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New Hotel Flash-Sale Site Debuts

Add Takatrip to the list of outfits that sell discounted coupons for hotel stays. As with several others, you first enroll at no charge in a "club" (gimme a break). Then you get access to a handful of coupon-based hotel deals. Typically, the deals cover anywhere from a single day to as much as a week; you have a limited time to buy and a longer, specified window to travel. First, you buy a coupon, then you reserve in advance, and your room availability is subject to blackout dates and a limited supply inventory.

The site is new, and as of early October, lists only seven active deals. Each listing shows the deal price, a claimed "value," and a claimed discount percentage and "savings." The initial display lists a curious combination of offers: three in the Detroit area, two in Jamaica, and one each in Santa Fe and Charleston, S.C. When I checked, my results were about par for the course: The listing for the Holiday Inn Express in Southfield, Michigan, showed a price of $69, a "value" of $104, for a "savings" of $35. I found a rate on Expedia for that hotel at $91 a night—less than the claimed value, but the coupon price is still a good value. This deal is valid for up to seven nights for travel through April 22, 2013. 

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The "how it works" page of the site's FAQs asks, "Is Takatrip like buying a 'Groupon'?," and answers coyly, "If you say so." That's an understatement: Takatrip appears to work exactly as Groupon does, right down to the design and format of the display of price, value, discount, "you save," days remaining to buy, and number bought.

The coupon approach is one of two business models in the "flash-sale" or "private-sale" market niche. Eversave works in about the same way, so does Florida Vacation Auction, with the added gimmick, like eBay, of an "auction" starting at below a discounted "buy it now" price. You supposedly enjoy a lot of flexibility, but you also run the risk of never finding an available room when you want to visit.

Businesses using the other approach show prices and availability for specific dates during a date range, for which you can book a confirmed reservation. Among those that operate this way are Jetsetter, our sister site SniqueAway, TripAlertz, Vacationist, Voyage Prive, and Yuupon.

I've been following these outlets for some time, and have come to several conclusions:

  • Most of the time, they make good on their promise of really good prices.
  • They tend to specialize in Caribbean or Mexican resorts and upscale properties around the world. Quite a few offers, however, are for off-season periods.
  • They're best for spur-of-the-moment trips: If you already know where and when you're going to travel, the chances of finding exactly the right hotel are often not very good.
  • And the list prices and "value" figures they post are often exaggerated and occasionally higher than the claimed "discount" price. You always have to check with a third-party booking agency such as Expedia or Priceline before accepting anybody's "discount" claim.

As long as we're on the subject of new online outlets, the latest innovation comes from CheapAir. It's what it calls a "semantic" search tool. Instead of filling out specific fields or boxes on a form, you click on an "Easy Search" option and enter a description of a trip, such as "Boston-LA, Nov. 12-Nov. 16, two people." It works for air tickets but not for hotels, rental cars, or packages. When I tried, it worked about as advertised. But, at least for me, it didn't seem to be any easier to use than the conventional approach. If the idea appeals to you, however, give it a try.

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Ed Perkins Seniors on the Go is copyright (c) 2012 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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