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Online fueled wanderlust

By: Nikka S. Abes

Last year I got addicted (correction, really addicted!) to online group buying sites. It all started with a 55% discount for 3 days and 2 nights at Crimson Beach Resort & Spa in Cebu. After that I found deals at places I’ve never been to so I clicked away! With the calendar of long weekends and my kids’ school calendar at hand, I started plotting vacations months in advance.

As soon as summer vacation set in we went to Imperial Palace Waterpark Resort & Spa in Cebu with my brother-in-law’s family. For our wedding anniversary my husband and I went to the very secluded Arena Island in Palawan. We were waited on by a personal butler and best of all, we were the only guests on the island for a full day! A few months later we set off for a week-long Hanoi adventure with some friends (learned a lesson here, more on this later). We had a weekend of rest then went to Pearl Farm Beach Resort in Davao to celebrate my birthday. I even had coupons for an overnight stay at Corregidor Island but we ran out of weekends so my husband used it for their office outing instead! The last coupon I bought in 2012 was for a glamping trip (ie., glamorous camping – yes we slept in a tent and it was great!) to Sumilon Bluewater Resort in Cebu which I used early this year. In case you wanted to know, I saved at least PhP80,000 on these trips with all the discounts!

It goes without saying that I kept a lookout for good deals with the airlines as well. I remember for the Hanoi trip I was calling friends at 6am to get their passport names because I was afraid I would lose the cheap seats that I found online. I wouldn’t buy the hotel coupon until I had an inexpensive flight to match it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of patience and luck.

For those still not familiar with the concept, group buying sites offer products and services at significantly reduced prices on the condition that a minimum number of buyers would make the purchase. For starters, you may subscribe to the newsletters of well-known group buying sites and take your pick from their offerings. My favorites are Deal Grocer, CashCashPinoy and Groupon. You must go to a reputable group buying site because there might be a few who will give you a headache or worse, not deliver what you paid for!

Make sure you read the terms and conditions of every deal because more often than not, resorts have blocked-out dates and restrictions. I also suggest you go with the more popular resorts or hotels. The unknown hotel in Hanoi we booked was nothing like the photos it showed on its site. That was the only disappointing experience from the trips I mentioned. It would be a good idea to read comments from previous visitors to that resort or hotel in case you’re going to an unknown place.

Traveling is a good time to bond with members of your family or friends. It’s a good way to recharge and relax. It’s a good excuse to get kids to experience new things and enjoy the outdoors instead of playing with gadgets or watching TV. Life is short, enjoy it!