Annoyed tourist on Wowcher Mystery Holiday left hotel after an hour

An annoyed tourist who went on a Wowcher Mystery Holiday says she and her boyfriend left their hotel after just one hour as it was so far from the advertised destination.

The Wowcher Mystery Holiday deal offers travellers return flights and a two-night hotel stay for just £99 each, but the catch is that they don’t know where they’re off to until after they book.

Holidays to more than 60 destinations including European hotspots like Paris, Lisbon and Copenhagen or “once-in-a-lifetime” trips to Dubai, Barbados and even New York, are included in the deal.

Wales Online reviewer Harriet Morphy-Morris said she and her partner were delighted when they discovered that their mystery destination would be beautiful Lake Garda in Italy.

But her experience was tainted when they found their hotel was a significant distance away from the lake itself.

In the end, they checked out and secured a different room in the heart of Peschiera, on Lake Garda, for what they said was half of the cost they would have incurred had they taken taxis to and from the lake during their two-night break.

The couple say there were a number of hidden costs during their trip to Italy, including transfers.

Writing for her publication, Harriet said: “Once we had checked in we sat in the room adding up the cost and figured out we would spend at least €160 over the two days in taxi fares (on top of the €80 price it cost us to realise our mistake and go back and forth the first night).

“To us, it was a ridiculous amount to spend just on travel to and from and I was annoyed the location was so far from our ‘surprise destination’. So, we checked out after an hour and booked a city centre hotel in Pescheira for €85 for the two nights (just over half of the taxi cost).”

“To put it simply our hotel was so far from Lake Garda that it would have cost us £160 (minimum) in travel costs to get to and from during our trip. On the call to the advisor I had seen on Google maps, it was around a 14-18 minute drive away which assuming there would be reliable public transport I thought was more than okay.

“It wasn’t, as we were visiting Lake Garda during the ‘off-season’ there were no bus routes to Affi or train routes on the line we had travelled down from Milan from.”

Wowcher holidays can be bought on the comapny’s website where each traveller can enter their desired holiday dates, number of travellers and UK departure airport.

Harrie said she put in three different weekend date options, in order of preference, before being emailed a voucher code from Wowcher, along with the details of where to claim it. 

Ten days later, she and her partner were informed Lake Garda was their destination. They flew with Ryanair from London Stansted Airport to Milan Bergamo.

But Harriet paid extra for different flight times to those allocated, the first of many extra costs she said were tagged onto the £99 price per person.

“I tried my best to resist but I did fall for an extra £30 per person for different flight times,” the journalist wrote.

“The original flights we were given from London Stansted (with Ryanair) landed late into Milan Bergamo (around 8pm) and returned super early two nights later (around 7am) so it would have only given us one full day to explore.

“The upgraded flights left on a Thursday at 8am and landed back in Stansted at 5pm on Saturday giving us much more time and taking our spending so far to £129 each, but it didn’t stop there.

“During our call, the adviser repeatedly said ‘are you sure you don’t want to upgrade the hotel package as it’s a little far out’ and as I wanted to stick as close to the £99 price as possible I declined (and wish I hadn’t).

“A tip for anyone looking to book is to bear in mind the transport upgrades they offer won’t be the only options available. We declined Wowcher’s airport transfer from Milan Bergamo down to Lake Garda (starting at €80) and booked a 1hr 45 minute train (at €15 each).”

While the couple “could not fault” Lake Garda as a location, they found the hidden costs hit them hard, especially transfers.

Harriet added: “After landing in Bergamo we took a €20 taxi to Bergamo’s centre or ‘centro’ and spent most of the morning/afternoon exploring, climbing to the top of the city’s ‘Citta Alta’ and having lunch (with a boyfriend determined to try as much local focaccia as possible).

“After this, we got the train from Bergamo’s central station down to Peschiera (one of the biggest Lake Garda towns) which took an hour and 45 minutes. It’s a harbour town with small intertwining streets, local gelaterias and a ferry hub to get to all the towns dotted around Lake Garda.

“On day two (after the hotel debacle) we made the most of seeing what the other towns had to offer and visited nearby Sirmione. Apart from the natural beauty of the lake, the main attraction here is Scaliger Castle, and all visitors enter the town through its old moat gates.

“The town sits on a peninsula out of Lake Garda so it’s a popular place to take smaller boat tours. If you’re in this area for a while then Garda, the capital of the region is an hour’s ferry ride away.”

Harriet added: “Of course, the Wowcher trip can be as budget-friendly or ‘high-end’ as you want it to be. We were on a mission to stick to its £99 motto as much as possible and tallying up everything, but the money we spent on sightseeing and food, we spent around £230 each.

“A breakdown: £99 Wowcher, £30 flight upgrade, £30 petrol to Stansted Airport, £15 train ticket, £20 taxi to Bergamo station, £40 taxi to the first hotel.”

Harriet’s key tips

  • Pay extra if you fly outside of London airports
  • Can pay more to be given “better” flight times (to extend the amount of time you have at the destination)
  • Included hotels are not central – have to upgrade
  • Price does not include any extra luggage on flights – have to book an additional cabin or hold bag
  • Price does not include transport to and from airports

A spokesman for Wowcher said: “As a company we strive to make travel and new experiences as affordable as possible to as many people as possible, and receive positive feedback from lots of customers who have enjoyed the £99 Mystery Holiday. These breaks at these prices come with limitations and sometimes the hotels are further out. We are clear which hotel they’ll be staying in when the holiday is booked. There are always options to upgrade to be closer to everything, but we want to provide a basic option that’s at an accessible price.  

“To be able to provide such cheap deals we work with a travel partner who has access to discounted rooms and flights. It is this partner which contacts our customers directly, however we take all customer complaints about their experience with our partners very seriously and will be speaking with the travel merchant involved here.

“We were sorry to hear that Ms Morphy-Morris had a negative experience with the Mystery Holiday and we would be happy to talk to her further about this.” 

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