My first ever international trip was to the land-o’-green in 2015. Ever since reading O.R. Melling’s The Hunter’s Moon, I had developed an interest in traveling to Ireland, but it was more of a whisper than a shout. Travel was not on my immediate to-do list; I loved Colorado and couldn’t rationalize spending a lot of money and time to go to a distant country where anything could happen.
Oh how wrong I was.
On something of a whim, I booked an 8-day trip to Ireland for myself and my then-boyfriend through Groupon. With airfare, hotel, and a rental car all included, it was exactly the push I needed to get out and establish my love of travel.
Since then, I’ve lived in Taiwan, spent a week in Bali and Amsterdam each, and a weekend in Hong Kong, all of which I’ve booked and managed myself (minus airfare to and from Taiwan). I am still far from being an expert on travel, but I have picked up on a few things along the way.
In this post, I want to focus in on the pros and cons of Groupon travel.
When you book your trip through Groupon, you’re likely getting more than a hotel or a tour. Trying to pinpoint the best deal for a flight AND hotel AND activities AND transportation takes a lot of time, a lot of know-how, and a lot of luck. AKA: a huge hassle that sometimes isn’t worth the end result. Groupon packages it all together and keeps everything organized for you. Make sure you read the description closely to see what you get and what you’ll have to fill in on your own, but overall it’s a great way to check multiple things off your list with one click.
Trips Worth Taking:
You’re not going to find a roach-infested motel in Romania built by slave children and unreachable by anything other than donkey carts, because that would be ridiculous and no one would buy it, even if it was cheap. The travel deals on Groupon are good. Maybe not 5-star celebrity-status good, but you get the idea. You might find yourself considering new destinations because the price is so “why not?”
The reason we shop on Groupon is because of the deals, so this should be a no brainer. Consider it this way: airfare alone from the U.S. to Europe generally costs about $1k, but you can find package deals that include airfare to locations in Europe (think Paris, Rome, Prague…) for less than that. If you book everything separately, you’ll likely end up spending three times as much as booking through Groupon. So duh, check out Groupon the next time you’re itching to travel.
It’s important to look at the details carefully for each trip, and to anticipate what might not be included. Unless you live by one of the major airports (e.g. JFK), you’ll likely have to book a flight to reach your flight. If a rental car is included, keep in mind that there will likely be a security deposit required, extra charges if you have extra drivers, and fees for younger or uninsured drivers. And, often, Groupon travel deals are for groups, which means either roping in a few friends to fill the spots with you, or paying a couple hundred bucks to “fill” the spots and travel by yourself.
Modify Your Travel Style:
When I went to Ireland, I wanted to visit as many cities and places as I could in the week. I lost a lot of time traveling to and from my included villa. If your goal is to sightsee and bounce around, booking a deal that gives you one or two locations could inhibit you or cost you travel expenses and time. It’s important to know your travel style and whether the deal will end up working in your favor or against you.
Also, most deals are going to take place in the off-season. Depending on when you can and can’t take work off, this might not be an issue, or it could be the big red X that makes everything fall apart. Not to mention, a beach vacation might be ruined if the deal is during monsoon season. Do your research and know what you can do and what to expect.
Is It The Best Deal?
If you know the ins and outs of travel, know how to find deals and work magic, Groupon might actually be a more expensive option. There are definitely ways to travel on the cheap: hostels, AirBnB, local transportation, flight deals or credit card rewards, couchsurfing, and so on. If you really dig in and do the work, you can likely travel for a fraction of the price of that Groupon deal, but it comes down to luck, experience, and the right search terms.
Overall, I’m a Groupon fan. I search the site before purchasing just about anything, but I also do my research. Read reviews, reflect on your own needs and wants, and pay attention to the fine print. Remember that the doing is more important than getting the deal!