com/amnewyork.
Groupon recently launched Groupon Getaways (groupon. com/getaways) in conjunction with Expedia. There are 20 to 25 weekly deals on flights, hotels, all-inclusive packages, car rentals and cruises for up to 50% off. As is the case with other Groupon deals, a minimum number of people must buy it to make it happen. Once you purchase a voucher, you have between six months and a year to use it. Many of the deals have no blackout dates and, if you can’t use your voucher, Groupon offers a refund.
Sales go live: Tuesdays at 12:01 a.m. Users have about a week to buy the deal.
Current deal: The Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla., is featuring a two-night stay with breakfast for two for $289 (regularly up to $540).
Living Social Escapes
Livingsocial.com/escapes offers travel packages curated by experts. The site primarily features “near-cations” — long weekends or midweek retreats a short distance away. For those looking for more far-flung travel, a few destinations such as Mexico, Hawaii or the Caribbean are included.
You can sign up for free, without a referral.
Sales go live: Wednesdays at 5 a.m., and they’re open for booking until the following Wednesday.
Current deal: A stay at Ian Schrager’s new Public Chicago from September to December, with an automatic upgrade to a superior room for $195.