Want to work out some sweet travel deals and take advantage of promotions before you get to where you’re going?
As the author of the book The World’s Cheapest Destinations, I’m obviously a guy who doesn’t throw extra money around willingly when traveling. I love to go new places and discover new things, but I enjoy the whole experience a lot more if I’m not loading down my credit card balance in the process.
We’ve all learned how to search for deals on hotels, flights, and cars in advance, but what about when you’re on the ground where you’re spending your time? Here are a few things you can line up in advance to save a few bucks so you’re not winging it.
Ride Share Deals
You’re not likely to find discount deals for regular taxi cabs, but the ride share services are a different story. There are a lot of ride share promo codes out there for the likes of Lyft and Uber, plus their equivalents you may not have heard of such as Postmates, DoorDash, and Sidecar.
The best credits are for first time users, but Lyft isn’t as well-known as Uber so a lot of people haven’t tried it yet. I took my first three rides with them for nothing after getting a $50 credit to download the app and start using it. Once you become a paying customer, you’ll get referral codes you can share with others that will get you more ride credits. They often run flash sales too—a few times I’ve gotten airport rides for half off after arriving in a new city. (And by the way, if you’re thinking of putting your car to use as a driver, you could earn up to $1,000 as a driver sign-up bonus.)
Groupon and Its Kin are Everywhere
You’ve probably used Groupon in your home city for deals on massages, activities, or restaurants. But you don’t have to stick to your home turf. You can also search Groupon (or Living Social) in places where you’re going on vacation and find half off deals there too. I’ve done this in several cities and have one I’ll cash in when I take the family to Daytona Beach next month. You can use them abroad too though. You might have to translate what’s on the page if it’s in Spanish or German, but you can find some great bargains in Lima or Berlin.
Bonus tip: see if there’s a local version of this. In the cities where Creative Loafing has the alt-weekly newspaper, for instance, CL Deals (Tampa) or LoafDeals (Atlanta) has the best selection of all for restaurants and bars. In Nashville it’s MySceneDeals.
City and Attraction Passes
I got to try out the Stockholm Pass this past summer in Sweden and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. Mainly because it got me onto jaunts I might not have taken otherwise, like this canal tour around the garden island.
These things aren’t always a great deal because some turn you into a sightseeing racer in order to cram in enough things to get your money’s worth. I have been trying out the CityPass though and it doesn’t have a time limit. It saves you a bundle if you’re planning to hit multiple attractions.
In Tampa for instance it gets you into Busch Gardens, aquariums in both Tampa and Clearwater, the zoo, and the science museum or the Chihuly Collection glass art museum. That’s a lot for $99 adults, $89 kids. They offer similar programs in 11 other cities.
Go Old School for Coupons
There’s one way to find local deals that hasn’t changed since the internet came along: local printed coupons. Almost every tourist-oriented place you visit in the world has at least one local rag that’s basically an advertising vehicle for local businesses. Usually this local “tourism guide” is filled with coupons to entice you to step into the doors of establishments that need to look busy. Nobody wants to eat in an empty restaurant they don’t know or be the only person on a bar stool. So these coupons will offer a free drink, a free appetizer, cheaper happy hour specials, or outright discounts.
Look for them on the hotel brochure racks, in sidewalk stands, or in the tourism office. Sometimes you can find a web version in advance so you can do some research and maybe print out coupons ahead of time.
How about you, what ways have you found everyday deals for where you’re headed?