Though changing technology and the digital revolution have put many travel agencies out of business, it has been a boon for the lodging industry. Thanks to travel booking sites such as Hotels.com, Hotwire, and Kayak, you can seamlessly book hotel rooms in every corner of the world without picking up the phone. With so many travel booking resources at your disposal, it’s easy to compare prices and accommodations at different sites to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
Some travel search sites, such as Kayak, merely aggregate results from booking sites. But other online resources give you access to private or limited-time travel deals that can’t be found through a one-off search. These deals may benefit hotels that need to fill vacant rooms at the last minute or during the low season, or they may exist to reward frequent travelers or participants in a membership plan.
Though each deal’s structure, advantages, and drawbacks are unique, all deals are either exclusive to a select group of members, or are personalized based on your previous travel patterns and stated preferences. You can’t get them through the regular booking process at a travel search site or a hotel’s own website. See which ones fit your travel habits and preferences, then check them out before booking your next trip.
Best Private Sales and Exclusive Deals for Hotels
1. Expedia Elite Plus
Expedia Elite Plus is a membership designation you get after you use the Expedia platform either to book at least 15 hotel nights per year, or to spend at least $10,000 per year (before taxes and fees) in total travel purchases, including flights, hotels, and rental cars. It’s best to get your qualifying travel out of the way early in the year – once you earn Elite Plus status, you retain it for the remainder of the calendar year, all of the following year, and the first two months of the year after that.
What You Get
This program offers access to email deals – discounts of 25% or more – that aren’t available to all Expedia customers, including regular Expedia Rewards members. If you present your membership card at one of the more than 1,300 hotels in Expedia’s VIP Access network (including upscale properties such as the Hotel Ben Ami in Paris and the James in Chicago), you also get flexible checkout times (as late as 4pm) and free room upgrades, subject to availability at check-in. And if you book a room through the VIP Access network, only to find a better deal on the same room via another site prior to check-in, Expedia guarantees to match the difference.
Recently, a king room at Henderson, Nevada’s Green Valley Ranch Resort & Spa was listed at $184 per night through Expedia, but $161 per night through Amoma.com. To take advantage of the guarantee in this case, you would need to fill out a special form available on Expedia’s website, prove that your itinerary at Amoma is identical to your itinerary on Expedia, and provide screenshots of the Amoma booking process as documentation. On its end, Expedia would confirm that the price wasn’t part of a members-only discount or package deal. Finally, Elite Plus has a separate customer service team that’s available 24/7, as well as concierges who live in – and are intimately familiar with - Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Orlando.
Who It’s For
With its restrictive membership requirements, Expedia Elite Plus is definitely for frequent travelers. Also, the VIP Access network is heavy on hotels in popular leisure travel destinations, such as Cancun and Orlando, as well as major business destinations like New York. Smaller cities are not well represented, and it’s mostly populated by high-end or boutique hotels such as L’Auberge del Mar in San Diego and the Chatwal in New York.
2. JetSetter Deals
A subsidiary of TripAdvisor, JetSetter is an “invitation-only travel community.” However, the bar for admission is low: You just have to provide your email address and travel preferences to join. It offers private, limited-time deals on upscale hotels, apartment-style lodgings, and villas around the world. You can generally book your stay at the advertised room rates within a six- to eight-week window, though some hotels may keep their rates set for longer, and there may be some blackout dates within that time-frame.
JetSetter contracts with about 200 travel writers to evaluate and select new sites for inclusion. To find and select additional accommodations, it sources reviews from JetSetter members who have previously stayed.
What You Get
JetSetter offers two basic deals: Ongoing lodging discounts of 10% to 25% for properties in its JetSetter Collection, and flash sales that last for five to seven days and offer room discounts of up to 40% for stays of any length within a fixed window. Both type are available on its homepage. When you click on a listing, you’ll see the property’s original price and an exhaustive, well-written accounting of its amenities and neighborhood. Your choice of dates may be restricted, as some flash sale deals only cover a particular month. There’s also no price match guarantee.
Who It’s For
JetSetter’s selection mostly consists of upscale urban boutique hotels (London’s citizenM Bankside costs $159 per night, reduced from $194) and all-inclusive resorts (Grand Residences Cancun costs $235 per night, reduced from $372). Its decent urban selection makes it a viable option for business travelers who want to stay in distinctive accommodations without blowing a hole through their expense accounts. However, date restrictions may stymie your plans.
3. Tablet Plus and Tablet Private Sales
Like JetSetter, Tablet curates deals from upscale hotels around the world, such as the Viceroy Santa Monica in Los Angeles and the Hotel Olive Boutique in San Juan, Puerto Rico, using recommendations from verified guests and its own staff evaluators. Unlike JetSetter, you don’t have to be a member to book rooms here. However, Tablet offers two distinct, members-only services: Tablet Plus and Tablet Private Sales.
Tablet Plus offers special perks and activity discounts, at a select group of hotels, to anyone who pays the $195 annual fee. Tablet Private Sales lets you book significantly discounted rooms (relative to published rates) at participating hotels. To access this feature, you must have previously booked a room on Tablet or received an invitation to participate. Some hotels that don’t participate in Tablet Plus may offer deals through Tablet Private Sales.
What You Get
As a Tablet Plus member, you can get special deals, perks, and amenities at participating hotels (several hundred around the world, and nearly 100 in the United States). Typical Tablet Plus offers include a free room upgrade upon check-in, flexible checkout times, $25 to $50 food or beverage credits at the hotel’s restaurant, and turn-down service. Hotels with spas may offer complimentary or discounted treatments as well. You’re not guaranteed a specific rate with Tablet Plus, but there is a price guarantee: If you find a lower rate on an identical room and dates, Tablet will match the price and throw in six months of free Tablet Plus membership. Separately, Tablet Private Sales occur every week, from Tuesday (10am EST) to Thursday for anyone who has previously booked a room on Tablet or received a special email invitation to participate, and Monday (10am EST) to Thursday for current Tablet Plus members. Room discounts (relative to published prices) vary by property, from as little as 10% to as much as 50%.
Who It’s For
With a price tag of nearly $200, you need to use Tablet Plus on a few trips to make it worthwhile. And with fewer participating hotels than Expedia’s Elite Plus VIP Access network and JetSetter, not to mention bigger travel search sites like Booking.com and Trivago, you might not find the property you seek. However, every property is personally evaluated by a Tablet expert, so you can set your expectations high. Meanwhile, the Tablet Private Sales feature may include special room rates on hotels that don’t offer special perks to Tablet Plus members. However, available dates may be severely restricted. Like JetSetter, Tablet’s portfolio skews towards boutique hotels in urban areas and upscale resort destinations, making it a better resource for last-minute leisure-seekers than business travelers.
4. Hotwire Deals
When you create a Hotwire account and sign up for its mailing list, you receive periodic emails for personalized deals on hotel rooms (and rental cars and flights) to destinations that you’ve visited or searched for on the site. These deals are subject to demand pricing, meaning their prices rise when lots of people are booking and fall when interest is lower. (Your deals page is timed out after a few minutes of inactivity. Prices and selection may change when you refresh the page.) Hotels use this service to fill vacant rooms or ensure minimum occupancy rates during the off-season.
You don’t know the names of the hotel offering these deals, just their star ratings (one through five), their general location (e.g. “Downtown Milwaukee”), and key amenities available at the hotel and in the surrounding neighborhood. Hotwire reveals the name after you complete your booking. These aren’t technically private sales – Hotwire connects you with these deals by email, but they’re also temporarily available (probably for a period of minutes, until the next shift in price or availability) to anyone who searches for hotels that meet the same criteria for geography and quality. However, they’re personalized for your travel preferences, and may alert you to last-minute deals that make it financially feasible to spring for an unplanned getaway.
What You Get
Your Hotwire Deals email will show a handful of relevant destinations, along with the original price and Hotwire rate on a sample hotel in each place. When you click on a destination, you are taken to a page that lists multiple deals, along with a map that lets you narrow results by neighborhood. Each hotel listing shows its published room rate and Hotwire rate, as well as its star rating and general amenity information. The discounts can be impressive. For example, a recent search for Minneapolis hotels found downtown-area properties with respective Hotwire prices of $63 and $64 per night against regular rates of $200 and $176 per night. You have to pay when you book – you can’t wait until you get to the hotel. And there’s a big caveat: All sales are final
Who It’s For
Hotwire Deals is great if you want a great deal and don’t care about staying at a specific hotel. With lots of properties in lots of cities, it’s useful for business travelers, people looking to take a spontaneous trip, and folks planning longer vacations on a budget.
5. Groupon Getaways
When you sign up for its mailing list, Groupon periodically sends you special deals on “getaways,” which range from single hotel rooms to multi-day package trips that include flights and ground transportation. As a mailing list member, you can also access these deals at any time at its website. You can search for getaways by region.
What You Get
Groupon Getaways offers limited-time, steeply discounted deals on specific hotel properties or package trips. Recent discounts ranged from 27% at the Best Western Plus Fiesta Inn in San Antonio, to 63% at the Hope Lake Lodge and Conference Center in Cortland, New York. Deals are generally limited to a few weeks or months – look for the “travel by” date – and may be subject to blackout dates. You must pay for your reservation when you book. If you don’t cancel within 72 hours of your scheduled arrival, you’ll forfeit one night’s cost. Each hotel listing contains user reviews, detailed information about the hotel and its surroundings, and a list of amenities.
Who It’s For
Many of Groupon Getaway’s properties are resorts in popular leisure destinations. Others are chain hotels in tourist-friendly urban areas. As such, the service is better suited to leisure travelers. And with Groupon Getaway’s blackout dates and limited-time offers, it’s best to have flexible travel plans too. Business travelers may want to look elsewhere. However, a wide range of quality – from Best Westerns to upscale resorts – broadens the appeal.
6. Accor Hotels Private Sales
Accor Hotels, a French hotel group with several upscale brands (such as Sofitel, Novotel, Adagio, and Ibis), operates its own private sales. To access its deals, you need to sign up for the free Le Club Accorhotels loyalty program. Le Club members receive an email at the outset of a sale, which can include dozens of properties across multiple brands. In addition to these periodic sales, Le Club also includes other perks – such as food and beverage credits and flexible check-in times – at participating Accor hotels.
What You Get
Accor private sales offer discounts of between 30% and 50% on specified room types (such as junior suite or king suite) at all participating properties. Each sale lasts for eight days and covers a variable range of dates – typically one to three months, though the exact range depends on the individual hotel. When you book, your room is made available at least two days before your arrival, in case you decide to come early. However, Accor sales have the same catch as Hotwire’s and Groupon’s: You must pay when you book, and all sales are final. Blackout dates, such as high-season weekends at resort properties, may apply too. Le Club members get other perks, including complimentary drinks upon arrival and free room upgrades, subject to availability. Also, every booking earns you points toward future stays at Accor properties.
Who It’s For
Since Le Club is free to join and offers deep discounts on upscale hotel rooms, it may help you afford accommodations that would otherwise be out of your price range – even if you take just a single vacation or business trip per year. However, the nonrefundable upfront payments are a major obstacle, as with Hotwire and Groupon. The blackout dates don’t help either. Other upscale private sale options may be more flexible, so avoid this one if you crave luxury but don’t have firm travel plans.
7. Hotels.com Private Sales
When you like Hotels.com on Facebook or sign up for its mailing list, you’ll get access to two or three private sales per month. They’re often tied to major holidays, with bookings made during the 48-hour period before the holiday earning 30% to 50% off. Even sales that aren’t tied to holidays are good for similarly sized discounts, with special promotions offering the potential for additional savings. (For instance, during the annual Fourth of July sale, entering the promo code ‘Fireworks’ earns you an extra $50 off certain hotels.)
What You Get
You can only access these sales by email. Non-holiday private sales tend to be more restricted, with only a few dozen properties included in a recent special. But unlike Hotwire, Hotels.com reveals the identity of the participating hotels before you book. These sales also don’t have set expiration dates, and prices tend to fall as your stay date approaches, so it may be in your best interest to wait till the last minute to take advantage. However, purchases are nonrefundable. Blackout dates may apply.
Who It’s For
Hotels.com’s private sales include relatively few properties, so they’re not ideal for travelers looking for a wide selection. But they’re available in major business and leisure destinations. And prices that drop over time mean that if your schedule is flexible, you may be able to snag deep discounts at the last minute.
In the late 2000s, private sales and flash sale sites – such as Rue La La, Gilt Groupe, and the original version of Groupon – were heralded as the next big thing. Many sites that arose during the boom have been forced to change their business models, consolidate with competitors, or close altogether. Even the travel business has seen setbacks, with Priceline and Kayak abandoning their private sale platforms during the early 2010s. But these resources remain, offering different takes on the same basic premise: that you deserve cheap but comfortable – and, in some cases, luxurious – hotel accommodations.
Have you found good deals with private hotel sales?