You may have to travel at the last moment. You may go to a destination you had not previously considered. But you could well bag a bargain.
Membership-based websites offering flash sales of package holidays or hotel stays have been around for a while, but competition is hotting up — and there are some great deals if you act fast.
They work like this. You subscribe, free, to gain acccess to last-minute deals, many of which have been exclusively negotiated. Emails are sent with time-limited offers. Then you take your pick.
Seven nights all-inclusive at Cocoon Maldives booking directly with airlines and hotel costs £3,935pp. The price through voyageprive.co.uk costs £1,774pp saving a £2,161pp (55 per cent)
Deals often include extras such as free room upgrades, spa treatments or drinks on arrival.
But are their offers really as great as they make out? Here we put them to the test — and see if we could manage it cheaper booking direct with the hotels and airlines.
Background: Founded in America in 1998 by a German-born ex-journalist, Ralph Bartel, with more than 28 million members worldwide; five million in the UK.
Top deal: Three nights B&B at the Embassy Hotel in Florence from £139 pp; Ryanair Stansted-Pisa flights with a free superior room upgrade.
Does it work? We subscribe and click on Florence, one of the week’s ‘20 best’ deals. We are redirected to citrusholidays.co.uk and speak to an assistant, who confirms the price on several dates.
DIY: £172 pp.
Worth it? Yes, a saving of £33 pp (19 per cent).
Background: Secret Escapes was founded in London in 2011 by a group of internet entrepreneurs and now has more than 19 million members. It offers flash sales, often lasting for ten days.
Top deal: Seven nights all-inclusive in a garden room at the Tropikist Beach Hotel on Tobago, with Virgin Atlantic Gatwick flights and transfers, £899 pp.
Does it work? We subscribe, select the Tobago offer and find that the deal is available on a single date in three weeks’ time.
DIY: £1,168 pp.
Worth it? Yes, a saving of £269 pp (23 per cent).
Background: It was launched in the UK in 2012 and is based in Berlin, with 900,000 subscribers and ten million Facebook fans. Some deals are exclusive but not all.
You don’t need to be a member to access deals on the website. However, the newsletter provides tip-offs and members can create customised alerts.
Top deal: Four nights B&B at the Astoria Bled Hotel in Slovenia, with Easyjet Stansted flights from £227 pp.
Does it work? We subscribe to the newsletter and go to the Slovenian deal, which is available in March over a weekend.
DIY: £219 pp.
Worth it? Yes. Even though booking DIY was £8 cheaper, you get Atol (Air Travel Organiser’s Licence) protection in case the airline or hotel ceases trading by booking through the website.
Background: Teletext began as a text information service on televisions in the 1970s and has been offering holidays since 1996. Teletextholidays.co.uk launched in 2001 and had a revamp in 2016.
Top deal: Seven nights all-inclusive at Sun Club El Dorado in Puerto Del Carmen, Majorca, from £168 pp, departing from Southend on May 5.
DOES IT WORK? A pop-up box flashed up and we subscribed to the free newsletter. Then we checked the Majorca deal and found it was available. To book, we were requested to phone a number and quote a reference.
DIY: £234 pp.
Worth it? Yes, a saving of £66 (28 per cent).
Background: This ‘luxury travel club’, which began in France in 2006, has 44 million subscribers and sends out weekly newsletters linking to flash sales that last for 14 days. Discounts of up to 70 per cent are promised.
Top deal: Seven nights all-inclusive in a lagoon villa at Cocoon Maldives, on Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldives, from £1,774 pp with flights and seaplane transfer.
Does it work? We subscribe and are immediately logged in. The Maldives price is available only for five departure dates in June.
DIY: £3,935 pp.
Worth it? Absolutely, a saving of £2,161 pp (55 per cent).
Booking a trip to Amsterdam through icelolly.com saved £8pp (7 per cent)
Background: Founded in 2005 in Leeds, rebranded in 2014 and now headed by a former president of Travelzoo.
Top deal: Two nights room-only at the Amadi Panorama Hotel in Amsterdam, from £99 pp until the end of February on selected dates, including flights.
Does it work? After joining, a list of deals including Amsterdam comes up. Clicking on this brings up a number for Super Escapes, which we call and track down the £99 price for a departure on a Sunday in January.
DIY: £107 pp.
Worth it? Yes, £8 saving (7 per cent) but includes Atol protection.
Background: This London-based site dates from 2005, when it began as a flight search engine. Now it offers flights, holidays, hotels, car hire and cruises, and has a top deals subscription newsletter.
Top deal: Seven nights all-inclusive at the Green Nature Resort and Spa in Siteler, Turkey, from £319 pp, with London to Dalaman flights departing April 1.
Does it work? On clicking through, we were redirected to blueseaholidays.co.uk, which gave a phone number. We discovered the price was available with flights from Stansted.
DIY: £285.50 pp.
Worth it? Going DIY was £33.50 cheaper (11 per cent less) but Dealchecker had a better price than other ‘deal websites’ at the time we checked, plus there is Atol protection.
If you are willing to be flexible, the sites can offer excellent value. They also provide inspiration for trips that you may not have considered.
- Deals were on offer at the time of checking but may no longer be live.