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Invite-Only Private Sales Sites Become Vacation Must

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Already planning your family break for this February, but know it's one of the most expensive times to travel?

There's a secret way you can save hundreds -- even thousands of dollars -- on a four-star vacation.

All you need is an invitation to the travel deals.

Erin Pajak really needed a vacation.

"Having kids, it's a lot harder. We do try to create family vacations, but it's definitely slowed down," Pajak told CBS 2's Don Dahler.

And the cost of travel these days didn't help matters. But Pajak was able to save a bundle on her trip. All she had to do was  accept an invitation to join a new "members only" travel website.

"We saved probably about $400 on the two-night stay, and it also included the valet parking and they discounted the resort fee," Pajak said.

Travel experts say these new invitation-only private sale sites have grown as vacation budgets have shrunk.

"The economy tanks a couple of years ago and everyone's looking for ways how to save money -- and unique ways," travel expert Johnny Jet told Dahler.

Here's how the sites work: members get an email announcing a travel sale. Deals are posted for up to a week -- or until they're sold out. You can snag a trip for around 30 percent to 70 percent off.

"Most of these are hotels, or villas, or even luxury yachts. Some are cruises, and it's all four or five stars," Jet said.

The travel sites are similar to a number of popular, invitation-only apparel sites that unlock huge deals for their members on designer duds.

"It's a very discreet way for them to sell goods online without it appearing on Google searches," said Rachel Shechtman of the Council for Fashion Designers of America.

The travel sites work the same way, offering exclusive savings on domestic, international and  even island getaways. You can even pick the type of room you want on some sites.

"From a garden view, to a double, to a king, suites … each hotel has a great variety that they provide to our members," said David Krauter of

But experts say act fast because the travel windows available are limited and there may be blackout dates.

"Paying attention to the date is everything for these sites because there's no cancellations, no refunds, you can rarely change the date," Jet said.

There is no fee to join these sites, but you must be invited or sponsored by another member. You can also log on and place your name on a waiting list.

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