With Groupon becoming more and more universally well known, one can purchase virtually anything, from clothes to household appliances to restaurant deals, at a discounted price. However, a lot of people hesitate in the face of travel deals.
For those of you less familiar with the concept, Groupon is a platform for merchants to offer deals to consumers at a lower than normal price. A few well-known similar brands are Wowcher, Amazon Local, and LivingSocial.
Most of the travel offers feature massively discounted flights, as well as accommodation and breakfast at a hotel – say goodbye to dodgy hostels and communal showers! – to a popular destination such as Berlin and Budapest.
Some even throw in bonuses for an extra ten to twenty quid, such as river cruises and horse riding. The prices usually hover around £100 to £200 for European destinations depending on the length of stay, normally from 2 to 5 nights. Deals to America, South East Asia and other exotic places are sometimes available too, starting from around £500.
Despite the obvious draw, some people are afraid of the fine print and hidden charges – and that’s reasonable. I had many reservations when I first saw them, and it wasn’t until a friend took the plunge that I realized this really could become the new way to travel in comfort affordably:
1) Read the fine print
This might sound obvious, but sometimes people get too excited by the prospect of it and forgot to check. It should state the period available to redeem the voucher as well as what is included and what isn’t. Make sure you know the refund/cancellation policy so you can get your money back if things go south.
2) Call ahead
Call to enquire about the availability or make sure that you are relatively free during the stated time period.
Sometimes the date you want might not be available – especially if it’s a holiday period.
3) Make time for the call
These tour operators often have a dozen calls coming in at one time. You need to expect them to take a while to answer you, as well as having to call you back to confirm certain details.
4) Be prepared to pay extra
Most of the time the flights included in the original price are at an ungodly hour of the morning or late at night at Luton. So if you want to make the most of your trip and the Groupon, be prepared to pay around £40 per person to upgrade to Ryanair or EasyJet at Gatwick or Stansted.
Trust me, you will save half if not all of the money from not having to get a taxi to the airport.
5) Check hotel locations
This is especially important with multiple hotel offers. Usually the hotel will be centrally located, and it might be worthwhile to visit its website and check its rating on TripAdvisor.
Some deals will offer a choice of hotel, so if you have your heart set on one of the hotels call the travel agent ahead to check its availability to avoid disappointment. Beware that some travel agencies will try to give you another hotel – do not give out your Groupon code until you have the dates and hotel you desire.
6) Hand luggage only
This one might be obvious, but unless you throw in another extra £30, you will have to adhere to the hand luggage restriction of the airline. However don’t worry; most people are in the same boat.
After that, it’s really just printing out the hotel voucher and checking in online at the right time. Although my friend and I experienced a slight hiccup with check-in because the travel agency booked for us, although fixing it was as easy as calling them and they checked in for us and emailed us the document.
If you don’t want the hassle of calling up the travel agent yourself – and believe me, I hate calling people at a restricted time period too – then you should check out Voyage Privé. It’s a luxury travel website which offers 4 to 5 star hotels, enabling you to forgo the entire phoning process by simply selecting your desired options online.