About Secret Escapes
As a service designed to tempt you away from your hectic life for some spontaneous travel, Secret Escapes claims to offer exclusive flash deals for last-minute reservations, including highly desirable lodgings and locations, delivered directly to your inbox.
Secret Escapes’s hand-picked selection of four and five-star luxury accommodations gives you the chance to enjoy high-end hotels, resorts, destination spas, and even complete boutique holiday packages at prices that are promised to be the lowest anywhere on the web.
The process is fairly straightforward: Secret Escapes advertises deals to members via a weekly newsletter released every Monday.
Signing up is free, but the lowest rates are limited in number and are only available for certain dates, which means you’ll need to act fast and be flexible if you’re hunting for the best deals.
How To Book A Secret Escape
When you receive an email notification that piques your interest, there are three ways to lock down your booking dates and the advertised discount rate:
Pay it all upfront! There may be a small broker’s fee for reservations over £99 (pounds sterling), but never above a fee of £25.
Put it on hold. For a fee of £25 you can “reserve” your opportunity to book an accommodation at the advertised rate for the 10-day listing period, and ensure another Secret Escapes member doesn’t snatch up the vacancy you have your eye on.
This feature is supposed to be helpful if you need a little time to plan, confirm with your travel partner, or arrange days off. However, the website does caution that a “hold” is not a booking confirmation, and explains:
“Unfortunately, because the hotels and holidays that we feature are available to buy elsewhere (albeit not at the exclusive rates our members enjoy), the supplier may occasionally sell out while you're deciding. If that does happen, the date will be closed to sale and all holds will automatically be cancelled and the money refunded as credit on your Secret Escapes account. We will, of course, notify you if this should happen.”
Pay a deposit. Some holidays, particularly all-inclusive packages that involve airfare, allow you to put a down payment with Secret Escapes to reserve your spot. Unlike putting a deal “on hold,” paying a deposit locks you into a rate and travel dates.
When to pay the remainder? Their website states the company you’re lodging with will contact you “at some point” before your holiday to collect the rest. Be warned however that if you decide to back out, your money is lost.
How Do They Do It?
Essentially a travel flash-sale site, Secret Escapes allows members to capitalize on unreserved rooms in luxury vacation spots. Because no hotel or resort wants to eat the cost of an empty bed, they’ll lower a last minute rate to try and recoup at least some of their costs.
Secret Escapes members are promised discounted prices of up to 70% off the average rate for “boutique hotels and luxury holidays.” The prices advertised are per person, not per room, so remember to factor in the cost for each if you and a partner are tempted to sneak out for an impromptu weekend away.
Anyone can join Secret Escapes, and even more reassuring is the fact that you can opt out of the Monday emails at any time. With nothing upfront for membership costs, Secret Escapes works hard to make deal hunters feel like there’s nothing to lose.
What Secret Escapes Promises
Secret Escapes’s advertisements promote their service as “The worst kept secret in luxury travel.” Each Monday, members will receive an email promoting prices for a hodgepodge of hand-picked destinations at prices they swear “can’t be beat.”
Secret Escapes “guarantees the best prices online,” and if you find otherwise, you’re encouraged to message their support team.
Secret Escapes Reviews
Forum chatter is supportive of the great deals offered by Secret Escapes, but cautions would-be savers to do some comparison shopping before booking.
Multiple users stated that they’ve found better prices offered on other sites, or by contacting the accommodation directly. Others suggest confirming the rating of a hotel or resort beforehand, and some feel their Secret Escape booking was disappointing and sub-par to what was initially promised.
Accountability is also a concern, as Secret Escapes is simply a third party broker who may not take responsibility for any problems once your booking is paid for.
Additional complaints mention that the service is less convenient for anyone who isn’t based in the UK, since the majority of Secret Escapes holidays packages depart from London’s Gatwick airport.
Final Thoughts on Secret Escapes
For last-minute travelers looking for a great deal, signing up for Secret Escapes provides a handy service, and prospective members have nothing to lose by signing up.
But it pays to be an informed consumer, so before you get swept up in photographs of luxurious destinations and slashed prices, be sure to compare prices, check ratings and reviews, and ensure that there are no extra fees after booking.
Secret Escapes may not be the Holy Grail of travel resources, but for those looking for a good deal, you can never have one resource too many.
Shh! It's a scam!
I've booked with Secret Escapes twice.
First occasion: I received a phone call directly from the hotel a few days later to cancel my booking and advise Secret Escapes were aware they had no rooms and they did not understand why they were still advertising availability.
Apparently, I was not the first customer to be affected. I heard nothing directly from Secret Escapes and had to call them myself to arrange a refund and suggest they update their website. Not a straight forward process and I had to wait for several call backs and many days before actually getting my money back.
Second occasion: I booked a deal which included flights and a hotel stay. Concerned not to have received any further info about flight times, etc.occurence, I called to chase a couple of days later and was told my booking was part of a backlog waiting to be processed. They had taken my money fine, just not got around to booking any of the services I had paid for.
Later I received an email which looked suspiciously like a template (indicating this was a far occurrence) which advised me “due to an error with availability” they could not provide my holiday. I emailed back to assure them the hotel could accommodate the booking and that there were plenty of flights (I checked). They then admitted that yes there was availability but not for the price they had advertised and charged me.
They arranged to refund me which would take up to 5 working days. The credit of £50.00 they gave me was an interesting choice of compensation as I made it clear I would not be using them again.
The most infuriating part of my poor customer experience with Secret Escapes is the overall lack of care or concern they demonstrated. When things go wrong, they are less luxury and dodgier second-hand car dealership! No responsibility, no effort to put things right.
As I pointed out to them, they could have easily fulfilled my booking. Doing so would not have left them out of pocket, they just would have had to wait to see some profit from the repeat business they would have secured from me.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
13 out 13 people found this review helpful
Nov 2015 - Booked a Haimark cruise for April 2016 via Secret Escapes.
Feb 2016 - Cruise company (Haimark Ltd) writes to say they are overbooked and is cancelling the cruise. So far we're out USD 4000 and Secret Escapes claims to be helping to get the money back, but they have no status updates to provide.
We're out hundreds of dollars in expenses getting to the cruise port and back. That aside, all we want is our cruise ticket refunds.
It also doesn't seem like Secret Escapes has any real leverage with the advertisers using their platform. In the end, it could be a platform for desperate businesses and wouldn't be surprised to see this happen again and again. Secret Escapes could end up being a dumping site for deals that the provider has no intention of honoring.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend