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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Sarah Marsh

How to book a luxury break for less

Illustration by Jamie Wignall for The Guardian
There are plenty of ways to save money on luxury breaks. Illustration: Jamie Wignall/The Guardian

Be flexible

Being flexible about destinations, and when you go, is a good way to save, says Rory Boland, travel editor at consumer group Which?.

“Our research has pointed to Turkey as a cost-effective option for luxury all-inclusive stays,” he says. “For example, you can get a five-star hotel in Turkey for the cost of a four-star in Mallorca.”

Boland adds that for a long-haul trip, top destinations include Dubai and Thailand. “They are likely to offer good value this year – and while flights can be costly, day-to-day expenses are often more affordable,” he says. Also, booking early can “lock in the best price”.

At the last minute, try websites such as Travelzoo or Secret Escapes. “These will often include luxury breaks, but you’ll need to be flexible on dates to take full advantage,” Boland says.

Consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, who has a blog about budgeting, says some hotels lower prices for unbooked rooms on the day.

She recommends the Hoteltonight app, specialising in same-day deals at boutique hotels.

An aerial view of boats in Karaburun, Izmir, Turkey
Research by Which? suggests Turkey as ‘a cost-effective option for luxury all-inclusive stays’. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

In London, it has discounts on five-star the Royal Garden, with rooms from £191 a night. You can stay in the four-star Mornington Hotel, Hyde Park, for £83 on a Friday in February.

If you go to Paris in late February you can stay at four-star Hidden Hotel by Elegancia on a Saturday for £177.

“Travelling off peak season, or midweek, will also get you less expensive rates,” Woroch says.

And it is always worth calling and asking for a discount.

Look out for daily deals

Woroch advises using websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial. She says they “offer discount certificates of up to 70% off a variety of luxury services from spas to restaurants to resorts.”

You can get a last-minute Turkish Hammam and Moroccan bath experience for one or two at Crystal Palace Spa, London, for £45 (a 63% saving) on Groupon.

On the same site, there’s a city break to Malta for two, three or four nights with return flights, at Pergola Hotel & Spa from £99.

A Groupon logo on a smartphone and a PC screen.
Websites such as Groupon and LivingSocial offer discount certificates for a number of luxury services. Photograph: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/Rex/Shutterstock

Join a travel site

Secret Escapes negotiates rates for luxury hotels and holidays in the UK and abroad. It is also a package holiday provider in its own right, and sells trips with discounted prices through its website and app.

These are often only visible to members who sign up, and, as a result, it says it can offer exclusive bigger discounts than other online travel brands.

It allows its partner hotels and providers a way to drive extra bookings through discounts or additional “extras” as part of a trip (eg, wine, discount spa treatments, a voucher for the restaurants). These deals are only visible to members. Signing up is free.

Current deals include 66% off a five-star Maldives resort with optional pool from February until the end of May and up to 70% off a Maldives island escape with a villa and island tour from April to July.

The Secret Escapes team says it still has January sale deals available, which include an all-inclusive Caribbean cruise with Premium flight option from £2,099 a person until March 2025.

A stay in Melville Castle hotel, just outside Edinburgh, is available at up to 79% off until the end of April 2024

Offer to pay for upgrades

With flights, consumer rights expert Martyn James says that “asking for an upgrade is considered vulgar”.

However, he adds: “All the companies I spoke to say the same thing: if you can wait until the last minute, and say the right thing, that is when you get the deals.”

For example, if you ask for an upgrade when you arrive at the airport, you are unlikely to get one. Instead, ask about the chances of paying for a last-minute upgrade. “The fact you are willing to pay something means you are more likely to get it and, maybe, even for free,” he says.

“It’s the same with hotels. They will have suites they are not selling. Sign up for clubs with reward schemes. Once you are a member, phone to ask about premium suites. Then ask what you can buy them for. You are on the system, so they will know you are not a blagger and also you have offered to pay. Even if they cannot offer you a suite, you might get a cheaper deal on something else.”

James advises doing the same with designer goods. He says: “If you say ‘I love this piece of jewellery, can you let me know when a sale is coming up?’ they get commission, and will tell you.”

Add some extras

To get into some airport lounges, such as British Airways’, you may need a first-class ticket or to be a frequent flyer.

Heathrow airport in London, Terminal 3
Terminal 3 at Heathrow airport. Photograph: Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters

However, there are others, run by companies such as No1 Lounges and Swissport, that are open to everyone.

These usually include free food and drink, TVs, charging areas, and sometimes showers. If you can get a cheap pass, then it can still save you money over buying airport food.

You can buy passes through general holiday sites such as Lounge Pass or Lounge Buddy.

With Lounge Pass, this month you can gain access to the No1 Lounge Heathrow Terminal 3, with a fully tended bar, complimentary food served buffet-style, TV, and workspaces, for £38.

To use Swissport London Gatwick North Terminal lounge in February it will cost £36 for an adult and £20 for a child aged between two and 11 – you need to book direct with Swissport.

• This article was amended on 20 February 2024. An earlier version talked of “A stay in Edinburgh’s only castle hotel”; to clarify, the castle referred to was Melville Castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, near Dalkeith, not Edinburgh Castle. An image of Edinburgh Castle was also removed.

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