So far, I’ve purchased three Groupon Getaways. I’ve gone on two trips and have the third planned for this fall.
I took my first leap of faith with Groupon Getaways in January 2014. Randomly messaging my best friend Nico (who wrote an awesome article about improv for Chicago Cheap Ass recently!), I said,
“There’s a deal on Groupon to travel to Ireland for 7 days for $1,000 – airfare, hotel and rental car. Should we do it?”
Half expecting her to say no, she surprised me. We booked it.
My Groupon Getaways Experiences
I was actually working at Groupon at the time, and even the employees had their doubts that a discount vacation package would be worth it. I was excited to be the guinea pig amongst my group. My best friend and I departed just as the weather was starting to become unbearable in Chicago, and landed on the lush green paradise known as Ireland.
I’ve actually been to Ireland before, but it was with my parents. Going with a friend was a completely different experience. She had friends who met up with us that she originally met when studying abroad. We started in Kilkenny, partied in Killarney, took it easy in Limerick, and ended it off in Dublin. The hotels ranged from a Days Inn in Kilkenny, to a classy boutique hotel in Killarney, to a modern installation in Limerick, and a fancy hotel in Dublin. Surprisingly, it was the fanciest hotel that charged extra for wifi and didn’t provide toiletries. As a whole, the hotels would’ve cost as much as the flight (or more) if purchased separately.
We had our own rental car, which gave us the freedom to go wherever we wanted. For the most part, we followed our four-city itinerary, but enjoyed making stops between cities to take in the beautiful landscape. A few things to consider when traveling via rental car:
- Budget for gas
- And for parking. And tolls
- Be a good driver!
Nico is an amazing driver, so I let her take over. Ireland driving is on the “wrong” side of the road, which is not typical of Europe, but something to keep in mind!
To summarize, the sum of the parts would’ve cost way more than the whole package, but Great Value Vacation’s Ireland package on Groupon Getaways offered a major value for an adventurous traveler.
Fast forward to a year and a half later…
I challenged another friend when I saw an unbeatable price on a trip to China. Another Groupon Getaways package, this one happened to be with a different travel agency called Friendly Planet. This deal was about $1500 for 10 days – airfare, hotels, ground transportation, a tour guide, all breakfasts and some other meals. While the Ireland trip was very much DIY, this trip had a lot of oversight. I’ve had enough experience in Europe to want to push the envelope, but I had absolutely no experience in Asia.
Comparing the two – Europe is so similar to the United States in terms of food, language, customs, etc. Asia is the exact opposite. Most people don’t speak English in Asia, and the street signs are basically illegible. The food is not something you can prepare yourself for by eating Americanized Chinese. You have to conduct yourself a certain way you may not be used to, in order to respect the locals. I don’t think I could’ve navigated without a tour guide and a driver, or at least, I wouldn’t have gotten to appreciate the country as much.
Another interesting part of this tour was that you could opt in to optional excursions each day, like going out to dinner with the group with an acrobatic show afterwards, or guided tours of temples and silk worm factories (to name a few). For the most part, purchasing these optional tours was well worth the money. They included food, a tour, admissions, and transportation. Even if it was cheaper to plan on my own, it would’ve taken longer to get around, with imperfect knowledge of the area and attractions.
On the last day of the tour, we did a version of one of the paid excursions on our own. We didn’t go to all the tour spots and it took awhile, but we did save a fair amount of cash. So the moral of the story is – do your research. Also, you’re not missing out if you don’t do all the tours. Sometimes you need some time to explore a foreign place without any direction.
Traveling to an Asian country usually requires the purchase of a Visa. This is NOT something you cant put off until the last minute, and you must come prepared with all the requested documents. There’s a Chinese embassy downtown Chicago and walking in (as opposed to mailing it through an agent) saved me some money, but it was still $150. Plan accordingly. And on that note, make sure your passport is valid through 6 months after your trip.
A mix of guided and unguided
So the final Groupon Getaways tour package I’ve purchased is to go to Peru this September. Gate 1 Travel operates this tour, and I suspect it will be a hybrid of the two aforementioned trips. While my China trip consisted of an older crowd that was bussed from place to place, the Peru trip is described in terms of a lot of outdoor exploration. It was in the same price range as the China trip (~$1500) and includes many of the same features: airfare, hotel, guided tours, ground transportation, and some meals.
All the agencies I’ve worked with have handled the booking process in similar ways. Sometimes you can fill out all of your personal information online, sometimes you can do it on the phone. Either way, it doesn’t take long. One of their “upsells” is travel insurance. I’ve never purchased it because I’m cheap, but I think it’s usually $100 per person throughout the course of the trip. If you want to be able to reimburse the cost of your trip if plans change or are prone to emergency medical situations, it may be worth it.
Have you used Groupon Getaways to plan a trip?