Some links to products and partners on this website will earn an affiliate commission.
Secret Escapes advertises heavily in the UK these days, but for anyone not yet familiar with “the worst-kept secret in luxury travel”, it’s basically a travel agent that negotiates discounted rates with a range of specially selected hotels throughout the world for a temporary sale period.
New hotels are added each week, and then become part of a ‘flash sale’ for about ten days. You need to sign up to see the deals, and they guarantee that the rates featured during their flash sales are the best available anywhere online. Their rates often include bonuses like a welcome drink, free breakfast or late check-out too.
I’ve used Secret Escapes a few times now and regularly check the new properties on offer each week, so I can say with some confidence that the rates are usually good, and the hotels they work with tend to be rather nice.
So far, so good – but there are lots of ways to book hotels, why is this particularly interesting?
Two key reasons:
Reason one: Some of the deals aren’t just good, they are spectacular
Returning to the title of this article, Secret Escapes are currently offering rooms at the stunning Chesterfield Hotel in Mayfair – the third best hotel in England according to last year’s Condé Nast Gold List), with breakfast and a £100 dining credit for as little as £135.00 (+ £5.00 booking fee).
Admittedly, it’s only this cheap on Sundays in January, but the value here is incredible and other nights are also reasonable. The ‘flash sale’ lasts until 3rd January so you’ve only got a few days to book, but you can make reservations for dates up to the first week of April 2016.
To put the value of this into context, for the same room on the same night (e.g. one night for two people in a Classic Double room, non-refundable, on Sunday 31 January), the cheapest rate I can find elsewhere is £171.50 – without breakfast or the £100 dining credit. Simply by booking through Secret Escapes you save £31.50, and get free breakfast and a £100 dining credit.
Normally I’m quite sceptical about the supposed value of dining credits (or even worse, spa credits!), because hotel food is so often underwhelming and overpriced. In this instance though, I think it is genuinely worthwhile because the restaurant at the Chesterfield – Butler’s – is excellent: 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor (and reputed to serve the best Dover Sole in London!). It is also surprisingly good value if you stick to the pre-theatre or lunch menus (£20 for one course, £24 for two courses, £26 for three courses).
Taking the breakfast into account too, I think it is fair to think of the dining credit as being worth more or less face value at about £100. This brings the cost for the room itself down to £40.00, for a top-rated hotel in the heart of London – and I’ll show you how to bring the price down even further in a moment!
First though, in case London isn’t your thing, here’s a couple of the other Secret Escapes deals that caught my eye this week (there are about 170 hotels on offer at the moment, so the range is decent, with a particular focus on the UK/Europe):
Prague: Pentahotel – 4*, stylish in a fun/modern/arty/cool way, 4.5 on TripAdvisor. Penta Plus Room with Breakfast – 43% discount (£51 every night until the last week of April). Sale ends 10 January 2016.
Cannes: Cezanne Hotel – solid 4*, simple, stylish and comfortable, though not ultra luxury, 4 on TripAdvisor. Superior Room with Breakfast – save up to 40% (eg. 26th-27th March – £65, rather than £93.97 on other sites). Sale ends 3 January 2016.
Reason Two: Secret Escapes has a generous ‘refer a friend’ scheme
By signing up to Secret Escapes using our referral link, you will get £15.00 off your first booking of £100.00 or more, which in the example of the Chesterfield Hotel mentioned above, would bring the effective price down to £25.00 (if you value the £100 dining credit and breakfast together as being worth about £100 in ‘real money’).
Even more interestingly (particularly if you are a couple or usually travel with a friend), is that as well as you receiving £15 for being referred, the person who refers you also gets a £25.00 credit after your first booking (so a big festive thank you for using our link – please feel free to add your own links in the comments though if you like). All referral credits expire after 12 months.
So, an example of the extra savings as a result…
Crunch the numbers on this and the additional discount that new users travelling as a pair can receive is fantastic. Remember that you can only use credits on reservations that total £100+. I’ll use the Prague deal at the Pentahotel from earlier to illustrate how much you can save:
If a couple fancies a long weekend there for 4 nights in April 2016 (Thursday 7 – Monday 11 for instance), staying in a “Penta Plus Room” with breakfast, and booked through Secret Escapes, they would be charged £51.00 per night plus a £5.00 booking fee – so £209.00 in total. This is already an excellent deal (the cheapest equivalent I can find on other sites is £450+ – although that does allow free cancellation), but by using the ‘refer a friend’ programme we can do better:
First, sign up through a referral link (but don’t book anything yet!), and then refer your partner/friend from your account, so each account has £15.00 credit.
Next, book the first two nights using the second person’s Secret Escapes account, and they will be charged £92.00 (£51 x 2= £102 + £5 booking fee =£107 – £15 credit = £92). At this point, an additional £25 credit will be automatically added to the first person’s account, for referring their friend/partner who has now made a booking
Finally, book the second two nights using your original account, which should now have £40 credit in it (£15 + £25, do check it has been credited properly first), and you will be charged £67 (£102 + £5 booking fee – £40 credit).
The total for four nights would therefore be £159 (£92 + £67), rather than £209 – an additional saving of £50 (or slightly under 25%), off an already excellent rate – for just a few moments extra effort.
To sum up, considering the amount it seems to spend on marketing, you could be forgiven for assuming that Secret Escapes is all style over substance – but the truth is that it actually offers some excellent deals and is well worth keeping an eye on.
When you factor in the generous ‘refer a friend’ programme, assuming they have a hotel on sale in a place you want to visit, they can be extremely hard to beat.
The worst kept secret in luxury travel? – I don’t know about that, but definitely worth signing up for and having a quick look!