If your inbox looks anything like mine, chances are you're flooded with daily deal or flash sale site offers. An avid subscriber to services such as Groupon, Living Social and KGB Deals, I receive more offers for discounted dinners and buy-one-get-one facials than I know what to do with. A few months ago I was intrigued with the expanding travel sector of these sites. My curiosity (plus a little spontaneity and a dire need to elude winter), lead me to book an "escape" with Living Social. With a savings of an advertised 50 percent off the average room rate, I purchased a voucher for travel to the Park Royal in Cozumel, Mexico. Also included in my one-time fee were a few add-ons: no taxes and fees, a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries upon arrival, and discounted spa treatments.
My experience wasn't perfect, but it was relatively positive. Within a day of purchasing the voucher, I received an email from Living Social informing me it was ready and was instructed to email a booking manager at the hotel to request the dates I wanted. Within a few hours, my reservation was confirmed; with the dates verified, I booked airfare (not included in the package).
Upon arrival, I was satisfied: located on a small but picturesque cove on the Caribbean Sea, the property was quaint, but welcoming with good service and a hospitable staff. The only problem: I reserved a room with a king bed and ocean view, but arrived to a blend of cruise ship/street view with two double beds. Despite my complaining, nothing was done to rectify the situation. We made the best of it -- which wasn't that hard considering we were in Mexico -- but after my trip I had to wonder what everyone else was saying about these flash travel deals.
I was careful when I booked my voucher; I knew I wanted to travel the week before Christmas and was fortunate enough to find a deal that had availability during my dates. My search for a flash deal was a quest for inspiration; I knew I wanted to getaway, I just needed an affordable option for a locale with a beach.
However, most people aren't as prepared: Living Social's senior vice president of new initiatives Doug Miller told CNN, "Seventy percent of the people who buy from us tell us that they had no intention of traveling." This means that most individuals browsing for deals are buying them on a whim. Mary Song of Tnooz.com explains the process: "The traveler who has read and dreamed about booking a 4-star hotel stay in Paris for a long weekend, but never really considered doing it, is now presented with an affordable, accessible and immediately available opportunity to do so."
... but not too spontaneous
Before you jump the gun, follow these tips to make sure you make the most of your flash travel deal:
After this vetting process, you should have a good inclination of what you are getting into. For me, a savings of 50 percent off the real room cost was worth the gamble and I would use the flash travel sale system again in the future, but with caution of course. If you think this sounds like something of interest to you and your traveling companions, check out Fodor's and Business Insider's recommendations for sites that offer these deals. Simply subscribe to their deal notification emails or just peruse their sites when you are in search for adventure; you may find one that inspires you, the way the Cozumel deal inspired me.