By Tom Parsons, Special to the Los Angeles Times
November 27, 2011
Lots of people are Groupon groupies; they sign up for this daily deal coupon site (or others like it) to get discounts where they live.
I'm a fan of these discounts at home, but I also use them for deals when I am on the road.
Whenever I have an upcoming trip, I'll sign up for Groupon deals for my destination city a few weeks out and take advantage of discounts that occur while I'm visiting. By doing this, I find it possible to save on meals, entertainment and tours. In fact, I don't remember the last time I went to a restaurant without a voucher.
If you are not familiar with these offers, here's how they work: You sign up for an account, you'll get emails for deals and you'll have a small window in which to buy each deal. For example, you might see a deal offering a voucher for $20 that's good for $40 at a select restaurant. You pay the $20 upfront and print out a voucher for your deal.
We have used these deals in San Francisco to get discount admission to Alcatraz, for a two-for one Segway tour over the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, for half-off dining and for half-off a spa package.
Some of my favorite deals have been when the airlines team up with Groupon. Virgin America has offered $100 off flights for a payment of $25. Frontier had an offer in which you paid $25 for a $50 voucher, and Southwest had a deal in which you paid $10 for a $40 voucher. (These deals have expired, but we could always see more.)
If you want to earn miles, you can earn eight miles per dollar spent on Groupon purchases with American AAdvantage. There is no posted expiration on the deal, but it could end anytime. Visit http://www.aadvantageeshopping.com for details.
Groupon is certainly not the only game in town. There are many other discounters, such as Living Social, Yollar and Tippr. You also can take a look at coupons from Restaurants.com to see whether there are eating places at your destination where you can get a significant discount.
Another place to look for discounts is departments of tourism or convention and visitors bureaus. We often see discounts on lodging, restaurants, theme parks, night clubs, museums and more.
For travel to Texas cities, for instance, I see deals offered through the San Antonio Convention & Visitors Bureau (www.visitsanantonio.com), for Houston at http://www.visithoustontexas.com, for Austin at http://www.austintexas.org and Corpus Christi at http://www.visitcorpuschristitx.org. For Californians, check out http://www.visitcalifornia.com/deals, which has info on hotels, attractions and packages. In fact, for anywhere in the state or in the U.S. check the destination's tourism or convention and visitors bureau online for deals.
Make sure you check around to see whether the deal is the best available. Sometimes discounts sound great, but there may be a better offer. Before you buy an online coupon, be sure to read all of the terms and conditions. You don't want to purchase something you can't use during your trip or one that has a lot of restrictions.
Parsons is chief executive of Bestfares.com.
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