BUT OH MY GOD, LOOK.
Look at all the places you could go — and how little it costs to get there.
From the base of Mount Everest or the Eiffel Tower to the stretches of the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu and the Egyptian pyramids — the world is the budget traveler’s oyster when it comes to Groupon Getaways.
What are Groupon Getaways and How do They Work?
Groupon, the popular deal website known for coupons on goods and services, also offers budget travel packages called Groupon Getaways.
The company offers three types of travel experiences: domestic hotels, air-inclusive international packages and cruises, according to Nicholas Halliwell, a Groupon spokesperson.
“We typically feature 3 ½- to four-star properties in major destinations but also have an assortment of local hotels to provide members easy access to local getaways,” he said.
As for the international deals, Halliwell said, Groupon works with a handful of tour operators who specialize in assembling air-inclusive packages.
“We chose tour operator partners based on their ability to provide packages that are affordable without sacrificing experience,” he said.
Currently, Groupon offers a small number of cruise promotions.
When you’re ready to book, Groupon Getaways work the same way as the other Groupons.
For domestic hotels, there’s no need to contact the hotel after booking. Show up on your date of arrival as you would if you used Expedia.
For all-inclusive trips, Groupon plays middleman and hands things over to a travel agent or online tour operator who books the trip from start to finish. All you have to do is contact the provider and redeem your voucher within the booking window.
What are the Benefits of Groupon Getaways?
This is basically why you’re reading this: Groupon Getaways are super cheap.
Within the U.S., there are thousands of deals on hotel rooms, which Halliwell said are the most popular getaway. But the really deep discounts shine on international travel packages.
One lump sum gets you airfare, hotel, transportation, tours and several — if not all — meals included.
Attempting to price and book a similar trip piecemeal will have you back on Groupon’s website in minutes wondering how they do it.
Robert Todd and his wife, who live in St. Petersburg, Florida, used Groupon Getaways for trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Central Italy.
Their $799 per person, seven-day trip to Buenos Aires out of Miami International Airport included airfare, hotel and meals.
“The best part is the price,” he said.
Even with a five-hour drive to Miami and airport parking, Todd felt like he still got a great deal.
“Look for flights out of Miami to Buenos Aires — it’s like $700 per person — and then add in five days of breakfast and a nice hotel in a very fancy neighborhood,” he said.
Todd and his wife have another getaway scheduled to Scotland in November.
“I wish I could do more of them because they’re right in my price range,” he said.
Inclusive getaways are a one-stop shop.
After you redeem your voucher and provide your personal information, the agency books your tickets, hotels, tours, meals and transportation for you. All you have to do is show up on time.
“We’ve found that our customers are much more willing to travel abroad if all of the different components of the trip — plane tickets, hotel reservations, transfers, tours — are all bundled in a single package,” Halliwell said.
That kind of stress-free travel can be priceless.
“For a big, complicated trip with lots of stops, flights, shuttles and changes, having the support of a travel agency or an online tour operator can help alleviate many of the stresses associated with travel, leaving more time for you to pack and relax,” Halliwell said.
Once Todd forgot to call Gate 1 Travel, a tour operator Groupon partners with, to redeem his travel voucher in the specified 14-day booking window.
“We missed the fine print, and about 30 days later we called up and worked with them to set it up. They took care of it. It could have been a big issue, but they made it no big deal,” he said.
There’s a vacation package on every continent except Antarctica.
You can take a $200 Bahamas cruise for two days or a 17-day trek to the base camp at Mount Everest.
“They have a lot of selections, and you can pretty much go anywhere you’d ever want to go,” Todd said.
Looking for something family-friendly or a romantic getaway? Groupon’s got you. They have a variety of travel categories to peruse.
“I almost look at Groupon Getaways as a mini vacation while I’m sitting at work and I need a break,” Todd said. “They give you a lot of really cool ideas.”
Groupon Getaway Limitations
Deep discounts mean less flexibility and some caveats. You will have to make compromises for that cheap price tag.
There are limitations on which airports you can depart from, which means extra costs of routing yourself to the designated airports if you don’t live near one of them.
Michelle Schenck, who lives in Tampa, Florida, had that problem when she booked a Groupon Getaway to Iceland that departed out of New York City. She called Groupon directly and booked the extra flight with the company.
“It was cheaper to add Tampa to the trip than to book it independently,” she said. “I paid roughly $60 round trip to go from Tampa to New York City, so it was an all-around steal.”
Flight and Travel Times
Travelers do not get to choose airlines or flight times. You can expect early-morning and overnight flights and long layovers.
Todd said his upcoming flight to Scotland has a 7 a.m. departure with an eight-hour layover in Madrid on the way back.
“They put together some pretty wacky connecting flights,” he said. “ It’s almost expected given the price.”
Keep in mind that an advertised eight-day vacation is really more of a seven- or six-day trip when factoring in travel times. Check how many hotel nights are included to know exactly how many days you’ll really be staying.
Most trips have very specific departure dates and very little wiggle room.
While it doesn’t lend much flexibility, you select the available dates before checkout, so there are no surprises on your end.
You can book last-minute trips or choose one months out.
Other dates may be available but not listed. Contact the partnering tour operator to see what your options are.
Non-Refundable or Cancellation Fees
This is the risky part.
Once you book your trip, many portions of it are nonrefundable — especially the airfare.
The terms and conditions for each getaway vary, so you will have to read the fine print to know your rights before you buy and book.
Some charge a $250 cancellation fee, while others bill you for a percentage of the voucher if you cancel.
Halliwell advises travelers to read the fine print and cancellation policy of the hotel, cruise and tour operators before booking; Groupon’s policy is to follow the policy of its partners.
“Our policy is aligned with the hotel, cruise or tour operator's cancellation policy, which is the case with most online travel agencies, including Expedia and Priceline,” he said.
There are some exceptions for circumstances like natural disasters, but outside of that if you have a bad experience, Halliwell said to contact the property and Groupon to work toward a satisfactory solution.
Multi-city adventures call for rental cars. The cost of the rental is included in the getaway package.
The catch, as Todd learned firsthand, is you’re given cheap models with manual transmissions.
So, if you can’t drive a stick shift, then you’re forced to upgrade out of your own pocket.
He said that was his least favorite part of the rental experience.
“They give you a junker — the cheapest model they can possibly give you so… you always have to upgrade,” he said.
For a one-city trip, you’ll most likely be set up in a hotel close to the action.
If you book a multi-city trip with a car rental, your hotel serves as a central hub to and from all the cities on your trip.
Todd found driving back and forth problematic on his Italy trip. He said driving 30 to 40 minutes was a light day, whereas others were five hours round trip.
To avoid spending hours in the car, he and his wife opted to spend an extra $69 on a hotel room in Florence instead of driving back to their home base the same day. That gave them a chance to experience Florence at night and plenty of time to drive back the next day.
He advised leaving some padding in your budget to book a cheap hotel along the way or risk spending your whole trip on the road.
All of the inclusive international package rates are for two people. This is plainly stated under the headline of the deal.
This means you’re expected to share a room with your travel partner.
Flying solo? That costs extra. Single-traveler fees range from $100 to $700, which forces singles to pay the same price as two people in some instances.
It might be cheaper to book elsewhere if you’re going stag.
Tips Before Purchasing a Groupon Getaway
As if the price wasn’t discounted enough already, both Schenck and Todd said they used a Groupon Getaway promo code to take an extra 10% off the price, up to $50 per person.
“It made the already cheap price even cheaper,” Schenck said.
Todd’s advice is to wait until the getaway is about to expire; he said the price gets cut anywhere from $50 to $100.
With both of those tactics combined, he said, you can save up to $100 off the face value per person.
But before you get excited and book your next dream vacation, read the fine print.
“I read it beforehand, so I knew exactly what to expect,” Schenck said.
Basically, as long as you read the fine print, there will be no surprises.
Taxes and fees are summarized in the “Know Before You Go” section on the main page of the getaway. Read the “Fine Print & Details” tab for specifics of the tour operator’s policy.
Never hesitate to contact the travel or tour company to ask questions prior to booking.
The numbers to the sponsoring agencies are provided right on the getaway page. They can clarify any uncertainties and quote you trip extensions or extra flight costs.
Don’t be afraid to shop around.
“As with any purchase, it's really important to do your research,” Halliwell said.
“Travel is an industry where pricing can vary widely, so it's important to look at other sites out there and do an apples-to-apples comparison.”
Another biggie is to read the reviews and check the customer ratings of any hotels, cruises or tour packages that you're thinking of booking.
Caribbean excursions rank low, while getaways to Morocco, Paris and Rome have a five-star rating.
Ultimately, don’t let the restrictions scare you off.
Pay the price and let the tour company choose hotels, flights and cars. You have the fun.
Yes, you’re at the booking mercy of the travel agency, but chances are you’ll see more of the world for less money.
Both Todd and Schenck knew the deal up front and haven’t encountered any kinks yet.
“I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons,” Todd said.
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