Travelzoo is one of the original brands that always brought the best travel deals to consumers. For those that are finding out about them just now or have been skeptical about their offers, I'm hear to bust the myths behind them. I'll be diving into “how does Travelzoo work?”, “is Travelzoo legit?”, and “are their travel vouchers worth it?”.
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Here's what we're covering:
- Who is Travelzoo?
- How does Travelzoo work?
- How does Travelzoo make money?
- Where does Travelzoo operate?
- Is Travelzoo legit?
- Is Travelzoo worth it?
- What are Travelzoo vouchers and are they worth it?
- How to make a purchase on Travelzoo
- The good and the bad
- Best current Travelzoo offers
- Frequently Asked Questions
Who is Travelzoo?
If you can believe it, Travelzoo is over 20 years old. Yes, we're talking about going back to the days of dial up, when ICQ was a thing, and when Netscape was my default browser. They've been around for a long time.
Travelzoo started in 1998 and originally was a subscriber-based platform where they would list but also send out e-mail newsletters of top travel deals. They are best known for sharing their Top 20 travel deals weekly.
Originally spelled “TravelZoo”, they've gone through some rebranding over the years including a website makeover but their core offerings have always stayed the same – Travelzoo is an aggregator of curated travel deals.
How does Travelzoo work?
Behind the scenes, Travelzoo has a team of sales people that go out scouring the internet for offers to place onto their list of deals. These deals can range from travel, entertainment and local businesses (such as restaurants).
If you look at the Travelzoo website, you'll see that they break down deals into:
- Refundable Deals
- Top 20
- Things to Do
- Flexible Airfare
Travelzoo also categorizes deals into useful groupings that allow you to search and filter based on where you want to go or where you're located.
- Vacation rentals
- Shows & events
- Things to do
- Family-friendly activities
- Train & car rentals
- All-inclusive vacations
- Luxury trips
Travelzoo essentially acts as a third-party that refers you to travel discounts and offers. That is why in many cases, deals you find will simply link to another website. In some cases these are large online travel agencies or brands like Exoticca and in other cases, it'll be an obscure website that looks like it was built in the 90's.
Recently, Travelzoo has also started to get into managing its own deals. These are offers where you can book directly on Travelzoo without being taken to another website.
Now I'm sure there could be another player involved but this is actually a good thing because Travelzoo is putting their brand on the line here by being the frontline platform for booking.
The best examples of this are their hotel offers where you can check the available real-time. Once you're ready, you book the offer directly on Travelzoo.
How does Travelzoo make money?
Forbes has a great article on how Travelzoo makes money but lets dive a little deeper.
Private deals with brands
Travelzoo makes money by negotiating deals with travel brands and operators when they refer business to them. This could be on a commission-basis or it could be something else entirely (i.e. pay-per-click, advertisement fee, fixed sponsorship price, combination, or something else creative).
They make a higher-than-normal rate on referrals because of promise of higher volume of conversions since they have 30 million members on their list.
It's actually no secret. If you look at their “advertise with us” page, you'll see the value they bring travel brands looking to promote through Travelzoo.
In this way, there's a pull and push happening. Travelzoo has a team hunting for partnerships and on the other side there are savvy brands willing to
General commission program
In the online world there's something called affiliate marketing and this is when a website refers you to another site. This is tracked through cookies or unique URL parameters. When the customer makes a purchase through this, the referrer (in this case Travelzoo), makes a commission.
This is how online travel agencies (OTA) such as Kayak, Skyscanner, and others make money. This is why there's that intermediate page you always see. They make it look like it's doing something but really it's just a visual cue that they're redirecting you. Behind the scenes, it's sending you to a unique URL address and/or dropping cookies.
In fact, this is how we generate revenue at Going Awesome Places. Any links that you find here pointing to Travelzoo are part of our membership in their affiliate program through AWIN. Yes, it's totally Inception here – we make commission off of Travelzoo's commission and it could be 3 or more levels deep if you keep going down the chain.
No revenue at all
In some cases Travelzoo doesn't have any partnership through the above 2 revenue models and is literally listing them as just good content to have on their website.
This is where it's a content-play and ultimately it's just a good deal. So to be a good citizen, they drop it on Travelzoo to continue to be an authority in travel discounts.
Where does Travelzoo operate?
This is really interesting because if you know Travelzoo from wherever you are in the world, you might've thought that this was a brand from your own native country.
The truth is that they started in Mountain View, California so they're US first but they've expanded to Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. So really, the serve deals all over the world.
If you look at the “Site Editions” drop down, you'll see all the different countries they operate in.
Is Travelzoo legit?
To answer this simply, Travelzoo is a legitimate company.
In one respect, they are as legitimate as they come by being a publicly traded company accountable to its shareholders and board.
From an anecdotal perspective, many people have used Travelzoo throughout its existence including myself and have saved a ton of money as a result.
Are they perfect? No, and we'll get to that in the good and the bad. What it comes down to is that it's impossible for Travelzoo to police the third party vendors they link to. Travelzoo is simply a pass-through of traffic or at best a facilitator of the transaction so always keep that in mind.
Is Travelzoo worth it?
Travelzoo is really good at finding hot deals. With a dedicated team of deal hunters or “Deal Expert”s as they call them.
Are Travelzoo deals worth it?
Absolutely. If you find something good and in line with your travel plans, chances are you'll be able to save a lot of money. They surface deals that you often won't find anywhere else or at the least are really difficult to find.
Think of Travelzoo as a hub of travel deals.
Do your research. As a hub, they're a good starting point. Yes, their deals are only available for a short period of time and they may seem like excellent discount but there might be other deals out there that can beat it and there may be conditions on it that may be restrictive.
Remember, many of Travelzoo's deals are with third-party companies. Just because Travelzoo endorses them, it doesn't mean they are rainbows and unicorns.
If you're unsure, I highly encourage you to join the Travelzoo Facebook group that was newly minted not too long ago. This group is filled with past customers of Travelzoo and general travel enthusiasts. Use this as a resource to ask whether someone else has taken advantage of a particular kind of deal in the past and whether a company is legit or not.
What are Travelzoo vouchers and are they worth it?
If you look closely, many of the offers, deals, and promotions eventually lead to a Travelzoo voucher.
Travelzoo vouchers are what you get when you purchase a deal directly through the Travelzoo platform. You can think of these as Groupon coupon (although I'm sure Travelzoo would hate that comparison).
With a Travelzoo voucher, you're buying a rock-solid guarantee for a travel deal that can be used in the future.
It's a save now, travel later offer.
Because the vouchers are Travelzoo backed, you can book these comfortably because you're dealing with the company itself instead of the hotel, tour operator, restaurant, or what-have-you.
Right now is probably the best time to buy a Travelzoo voucher because most are now fully refundable.
With COVID-19, everyone has had to go to this model because of uncertainty in the industry.
The misfortunes of one means opportunities for others. This is why you can find incredibly deep sales on local and aspirational trips with vouchers that have dates that can extend several years out from the date of purchase.
Until the voucher's expiry date, Travelzoo will give you a full refund of your purchase if you can't find dates that suit you or you can't travel.
If you booked dates with your voucher, you can cancel with the hotel at least 14 days prior to arrival and contact Travelzoo for a refund. After that, you may be subject to change fees.
Vouchers can't be stacked or combined with other offers.
Fully refundable travel vouchers from Travelzoo are amazing. The only downside is that you'll have to pay upfront but if that works, you really have nothing to lose. Just make sure you keep a sharp eye on the voucher expiry.
WARNING: Flexible Deals are not the same as Fully Refundable.
How to make a purchase on Travelzoo
There are really two types of deals that Travelzoo offers. You're either allowed to make a booking on Travelzoo itself or it redirects you to the partner page.
Redirected to Partner Page
In some cases Travelzoo will provide you a code to book with but otherwise, pay attention to the “How to Book” box which will give you instructions on what to do next after you're redirected.
For the above example, clicking on the Continue button in the blue circle will take you to Indus Travels.
Book on Travelzoo
For travel offers that are on the platform, you're essentially purchasing a voucher. Here's how purchases on Travelzoo works.
Step 1: Click on the “Continue” button
In the blue circle is a “Continue” button which will bring out a box that will allow you to select what you'd like to book.
Step 2: Put your payment information and complete transaction
On the transaction page, you'll first be prompted to make sure you're logged in. After that, simply enter in your payment information. You can pay by American Express, Visa, Mastercard, or Paypal.
After that you're all done and you should receive an e-mail confirmation of your purchase. Your account information on Travelzoo will also have this voucher listed in your account under “Purchases”.
The good and the bad
Travelzoo is great in a lot of ways but also comes with many drawbacks because of its own business model. I'm going to shoot it to you straight here and breakdown what you need to know.
- Find deals fast – Whether it's Travelzoo's Top 20 or their database of deals on their website, it's pretty easy to navigate and find what you're looking for.
- Discover deals you didn't know you wanted – For your wallet's sake I guess this could be construed as a con but for lovers of travel, this is also awesome because it opens up the doors to places that you might not've thought about.
- Deep savings – This isn't the case for all but you can find some pretty killer deals on Travelzoo.
- Fully refundable vouchers – I know I made the comparison to Groupon earlier but these are much better. Vouchers are Travelzoo backed and as long as you keep on top of the expiry, you can get a 100% refund.
- Self-service refunds – Relating to the above, they've made it super easy to get your money back by going into My Account and get a refund with a simple click of a button. No need to make up a lame and awkward excuse for cancelling.
- Peace of mind – Again, focusing on Travelzoo vouchers, the cancellation policy really makes it easy to be at ease because should the venue temporarily close, they'll contact the business ourselves to negotiate an extension of the dates that you can use your voucher. In other words, if anything goes wrong that's out of your control, they'll have you covered.
- Ultimately in the hands of another provider – Whatever you want to call them – partner, provider, operator etc., Travelzoo is just a broker of the deals or at the most just a platform that's passing along the information. So the experience you have on the ground while you're travelling is at the hands of that company and not Travelzoo. As much as Travelzoo will try to facilitate communication if something goes wrong, any problems you have, you'll have to directly deal with the other company.
- Expiry can pass you by – Anything voucher based will have an expiry and this is no different. If you make a purchase and forget about using it, it's your fault and you'll forfeit its full value.
- If you make a mistake, it's your fault – This applies for the non-refundable deals but be careful you have all the details in right before purchasing because if you accidentally purchase 4 tickets when you meant to buy 2, they might tell you “too bad”.
- Not everything is fully refundable – If you look closely, not everything posted on Travelzoo is fully refundable. Some are only Flexible with no change fee and others have no guarantee at all. Be careful!
- Read all the conditions and restrictions – The obvious ones are the blackout dates but make sure there aren't any other surprises like additional taxes/fees, seaplanes that aren't covered, and extras for other requests.
Best current Travelzoo offers
For the top deals on right now with Travelzoo, take a look at the table below. Click on “Check deal” to be taken to the offer page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, they've been public since 2003 under the ticker symbol “TZOO”.
Yes, so for instance if you're from Canada but would like to buy a travel offer on the United States edition of Travelzoo, you can. The platform allows you to put a billing address from any country. The only thing you need to be aware of is that they will bill you in the currency of the country's offer so keep that in mind.
No, it is free to be subscribed to their newsletters and it is also free to be a member on the Travelzoo platform.
This is answered in the article but yes, they are a legitimate publicly traded company and from personal experience, I have used them and have had success with their travel deals.
Most of the complaints come from the assumption that Travelzoo is responsible for all the travel bookings made by third-party sellers. Most, if not all complaints are from failures in their partners such as Jetline Holidays and Fleetway. Other common complaints are that they do not have price-drop protection.
In short, yes. Travelzoo vouchers are backed by the company itself and so any issues you have can
Yes, all vouchers have expiry dates so I recommend you keep track of them and add events in your calendar to remind you ahead of time.
Some but not all Travelzoo deals are fully refundable. Pay attention to the blue box that is displayed on all deal cover images or read the deal details below. All refundable offers will explicitly say “Save Now Travel Later, Fully Refundable”.
Currently, they do not have any active promo codes.
Travelzoo itself is not TICO certified but agencies they recommend can be if they operate physically in Ontario.
Yes, you can. When you're completing your transation on Travelzoo, there's a checkbox that asks “Is this a gift”? Make sure to check this off.
I'd love to hear from you! Have you used Travelzoo before? What kind of experience did you have and would you book with them again? Are there any questions that you have about Travelzoo that I didn't cover? Drop a comment below!