I am currently on my third trip that I have booked with Gate 1 Travel company through Groupon. Below I will lay out the general process of how to book trips this way and the pros and cons of these trips.
How I first heard about Gate 1 Travel
I had traveled for a few years before doing my first booking through Gate 1 and I will be the first to admit that traveling out of pocket for a 16-20 year old can be really pricey. I had not built up enough credit yet to have the points cards I do today and I was not as aware of the budget travel tips that I am today. The first time I was told about Gate 1 Travel trips on Groupon was from a fellow barista at work and then by another coworker a few days later. I knew I really enjoyed traveling but at the time I was a full-time student and did not think I could afford to travel on a part time, minimum wage income. I did my research and spoke with them both extensively and decided that this could be a great opportunity for me to start traveling again!
How to book a trip with Gate 1 Travel on Groupon
The process is very simple. You can go to Groupon online or on the app and search Gate 1 Travel. From the website you will then select “Air-Inclusive Trips” under the “Interests” tab and it will show you all of the currently available trips offered from that company. I have only ever used Gate 1 so I cannot vouch for the other travel companies Groupon uses although I have seen mixed reviews. Do your research before booking with any travel company and use your best judgement. From the Groupon app you can type in Gate 1 Travel into the search bar and then select your country/region of interest from the “Category” tab. I almost always look at the Europe tours but there are several other continent options to choose from. After looking through all the options if you select a tour you like, you then look at the dates and airports available. I always fly out of Seattle which is never listed as a main airport so if yours is also not listed you will call the Gate 1 Travel number listed (800.682.3333) and ask them to look up specific dates listed from your airport you would like to fly out of. Then they can inform you of any extra charges that might be added. These prices can change daily so you should be aware that they can go up or down from one day to the next. I have heard additional charges anywhere from $25/person to $300/person so that can really affect the quality of the travel deal. If you are comfortable with the additional charges (or are flying from one of the listed airports) and have decided to book you will go back to Groupon and purchase the tickets there first. Then you will save the vouchers in your Groupon account or screenshot them or write them down and call Groupon back at the same number. Keep in mind that all of Gate 1 Travel’s prices are based on two people traveling. If it says a trip is $599 then that is how much each ticket is per person when you purchase two tickets. Therefore the total before anything else is actually $1198. People choosing to fly solo will most likely be charged an extra fee clearly listed in the Groupon deal. I have seen this be anywhere from $150 to $600!! This also can really ruin the value of the deal. A Gate 1 agent will continue the booking by getting very detailed information on both people traveling and going over the travel insurance policy (very worth the extra $89 a person for some peace of mind), and finally taking your payment and officially booking it for you.
From then on it is up to you to keep track of your flight details, travel dates, and plan what you want to do while abroad. The first two will be easily accessible on your dashboard you can check back at any time you would like. You will receive very detailed travel documents shortly before your trip going over many subjects such as currency, safety, passports and visas, how to stay healthy while traveling and much more. They really try to cover every topic so you are informed on what to do in many different scenarios so you are not as clueless while on your trip. I have only booked independent tours meaning after booking I am responsible for getting myself on the plane and handling my luggage and getting myself from the airport to my hotel and any other transportation I will need to do the activities I have picked out. Gate 1 does offer some amazing sounding trips that included guided tours, buses in between multiple city stops, city tours, and even meals such as dinner with wine. I would recommend you look into those if you are not comfortable with planning out all the details of the trip on your own.
Who are these trips good for?
From my experience and the reviews I have heard from others these trips are obviously more popular with younger students who do not necessarily have a lot of extra money available for travel and also older, retired people on fixed incomes who have the free time for travel but cannot afford to drop large amounts of money on it. These trips are very affordable at first glance but it is important to look into additional costs as to avoid any shock about the actual price after your trip. The initial cost advertised on Groupon does not include tax, trip insurance, airfare supplements when flying from an unlisted airport, baggage fees, food costs, public transport costs, entry costs to museums and historical sites, international phone plans, water and bathroom use costs (a surprise for most Americans abroad), and other surprise pop up costs. If you book a trip with a rental car then there is even more to consider such as the under age 25 additional daily fee, driving out of country daily fee, daily parking fee at the hotel, parking fees when driving into town, the cost of an international driving permit (available through AAA even for non-members) and of course, gas. I would really recommend people do some research before booking a trip into the average daily costs of their desired location. It is good to look at the average cost for a meal, cup of coffee, glass of beer or wine, and city pass to visit the most popular tourist sites. These are a good indicator of the affordability of any given city. Some cities are notoriously more pricey and the everyday costs in a city such as Paris or Amsterdam would be significantly more than that of a city like Prague or Budapest for example. Overall I think these trips are still an amazing deal because of how much they can save you on airfare and hotel costs. However I think it is important to draw up a loose budget to avoid canceling out the savings and to help in making the decision if it truly is a good deal or not.
Who are these trips not good for?
I would not say these trips are necessarily bad for any person, but I think there are certain types of travelers they would not be the best option for. For example I really do not think people that like to be in control will enjoy the complete lack of decision making offered when it comes to what airline and what hotel the trip comes with. I have been very fortunate with the three trips I have booked to have a hotel fairly close to the city center. Both Prague trips had a hotel within walking distance of the city center and our Germany hotel is a quick bus ride to the city center or we have the option of driving our rental car. However I have seen trips on Groupon (typically in much larger, more popular, or more expensive cities) that have a hotel a half hour outside of the city center so you would have to take a bus every time you wish to visit the main attractions. Although I do not mind taking public transport abroad, I really prefer to be able to walk most days or at least have the option to. Also some travelers might have preferences about what airlines they do and do not like. Groupon gets great deals on flights through well-known carriers instead of smaller, budget airlines. But if someone personally really did not like Delta for example then they might be disappointed to find out they have to fly with them. Personally I have flown on these trips with Delta, British Airways, American Airlines, KLM, and Lufthansa. I have called to ask about changing hotels and flights and it simply is not an option unless you change the dates which cannot be done after booking. Make sure to inquire about the airlines and hotel when checking specific dates with the booking agent. Lastly if you have any points cards and a decent amount of points saved up then it could be much cheaper to use points to book flights and then stay in hostels, Airbnb’s, or budget hotels than to book a Groupon trip. It is important to note that the price really is a good deal though when you consider that trip uses large airlines and the hotels are almost always 4 star hotels that include free breakfast.
The last words
In conclusion I believe these trips to be best for beginner travelers, budget travelers with some money in savings they do not mind putting towards a trip, and people who do not want to have to meticulously search for their own flight and hotel deals and ultimately end up with smaller airlines and lower rated hotels. These trips will not be as beneficial for more experienced travelers, travelers with lots of points built up, and travelers who prefer to make the decision about who they fly with and what hotel they stay at.
At the end of the day these are generalizations I have made based on my personal experiences as well as the accounts of others and these trips could be great for anyone who wants to give it a try!