While the Internet has made it easier to plan a trip on your own—and to see how much you’re saving—it also requires you to wade through hundreds of destination search sites, hotel and rental options, and countless alternatives. of the flight path, becoming an amateur travel agent along the way.
But this summer, several travel platforms have created or announced fixes designed to make travel planning easier, by refining search, creating more informative maps and improving loyalty programs.
Now, whether you want to find a vacation home on an island, a hotel a 15-minute walk from your nephew’s bar mitzvah, or an electric car, Airbnb, Google, and Skyscanner, respectively, make it easier.
Analysts say these and other platforms are not yet done. “Travel information, pricing and bookings are still so fragmented and disjointed that I fully expect we’ll continue to see more brands develop and improve these types of features in the future,” said Madeline List, an analyst at senior research in Phocuswright, a journey. market research firm.
Improving rental searches
Finding the right vacation rental can seem like hunting for a needle in a haystack when it comes to sifting through search results. Among the measures Airbnb adopted this summer to make renting easier: the creation of 56 home categories aimed at helping you find rentals identified as, say, tiny houses, castles, “ski -in/out”, near national parks, houses. with “amazing pools”, and even an “OMG!” category for unusual architectural options.
Additionally, the new “split stay” feature aims to help renters who want to split their time between two locations. The tool suggests nearby rentals available for part of the trip, making it easy to pair two rentals for longer stays and simplifying the booking process for both.
“People are much more location agnostic than they were before the pandemic,” said Jamie Lane, vice president of research at Airdna, a market research firm specializing in short-term rentals, noting the rise of extended commutes associated with remote work. . “Airbnb is making it easier to put together a long-term trip by helping you find listings that meet your criteria and are open for the duration of that trip.”
Another new addition, a free policy known as AirCover, automatically included with every rental, protects consumers by guaranteeing a similar stay or a refund if the host cancels within 30 days of your trip.
“I see it as wanting to compete better with hotels,” Mr. Lane said. “Guests can feel comfortable knowing they will get what they booked or receive a refund.”
Expedia’s new “unfaithful” program
Expedia Group wants your loyalty. Named for its flagship online travel agency, Expedia, the collection of travel companies includes online agencies Travelocity and Orbitz, vacation rental platform Vrbo, discount hotel booking site Hotwire.com, car rental site CarRentals .com and more. In early 2023, it plans to bring them together under One Key, a loyalty program spanning its 12 brands, meaning points earned by booking a flight on Expedia can be applied towards the cost of a rental upcoming on Vrbo.
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“It’s so hard for people to keep track of programs and rewards,” said Jon Gieselman, president of Expedia Brands, the group’s consumer division, who added that the idea for an integrated loyalty program came to him when he launched his program . travel wallet filled with dozens of membership programs and credit cards.
“It struck me that our superpower opportunity was to create connections between all of our brands in the minds of customers and at the same time make the various programs easy to understand,” he added.
Some of the brands, including Expedia, Orbitz and Hotels.com, already have loyalty programs — with a collective enrollment of 154 million members — and the company has not yet disclosed One Key’s conversion formulas or rates for earning and using points.
While most loyalty programs encourage members to stick with one brand, One Key will allow users to apply points across categories in a scheme that Mr.
“Expedia’s expanded loyalty offering can attract more people to the brand umbrella with flexible options to earn and burn points on whichever Expedia brand offers the most suitable options for a given trip,” said Ms. List of Phocuswright, adding that the loyalty program eases “friction” between Expedia’s often overlapping brands.
New features in Google Travel, announced in May, map things like road trips and dense restaurant neighborhoods, providing a visual sense of geography in areas visitors might not know about before booking.
When searching for hotels on the platform, a Google map already showed hotels with corresponding prices. New icons representing transportation, dining, attractions and shopping—what Google calls “interest layers”—allow users to, for example, overlay a public transit map to see where transit lines are compared to hotels. Attractive shopping or dining icons shade the map in neighborhoods with lots of shops or restaurants. Clicking on the attractions icon adds things like museums to the hotel map.
At the bottom of the map, users can slide the bar next to a walking figure to see the radius the average person can walk from a given location in up to 30 minutes (there’s also an option to map the range of motion). This feature could be useful in identifying hotels near a wedding or meeting venue, the company suggested.
“There’s always been the option to figure this out in Google Maps using addresses, but that takes a lot of guesswork,” said Craig Ewer, a Google spokesman.
Its new Explore tool identifies destinations within a few hours’ drive. Clicking on a road trip destination brings up attractions, hotels and directions there.
“We saw during Covid a growing preference for road travel and non-airport travel,” said Mr. Ewer. “With the Explore tool, we tried to bring inspiration.”
For those looking for a bargain, Google Flights now lets you track prices between a pair of cities – departure and destination – and click on “any date” to monitor the platform’s fares for the lowest prices over the next six months.
Using tracking, like most other Google features, requires you to sign in or create a free Google account. For travel purchases, such as flights and hotels, the platform connects users with those online businesses or travel agencies.
Electric options and comprehensive stays
Two other platforms are helping consumers refine their searches by providing more targeted results.
Travel search engine Skyscanner has added a new car rental filter for electric vehicles. After entering dates and location, users can check the electric box – alongside other search filters such as unlimited mileage or 4-wheel drive – to see all available EVs
The initiative came from a similar green filter Skyscanner launched on flight searches a few years ago, showing choices with lower carbon emissions than average for each search.
The car rental filter helps travelers “understand the environmental impact of travel and how to reduce it,” said Martin Nolan, Skyscanner’s sustainable travel expert.
Online travel agency Booking.com aims to make it easier for LGBTQ travelers to find welcoming accommodations. It has introduced a partner training program for hotels on its platform on the challenges facing LGBTQ travelers.
Since last August, the free program, known as Proud Hospitality, has certified more than 10,000 properties in 95 countries and territories. The certification includes a Travel Proud digital badge in its listing.
“As a global travel leader, we have a responsibility to take action and help pave the way for a more inclusive industry, with the ultimate goal of making it easier for everyone to experience the world as they are,” said Arjan Dijk, Chief Marketing Officer. officer and a senior vice president at Booking.com, in a written statement.
Elaine Glusac writes the Frugal Traveler column. Follow him on Instagram @eglusac.