You don’t have to ‘eat’ expired coupon deals

March 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

In the next two months, Laurie MacDougall needs to eat 10 pizzas, take two beading classes, get at least one picture framed, have her car washed twice, drop off $30 of dry cleaning, visit a museum with three friends, eat at two restaurants and buy books at the Used Book Superstore.

Otherwise, $250 of discount coupons she bought from Groupon and other online daily deal sites will expire, unused.

“There just isn’t enough time in the day to do it all,” said MacDougall, 47.

Luckily for MacDougall and Frederick Thum, of Cambridge – who bought three Groupons for Nashoba Brook Bakery only to realize he was driving an hour for a loaf of bread – and Andrew Pelissier, of Hanover, who spent $100 for discounted limo services and can’t round up friends for a party, a secondary, or resale, market has emerged.

Sites such as DealsGoRound, CoupRecoup and Lifesta, which recently got $1 million in private funding, give consumers a place to sell those deals they couldn’t pass up but also couldn’t manage to use. All three were inspired by the founders’ own experiences, with deals they missed the first time around, or vouchers that expired.

As Kris Petersen, founder and chief executive of Chicago-based DealsGoRound, put it: “Who doesn’t want to take a Segway tour?” He doesn’t, as he learned after spending $160 on a tour for four people, and watching a summer elapse without finding the right moment.

These people fell under the spell of the hottest craze in retailing. Groupon, LivingSocial and hundreds of other sites like them send subscribers e-mails offering deep discounts on everything from facials to helicopter lessons to local restaurants.

Many of the offers come with tight deadlines, which, combined with fantastic bargains, sometimes prompt consumers to click “buy” on things that they may not really want.

The deals often create surges in business and new customers for retailers, but some find themselves overwhelmed and unsure whether the uptick in business was worth sharing revenues with whichever daily deal site they’re working with.

Groupon and LivingSocial won’t reveal their redemption rates, so there’s no way to know exactly how many discount power yoga classes will go untaken, how many bargain faux tans will go unsprayed.

Estimates, and one small study, put redemption rates between 70 percent and 90 percent. Yael Gavish, a cofounder of San Francisco-based Lifesta, estimates 20 percent of coupons aren’t redeemed.

A survey of 100 retailers by Yipit, a site that aggregates deals from Groupon and 360 other companies (yes, there are that many), found redemption rates between 80 percent and 90 percent.

Christa Hagearty, president of the Quincy-based Dependable Cleaners chain, said salespeople for two big daily deal sites told her 20 percent to 30 percent of coupons are never used (although she said the cleaner’s redemption rates have been higher).

Here’s what we know: With sales of daily deals coupons projected to exceed $5 billion globally this year, according to Lou Kerner, an analyst with the Los Angeles-based Wedbush Securities, the number of consumers experiencing “Groupon remorse” is growing.

“You have these grand plans in your head about what you’re going to do,” said Betsy Hochadel, 28, a night student at Suffolk University Law School who works in financial services. “Part of the disappointment is that you never got your life together enough to do something new and exciting.”

Coupons are unused for a variety of reasons. The buyer realizes she doesn’t want to skydive or get facial hair lasered off, or she moves or breaks up with her boyfriend.

Hochadel sold her $15 restaurant voucher (for $15), on Lifesta, which charges sellers 99 cents plus 8 percent of the sale price, meaning it cost her $2.19 to unload the voucher. DealsGoRound levies a flat 10 percent of the sale price, and CoupRecoup, like Craigslist, is free.

CoupRecoup cofounder Aren Sandersen said the site is not charging but is “looking to find revenue options at the end of this year.”

Sellers typically don’t charge more than they paid for their coupons, but simply recouping their original investment, or something close to it, can make them feel as if they’re earning money. “That money is already spent and gone,” said Pelissier, 23, a trade compliance officer who’s trying to sell Groupons for limo services.

If no buyer emerges for the limo ride, he said, “Worst case, I just get picked up from work one day and go for a ride with my girlfriend.”

Article source: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/03/13/2134235/you-dont-have-to-eat-expired-coupon.html

Sizing up the packaged vacation

March 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel Deals

Online travel agencies have long promoted vacation packages as a means to big savings: “Book flight + hotel, save up to $450″ is the lure on Expedia.com‘s homepage, while Orbitz.com promises a savings of “up to $465.” Travelocity.com raises the bid with its claim that users can save as much as $525 on some packages.

But many travelers are skeptical, particularly those who learned the hard way that big savings might require tradeoffs like a flight at the crack of dawn, a dingy hotel or multiple flight connections. Now, online travel agencies are hoping to prove those savings exist for a vacation you’d actually want to take.

Travelocity, for instance, is trying to entice customers with a redesigned package search that uses cleaner, bolder navigation, making it easier to shop for alternative flights if the cheapest option isn’t what you want. And last summer Orbitz began listing real-life examples of savings. A recent search for flights from New York to Miami, for instance, brought up a list of package purchases, including: “1 hour ago Alice saved $373 by booking a flight + this hotel” (South Seas Hotel).

Expedia, believing that the term “package” has a lot to do with customer skepticism, is running a contest on Facebook to rename its bundled vacations. The prize: a trip worth up to $10,000. The problem with the word “package,” said Tim

MacDonald, general manager of Expedia.com, is that it sounds inflexible, conjuring up thoughts of a preset, take-it-or-leave-it deal. “You think you basically have to live with whatever they’ve got,” he said, adding that many travelers don’t believe they can get a better deal this way. “But if the hotel doesn’t have to show their price and the airlines don’t have to show their price, both are willing to give lower prices not available otherwise.”

The push to demystify the package comes as airlines and hotels are looking for ways to get consumers to buy directly from their own websites through lowest-price guarantees, and changing how and where their rates are listed — as in the case of American Airlines, which is not listed on Expedia or Orbitz. Online agencies are also competing with airlines that are creating their own packages. Just last month, JetBlue began offering a best-price guarantee and additional frequent flier points on packages offered across the airline’s 36 destinations.

So with spring break around the corner, I tested three sites — Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz — by searching for packages for two people for three vacation scenarios — a long weekend in Washington, D.C.; a weeklong getaway to a resort in Cancún; and a week at a luxury resort in Scottsdale, Ariz. — all with nonstop flights leaving the New York area at reasonable times.

For comparison, I shopped for hotels and airfares separately at the suppliers’ own booking sites, then searched across the three online agencies to see if they could beat those rates. I also took a close look at the agencies’ results when searching by price alone. No site consistently offered the best deal, though some were better than others. But the exercise revealed some basic lessons for online shoppers:

  • Don’t be seduced by price alone. When filtering results for the cheapest package for the Washington trip, Expedia had the best price, but with drawbacks: $400 for round-trip flights paired with the Garden Inn in Laurel, Md., 22 miles from Washington. Travelocity offered the Travelodge Fredericksburg, about 50 miles south of Washington, for $414. Orbitz had the most viable option: the Courtyard by Marriott Dunn Loring Fairfax in Vienna, Va., a 40-minute Metro ride from Washington, for $527. Still, none of these were what I really wanted — an upscale hotel in the heart of the city.

  • Check out the sites’ top picks. Given what I wanted, I was better served by not filtering for price, but instead relying on the default choices listed first (on the Expedia site, these are called Expedia Picks). The options here were more expensive, but also more convenient. Travelocity, for instance, had a good deal on a stay at the upscale Palomar Washington, a Kimpton hotel in the Dupont Circle neighborhood, with nonstop flights on JetBlue, departing New York at 7:30 a.m. and returning at 9:50 a.m. The cost, $711, was a $380 savings off the price I found by checking the hotel and airline sites separately. Orbitz served up essentially the same package as its “best value” with a different JetBlue flight leaving New York in the evening instead of the morning for $72 more than Travelocity. Expedia offered the same flights and a different hotel — Washington Plaza — for $810, with no savings indicated. But even that deal was $281 less than what I was quoted ($1,091) when trying to book the same flights and hotel myself.

  • Consider peak-season packages. Even in the high season, the agencies’ pre-negotiated rates with airlines and hotels allow them to create packages at prices that you’re unlikely to get from hotels and airlines separately. The best price I found by searching airline and hotel websites for a week at the all-inclusive ME Cancún the week before the Easter holiday was $5,297 ($3,102 for the hotel and $2,195 for the flight). All three sites beat that price by at least $1,000, with the best savings from Travelocity, at $3,212 for the same flight and hotel.

    It still pays to check hotel and airline websites directly, as I was reminded when looking for the best price for a peak-season trip to Scottsdale, Ariz. None of the online agencies beat the price I came up with, $3,070, for a week at The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, the week leading up to Easter. The closest was Orbitz, which listed the trip for $3,232.

    The bottom line

    Ultimately Travelocity had the best price for two of my searches: $380 off the Washington trip staying at the Palomar and an impressive $2,085 off the week in Cancún. It also had the cleanest, most intuitive search options with tabs on the left of the packages results, allowing users to select from three options: cheapest package, closest match (for those with specific flight times in mind) and shortest flight. The “change flight” button was another convenience. Travelocity also made it easy to search by hotel amenities like a swimming pool as well as by star rating or hotel name.

    Expedia offered the cheapest option when searching by price alone at $400 for the Washington trip, but the hotel was 22 miles from downtown. (The company says it has more than 75,000 hotels available through packages, offering customers a wide choice.) Expedia’s site was also the least appealing. While it did allow searches by hotel amenities, I nearly missed that option, which was in tiny print at the top of the page.

    Orbitz served up results in a matrix that allowed for an easy at-a-glance view of available deals, but it lost points in my book for neglecting to show the total price upfront, requiring consumers to double the per-person price (shown on the first page) in their head or click on a package to see the total. Users also can’t narrow their search by hotel amenity.

    My advice: Use Travelocity to hunt for packages. It still offers American Airlines in its search, and its site is easy to navigate. Then try to book those directly with the hotels and airlines to see if you can get a better offer.

  • Article source: http://www.mercurynews.com/travel/ci_17576132

    What’s the Deal? Top travel bargains of the week

    March 13, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    LAND

    l Santa Fe’s Eldorado Hotel is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a 25 percent-off sale for April stays. Rooms that normally start at $229 per night double are going for $169. Add about $25 a night in taxes. The pueblo-style hotel, adjacent to historic Santa Fe Plaza, has a spa and a rooftop pool. Info: 800-955-4455, www.eldoradohotel.com.

    l With a deal from Wyndham Vacation Rentals, book five or more nights at the beach this spring and get a free seven-night resort stay for later in the year. For the first trip, choose from select ResortQuest by WyndhamVacationRentals properties in northwest Florida, Delaware and South Carolina. A five-night stay in Florida’s Destin on the Gulf at the end of May, for example, starts at $186 per night for a two-bedroom, two-bath unit that sleeps eight; with fees and taxes, the total cost is $1,235. For the free seven-night stay, choose from Wyndham Vacation Rentals properties in the United States, Europe, Mexico, the Caribbean, Asia and Australia. Book the first stay by April 30 using promo code WY2; travel by May 30. (Properties in Delaware and Florida must be booked by phone; see listed Web site for numbers.) Redeem the seven-night stay by Dec. 31. Info: 800-862-4853, www.resortquest.com/you-need-a-vacation.

    l Gaylord Hotels has two spring deals at its luxury resorts in Nashville; Kissimmee, Fla; Grapevine, Tex.; and National Harbor. With the Spring Fever Reliever, book one room at the regular rate and get a second room at 50 percent off. The Bring On Spring package includes $100 in resort credits, which can be used for dinner, shopping or spa treatments. Rates and booking deadlines vary by property. At the Gaylord Opryland, for example, the two-room deal starts at $199 per night double for the first room and $99 for the second room; with fees and taxes, the total for two rooms is $366 per night. For the Bring On Spring deal, rates at the Opryland hotel start at $209 per night double ($263 with fees and taxes). Book and travel by April 15 for Opryland, April 30 for the other properties. Info: 866-972-6779, www.gaylordhotels.com.

    SEA

    l With Royal Caribbean, reserve a Neighborhood balcony on a select Oasis of the Seas or Allure of the Seas Caribbean cruise and receive $100 in onboard spending money, good for shopping, specialty dining, shore excursions or gambling. Sample cruise: The seven-night Western Caribbean round trip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Allure of the Seas, departing May 22, costs $1,179 per person double for a stateroom with a Central Park view balcony. Add $118 per person in fees and taxes. Book by March 31; travel on select dates March through May. Info:866-562-7625, www.royalcaribbean.com.

    AIR

    l Aer Lingus has a summer sale on nonstop flights to Ireland from New York’s JFK Airport. Travel in July or August for $833 round trip, including fees and taxes. Fares on other airlines start at about $1,070. Book by March 17; travel July 1-Aug. 22. Info: 516-622-4222, www.aerlingus.com.

    l Take a last-minute, nonstop trip from Washington Dulles to London on Virgin Atlantic for $611 round trip, including all taxes. BMI is matching; fares on other airlines start at $652. Book and travel by March 31 (no advance purchase required). Info: 800-821-5438, www.virgin-atlantic.com.

    l British Airways also has a spring sale on flights from Washington Dulles and BWI Marshall to London Heathrow, with round-trip fares beginning at $665 per person, including all taxes. Book by March 17; travel March 17-April 12. Other airlines are matching. Info: 800-247-9297, www.ba.com.

    PACKAGE

    l With Friendly Planet Travel, take a six-night trip from Washington to Costa Rica starting at $1,044 per person double – a savings of $300 over regular rates. The trip visits San Jose, Arenal and Monteverde and includes round-trip air from Washington Dulles, six nights’ accommodations, daily breakfast and transfers. Add $106 per person in fees and taxes. Trip offered on multiple dates through November; cheapest prices are for June 10 and Sept. 15 departures. Book by March 31. Info: 800-555-5765, www.friendlyplanet.com.

    K.C. Summers

    Submit travel deals to whatsthedeal@washpost.com. Include your phone number and e-mail address. Prices were verified at press time Thursday, but deals sell out and availability is not guaranteed. Restrictions such as blackout dates and advance purchase may apply.

    Article source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/10/AR2011031005635.html

    LAX flights to and from Toyko back in operation

    March 13, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    Delta Flight 635, a hulking 747-400, pulled out of Terminal 5 at LAX early Saturday and arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport 11 hours later. No big deal under normal circumstances. On the day after the worst quake in Japanese history, it was a small step toward normalcy.

    Photos: Scenes from the earthquake

    Four LAX flights into and out of Tokyo’s two airports were scheduled Saturday, and as of midday they were close to being on schedule. Delta Flight 284 from Narita airport in Tokyo arrived at LAX in the late morning, and Flight 283 left LAX for the return trip about 45 minutes after its scheduled noon departure. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines Flight 12 from Narita arrived at LAX before noon.

    Overall, though, domestic and international air travel to Japan remained crippled. Kyodo News reported more than 400 flights were canceled Saturday. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines canceled all domestic flights after seven of the two airlines’ planes were damaged in the quake.

    Train operations in the Tokyo area resumed Saturday, Kyodo News said, though some routes were reduced to fewer runs. 

    In addition to the usual airline websites, here are some handy links for keeping track of flights to and from Japan and into LAX:

    LAX flight cancellations and resumptions

    Tokyo/Narita quake updates

    Tokyo/Haneda updates

    Track any flight from any airline via FlightAware

    Article source: http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/lat-japan-earthquake-lax-flights-to-and-from-japan-back-in-operation-20110312,1,680258.story

    Travel deals abound on social-media sites

    March 13, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    Stacy Mowery is a travel-deal fiend. She scouts airline and hotel promotions on Facebook and Twitter. She buys theme-park tickets at Costco.

    Her latest obsession: finding vacation discounts on the exploding number of “daily deals” websites.

    A recent score: $100 in Las Vegas spa treatments at half-price.

    Among the sites are Groupon and LivingSocial, which sprinkle hotel, spa and tour discounts among the ever-present yoga classes and Botox deals in their daily e-mails to subscribers. And then there are the new travel-specific daily-deals sites, including SniqueAway and TripAlertz.

    “They’re new. They’re tactical,” said Henry Harteveldt, travel-industry analyst for Forrester Research. “As a consumer, it’s wonderful. If you can plan things out carefully, you may never have to pay full price.”

    Whether you call them daily deals, local deals, group deals or flash sales, the offers flooding subscribers’ in-boxes are changing the travel-bargain landscape. In addition to newcomers, big travel names such as Expedia and Travelzoo are getting in the game. Hotels, flights, restaurants and tourist attractions all are available at a discount.

    Experts say this is just the beginning, with more personalized deals based on a traveler’s itinerary likely coming soon.

    “They’re being paraded in various forms, but ultimately it’s a new twist on deals,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research for PhoCusWright, a Sherman, Conn.-based travel-research firm.

    This new kind of travel-bargain hunting isn’t for everyone. The deals have to be bought on the spot or within several days and are usually non-refundable, a tough sell for all but last-minute travelers and those who already have a vacation in mind.

    Mowery and other do-it-yourself travelers see only benefits. The Phoenix health-care marketing manager bought so many local deals on sites like Groupon and LivingSocial that she started signing up to receive offers on her favorite vacation spots. She receives deals for Las Vegas, where she is headed for a Mother’s Day girls getaway, and San Diego, where she and her family like to visit.

    “I thought, ‘Why not? It’s just an e-mail a day,’ ” she said. “It comes to me. I don’t have to go out and research it.”

    Mowery and her friends almost bought a deal for half-off food at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville, a restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, but decided they didn’t want to be tied down to specific restaurants. She also passed on a Sedona hotel bargain and a San Diego brewery deal because she and her friends don’t have set travel plans yet.

    The payoff for businesses is less certain, Harteveldt said. As with other discount offers, travelers may come to expect deep discounts and not be willing to pay full price. Also, buyers of Groupons and other online daily deals might hop from deal to deal, hardly creating the loyal customers travel companies are seeking.

    “Are you really gaining a customer?” Harteveldt said.

    Still, there’s no denying that the sites are an opportunity for tourism businesses to trumpet new features, woo new customers and fill hotel rooms and attractions with locals and tourists during a slow period.

    In January, the Wigwam resort in Litchfield Park offered half-off room packages on LivingSocial Escapes. The prices varied by date, with the cheapest going for $284 for a two-night stay for two in May.

    Frank Ashmore, the resort’s director of sales and marketing, said it was designed to boost advance bookings and catch the attention of a new breed of travel shoppers. Fans of daily deals, travel and otherwise, share them with friends on Facebook and tout their finds on Twitter. “If you’re not playing online, if you’re not playing in these social channels with the way people are communicating, you miss out,” he said.

    The Wigwam was pleased with the results. It sold 174 packages, with buyers from Colorado, Washington, Chicago and California, among other areas. Nearly two out of three buyers were female. “I think we would definitely do it again,” he said.

    PhoCusWright’s Quinby said the sales and marketing trend is in its infancy. The deals aren’t tailored enough to broadly change the way travel is booked. “It’s very much spray and pray,” he said. Another obstacle: Many people don’t want to wade through a pile of e-mail offers to save a few bucks on a vacation. “There’s enormous potential, but enormous unrealized potential,” he said.

    Quinby predicts the day when people receive personalized offers from online travel agencies, local-deals providers, social-media sites and others that team up to send deals to travelers based on their booked itineraries.

    People who check in at an airport on Facebook or FourSquare, for example, might receive an offer for the airport bar if they are headed for a vacation or a Starbucks special if they have an early flight home. “That’s the type of thing I get really excited about,” he said.

    Article source: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/2011/03/13/20110313travel-deals-social-media.html

    Japan Earthquake: LAX flights to and from Toyko back in operation

    March 13, 2011 by  
    Filed under Travel Deals

    Delta Flight 635, a hulking 747-400, pulled out of Terminal 5 at LAX early Saturday and arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda airport 11 hours later. No big deal under normal circumstances. On the day after the worst quake in Japanese history, it was a small step toward normalcy.

    Four LAX flights into and out of Tokyo’s two airports were scheduled Saturday, and as of midday they were close to being on schedule. Delta Flight 284 from Narita airport in Tokyo arrived at LAX in the late morning, and Flight 283 left LAX for the return trip about 45 minutes after its scheduled noon departure. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines Flight 12 from Narita arrived at LAX before noon.

    Overall, though, domestic and international air travel to Japan remained crippled. Kyodo News reported more than 400 flights were canceled Saturday. All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines canceled all domestic flights after seven of the two airlines’ planes were damaged in the quake.

    Train operations in the Tokyo area resumed Saturday, Kyodo News said, though some routes were reduced to fewer runs. 

    In addition to the usual airline websites, here are some handy links for keeping track of flights to and from Japan and into LAX:

    LAX flight cancellations and resumptions

    Tokyo/Narita quake updates

    Tokyo/Haneda updates

    Track any flight from any airline via FlightAware

    Article source: http://www.latimes.com/travel/deals/lat-japan-earthquake-lax-flights-to-and-from-japan-back-in-operation-20110312,1,680258.story