Coupons. The big online coupon outfits offer deals from local suppliers throughout the U.S., including lots of restaurants, fast-food outlets and visitor attractions:
-- Livingsocial.com offers some similar coupons, but it's not as easy to navigate as Groupon and offers a smaller percentage of restaurant coupons.
Entertainment Book. Although this may come as a surprise to some long-term readers, the venerable Entertainment books are still going strong. Back in the 1970s, Entertainment's key feature was its half-price hotel program, and while opaque agencies such as Hotwire and Priceline have long since eclipsed Entertainment for hotel discounts, Entertainment still offers a long list of restaurant and attraction deals to visitors. You buy a book for each destination you plan to visit -- many people also buy their own home area book -- from a list of more than 100 destination cities and areas in the U.S. and Canada. Currently books cost $19 each through Entertainment.com, including access to online updates.
Each book includes hundreds of restaurant deals, usually either a twofer of some sort or a dollars-off discount, and the options run from moderately upscale to fast-food and snack outlets. Most deals are based on coupons you tear out of the book, but a few are based on showing the plastic membership card fastened to the inside front cover of each book. The food list is heavily tilted toward Mexican and Pizza joints, but you can find a reasonable selection of other cuisines.
Activity deals range from symphony to wild animal parks. Again, although the extensive activity and services sections may be of more interest to locals than visitors, there's plenty for visitors, as well.
Entertainment also includes some hotel and travel deals. As far as I can tell, they're either very limited ($10 off an airline ticket) or about the same as deals through AAA and AARP.
iDine. Register up to three credit or debit cards at iDine.com -- no charge -- then when you use one of those cards at any of more than 10,000 participating restaurants throughout the U.S., iDine takes 5 percent to 15 percent off your total bill, including tax and tip. Locate restaurants online. But you have to agree to accept "marketing" emails and the return is based on how much you spend: 5 percent to start, 10 percent after you spend $250 during a 12-month period, and 15 percent after you spend more than $750. And you have to file a report for each use. Most of the participating restaurants are midrange to upscale.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)
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