The idea of a concierge/travel butler in the style of P. G. Wodehouse’s Reginald Jeeves fixing our getaways may sound idyllic. Let someone else — an expert, with the best intentions — handle the faff of organising the nitty-gritty of going overseas.
All well and good — and with this in mind a host of travel clubs, with subscriptions required, has sprung up. What do they offer exactly? Are they about to revolutionise the way we go abroad? Or are you better off organising your own trips?
Here’s our guide.
A host of travel clubs, with subscriptions required, has sprung up. Are they about to revolutionise the way we go abroad?
JOIN LIKE-MINDED TYPES
You have to have certain (unspecified) credentials to be accepted as a member of the Well Traveled Club, set up for a ‘like-minded community of travelers’. You explain what type of travel you enjoy and the people who run the site will accept or reject your application.
Once ‘in’, you pay an annual fee of £113, which gives you access to a one-on-one booking service, recommendations ‘curated to fit your travel style’ and the possibility of room upgrades, free breakfasts and ‘VIP welcome gifts’ at hotels. Special room rates are offered and you might expect to save around £75 when booking a weekend away.
The Well Traveled Club was founded in the U.S. in 2020 by Samantha Patil and Casi Hough. Many early members have been female — although it’s pitched at everyone. Online reviews by fellow members are given. The idea is that you can trust these reviews as ‘online influencers’ are kept out.
FIND OUT MORE: welltraveledclub.com
IS IT WORTH IT? Yes, if you use it enough… and you are accepted to join, of course.
It’s not quite set up yet, but it’s coming soon: a premium, membership-based form of Tripadvisor, which is regarded as the world’s largest travel website (founded in 2000 in Massachusetts).
Details are scant, but the annual fee for Tripadvisor Plus, as it will be known, has been announced as £75 and the service promises to offer deals on hundreds of thousands of hotels, plus 10 per cent off attractions. There is a 90-day free trial.
Tripadvisor’s entry into the subscription travel model would appear to be a clear sign that this growing trend looks set to stay. The website says there will be savings of as much as £670 on four-night hotel stays in Los Cabos in Mexico or £306 for a three-night stay in Palm Beach, Florida.
FIND OUT MORE: tripadvisor.com/plus
IS IT WORTH IT? No-one can say for certain without more details, but it is likely to offer good savings if you make repeat bookings.
HEY, BIG SPENDERS
Inspirato sets up holidays to destinations such as Lake Tahoe (pictured), the British Virgin Islands and St Barts
Inspirato is a U.S.-based website, aimed at well-off travellers, which has been operating for 11 years. A monthly contribution of £1,860 is required, plus an enrolment fee of £1,860. So what do you get for this? Inspirato promises a ‘first-class service from a dedicated team of experts’ under the motto of ‘it’s time to vacation better’.
The experts set up your holidays once you choose from a wide array of private homes, ‘luxury hotels and unique travel experiences’. More than a million trips are available, many in the U.S. Choose lodges beside Lake Tahoe, villas in the British Virgin Islands and boutique hotels in St Barts.
FIND OUT MORE: inspirato.com
IS IT WORTH IT? If you have deep pockets and want someone else to arrange your holidays, then maybe it’s for you.
FLY AWAY FOR LESS
Opodo has set up a subscription membership known as Opodo Prime, costing £59.99 a year — although the first 30 days are free. It promises discounts on all flights and, when we checked, was highlighting return flights from London to Palermo, Sicily, from £17 (down from £38) and return flights to New York from £377 (down from £425). Deals of as much as 50 per cent off hotels are also offered and there is a free customer service line that runs 24/7. There are already two million Opodo Prime members.
FIND OUT MORE: opodo.co.uk/prime
IS IT WORTH IT? Could be worth giving a go for the free trial period to see if it suits.
CHEAPER BEDS FOR THE NIGHT
Mr & Mrs Smith offers 20 per cent off a stay at the Leeu Estates in Franschhoek (pictured) in South Africa
Mr & Mrs Smith was founded in 2003 by James and Tamara Lohan. It offers loyalty points for bookings to make future rooms cheaper, as well as a ‘treat’, known as a ‘Smith Extra’, on arrival, which could be a free spa treatment, champagne or museum tickets.
Current offers include a three-night stay for the price of two at L’Andana hotel in Tuscany (now from £209 per night B&B) and 20 per cent off at the Leeu Estates in Franschhoek, South Africa. The best thing? Subscription is free.
FIND OUT MORE: mrandmrssmith.com
IS IT WORTH IT? Definitely worth a look —their choice of hotels is well informed.
DEALS ON FANCY HOTELS
Co-founded by Maya Poulton, formerly head of marketing at Mr & Mrs Smith (see Cheaper Beds For The Night), Safara promises to deliver savings at handpicked boutique hotels across the globe. It is still in development but you can join a waiting list.
The appeal of Safara, which will have a £175 annual fee, lies in the expert selection of super-stylish hotels that attract the ‘in crowd’ as well as special room rates. Members will also receive 10 per cent back on each booking in the form of a credit with Safara to be used for future bookings.
FIND OUT MORE: safara.travel
IS IT WORTH IT? If you’re a ‘hotel junkie’ who loves knowing about the latest places — and want to save cash — this may be for you.
The Ultimate Travel Club, which has an annual fee of £99, is the UK’s leading travel subscription club, it says. After signing up you have access to savings of up to 40 per cent at more than 900,000 hotels. There are also member discounts on cruises, car hire and travel insurance. If you’re a foodie, the 25 per cent off at more than 6,000 restaurants in the UK may appeal, too.
Holidays with full ATOL protection are offered. Examples include a 28 per cent saving at Sicily’s Grand Palladium Hotel (seven nights from £761 B&B with flights) as well as 38 per cent off at London’s New Linden Hotel (from £110 B&B for two nights).
FIND OUT MORE: ultimatetravelclub.com
IS IT WORTH IT? Absolutely, especially if you use it regularly.