Browsing Category: Travel

Buy Your Vacation from a Daily Deal Site

Daily deal websites have come a long way since Groupon introduced the concept in late 2008. Many of us buy them regularly to stretch our budgets with 50% off or more on entertainment, products, restaurants and services. Some even overspend due to the lure of the deal!

While I have had good luck getting refunds when the retailer didn’t honor a deal certificate, the risk is prepaying for the good deal is usually less than $100. Now that risk has been kicked up a notch with vacation deals!vacation-deals

My sister recently bought a week-long stay at a Mexican all-inclusive resort from a group buying business. It was a great deal, but cost several hundred dollars for something they won’t use for a few months. She felt comfortable with the purchase because of previous experience with the site.

If you are always on the lookout to save money on travel plans, consider subscribing to a few travel deal sites. You’ll get a feel for the type of offerings at each site and figure out if you’re up for this type of vacation purchase. Let’s look at a few of the sites.

Groupon Getaways

The granddaddy of group buying has travel offerings ranging from hotel rooms to a safari for $3,600. One of the features here is recommendations for things to do nearby a destination or hotel.  Groupon stands behind the purchase with their promise to refund the money if you’re unable to book the stay you want.

Living Social Escapes

Living Social was close on the heels of Groupon and started in 2009. Their travel deals are calledEscapes and have a wide variety including hotels, rafting trips, and more. You have 30 days post-purchase to return your voucher, no questions asked.

Bloomspot Travel Getaways

This is another site with interesting, discounted travel offerings. The day I checked there was a 11 day tour to New Zealand at 55% off the regular price. I couldn’t find information regarding travel purchase guarantees or refunds.

Expedia ASAP

Although technically not a daily deal site, Expedia is offering what it calls “A Sudden Amazing Price” or ASAP. Every morning at 9 a.m. Pacific time a new deal is available for 12 hours only.

At most sites, the offers are available for several days to give you a chance to coordinate calendars before purchase. Be sure to read the fine print to understand expiration dates, additional charges and other important details before completing the purchase.

Another option to daily deal sites are membership discount travel sites such as Jetsetter.com and Vacationist.com which both offer free memberships. Don’t forget your warehouse club or other membership organizations.

What do you think about buying your next vacation from a daily deal site?

Photo: Some rights reserved by Simon_sees

Travel Savvy: Knowing When to Vacation

travel to nc mountains

For some, a holiday is the chance to lie on a white, sandy beach, the wash of a turquoise ocean and a soul-soothing soundtrack as they absorb a UK summer’s worth of rays in a couple of days. 

travel to nc mountains

For others, a holiday is a voyage of discovery, exploring to-them-unknown territories, experiencing native cultures and standing in awe before both natural and man-made wonders. Some see their holidays as a two-week long party, broken only by bleary-eyed bouts of bathing in the hotel swimming pool.

Some party in a different way altogether, adrenaline rather than alcohol rushing their systems as they snowboard from perilous peaks, fling themselves from cliff edges or hunt the highest waves to ride.

Such different goals – the goal to escape the humdrum back home aside, of course – and yet they share a further factor. They’re largely dependent on the weather.

Find out the Best Time of Year to Travel

The right amount of sun, the right temperature, the right sort of snow, or the right amount of wind. Nature produces the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and enables some of mankind’s most absorbing pursuits. So choosing the right weather – the right season – for a holiday destination is of course essential.

Yet we all know someone who’s failed to find out the best time of year to travel to their preferred holiday destination; the couple honeymooning in the Maldives, packing solely beachwear, only to find themselves trapped in their admittedly luxury hotel by monsoon season deluges; the sun-seekers who, spying an irresistibly cheap holiday in Spain, pay little attention to geography and never check the annual climate charts – instead spending their holiday wrapped in a towel indoors, playing cards with a deck of 51.

It seems so obvious to check local weather conditions before you book a holiday, and when we hear of such ill-planned holiday perhaps some of us hide a little scorn behind our sympathy. But it could happen to anyone – you spot a last-minute holiday, bargain price, and leap before you look. Leaving aside those occasions when completely unforeseeable climatic conditions unhinge the best of plans, edge of season bookings always carry some risk. So it’s worth taking your time and doing your holiday weather research before you book.

Travel sites can help you find the best deals so you’re maximizing your savings and going at the best window for travel at your favorite destinations.

Imagine visiting New England during the fall, to see the leaves turn myriad colours as autumn progresses – but arriving mid-November when the spectrum has been exhausted.

Imagine booking a skiing holiday in the French Alps mid-spring, only to find that the best of the snow has begun to turn to slush.

Thoughts on Scheduling Travel

With the weather there are few cast iron guarantees, but by studying a holiday region’s historical weather reports – rather than just looking at the season’s average temperature – you can avoid booking a holiday that doesn’t deliver what you’re hoping for.

 

Snagging a Great Hotel Deal with Drury Hotels

hotel stay at drury inn

We just got back from St. Louis after attending FINCON. We had a great time at the conference and I found a new hotel that I loved during our stay. It wasn’t our plan to go there, but I’m so happy it worked out that way.

Due to my procrastination, we found ourselves in a bind. With several conferences in town and the St. Louis Cardinals battling the Dodgers for a spot in the World series, hotel rooms were scarce, especially in our part of downtown. I was able to reserve a spot a block away from the conference, but I was told that they were booked for Friday and Saturday. That meant that my first two days were spent looking for deals by phone and web.

On Friday morning, I checked with front desk and they told me they still didn’t have rooms so I called around and found most rates in the $300+/night. Not willing to pay that much, I went online to find a hotel deal with Kayak. We needed to find something in our price range and hopefully in walking distance of the conference. That’s when I saw Drury Inn, two blocks from the conference AND within our planned budget price. I immediately booked it and told my husband I would be back right before check out time to move our stuff.hotel stay at drury inn

Discovering Drury Hotel

I hadn’t heard of the chain, but their competitive price  online motivated me to try them out and I’m so happy I did. Since check-out our first hotel was 12pm, I called Drury Inn to see if they could let us check in early or at least leave our luggage at their place until we could get a room. I spoke with a sweet woman named Jean who said they’d be happy to help us. So my husband and I got took our toddler and bags and walked over to the hotel, relieved to have found a solution to our problems.

And now the fun part. I discovered that my reservation was for the Drury Inn at another location downtown, one much further away.  I kicked myself for not paying attention to the details and explained to Aleanna our problem. Much to my surprise, she came to the rescue and delivered a solution to our problems.

She checked their inventory, found a room, honored our Kayak rate, called the location to cancel and let us check in early. It might not seem like a big deal to some, but I have worked at hotel with numerous locations in a town and if customers came in with the same problem we had, I’d be instructed to have them go to the other location. My former boss was firm about getting the highest rate for rooms.

With their downtown location right by the baseball stadium and business conferences, the Drury Inn was losing money to keep us. They could’ve charge double and still have someone book the room. I have no doubt about that.

Just because of that I was impressed, but there was more to like about the place.

What’s Included for the Price

One thing that irritates me about some hotels is that the advertised price online doesn’t reflect the real costs. It’s one thing to have taxes, but some chains will have numerous fees added in. With Drury we were pleasantly surprised at how much was included with our room rates.

  • Free wifi
  • Free hot breakfast (sausage patties, pancakes, eggs, and more)
  • 5:30 Kickback – Free happy hour (3 drinks for those 21 and over) and evening meal (chili, nachos, hot dogs, and more)

By the way, I also found out that if you stay Friday and Saturday night, your rate drops to $69 (plus taxes) if you stay Sunday.

Thoughts on Drury Hotels

the entire trip was enhanced by stay at the hotel. All of the staff  were courteous and kind. I’m so happy we discovered Drury and I will gladly stay again. I highly recommend you give them a try if an opportunity presents itself. Have any of you stayed with them? What was your experience?

Photo Credit: Drury

I Heart Southwest

flying southwest review

We’re in Denver, relaxing after a fun flight over. I can’t believe I’m typing that – having a fun flight, but it’s true. My husband and I have flown with different carriers over the years and the experience has been underwhelming for the most part.

Besides seeing the flight prices go up (counting all the fees tacked on), I’ve noticed the quality of service has gone down. the airport is a hassle, the food and drinks are skimpy, and on some flights the attendants are grumpy. All in all not a fun or relaxing way to travel. flying southwest review

This week we’re attending FinCon and so we took a flight in to Denver today with Southwest. It was our first time and it was great.

Competitive Prices on Flights

We chose to fly with Southwest for the trip basically because they had a direct flight and their prices were very reasonable.

When you’re flying as a family money is an issue so I was really happy to see that their direct flight prices were around the same price as flights from other airlines with layovers.

With a little one traveling with us direct flights were our goal and the price point that southwest. Managing a 3 1/2  hour flight is much easier than a 6-7 hour trip with a stop included.

Included with the competitive prices are the lack of fees tacked on to your ticket. I love Southwest’s checked baggage policies. When you fly with them you get up to 2 bags at no additional charge. That’s not counting your carry-ons.

Snack and Drinks on Southwest are the Best

I understand that to save money airlines have cut back on the food they offer on their flights. I’m used to the bare minimum approach.

Southwest was fancy, but they weren’t skimpy.We were offered plenty of snacks and drinks through out the flight. I also happily surprised at the alcoholic beverages offered on the flight. (I drank for review purposes only 🙂 ) For only $4 I had a really good Jack and Coke on my flight.

I wish other airlines were a bit less stingy with sharing their drinks and snacks. During the flight I had coffee, juice, Jack and coke, water, peanuts, and chocolate chip cookies. It was great.

Staff was Friendly, Even When They Were Busy

I just want to mention the friendly service we received with all of Southwest’s staff and crew. The airport was a bit hectic and customers were asking questions as the staff was serving others with their baggage and ticket needs. All of the crew were polite and cheerful and kindly let the customers know they would be helped soon.

The flight crew was equally happy and they seemed genuinely concerned with providing a great flight for all of us. Good job Southwest!

Thoughts on Southwest

The only thing that I’ve noticed with Southwest is that they are not all across the country just yet. They are growing so I hope that if your airport doesn’t offer Southwest it will soon.

I’d love to hear from you about your travel experiences. How many of you have flown Southwest? Did you enjoy your flight(s)?