If you enjoy discounted travel, I bet you’ve browsed through the Groupon Getaways and the LivingSocial Escapes pages in search of travel package options. The deals vary, but in most cases, airfare and lodging are included in the final, usually low price.
The popular marketplace sites are full of rotating travel deals, such as “10-Day Thailand Guided Tour with Hotels and Air from $999” and “6-Day Rome Vacation with Hotel and Air from $699,” beckoning you with the colorful stock images.
Each travel package lists the market price for the same vacation bought elsewhere and the discount you receive as a member, showing how much you save by booking through either Groupon or LivingSocial. The costs listed are per person, and each traveler needs to buy his or her own voucher for each trip.
But are these deals really as good as they seem? Here are a few things you need to consider before buying an online platform travel voucher.
Research the Tour Operator
To be clear, neither Groupon nor LivingSocial actually organize these vacations. Once you click the “Buy!” button, the process is turned over to a third-party company that runs the tour. The next step is to contact the travel provider and schedule your trip. You can choose your dates from the list of options (which you can view before buying a travel voucher), and the travel operator confirms everything by phone.
If you know which company runs the tour, I recommend reading reviews to make sure the trip goes as planned, especially if you book a multi-city journey. With so many moving parts, anything can, and will, go wrong. You want to be taken care of in a professional manner in case it does.
Peak Travel Dates Mean Peak Prices
The best Groupon and LivingSocial travel deals tend to be listed in the low season for that specific destination. The costs noticeably increase during peak travel season, making the deal not really a deal anymore. Flexibility goes a long way, and if you’re willing to sacrifice good weather for low cost, you can score some brilliant bargains. However, if you must travel on specific dates because of your work or school schedule, these deals won’t be as valuable to you.
Having to Book Positioning Flights
Unless you live in a major U.S. city, you might have to book a positioning flight to a departure city listed as part of the deal. In some cases, the tour operator can add a positioning flight to your package at an additional cost. However, you have to watch out for these extra costs before the deal gets away from you. Consider using frequent-flyer miles to connect with your flight and make sure to leave enough time in between to avoid a stressful situation.
Traveling Solo Costs Extra
As mentioned above, each traveler must purchase his or her own travel voucher. The listed price is based on two people traveling together and sharing accommodations. If you’re a single traveler, the price goes up. How much? It depends on the length of your tour and the destination. I’ve seen single supplements as low as $250 and as high as $693 per trip. This additional cost is worth considering when choosing to travel solo.
Research Travel Components Independently
Groupon and LivingSocial travel packages often include airfare, hotels, car rentals and some excursions. It’s hard to beat the aggregate cost of such trips by booking their individual components separately, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Can you spend less on your own? For example, if you redeem frequent-flyer miles, you don’t need a package that includes airfare. And if you have hotel points, you don’t want to spend extra on lodging. Do your homework before booking a travel package, and if the travel package cost is to your liking, don’t hesitate to click “Buy!”
Have you booked a travel package via Groupon or LivingSocial before? Where did you go and was it worth the cost?
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