You’ve watched every episode of Millionaire Matchmaker on-demand, your liquid jacket isn’t as windproof as it was in college and your Totes Toasties have been worn so often that the grippers on the bottom are starting to come off. Basically, you’ve got a bad case of “winter” that you need to escape.
Thankfully, in the last year, the interwebs have given birth to a crop of discount luxury travel sites that allow you to flee your humdrum life and take a fabulous journey to an exotic locale. Since I travel almost as much as George Clooney in “Up In the Air,” and can’t resist a good deal, here’s a rundown of some of my faves.
Jetsetter, a spawn of the addictive fashion site Gilt, offers “flash sales” on luxury hotels at unbeatable prices.
The Upside: While some of their picks may not seem cheap, when you look at the sticker price, you realize what a good deal you’re getting. Also, each hotel they feature gets the “Jetsetter Verified” stamp, which means that it’s going to be a damn good hotel.
The Downside: Jetsetter flash sales only last for a few days max and the best dates (weekends, holidays, etc) get eaten up quickly. If you want the best deal on the best date, you need to act fast. Jetsetter just introduced a new feature where you can book any hotel at any time but this blogger only recommends that if you have Oprah’s bankroll.
Trips I’ve booked on this site: Our recent blogger’s retreat took place at a hotel (Villagio in Yountville) that we booked on Jetsetter. While the price of over $250 a night was steep, since it was split between the four of us, it wasn’t bad. And all four of us were able to use the spa facilities, enjoy an opulent afternoon tea (yup, crustless sandwiches and pine nut scones), and a breakfast with omelets on demand, for free. Last summer, I also booked the Fairmont Sonoma (also very snazzy) for under $100 on Jetsetter.
Hot deals they have going on now: Bestill my Sperry-loving heart – the c/o Maidstone in the Hamptons is like a preppy girl’s dream come true. I would advise booking a weekend in March when it’s a bit warmer but the prices have yet to completely shoot through the roof. Or if you want to get a little “wild,” there’s also a stay at the Vuyani Lodge in South Africa, which promises up close visits with Simba, Timon and Pumba. The $390 per night pricetag isn’t cheap but the rate includes three meals a day, safari drives, and airport transfers. MEE-OW.
If you’re thinking about booking, please do use this link – you’ll get $25 in free credit and so will this starving blogger.
Tablet focuses a bit more on “hotels on demand,” which is to say that you can easily search their site by preferred destination, type of trip or hotel name. Tablet will turn up a list of “approved” hotels that they recommend. They also have “Private Sales” which have steeper discounts, but these aren’t promoted as well.
The Upside: In addition to surfacing great hotels that match your search criteria, Tablet also posts “Top 10” lists that can help you pick a hotel. From “Best Unusual Hotels” to “Best Beach Hotels,” there’s a list you’ll want to look at.
The Downside: Sometimes when you search for a specific destination, the list of hotels that Tablet turns up is sparse. This is likely because these hotels are already booked for the days you want them but it can be an unsatisfying experience.
Hotels I’ve Booked on This Site: When I was booking hotels for my recent trip to Argentina, I wanted to find places that were a bit unusual and exciting. When I searched for hotels in Mendoza, Tablet turned up Club Tapiz, which is set on a vineyard in Argentinian wine country. It was the perfect place to stay. Also, I recently booked a stay at Donovan House in Washington, DC for work. Donovan House is one of my favorite hotels in DC – it’s located right in the neighborhood where I used to live, has an amazing pool and a glorious rainfall shower that makes you feel like you’re in a time machine. Tablet had a MUCH cheaper rate than the one the Donovan House website published.
Hot deals they have going on now: Channel your inner Gordon Gecko with a stay at Andaz Wall Street, with rates from $150 in the Tablet Private Sale section. New York doesn’t come cheaper than this…unless the hotel charges by the hour. Otherwise, jet down to Buenos Aires for the weekend – Tablet has last-minute deals starting for only $100 a night in Palermo, BA’s trendiest neighborhood. And if you need a good steakhouse recommendation, I’ve got you covered.
While Betterbidding.com isn’t a luxury hotel site, as a savvy traveler I would be remiss not to include it, because it has really helped me over the years. I am not ashamed to admit that I love getting great deals on Hotwire and Priceline. I mean, sometimes you just want a place to sleep that you know is going to be decent like a Westin or a Hilton, and Hotwire/Priceline deliver these at a great price. What I hate, is ending up at a hotel that sucks because Hotwire/Priceline didn’t tell me the name of it before I hit confirm.
Betterbooking.com takes the guesswork out of these sites by creating user-generated lists that match the listed amenities (pool, gym, business center) with the names of the hotels that it is most likely to be.
The Upside: There is no other site like it. Thousands of users work together to tell you which hotel you’re going to be booking, before you actually book. A beautiful demonstration of crowd-sourcing.
The Downside: The user experience and overall design of the site is in a word, heinous. You aren’t going to get the slick black background and easily navigable tabs that you will with the first two mentioned sites.
Hotels I’ve Booked: I’ve booked too many hotels to count on this site. It’s been most beneficial when I’m trying to figure out whether a hotel is a Starwood Hotel or not, since I am a Starwood Preferred Guest and adore that Heavenly Bed.
Hot deals they have now: There are always deals to be had on Priceline and Hotwire. First search there. Then cross-reference Betterbidding before you book your hotel.
And with that, happy trails to you! May your hotel closets by filled with plush robes and your days be filled with scuba adventures!