airlinetravelYou’re a traveling mom on a budget facing a bit of a problem: You have the sophisticated taste of Posh Spice and you want to travel like Richard Branson. Your bank account also faces a bit of a problem: You’re bound and determined to make this Spicy Richard lifestyle happen. So you sign up for every flash-sale site out there hoping to find the magical balance between luxury and affordability. Not a bad solution, especially when you have your heart set on an upscale family vacation this summer.

Lucky for you, the recession has fueled a here-to-stay trend fitting for all the Spicy Richards out there: flash-sale travel. At Spire, we call this kind of vacation a “flashcation” — a trip that’s booked spontaneously when a traveler finds an outrageously good deal. The rise in popularity of flash-sale travel sites (a handful or two and counting) gives way to the flashcation movement.

This new way of making a trip purchase does present a big question for many travelers: Is this really the best booking decision? Here are a few things every traveler needs to do to make an informed flashcation decision, so before you hit that buy button, peruse this traveler’s checklist.

A Traveler’s Checklist for Booking Flashcations

Make flash-sales part of your booking strategy. If finding a deal is key, it’s a good idea for travelers to peruse offerings on limited-time deals sites. Oftentimes, travelers will be able to find a four- or five-star hotel at a heavily discounted rate.

Act quickly when you see a deal. The deals found on private flash-sale sites are so deeply discounted that availability is limited and sales are short. Travelers should do their due-diligence quickly when they find a tempting offer.

Be sure the deal checks out. Travelers often wonder whether the limited-time deal is really, in fact, a deal. Do a quick check on other sites to make sure you’re getting the lowest price, or book with a site that offers a guarantee.

family_beachDouble-check your travel timing. Because hotels often use flash-sale sites to fill rooms during off-peak travel periods, make sure it is a good time to travel to that area of the world. Traveling during offseason comes with benefits such as fewer crowds and cheaper price tags, but travelers should weigh the pros and cons before they book.

Know if you can change your mind. It’s important for travelers to keep in mind that most flash-sale travel sites do not offer refunds or allow cancellations of any kind, but policies do vary. Spire, for instance, allows cancellations within 72-hours of the booking.

Expect something extra to boost the value. When travelers book through a private sale, they can often expect a little something extra to make the deal more alluring. Dig into the fine print to see what the offer includes and look for deals with a perk or two such as room upgrades or spa credits.

Consider the cost of getting there. Travelers shouldn’t let spontaneity get in the way of doing all the research they need to do to make a confident buying decision, so do a quick airfare search and book dates when you can get the cheapest fare.

Set your expectations. For hotels, the upside to offering limited-time deals on private sale sites is that they’re able to fill rooms during slow times, so don’t expect a deal to pop up during a busy holiday such as New Year’s Eve.

Beware of the voucher system. When consumers purchase travel on a flash-sale site, they’ll either get a guaranteed reservation like on Spire or receive a voucher to schedule their travel later. The voucher system requires travelers to make a booking by phone and often involves expirations and blackout dates, which can make it more difficult for consumers to redeem their travel purchase.

jennifergainesJennifer Gaines is a flashcation expert for Spire, a flash-sale travel site that features luxury hotel deals and is the first to offer a Best Deal Guarantee. readers who follow this link get a $20 Spire trip credit when they join.