Travel Tips

A (Very Opinionated) Guide to Social Coupon Deal Sites in the Pacific NW & BC

By now, you’ve probably already signed up for one of the online coupon sites – Groupon, LivingSocial or another – so you can receive great offers directly in your in-box. But did you know it’s also a great idea for family travelers? If you sign up for a favorite city you’d like to visit, you may discover a great deal on a four-star hotel, a favorite family restaurant or an activity you’d always thought you’d like to try but never had the money for (heli-skiing, anyone?).

Right now, it’s mostly the cities that offer great social deals, from Whistler to Eugene, and focused on the big players (Vancouver, Seattle, Portland)

However, read the fine print and use your web research skills. While $40 worth of food for $20 seems like a great idea, but if your steak’s not cooked properly, the fries are limp and your margarita tastes like cleaner, its not such a hot buy. ALWAYS check reviews (in Canada, for general restaurant reviews pre-purchase.

The same goes for hotels. The hotel may be offering the discounted stay because few people have heard of the gem of a stay – or it could be because people have read the Tripadvisor reviews and stay away in droves. Or because it’s located at the airport, which we all know is located NOWHERE NEAR THE FUN STUFF. Or it’s located in a suburb with nothing much going on. Check Tripadvisor and double-check the location. Check the fine print on whether they’re going to charge you extra for kids (and do not buy those that do, unless you have like seven kids and you really won’t fit into a hotel room).

And similarly for activities, services and memberships. I tend to think the memberships are a great deal, particularly in your own city – but sometimes also in cities you plan to visit. At 50% or more off, you may still be saving over the typical family admission. Check fine print about expirations and who’s included (adults only? Kids?).

Finally, one more caveat. Many small businesses feel like the coupon sites are a terrible deal for them – charging immense fees and leaving the small biz unprepared for the onslaught of cheapskate customers. A small biz will have to determine for themselves whether this form of marketing works, but I do advise always tipping for the full amount and not cheaping-out too much.

The sites: The Big Daddy of online coupon sites, Groupon is (at this point) one of the best sites to sign up for – there’s a daily deal for every metro area, generally, and most are pretty solid. I’ve seen amazing deals here — 50% off Victoria Clipper fare, great hotels, cool experiences. I dread reading the copy, however. I wish they’d ditch the hyper-adjectives and just give me the information. My sneaking suspicion: Groupon uses MadLibs to write each description.

Destinations covered: Vancouver BC, Victoria, Tacoma, Seattle, Portland. operates much like Groupon, but it also offers the appealing “LivingSocial Escapes,” often to local destinations (Whistler, etc.). Without the annoying writing style.

Destinations: Bellevue, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Eugene, Vancouver (BC). has offered some fabulous boutique hotel stays and restaurants. I’d sign up for this one if going to Vancouver at any point soon.

Destinations: Vancouver, BC only.

Savvy Source and Mamapedia are both for parents, and often present cool deals for family-centric activities (plays, museums, symphonies, ballets). Of course, sometimes the bargains are a dud or not really family-pertinent, and they’re very limited in cities offered.

Savvy Source Destinations: Seattle

Mamapedia Destinations: Portland, Seattle and are also both offered in Vancouver, BC only. combines local deals with local charitable causes – so you can feel doubly good about your discounted dinner or gelato.

Destinations: Only offered in Vancouver only at this point. is the WhitePages entry into the market. Eh. There have been one or two items that are mildly appealing.

Destinations: Seattle only.

Did I miss any coupon sites that offer savings for family travelers?

Lora Shinn writes about family travel, Pacific NW travel, grown-up travel...and travel in general. Her travel-related articles and essays have appeared in Family Fun, Parenting, AFAR, National Geographic Traveler, AAA magazines and Redbook, among others.


  • Jessica

    One thing that Living Social has on Groupon is if 3 people buy from your link – you get it for free. It’s worked for me! Also – it’s not just for new people signing up. So I always check facebook first if I want a Living Social Deal to see if anyone has posted it – if so, then I’ll buy from their link to give them a hit – and you should too!

  • RR

    I check for local deals. They have gift certificates for a huge discount, especially if you buy when they have an 80% off promotion–$25 worth of food for $2. At those prices, I take a risk on unknown spots.

  • Northwest Camper

    Jessica – yes the networking opportunities with linking up with friends or other moms on the web to get and give referalls is awesome. I’ve posted a couple of great deals for families who camp on my blog, and plan to continue to do so! RR, I try to keep in mind the cost of a tip (18%) on the before discount total for the restaurant certificates before I buy.