I’ve been receiving Groupon travel/get away emails for several years. Everytime I scroll through them…click on a few things, then exit out. I’ve just been apprehensive about traveling that way. This year, though, I decided to try it and we snagged a few really great bargains. I will search for Groupons on all future trips.:)
Now….I found that the best bargains are for admissions, rather than hotels. More on that in a bit…First…
Here’s my story:
Our vacation this year was a little closer to home – Texas – Presidential libraries (there are 3), Johnson Space Center and 5 days in Galveston (a place we’ve cruised out of several times, but never taken the time to stay and explore)
In my vacation planning this time, I began exploring the Groupon website to find out what they had to offer.
- George H. W. Bush Presidential Library
I was shocked to see this. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a discount to a Presidential Library. They all have ‘free days”…in fact, our visit to the Lyndon Johnson Library in Austin jut happened to be on his birthday Aug 27 and admission was FREE! However, those free days tend to work better for locals who are there to take advantage of them. That’s a little harder for tourists to do. Other than the scheduled free days, discounts are rare.
But there it was…Admission for 2 for $10. Then…as my luck was going, Groupon was offering 20% off of 3 purchases that day. I didn’t have anything else more expensive I wanted to use that coupon on so I just used it on this. I got the 2 tickets for $8. Regular admission for this library was $9 per person. Savings of $10
- NASA/Johnson Space Center Webster TX
This place is PHENOMENAL!! I’ve been to the Kennedy Space Center in Titusville, FL several times. Though we certainly enjoyed our visits there (That’s where they build the rockets) Johnson Space Center (Houston) is Mission Control and it’s MASSIVE! They have a extensive museum, with films, programs, demonstrations and activities as well as a couple of tram tours of the grounds. We arrived here at opening and stayed until they were about to kick us out. It was a LONG day…but a really good one! 🙂
I snagged a remarkable bargain on this one. The regular admission was posted on Groupon as $24.95. Groupons price of $16 each was a good price.However, when we arrived, the admission was actually $31.00. I basically got a 2 For 1 deal!! I was patting myself on the back all day for that one! haha!!!
- There was one Groupon that I considered, but decided to wait until we got to Galveston to check out before purchasing. (Remember, Groupons are non-refundable) This was a place that rented bicycles, carts, surf boards, body boards, etc… The groupon was $50/day for 1 paddleboard. I wanted to check this business out before making a $50-$100 purchase. When we got to Galveston, we found this shop and went in. Well… I just didn’t have a good feeling about it…. We left. I’m SO glad we checked them out first. I will mention here, if we had decided we wanted it, we could have either purchased the Groupon on our phone app while standing there or gone back to the condo and used the laptop for a little more security. With Groupons addition of the phone app, you don’t have to print them, however, in cases where you DO need a printout, most hotels, condos, etc… have business centers with printers you can use.
If you find something interesting, but still have questions/reservations about it, check the Groupon expiration date. If you can wait on it, that allows you to check things out before making a non-refundable purchase.
I checked out Groupons for restaurants too, but because we rent condos with kitchens and eat out sparingly, we had already used TripAdvisor to select WHERE we wanted to eat. There were no Groupons for those few places. ha! I should note though, that Groupons DOES offer good bargains on restaurants if you find something you like. That’s probably another thing I would wait to purchase until we arrived at our destination…just my personal opinion.
Now for hotels:
I really wanted to find a good hotel on Groupon. This was becoming our “Vacation By Groupon” and I kind of wanted to roll with that theme. Our hotel stays were in Austin, Webster, College Station and Dallas. (Our stay in Galveston was a condo through VRBO or it’s sister company Home Away . If you’re unfamiliar with these, find out more info at Finding Frugal Accommodations….) Anyway, in my search for hotels in these other cities, it seemed that Groupon just didn’t have what I was looking for. The hotels were either not in locations we needed or the rates weren’t any better than I could get going to the individual websites and using my AAA discount.
How Does Groupon Sell Hotel Rooms:
- You purchase the certificate then call the hotel to make your reservations. (You’ll be limited to their availability AFTER you’ve purchased a non-refundable certificate)
- You purchase the certificate for the exact date you need. That would typically be my preference, except with it being non-refundable, that doesn’t allow for any change of plans, emergencies, trip cancellation, etc…
When I realized that the Groupon rate advertised is the CHEAPEST they offer at any time…and typically, the night I needed would be significantly higher, I realized Groupon was NOT going to work for us for accommodations. Oh well. I learned some important things in all my searches. It wasn’t wasted time or effort. I ended up reserving our hotels on their websites using my AAA discount and got really good rates…and they were refundable if I needed to cancel.
Maybe someday I’ll find that perfect Groupon rate for a wonderful hotel stay…but for now, it just didn’t work.
Cruising with Groupon:
I DID find some short cruises for really good rates on Groupon. Someday I think I’ll look into buying one of those. They advertise the cruise line, ship and port. (seemed to be a heavy presence of Carnival cruises…) Then you choose your date. I never went far enough through the process to find out if you can also choose your cabin (which would be a deal-breaker for me…) because I didn’t want to accidentally make a purchase if I clicked one too many times. haha! I’ll investigate this further someday….
Until then…Happy Grouponing!! 🙂