Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons drop prices so you can afford luxury

luxury hotelsIt's bad news for hotel industry execs, but good news for thrifty globetrotters: according to USA Today, luxury hotel chains like Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons are dramatically decreasing room prices and offering extras and promotions (restaurant credits, free third nights) in an effort to fill up those pricey suites.

And it's working -- bookings for the upcoming second quarter are up 7.2%.

So how can you cash in on this development? For starters: if you've had your eye on a certain hotel and destination for a while, check their Web site to see if they're following this trend. And if they are, book soon -- if business spikes, hotels can yank back these concessions as quickly as they put them up.

If you've got the itch to get away but don't care where, consider capitalizing on a price-cutting practice the story doesn't mention: flash sales. You may have heard of sites like Gilt Groupe, ideeli and Rue La La, where designer clothing and accessories is sold for limited time periods -- and in limited quantities -- at sample-sale markdowns.

Now, travel is getting in on the game. Rue La La and ideeli are increasingly offering hotel deals alongside sales from Calvin Klein and Kate Spade. Then there's Sky Auction, which lets you bid on travel steals -- my friends recently scored a deal on a trip to the breathtaking Crane resort in Barbados.

Finally, there's Jetsetter -- an arm of Gilt -- that rolls out deals on a daily basis. The offerings can't be beat -- they range from intimate countryside resorts in the U.S. to sprawling villas all over the globe. The top sale right now is hawking rooms at the swank Gansevoort hotel in Turks and Caicos starting at $215 a night -- they usually start at $350.
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