If you're still paying full retail on your vacation, you're not doing it right.
I don't consider myself super cheap, unless clipping coupons and waiting for certain things to go on sale count. I like saving a buck, and as a mother of 2-year-old and 1-year-old boys, I'll take all the help I can get in that department. (Diapers definitely can and will take a toll on your wallet.) While I'm no stranger to flash sale deals (think Groupon and LivingSocial), I find myself relying on them now more than ever. Could I score a better deal elsewhere? Maybe. Is it really life and death if I don't find one that fits all of my needs? Nope. I just like to use them when I can and find they make family vacations so much sweeter. Even though my husband and I aren't jet-setting every weekend, we have been able to take a few trips each year now that we're parents -- and most, if not all, utilized a flash sale deal. As great as they are, and as much money as they've saved us, there’s an art to using them. Here are some vacation tips I learned when using flash sale deals.
Read The Fine Print
You don't need a law degree to spend a little time scrolling through the details of a flash sale deal. Some have blackout dates, require a deposit, have an age requirement, and certain restrictions that make the deal a bad fit for your family. Make sure you read everything thoroughly. (No refunds!)
Inquire If Kids Are Okay, And Get It In Writing
It's pretty easy to look at a company's website and determine if it's a good fit for your kids. Accommodations -- including bed and breakfasts, and inns -- however, are a different story. If you read the fine print and don't see any mention of age (some flash sale deals might require it), email the company before you click purchase. Having written confirmation that it's okay to bring your tots is a lot better than arriving and being unpleasantly surprised (it happens). In my experience, the places we stayed at tried to give us a bigger room, because they knew we were coming with little ones. (There have also been times when we scored more private quarters.)
Olivia Pope The Heck Out of Online Reviews
If a flash sale deal sounds too good to be true, chances are, it probably is. Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are great places to start looking for company reviews. If a business has three stars, find out why. Are folks complaining about the same issues? Do website photos not match up to what's really going on? The more feedback you can get about a business, the more informed of a decision you can make.
Start Looking For Accommodations a Month or Two in Advance
Y'all know that saying, "the early bird gets the worm"? It's true! While there are last-minute deals, when it comes to planning a family trip, you don't always want to rely on the unreliable. I always try to look for flash sale deals a few months in advance, especially when I need to secure hotel accommodations. Most are only available for a limited period, which makes time of the essence.
Don't Assume Hotel Deals are the Cheapest
Most flash sale sites have getaways and local deals for those who need overnight accommodations. In most cases, you'll come across local (or international) packages that have a set rate per night, or a specific price that includes multiple nights and/or extra perks -- like breakfast, a bottle of wine, or a voucher to a nearby restaurant. Then there are accommodation deals from hotels and other spots looking to get your business. If I'm being honest, sometimes, those aren't really deals. This is why it's important to look at the company's website. There have been times I've been ready to purchase a flash sale only to find out the same accommodation has a better deal on their website, or that prices are cheaper if you book directly with them. Yeah, just because it's advertised as a "deal" doesn't mean it is.
Confirm Accommodations Sooner Than Later
Once you decide to pull the trigger on an accommodation deal, don't assume your work is done. I've heard horror stories of people using flash sale sites to reserve a room, arrive at their destination, and employees not being able to find them in their system. While this likely does not happen all the time, it's always good to follow up with your reservation before your arrival.
Check Back for Deals Ending Soon
All good things eventually come to an end -- and that includes flash sale deals. Should you have a little wiggle room in your planning, consider checking back for any deals that are expiring soon. In most cases, you can score even bigger discounts as companies will slash their prices in efforts to get last-minute purchasers.