When it comes to getting great deals on vacations, a lot of people head to Groupon first. And why not? Everything there is highly discounted . . . right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. You can find great deals, but you need to make sure you’re not getting fooled into spending more money than you need to.
Groupon makes money by using a few marketing tricks to make you think you need to grab their deals immediately. Don’t fall for those tricks and get into “oh-no-I-need-to-buy-this-right-now!” mindset that Groupon is trying to create. Instead, use these 7 tips to get the best possible deals on Groupon Getaways.
1. Consider the details.
Instead of being rushed and feeling like you need to click “Buy” to get the best deal possible, take a moment and consider the exact details of the trip that you’re looking at. For example, if the trip is a little shorter or a little longer than you planned, you may have to make adjustments to your schedule. Or it may not quite be the destination you had in mind, which could reduce your estimation of the value of the trip.
And, of course, consider whether you’ll actually use the Groupon. With unpredictable cancellation policies, it can be a bad idea to buy a Groupon for a hotel stay without a specific date in mind. If you don’t use it, you could be out some money; although the purchase value of the Groupon will always remain valid, you might end up spending more money when you go. Make sure you know what you’re getting and that you want it!
2. Read the fine print.
Most people don’t read the fine print of anything, including Groupons. While you should always read fine print, you don’t usually suffer too much by skipping it. However, t’s really important to read the fine print when purchasing a Groupon. There are often fees that you weren’t counting on, like cleaning fees, taxes, or cancellation charges.
Groupon may be advertising a 50% savings on a particular getaway, but if you’re going to pay an extra $100 in fees, that significantly affects how much you’ll actually be saving over the cost of booking directly through a hotel or another site.
3. Check cancellation policies.
Over the past couple years, I’ve come to realize that a company’s cancellation policy can actually be one of the most important things to take into consideration when comparing vacation deals. Things come up—someone can get sick, work can call you in for an emergency, and with the volatile global political climate, you never know what the situation in large parts of the world will be over the next couple months.
As you can see from the image above, there can be some strange cancellation requirements; who would have guessed that you needed 46 days’ notice for this deal? Most of the vacation deals that I’ve seen on Groupon have a 48-hour cancellation policy, which is pretty standard, but it’s definitely worth checking.
4. Read reviews.
There are few things that are more gratifying than sitting on a tropical beach knowing that you got a killer deal on flights and hotel to get there. What’s less great is when you got a great deal, but the beach is full of drug dealers and prostitutes (some of whom worked for the hotel you stayed at), as happened to Linsey Davis.
In Groupon’s response, they stated that they removed the deal as soon as they started getting complaints, but do you want to be one of the people who has to complain? Checking reviews of the resort, hotel, or getaway that you’re about to embarked on through reputable review sites is important. Make sure that you’re going to get what you paid for. Everyone presents their hotel as the nicest one around, but that doesn’t mean they’re right.
5. Check the hotel or airline website.
Groupon always lists the standard price next to their own price, and tells you how much you’re saving—but unless you check, you’ll have no idea if they’re telling the truth. While they do their best to properly estimate the prices that you would pay if booking through another service, prices change all the time, and the deal you’re getting may not be as good as it seems.
Make sure that you enter your travel dates into Groupon before checking the hotel or airline website, as that can affect the price as well. On this Groupon for a hotel in Winter Park, it says that rooms are $69+ per night. But when I changed the date to one in December, the price jumped to $96+ per night. Granted, it’s still cheaper than the listed price on the hotel website, but the change in price does make a big difference.
On a related note, checking that a hotel or airline website actually exists will help you avoid getting burned by a Groupon. If the site looks questionable, stay away.
6. Check other travel sites.
Despite it occasionally being misleading, Groupon does have some of the best prices out there. But that doesn’t mean they have the best deals for you. Other sites, like Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity, and Orbitz may have deals that are similar, but not quite the same. Maybe the flights work better for you. Or maybe the stay would be one day longer, and that’s more appealing.
With the vast number of hotels, airlines, and vacation package providers out there, there’s an almost infinite supply of travel deals, so doing your research on hotel deals sites can pay off in a big way.
7. Look for promo codes.
You might be surprised to find out that Groupon uses promo and discount codes like any other site. If you run a quick Google search for “Groupon promo codes” or use a coupon-finding browser extension, you can often find an additional 10% or 15% off, which could make up for some of the extra fees required for a trip.
Do Your Homework, Save Money
Groupon can be a fantastic way to save money on vacations—but you have to be willing to do a bit of research. Make sure the trip is what you want, that its terms are acceptable, and that you can’t get a better deal somewhere else. If you do that, you can be confident that you’re taking full advantage of Groupon and saving money on a great vacation!
Have you used Groupon Getaways before? How did you find the experience? Would you recommend it to others? Share your experiences below!