With the additions of all the travel flash sites that offer vacations at a discount price, you may wonder if they are worth the money. The short answer is yes and no. I don’t know about you but when Groupon first became all the rage, I was in love. It was like the rush of gambling or should I say “winning”. If I saw one in my area for a great spa service or an activity that I had always wanted to try, I hit “BUY” in seconds. Over time, what I discovered is that while some of the deals were actually pretty good, others were very disappointing. By the time I did my research, I could have paid less if I looked for specials at the same business. That spa that I had never heard of, packaged several things together, some that I didn’t need, or had a serious upcharge for my desired service. “Oh that service on a Friday is 35% more.” Sorry, it’s in the fine print.
You will find similar issues with most of the flash sites. Groupon, for example partnered with Expedia, so you would expect the inventory to offer some amazing deals. That is not to say that there aren’t times when a deal is too good to pass up, but that situation is not the norm.
I checked just today for a comparison. I chose a property that I could drive to from Charlotte and choose Myrtle Beach. The listed property is a Kid Friendly Ocean-Front Resort with Water Park. Pictures look nice if you have small children as they have focused on the water park in the toddler area. According to their count, over 540 have been purchased with 4 days still remaining to buy.
Stay is between April 7 – June 28, however when you choose your dates, no Friday or Saturday nights are offered. It is a Sunday –Friday morning option. Not a big deal since most kids are out of school early June; however the weather has been unseasonably cold and April is certainly questionable. The kicker for me was when I checked the hotel’s website. If I looked at their specials, I could book the same dates or add a weekend around the same time and the price was within $10 of the Groupon price. It also gave me about 8 other room options and some less expensive. The Groupon also listed in the fine print, that children above 16 would be an extra $10 charge per day. The hotel website allowed me to list a child without asking the age and there was no change in price. Lastly, tax is not added until you hit “BUY” so the price difference wasn’t obvious until the end. The Groupon appeared to be a better deal until it was time for the credit card.
You can, however, occasionally find a deal that is worth the risk. I had a client purchase a Groupon for a property in Europe, sight unseen for a short trip. We were able to make that property a portion of a much longer vacation and this was only one stop. It turned out to be a nice resort and a pretty good deal and she turned it into an amazing memory.
So, here are a few tips for booking these type deals:
• Do your research. Don’t be moved to act just because of the timer at the bottom of the screen. Go to the website of the specific property. Read reviews of other travelers. A great website is www.tripadvisor.com. These aren’t always gospel but it is a good place to start.
• Ask Questions. There is an area at the bottom of the offer to ask any specific questions you may have. If you have any concern, don’t assume, just ask. They have dedicated staff for just that reason.
• Read the Fine Print and check your dates both for availability, such as (no weekend stays allowed) and expiration. Most of this information is there, but in a separate tab. Also, check for extras fees like cleaning or facility usage.
• It’s usually a good deal if you would visit this property anyway or have an interest in the area. We can often make mistakes when we purchase in a hurry. Most of these deals now offer several days to book so take your time before spending the money upfront.
Ok Smarty Moms, please share any awesome travel deals you purchased online! If you have any travel questions or needs, please call or email me.
Wendy Hershey TNT Travel