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Big Flash-Sale Discounts, But Beware

Some of the largest flash-sale and coupon sites are currently featuring many packages in the Caribbean, Mexico, and the Orlando area, as well as resort stays in northern areas of the U.S. Here are my picks of the current crop:

  • Groupon: Boca Bridge Waterfront Hotel in Boca Raton, Florida, has a $97 rate (Expedia rate $179). Buy through November 21 for bookings on many dates through April 5, with some blackouts. TripAdvisor score: three circles, with a combination of "excellent" and "very good" ratings plus some lower scores. This is a good budget getaway in a top Florida destination.
  • Hautelook: Through November 21, buy a voucher valid for $450 toward round-trip travel on OpenSkies from New York to Paris for $99 (amounting to a net discount of 18 percent from the airline's regular lowest rate of $1,905). The voucher is valid for travel November 23 through March 31. OpenSkies, the all-business-class airline, has been discounting a lot lately; industry insiders believe the line is struggling. But because it's a subsidiary of British Airways, any advance payments are almost surely safe.
  • Several sites are featuring the Sheraton at Niagara Falls, Ontario—a nice hotel with a great view of the falls— but they're good deals only if you use all the extra admissions and such.

Check out other options at Eversave, LivingSocial, Rue La La, TripAlertz, and Yuupon.

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Now for the buyer bewares: Most voucher deals do not include taxes, and many hotels add the "resort fee" scam. Voucher and coupon deals are typically subject to availability and carry other restrictions and blackouts as well. Many resort deals are limited to weekdays and city-center deals to weekends; some voucher packages include extras such as meal credits and spa treatments and may not be good deals if you don't use them.

It's also worth noting that some initially good-appearing resort deals include required attendance at a "club presentation," which is shorthand for a high-pressure travel club pitch— a deal-breaker for most of us. And, as is the case with many "discount" outlets, the "regular" prices cited in the promotions are often highly inflated over the going rates available to anyone.

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