Using Groupon to Boost Your Vacation Budget

Guest post by Kelli Hays from More Bang for Your Bucks

As a reader of MoneySavingMom.com, there is a good chance you already enjoy the benefits of using Groupon. But have you considered using it to save money while on vacation?

Our family was recently planning a vacation and my cousin happened to send me a link to a mini-golf Groupon for one of the cities we’d be staying in. That triggered my mind, What if I signed up for the Groupon e-mails for those cities just until our vacation was over? I am so glad we did!

We love to eat out while we are on vacation and it is usually our main expense besides lodging. We like to try local places, and not stick with the chains. Groupon is great for that! For our vacation we not only bought vouchers for some local restaurants, but we also found a Groupon for a small local grocery store, where we were able to get ingredients for a few meals.

In addition, we found a Groupon for admission to a state park that saved us around $20. We also purchased a Groupon for an Imagination Movers show. With the four tickets we bought, we saved $84 from the at-the-door cost! Best of all, the kids loved it.

Here are some tips for how you can stretch your vacation dollars with Groupon (or any other money-saving site, such as LivingSocial.com):

1. Sign Up For All Cities You’ll Be Vacationing In

Go to Groupon and see if the cities you’ll be vacationing in are listed. If so, sign up to receive daily email reminders of the deals available. Some will have no relevance at all to your trip (e.g. deals for lawn care or gutter cleaning) but you should be able to find some deals that will be useful.

2. Plan Ahead

Some Groupons require that you wait a day or two before using. You will also want to see what is in the area that piques your interest and see if a Groupon appears for that particular attraction.

3. Don’t Go Overboard

My hubby had to rein me in a bit (on restaurants, anyway) because I was wanting to buy a Groupon for every day we would be on vacation. But that would not allow for any flexibility should plans have to change.

4. Always Check the Expiration Dates

Check the expiration date on the Groupon before purchase! If you are vacationing in November, but the Groupon expires in September, your money is sadly wasted.

Kelli Hays is a small-town girl slowly figuring out the big-city life. She is the wife to a church planter, mom to three amazing kids, and lover of books. She also enjoys writing about great deals at dollar stores at her blog More Bang For Your Buck.

photo credit

(Note: The links in this post are my referral links. Read our disclosure policy here.)

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Comments

  1. says

    I def do this. We are moving in 6 months and already starting looking at groupon in the new city (waiting to buy but looking is fun).

  2. Keta says

    Don’t forget about living social. We purchase a one night stay in bouquet 4 star hotel In Atlanta with breakfast, $20 spa credit and bottle of organic wine. Perfect night away while baby stays with the grandparents.

  3. Sheryl says

    We do this all the time…I get to travel with my husband on business trips a few times a year. I always start checking the deal sites as soon as I know I can go. Last fall, we used a Groupon for a small local restaurant in Raleigh. Our waitress was friendly and knew we were just tourists. She was shocked when I pulled out a Groupon to use with our bill…She told her manager and the manager/owner was so impressed with my advance planning that she took another 10% off our bill and gave us a free dessert! It was a fantastic restaurant but in a location we never would have discovered on our own…We were very pleased!

    My husband was sold on the value of my ‘bargain hunting’ for restaurants that night!

  4. Jessica says

    Also don’t forget about restaurant.com. Those $25 of $35 certificates when bought with an 80% off code are awesome!!

    • Emily says

      I don’t like them because with the fine print for most restaurants it has minimum you must spend to get to use the certificate. For example, if you have a $50 certificate your minimum purchase must be a $100. I don’t like that.

    • says

      Totally agree! I guess if you have a big group and will be paying the whole bill then it works. But for my husband and I the min cost is too much.

      • Jessica says

        Most restaurants on restaurant.com offer $10 off $20 and $25 off $35. Groupon and Living Social functionally have the same type of minimums as restaurant.com, since you have to use the whole certificate at the same time. With a discount code, a $10/$20 cert costs me $1 and a $25/$35 costs me $2. So, for a $35 dinner, that’s a savings of about 65%. This is often a higher percentage savings than Groupon, and many of the restaurants are the same! Groupon is sometimes a better deal for very inexpensive places where you don’t even want to spend $20, or where you wouldn’t ordinarily tip 18%, and they can generally be used on the weekend, whereas some restaurant.com certs can’t. But, for the most part, we’ve found restaurant.com to be awesome for weeknight dinners for two. I think they’d be great for family vacations, also, especially if you’re there over some weekdays. For large groups, they’re downright fantastic. I spent a few bucks and saved my family almost half the bill at a restaurant they were going to anyway. (And you don’t have to pay the whole bill on one credit card in order to use it).

  5. Christine says

    We also do this with restaurant.com We check the restaurants out first on tripadvisor, too.

  6. Meredith says

    Can anyone tell me how you find the More Cities section? I don’t see it anywhere – either signed in or signed out. TIA!!

  7. says

    I totally did this same thing on our vacation and conference trips this summer. My husband gets reimbursed a certain amount on his meals for business trips. With the groupons I purchased for his trips (that we tagged along on), we actually made money. A groupon for a family of four was cheaper than the allotted meal amount for an individual! I even bought a few for some fun shops so I could do a little guilt-free shopping on our trips! I totally agree about not buying too many. I did that and ended up not using one groupon…thankfully, we knew people in that city that we could give it to. Great post!!

    • Stacy says

      We did this just this past week when we were on vacation. We were in town for a convention with 30,000 extra people in a fairly small city (Indianapolis). Apparently no one else thought to do groupons because the places we went were all but empty while the better-known restaurants had 2 hour waits for dinner. We had some awesome experiences, too.
      If you buy a groupon out of town and don’t use it, e-mail customer service. We had one unused groupon after our trip and they refunded the purchase amount as a credit to my account (I get to use it for another groupon later).

  8. says

    We’ve done this, too, and have had good success. Only one time did a proprietor suggest that he wouldn’t honor a groupon – on the grounds that it was intended for locals when we were clearly tourists. My husband, who can talk anyone into anything, handled the situation but the episode was a bit trying. I meant to check in with groupon about it, but never got around to it (maybe in advance of the next vacation!).

      • Rita says

        doesnt matter what the intent…they cant discriminate based on where you live thats not legal

        • says

          @Kelli – I don’t really want to pile on with regards to the business, because I feel that in the end the situation was handled appropriately. It could have been a smoother transaction, but I don’t believe the lack of smoothness to be a punishing offense.

          @Rita – There are circumstances where geographic boundaries can be imposed on a promotional offer, depending upon the jurisdiction and nature of the restriction. For all I know, the man may have had the right to do what he was doing and groupon dropped the ball. That’s why I intended to follow-up – I really don’t know the back story. It’s a story to be aware of, though, as a cautionary tale. Even so, I wouldn’t shy away from buying groupons when traveling.

    • says

      That’s crazy! I always check chicago and Wisconsin because we live far near in illinois but really close to wisconsin (20 minutes). Maybe Ill email groupon about it.

  9. susant says

    I know you can check with groupon if they won’t honor it, groupon will refund your money- you just have to call groupon. The info is listed on their site. That has made me more willing to buy groupons since I know they basically guarantee their stuff.

  10. Heather says

    we used groupon for a recent trip to Las Vegas — we saw a show and ate a great dinner via groupon. It was fun to see what deals they had before the trip. For our 4 day trip we got 2 groupons. I didn’t want to go crazy just in case we ended up not going and we would lose money. It worked out great and we had a blast!

  11. crystal says

    I use both Groupon and Living Social to do this.
    I took it one step further and actually have a vacation planned around Groupon. We purchased the $399 World’s Resort deal and are going to Kauai, Hawaii. We got a 4 bedroom condo for 7 nights/8 days there at that priced and we saved $1200 by buying the Groupon . We purchased our planes tickets through Kayak.com ( highly recommend this site) and we saved over $500 total on our tickets for 4.
    When my dh is on travel we use Groupon and Living Social for meals, shopping and activities in the area and we also use those sites for regular vacations as well ( we usually plan a vacation around what is being offer under Living Social Escapes and Groupons Getaways ).
    I also recommend friends that come to our town to do the same thing and they save a lot of money doing that.
    ** Don’t forget about Groupons Now Deals that you can purchase right away and use that day ( no wait). So you can wait the day of your trip and see what is being often under the Now Deals ( eat something, have fun and see a show are just a few of the categories under Now Deals ). Not all cities have this option, it will be on the tab section at the top of the page next to All Deals and Getaways if its available in that city.

      • crystal says

        I will, we leave the middle of Sept. for Hawaii. I’m excited.
        The other hotels we have stayed at I just book through either their website or call the 800 number. Never had a problem with the Groupons.

  12. Dorothy says

    I used Groupon and Restaurant.com to help pay for my Honeymoon to Las Vegas. My husband and I purchased several attraction tickets from Groupon (usually making things the equivalent of B1G1). For over half our meals I bought certificates from Restaurant.com at over 80% off (pay $4 for a $25 certificate, YES PLEASE!) If you plan ahead enough for vacations you can really save big!

  13. Heather says

    Have used Groupon and Living Social for deals in both NYC and Washigton DC when we travel there. We are going down to TN in 2 more weeks but there weren’t any deals close to where we are staying in the mountains. I did find some good deals at restaurant.com which has the 80% promo code today (HOT) and Shop at Home is offering 30% cash back there. I don’t mind the spend $50 for buying a $25 certificate as we have a family of five – two teenage boys and one preteen boy – they love to eat and since we only have one using a children’s menu – prices add up quickly.

  14. Laura Evans says

    This is great. I reccommend it to anyone. We did this while on our honeymoon and got to go horseback riding, eat out, shop, go on a boat tour and tons of other stuff that wouldve been unreachable out of our budget.

  15. kristen says

    Groupon also just came out with Groupon Getaways! There seem to be really good deals…if the places they have on there are places you want to go to :)

  16. shannon says

    One word of caution though…we almost did this on our recent trip and glad we did not. We were going to purchase a Groupon for a local ice skating rink that I saw a few weeks before our trip. For some reason I did not and glad I did. The week we were in that town, the ice skating rink was down for some scheduled maintenance. So, if it is the type of place or attraction that could be totally shut down for maintenance, call ahead first.

    • says

      Interesting. Sometimes in this kind of situation groupon will refund your money. I had purchased something and then wasn’t able to go. I emailed groupon and they gave me a credit for my purchase.

  17. says

    We LOVE groupon and living social! I was able to plan a surprise weekend away for me and my husband after he was gone for a month, and with all of our groupons we were able to spend less than $200 for our hotel, meals, and activities like going to a wine tasting and going to the movies! SUCH a blessing!

  18. Becky says

    We signed up for a couple of cities that we’d LIKE to visit, but have no definite plans. If just the right offer comes up, we may just snag it and start planning!

  19. LVSquared says

    Hi all, this is a great idea, just check yelp or urbanspoon before you purchase. I did this for a recent vacation and a really interesting restaurant popped up at 37% approved. Yikes! Do that for local hotels on TripAdvisor too :)

  20. says

    It’d be great if groupon did cruises. Cruises are decently easy to get a good price (if your travel time is flexable, food is included, etc) and with groupon they be an even better price!