Are Entertainment Discount Books Worth Their Price Tag?

Ed Perkins on Travel
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Editor's Note: This story was originally published on January 15, 2010. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: activity, Ed Perkins, Ed Perkins on Travel, restaurant, senior travel, shopping.

Entertainment discount books for 2010 are now on sale, with coupons and other discount deals valid through fall. Although most list prices are $35, with a few going for $45, discounts are available.

Entertainment books are something of a time warp. When I first covered Entertainment's books more than 30 years ago, the focus was on its worldwide, half-price hotel pro-gram. Then it was the most comprehensive of several such systems, and usually the best of a very limited number of ways to find hotel discounts. Entertainment even spawned some overseas copycats, also useful.

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Now, of course, virtually all of the hotel discount action is online, and many of the original half-price programs have disappeared. Entertainment, however, keeps soldiering on, shifting its emphasis from hotel discounts to discount coupons for restaurants, visitor attractions, and local shopping.

For 2010, Entertainment is issuing 152 books for the United States and 12 for Canada. Each book covers a specified area, ranging from an entire state (small or low-population, such as Delaware or Vermont) to up to 16 sub-regions of larger and more populated states. Each book contains an ID card plus hundreds of individual coupons, which you use for a range of discounts and other deals.

  • Most of the discounts cover dining places, with a mix of offers. Coupons provide dollars-off deals, "free" minor courses, or twofers where you get an additional entree of equal or lesser price when you buy the first entree at the usual price. In addition to the printed book coupons, you also have access to printable online coupons. Other discounts are based on showing your Entertainment ID. Participating eateries range from upscale "tablecloth" restaurants to fast food and takeout. Some deals are once-only; others allow repeat visits. Entertainment's discounts can sometimes cut your food costs substantially. They're often better than available senior or similar deals, and you find many of them at places that don't offer other discounts at all. The main drawback is that restaurants doing well at list prices seldom need to discount, so you aren't likely to find coupons for favorites and "hot" eateries. In my experience, however, many of the Entertainment's upscale restaurants are relatively attractive, and the fast-food chains are pretty much the same whether they discount or not.
  • Entertainment's books also include a wide variety of coupons for discounts, twofers, and other deals at quite a few local attractions, travel services, movie theaters, grocery stores, and other retail and service establishments. Many of them are places you'd go anyhow, so the discount is a welcome extra. The books also contain coupons for such other travel services as air travel packages, cruises, and rental cars. On quick examination, I've concluded that those deals are generally no better than you can get through other discount sources.
  • Although now secondary, the half-price program is still part of the package. Call a participating hotel and ask for the "Entertainment rate." If the hotel projects less than 80 percent occupancy, you get 50 percent off the "rack" (list price) rate; if not, you get 10 percent off the best published rate. Don't take that 50 percent too literally. Many hotels keep artificially high rack rates to puff their discount claims and actually sell rooms to just about anyone for a lot less. However, half off the rack rate can still be the best available deal.

You buy Entertainment books for one of two reasons: their restaurant and local service deals, or for hotel deals if you aren't online. Entertainment fans typically buy the book for their local area, plus books for any areas they plan to visit for more than a day or two. Currently, Entertainment is offering a "New Year" promotion with all books at $20, including shipping, and the website offers all books at 35 percent off for what may be a longer-term promotion. Otherwise, you can order by phone at 888-231-7283 or online. Also, local charities often sell books as fundraisers.

Have you bought, or are you planning to buy, an Entertainment book this year? Have you had success saving money by using the discounts from Entertainment books in the past? Share your thoughts, experiences, and advice by submitting a comment below!

 
 
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