Luxe for Less

As one with first-class travel tastes on an economy budget, I’m always on the lookout for the next great deal. But not just any bargain will do: I like to know what I’m getting, so a discounter like Priceline, with its vague promises of a four-star hotel without revealing the property’s name or exact location, has never held much appeal.

Much better to me is a discount site like Quikbook, which specializes in boutique hotels in city locations, identifies the properties by name and allows for cancellations without penalties.

As the economy has taken its toll, such deals have spread to luxury hotels and resorts that in good times never would have dreamed of cutting their rates.

Of course, such price reductions are relative. Half off an $800 a night hotel room, even if it includes use of the chauffeured Town Car, is still a bit dear.

But it doesn’t cost anything to look, and two good spots for high-end perusing are Luxury Link and its newer, invitation-only companion site, Vacationist.

Luxury Link offers daily deals to urban destinations with the option of making a bid or buying instantly.

One recent offer featured a four-night stay for two at the Mondrian in Los Angeles that included a deluxe corner studio; daily Continental breakfast; one spa treatment for each  guest, and one cocktail each at the hotel’s restaurant, Asia de Cuba.

The package is available through Dec. 31, with a starting bid of $985, taxes included, or a “Buy It Now” price of  $1,639, taxes included.

The minimum bid would be a tremendous deal, considering rack rates through the hotel’s site average $425 a night and packages start at $365, before taxes. For those who don’t like to leave these things to chance, the “Buy It Now” price offers a good value, if not a great savings.

Vacationist, a members-only partnership between Luxury Link and Travel & Leisure,  focuses on resorts and exotic safari destinations outside of cities. (Although the site claims to have a waiting list, I managed to secure an invite through my free Luxury Link membership, leading me to believe gaining access is not quite as exclusive as it would seem.)

The sales are posted in a daily email and typically are good for about five days. A recent listing offered chalets and suites at the Mkuze Falls Private Game Reserve in Pongola, South Africa, starting at $599 a night, reportedly a discount of more than 40% off other sites. The lodge’s site lists basic rooms starting at over $800 a night, so the number seems accurate.

Whether you’re planning an actual trip or indulging in some armchair travel, sites like Luxury Link and Vacationist bring the high-end a little closer to being within reach.