Everybody loves a deal, and the emergence of several deal-centric luxury travel websites suggests that affluent people -- or those who just like to travel that way -- are no exception. If you're willing to bid in an auction, buy under a time constraint or pack your bags at a moment's notice, high-end vacations are more attainable than ever.
Luxury Link, which launched in 1997 as a search engine, now conducts hundreds of daily auctions of luxury hotel packages that include extra perks, such as an additional night's stay, a spa credit and a bottle of Champagne. Clients save an average of half off the retail value, depending on the offer (some as much as 60% off), said Diane McDavitt, president and co-founder of Luxury Link. On rare occasions, bidding drives the sale to the retail value or higher. Purchasing from Luxury Link is different from opaque sites such as Priceline and Hotwire because extensive information is offered about each offering, including links back to the hotel's website so customers can do their own research.
Jetsetter, which launched in September, adopted the "flash sale" model that its parent company, Gilt Groupe, uses for its fashion sales, meaning its exclusive 35%- to 60%-off deals are available only to Jetsetter members and only for a three- to five-day window.
How do you become a member?
"You have to be invited through a certain context," said Drew Patterson, chief executive of Jetsetter. However, the "context" could be a story like this one, for which the company offered this link for membership: www.jetsetter.com/register/promo/latimes.
Recent sales -- highlighted by rich photography and in-the-know descriptions -- included Paris' Le Meurice ($550 a night), the 21c Hotel in Louisville, Ky. ($140 a night), and the Estancia Vik in Uruguay ($440 per night), as well as a Super Bowl Package with a room at the Standard Miami and a pair of upper-level 20-to-50-yard-line tickets to the game ($6,500 per night for three nights for two people). Jetsetter allows reservations to be put on a 10% paid "hold" and travel to be taken as far as six months in the future.
TabletHotels.com, which features design-oriented hotels for rates as low as $100 per night, has a "last minute" section for travel in the next 14 days, as well as a new "private sale" section, which can be accessed only by members who have booked rooms on Tablet Hotels in the past and the friends they invite (as well as readers who e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). Those members see 30% to 60% discounts off the lowest rates available elsewhere on the Web on hotel inventory that spans several months but must be booked within 36 hours.
Weekly Private Sales, which began in December, have been focused on five or six boutique hotels in major cities, such as the Clift Hotel in San Francisco ($151 a night), the Ace Hotel in New York ($118 a night) and the Craft Hotel in Buenos Aires ($91 a night).
You can also spend up front to save later. Members of AndrewHarper.com pay $195 a year for the privilege of bidding in the Harper Auctions, where they receive an average of 35% off published rates on places like Villa Palmilla in Akumal, Mexico, or the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain in Arizona -- luxury hotels or rental properties that have been reviewed favorably in the monthly Andrew Harper Hideaway Report newsletter.
DailyCandy.com has no membership restrictions or fees, but you do have to be interested in the packages, which its editor tailors, often with new properties, for the typical DailyCandy reader -- that is, stylish women in their 20s and 30s. Recent DailyCandy deals have included a weeklong "Magical Peru" package with Libertador Hotels for $1,699 a person; a third night free and a $100 spa credit when booking two nights at the Viceroy Snowmass, Colo.; and a 20% discount on a six-day Via Yoga retreat in Sayulita, Mexico.