Checking Travelzoo's (Nasdaq: TZOO) flight plan, the shares have a good chance of taking off on Thursday.

Don't bother checking for snowed-in airports; the travel deals publisher has been on fire lately with its stock popping nearly fivefold over the past year.

The secret to Travelzoo's success isn't just the growing popularity of its Top 20 email that goes out weekly to its 18.7 million willing recipients (as of the end of September). Travelzoo picked up a good deal of Groupon swagger when it introduced Local Deals this past summer. Investors can't buy into Groupon or LivingSocial, so some have flocked to Travelzoo as one way to play the high-margin niche of entertainment deals.

Travelzoo has also earned its gains the old-fashioned way. The publisher has completely obliterated Wall Street profit expectations over through the first three quarters of 2010.

  EPS Est. Surprise
Q1 2010 $0.15 $0.07 114%
Q2 2010 $0.20 $0.11 82%
Q3 2010 $0.22 $0.11 100%

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

It's hard to get in the way of a company that has beaten analyst profit targets by 82% or better over the past year, as it gears up to report fourth-quarter results on Thursday. Wall Street feels that Travelzoo will earn $0.20 a share during the holiday quarter. Recent history suggests that the guesstimate will be too low.

Travelzoo has always stood out from the better known travel websites. Expedia (Nasdaq: EXPE), Orbitz Worldwide (NYSE: OWW), and priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN) book air, lodging, and car rentals. Travelzoo simply gets paid to deliver leads to sponsored deal providers. In that sense, Travelzoo is more like a search engine than a travel portal. In fact, its Fly.com website is billed as an airfare search engine.

It's true that Travelzoo has an iffy past. As many as 5 million shares were reportedly given away as a promotional tool before it went public during the dot-com bubble. There was an insider trading investigation six years ago after a huge short squeeze in 2004.

Every quarter finds those incidents fading away in the rearview mirror. The social coupon craze has renewed interest in OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN), The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT), and others that have joined Travelzoo in jumping on the Groupon bandwagon, but Travelzoo's financials have taken it from there.

Travelzoo shares may not seem cheap trading at 50 times forward earnings, but we've also learned that this is a moving target with Wall Street's low-balling pros. Whether margins are being juiced up by the scaling of its flagship model, marked improvement overseas, or the initial success of its localized deals, the bottom line is what has been ultimately taking Travelzoo to the top.

The stock's heady run leading up to Thursday's report may be problematic. We've all seen stocks sell off on blowout quarters when they were priced for perfection heading into the report. However, Travelzoo's ability to not simply beat profit targets but crush them over the past year can't be ignored.

Buckle up. It's going to be a bumpy flight.

Is Travelzoo for real or a house of cards waiting to crumble? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

OpenTable is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. priceline.com is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of discount sites, and he's already tracking local deals through Groupon and LivingSocial -- as well as Travelzoo. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.