Ask The Readers: Should we buy an Entertainment Book for our vacation?

Today’s question is from Karen:

My family is planning a trip in April and I can order an Entertainment Book for the city that we are going to, but I’m wondering if it would be worth the $20 to buy the book or not? -Karen

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  1. Kim says

    When my husband and I traveled to Minneapolis, as a couple, it was not worth purchasing an Entertainment Book. After we purchased it and started shopping/eating out/entertaining we found that we were better off sticking to store or restaurant deals or just use a little frugal thinking upon purchases.

    Perhaps with a family it would be different, but we lost money purchasing an Entertainment Book.

  2. Sakura says

    I didn’t find the Entertainment book very useful on our trip. However I did a little research for our last vacation and kept an eye out on groupon, living social and to find some deals. Then I just purchased the gift cards/deals I wanted and used those.

    • Sara S says

      I agree with this. I’ve never bought the Entertainment book, but I do sign up on Groupon and Living Social for the city I’m going to visit and watch for places that I know we’re going to go to. I’ve gotten some great deals this way.

    • Brenda says

      I was able to enjoy a Sunset Cruise with my mom, for $20 each, via Groupon, when I signed up for the Tampa area Groupon emails before my trip. My mom loved it, and it will be an awesome memory for years to come! A friend was able to score some awesome restaurant Groupons to her favorite places to take us — she used the Groupons, and I picked up the tabs. Perfect.

  3. says

    Here’s my thought on this, having bought Entertainment books some years and skipped it other years (and I LOVE coupons!). My son’s school did a fundraiser so this year we bought it. Since I live in Orlando, I would say if you were, for instance, coming to Disney, I don’t know if you would really find much value in the Orlando Entertainment book because you will most likely be focused on the theme parks. Now, if you are renting a car, there are car rental coupons (and I see a $5 off $20 “Rainforest Cafe” coupon located at Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney) but I think it really depends on your plans for whatever city you are visiting.
    If I were going to, say, Chicago, I would look up the Chicago book online and see if there are any coupons for somewhere that I actually want to eat or see. It seems the books only pay for themselves if you can use them at least two or more times. Hope that helps! :) Claire

  4. Emily says

    I think it largely depends on where you are going, how long you will be there, and how much you plan to do and plan to eat out when you are there. One other thing you could do is check Groupon and Living Social every day for deals in or near the city you are traveling to. My husband and I went to New Orleans last year for our 10th anniversary, and I got a half-priced tour of the Garden District through Living Social. It ended up being one of our favorite things about our trip.

  5. says

    I wouldn’t buy an entertainment book but would look into a City Pass if they have one. Seattle has deals like this with one price passes to all the most popular attractions like the Space Needle, aquarium, etc. Entertainment books and even Groupon type deals are rarely for the most popular places, rather just businesses willing to advertise/offer deals via that route of marketing.

  6. Jenny says

    I would say it depends on how long and how much you plan on doing. We love it and it’s well worth the $20 w/ 3 kids. However, if your vacation isn’t going to involve a lot of out to eating and activities, I wouldn’t recommend it.

  7. says

    I would absolutely order one. Usually they come with coupons for national or chain grocery stores. I’ve seen them have various coupons like $5/$20 which pays for the book itself. The books are handy to keep in the car in case you have to stop for supplies, fast food or unplanned entertainment. If you shop through Ebates you can earn 17% cash back.

  8. Lindsey says

    You can usually view the one online for the area that you are going to. Then, you can decide whether it is worth it or not. Also, there are usually coupon codes for the books. I have never paid full price for the books.

  9. Julie says

    Another coupon book you should check out is Enjoy the City. I went to Florida about 3 years ago and the Enjoy the City – Orlando (I paid about $15) was worth it. You can also buy them on Ebay – I just paid about $4 for one that is only good until June 2013. It may or may not be available depending on the city you are going to.

  10. lindsey says

    Last summer, I bought a “enjoy the city” book for the Destin, FL area. The book cost me $5 because I purchased it on sale. (normally $25). I was able to use the grocery store coupons ($5 off your $30 purchase), putt-putt, yogurt, and other great coupons. When I returned from my Vacation in May, my girlfriend went to the same location in July and I let her use my book. I would investigate your location and see if the coupons are going to benefit your trip. In my case by using at least 2 grocery store coupons, I saved money. Everything else was extra money saved.

  11. Katie says

    Try signing up for Groupon a several weeks before the trip. Often times there are great deals on the gems of the city.

  12. Christie says

    To echo what others have said, it depends on where you are going. Last year it was definitely worth it for us. We bought ours in May at a deep discount ($12, I believe). We were traveling to the beach 3 hrs from our house, so we had coupons we could use at home too. Plus there are some coupons for national chains like Pizza Hut that weren’t location specific (ex. $5 off $20).
    We got lucky that the restaurant in our hotel had a BOGO coupon in the book, and we were able to print a second from their website. You may be able to print out coupons for your local area as well (something to check out).
    If you can at least break even through the coupons, I say it’s worth it. We saved what we paid and then maybe 1 or 2 more coupons on top of that, so even though we barely used it, we still came out ahead.

  13. Martina says

    every year the schools in our town sell something similar like this, but we found that unless you really eat out every week, this books and coupon cards are seldom worth it. Most of the time our card was in the other car or with my spouse when i really wanted to use it. Maybe Entertainment books are different, but i would think they would only make sense for a family, and if its a bigger city

  14. Susan in St. Louis says

    I did this once, and didn’t feel as if the purchase of the book was worth it. One benefit, however, was that it got us to some local restaurants that we otherwise probably wouldn’t have known about.

    I think it really depends on the location. If you were coming to St. Louis, then I’d say yes, it’s probably a great thing to get!

      • Susan in St. Louis says

        The STL book generally tends to be a good one, though that has not been as true in recent years as it used to be. However, there are still enough coupons in there that you could use (including restaurants and attractions) that you could fairly easily make it worth your while. There are also $5/$50 coupons to one of the local grocery stores, if you are going to do your own shopping/cooking.

        However, another way to go is to google “St. Louis Family Attractions Card” and download that. It has coupons to many of the attractions you would likely want to hit with kids…and it’s FREE!

        St. Louis is a great city for families with children to visit, as so much is available at little or no cost – the Science Center (free parking by the Planetarium/Forest Park side, esp if you get there first thing in the AM), the zoo (again, free parking along the road if you go early in the AM, plus the carousel and a few other things you usually pay for are free the first hour the zoo is open. Otherwise, consider the day pass for about $10/person for unlimited train rides, etc.) The art museum is free, and there are fantastic parks in St. Louis county (check out Suson Park with its farm-like atmosphere and great playground). During the warm weather months, Grant’s Farm is open and free, and you can usually find parking across Gravois road south of Grants Farm if you’re willing to walk 1/4 of a mile. Attractions for families worth paying for (esp if you can get coupons) include – The City Museum (for kids over about 5 or 6 would be best), The Magic House (best for kids under 10-12), and the Butterfly House (great for all).

        Okay, I’ll end here. This is turning into a travel brochure! :) Enjoy your visit to our great city!

  15. Lana says

    I would say that it would not be easy to make it pay for itself because the coupons are spread out over such a wide area. Swagbucks has printable entertainment book coupons now and most of them can be purchased for 35 swagbucks. This might be a better option since you would have no actual money out of pocket.

  16. says

    We use a lot when traveling and it’s worth it. I think buying the coupon books for the city you live in is worth it, because the money goes to a kid’s school or sport, and you can easily get your money’s worth out of the coupons if you like to eat out. But I wouldn’t buy one for a town I was just visiting for a week or even a few weeks (if I was visiting long-term, I’d most likely invest in lodging that included a kitchenette).

  17. Amy says

    Check out the Entertainment book website to see what is included in the book for the places you are going. We have only purchased an Entertainment book for one vacation (so far), and that was to the Niagara Falls, New York area. We were going to be in town for almost a week because of combining vacation with a wedding. The Entertainment Book had coupons for local restaurants and stores and tourist traps near the wedding site as well as national chains. Some good deals for us: our family of 3 went to the zoo there for the price of one admission thanks to the coupon in the book. Also, we got a free meal at a local restaurant thanks to a coupon and gave some other people in the restaurant a free ice cream coupon to use. After using a bunch of the coupons for our trip, we passed the book on to some people who lived there or who were going there on vacation once we didn’t need it anymore. Well worth the money for the book that time! But, once again, we researched what was in the book (read: what we would realistically use) to see if the book was worth it for us, and that time it was.

  18. Ann says

    This is my standard gift for any friend that is moving to a new area, to help them explore. We buy one every year for our local area, but it can take awhile to find coupons that match what we want to do. But one party with 20% off catering or a BOGO for the local theater or minor league baseball team pays for the book. But I would definitely look online to see if what you want to do is covered.

  19. Carla says

    I bought one once, as part of a fundraiser, so I did not mind helping them out. But I wasted most of the coupons, or just used some because I had them, not necessarily at places I would normally go. IF you could find even ONE great deal to save money on vacation, I guess it would be good, if it was for some place you really wanted to go. Someone said you can check online, which is great to see what is included.

    • Sweta says

      I would say don’t order one. I used to order the one for my city (Austin, TX) and I found that the coupons sucked and lots of the coupons were for places that don’t even exist anymore. I’d stick to Groupon. If you do decide to buy the e-book, make sure you buy it through to get the 17.5% rebate. Groupon is on ebates as well (3% rebate)

  20. says

    This was several years ago, but it was TOTALLY worth it on our trip to Portland. Most of the coupons were B1G1, so we made up the cost in just a few meals. You do have to be intentional about going to restaurants that are in the book, rather than just driving around and picking someplace.

  21. Heather C says

    Living in an area where tons and tons of people vacation I can tell you that if you find places in the city you are going to where they have local free papers you can usually also find the local coupon booklets. I know in my county most of the concierge desks at hotels, public areas at our airport and even rental car offices carry all the local coupon books too, which are free, and have tons of deals for everything from restaurants to activities. (then you can ask the concierge if its somewhere they would recommend or steer clear off too!)

    • Chiara says

      Instead of using Entertainment book, you can use coupons instead. Check reviews of the restaurant on and there are lots of coupons for so you get meals for really cheap. I believe you can also request credit if you don’t end up using your coupon after the trip.

  22. Melissa Robinson says

    We took a road trip to the east coast last summer, and did so many great things with Groupon! From Whale Watching, to restaurants, to a walking tour at Niagara Falls, we planned so much, and got great deals everywhere we went. Best of all, we bought the Groupons throughout the summer, and didn’t have to come up with the money ON the trip! It really helped us to budget through! I wouldn’t probably pay for deals, such as with an Entertainment book, just because I wouldn’t want to worry about recouping the price.

    My sisters and I are going to San Diego in a couple of months, and we’re already surfing the San Diego Groupon site to plan our time there! I can’t wait!

  23. mm-woman says

    It’s been my experience that most of the businesses in the coupon books are already out of our price range. I don’t find them helpful.

  24. Maryann says

    IMO They are a good bet especially if you are going to do the touristy things, and are going to eat out. If you have kids, I would say definately. Shop at home has them for $19 with free shipping and 17.5% cash back. I usually try to wait till closer as the book usually gets cheaper, but beware they sometimes sell out. Go online, and check out the coupons for the book you want to buy, and see how many you think you will use. Also consider resteraunt .com for cheap eats.
    Have fun,

  25. John says

    An Entertainment Book usually isn’t worth it for a short trip. Try instead. When you get to town, pick up a free weekly newspaper, and see if there are any restaurant coupons in there (or look online for specials, happy hours, etc. that don’t need a coupon). Search yelp for specials and happy hours.

    If you donate to public broadcasting and receive a Membercard in your community, you are entitled to order TravelCards. These are Membercards for other cities/states, and cost $6.99 for three different travelcards which are valid for 6 months. Get the cards for places you go on vacation, or mail them to your friends/relatives to use (they won’t have a name on them).

  26. says

    Absolutely, buy one! They quickly pay for themselves and there’s a large national section in each book that you can use long after your vacation. I also recommend Enjoy The City as well!

  27. Wendy says

    We buy one for almost every vacation because, as others have said, the national coupons can be used anywhere–JoAnn Fabrics, Michael’s, Old Navy, Aeropostale, etc.–through 12/31. They came in handy around holiday tim! Definitely check the Entertainment Book website to see which coupons will be in a specific book. Two years ago we traveled to Chicago in August–there were two different EB’s for Chicago–we bought both at the clearance price of $5 each with free shipping. When we traveled to Orlando recently, we didn’t bother since the book was $24, and we wouldn’t have benefited much. The car rental coupons are very handy if you need them.

  28. Kim says

    I would recommend buying the book if you have children or are planning on eating out lots of 2 for 1 food lots of free kids with adult tickets for things there are also some car and air coupons but that depends on what you have to use for me it was cheaper to use another source for my rental car . you should also look into the place you are going to and write the the city they usually snail mail information out. We are miltary and have been for the past 29 years and that is a source I use every time we move to a new state you can get coupons specials etc from them it is how much work you want to put into your vacation and how much you would like to do as we all know you have a set amount of money you are willing to pay for the trip so we use the coupons so we can do extra things and if you can get a hotel with breaksfast included it will make the trip go farther . some hotel offer special for a little more and they give you a credit for dinner like 50.00 per night for as litttle as 10.00 or 20.00 per night and if you order right and not a lot of adult drinks you will have the free breaksfast and the 50.00 in credit for dinner which is a lot of your expenses while on your trip so you can use the saved money for a zoo trip or something everyone would like.

  29. says

    I’d say watch for deals on the book. I’ve gotten them for lots less than 20.00 by March. If nothing else, go through ebates.
    If you can get one for 15 or less, you’ll only have to use 1 or 2 coupons at the most.

  30. Emi says

    I would say DON’T. We live in Napa Valley, California wine country and I purchased one. Unfortunately, about 50 percent of the places told me that they would no accept the coupon. I showed them that it was their location and that I was purchasing or participating in the stated activity and that the coupon was not expired and they just said that they had decided to not accept these coupons anymore. These were wineries, fast food locations, sit down restaurants, childrens activites and golf courses – I think it was 12 locations total. I went to because there is a listing of locations who had coupons issued but decided later to not participate and none of these places contacted to remove themselves. I did get an apology from and I only had to drive about 15 minutes or so to get to these locations, but it still was an inconvenience and a bummer and in some cases my children were very upset when I walked out.

  31. says

    Like others said, it does depend on where you are going and what you plan to do when you are there. My husband I bought one for a trip to Hawaii. We found that most of the coupons were for one island but we still were able to save more than what we paid for the book. Basically the book costs $20 and there a lot of 2 for 1 dinners, lunches, etc. no matter what city you are buying the book for. So if you go to just 2 nice restaurants using the book, you’ve saved more than you paid for it. From the various books I’ve purchased, many coupons tend to be restaurants, ice cream places, miniature golf, etc. If you plan to eat out a lot and do various local activities, it’s likely a good deal. If you can get a look at the coupons included before you buy, and there are things you would actually want to do on your vacation, then I think you’ll find it worth your while.

  32. Judi says

    We did this for a summer trip to Chicago last year and more than made up for the amount with buy one, get one specials to museums and Navy Pier. When it comes to restaurants, we were limited by locations but still managed to use a couple.

  33. Euri says

    Well, I’ve had that same dilemma before. You know? The internet is such a great tool these days, that I would recommend that you do research on the place you are going to visit, I bet you’ll get good information like places to visit and recreational activities to do. Save the $20.00 for your trip and buy something nice or eat in a nice place. Enjoy!

  34. says

    There are so many questions to ask yourself. Is this an eat-out-every-meal vacation, or are you bringing cereal, pb&j, and just eating out for dinner? Do you have an entertainment book for the current city you are in? If so, do you use it? Pretend you are on vacation in your own city and look through it to see if it contains the items you need to get you through your “trip” at home. If you can say it works for home, it should also work for away.

  35. says

    I’d skip it, primarily because you’ll feel like you *have* to use the places in the book because you bought it. Also, you have to save at least $20 just to break even, so saving more than that is unlikely unless you know for sure you’ll save that much because of specific coupons in the book.

    Instead, go to the tourist info center when you get to your destination and pick up some flyers there. Most have coupons for the popular attractions. You’ll probably save more money by being frugal with your vacation style than you would by buying the book.

  36. sally says

    We saved so much money with them. First I waited for a good sale and got one for <$15 dollars. But the savings still would have been great if we paid full price. I research all the restaurants and activities in the area that had deals in the books and knew it was a good investment before I purcahsed it. We also tried to eat at places that had coupons in the book. There were alot of great places that had B1G1 coupons or 5 of 10 coupons. We also saw movies in an omnimax theatre B1G1, went out of a boat sight seeing adventure, and rented beach chairs for much less because of the book.

    My biggest advice is look online at all the offers available before buying. You can tally up how much you think you would save with the book to see if its of value.

    Note: There were a lot of places we saw other coupons and flyers around that had a lot of the same deals while of vacation. I look thru some but was happy I didnt have to spend hours with a bag full of brochures. It was nice to have all the savings in one book.

  37. says

    If you plan on doing a lot while you are there it will pay for itself in just a couple uses – there are many of the coupons in the Ent book elsewhere – but it does make it easier just to have it all at your finger tips. We always buy one when we go to San Francisco – it is TOTALLY worth it (we buy it with ebates so we get a good portion back in cash from that and we wait for an Ent book sale if we can – sometimes as much as half off) – we then SELL the used book on ebay (with full disclosure of what tickets we used) – almost every time I get MORE money back than what i paid for it! WHAT?!

    • Christina says

      If you’re going to Hawaii, it is totally worth it. We saved 50% on a one bedroom suite for 11 days, half off car rental, excursions, food.

  38. says

    Like others said, it depends on where you go. We bought an entertainment book for the city we live in – Phoenix – last year, because a friend’s daughter was selling them for a fund raiser. For the most part, I wasn’t very impressed. Most of the resurants in it are places we’d never go anyway. But, it did have some grocery coupons that we nice.

    Before we took a week long vacation to Tucson last summer, I did a search online to find ways to save. I found out that the Chamber of Commerce there sells what they call a “City Passport” with coupons for all the major attractions. Most of them were 2 for 1 admissions which saved us TONS of money with our family of 6. The book cost us about $20, but we saved almost that much at the first place we visited. Before your trip, check to see if there is anything like that available. :)

  39. Emily says

    I have not purchased an Entertainment book for vacations but I always set my Groupon, Living Social, Plum District, etc. deal sites to whatever city I’ll be visiting a few months head of time. We saved a TON of money on our trip to San Diego by doing this, especially on dining out and activities. Hope that helps!

  40. Diane says

    It’s been a lot of years, but we saved a bundle on hotel rates (Hilton) in San Francisco and Reno, NV, when we traveled. The desk clerk at the Reno location even commented about how low a rate we had. It’s at least worth checking specific deals for where you’re going.

  41. says

    I have never bought an entertainment book. It always seemed like they were a little too expensive to justify, however it might make sense if there are expensive activities that you are planning to do.

  42. Michelle says

    My sister-in-law did the online version a couple years ago. I don’t know if it’s still available, but she was able to do discounts from all the books, not just one. So, she printed off attraction coupons when she came to see me, used it in her hometown, and used it on vacation. But she only had to commit to one month. I don’t know if they still do that or not, but it worked well for her.

  43. Patty says

    “I think it largely depends on where you are going, how long you will be there, and how much you plan to do and plan to eat out when you are there.”

    Ditto. When we went to Seattle years and years ago we definitely got our money worth. When we went to St. Louis I’m glad we didn’t buy it because it wasn’t worth it for that trip.

    I think the Groupon etc. coupons are a good deal and can save a lot, but have found one problem with them – you want to be in the part of the city where the restaurant/store is because you don’t want to spend all your time and money crossing a large city to use it when you’ve already paid money for it. So make sure of distance from your hotel etc. before buying them. That is one thing I appreciated about the Entertainment Book in Seattle – when we were ready to eat there was always something in the area.

    The other nice thing about it was things like grocery stores. Sometimes we like to save money by buying lunch at a grocery stores and putting it together ourselves. often Entertainment has coupons for groceries.

    So determine how long you will be and what your activities will be and then look online to see if it is worth it for that city.

    • Amy says

      If you are going to Hawaii, specifically Oahu, the Entertainment Book is a must-buy, in my opinion. That is the island with the bulk of the most valuable Hawaii coupons…some really good ones, too! Most of them in the Hawaii book are for the Honolulu area.

      We bought the Hawaii one last year for our trip to Maui, and there were far less Entertainment Book deals for that island. We were, however, able to use enough coupons, that we did save money in the long run by purchasing the book, but not by much. We are going to the Big Island this year, and we will probably not buy one for this trip.

  44. Susan I says

    We live in the Chicagoland area, about 3 1/2 hours away from the Wisconsin dells, and we buy their version of an entertainment book every year and find its been well worth it. Of course we go up there quite a bit since its so close, and we usually get the book on sale, but it pays for itself with just one visit to one restaurant that my kids just love, so the other coupons are like an extra bonus.

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