Planning a vacation is tough. Between the pain of finding a hotel or final destination, booking an airline, and locating information on things to do, one could spend days online surfing from website to website searching for items that may or may not be correct and/or relevant.
Isn't a vacation supposed to relaxing? Shouldn't planning and booking a vacation be as relaxing?
I think so.
So when it came time to plan my own vacation next month to Egypt and Iceland, I made a note to myself to remember the frustrations of my vacation search in able to prevent those same annoying items on the websites we work on here at Freelock.
What I came up with is my Top 5 Annoying Things about Travel/Tourism/Hotel websites and my Top 5 Under-Utilized-but-Uniquely-Useful Travel Tools.
I'll start with the annoying. You can choose to click on the links to experience the annoyance first hand, or just take my word for it:
- Crappy Images- Ok, I'm sorry but if you are trying to attract my attention, a low resolution, semi-cropped, and watermarked image is not going to cut it
- Is the boat as old as the pictures?
- Random Prices - One thing that I find extremely frustrating is random pricing. How can a ticket be $600 one second, $250 the next, and then $450 the next? And I am not talking next day, I am talking next hour. If you're not sure of the price, just don't show it.
- Ask EgyptAir
- Poorly Constructed Forms - This is perhaps the biggest time waster. Forms that make you literally reset the page every single time or contain destinations or options that are not available.
- Icelandair deserves a slap for making me spend 3 hours pricing out different itineraries because their form was constructed so poorly.
- Ad bombardment - I was looking for something particular, give me a chance to read it before either popping things up or covering it with ads. If I like what I read, I will click on your ad.
- Animated GIFs- Not only does this tell the person that the design lacks professionalism, it also tells the user that the site is old and not to be trusted with money or email addresses.
- Despite having great information, I wouldn't trust this site with anything nor would I share my email address even if I did want to know more
Now for the Under-Utilized-but-Uniquely-Useful Travel Tools:
- Placement of Hotels and Attractions on Google Maps. I have been using Google Maps to search for hotels in the areas I am looking to stay. Being able to zoom in and out is a huge plus!
- Such an easier way to filter hotels in Luxor
- Travel blogs on tourism sites. I was disappointed by the lack of blogs on most travel sites and their overall under-utilization. I enjoy seeing whats going on recently and whats coming up when I am going to be in a place. Its almost like having a conversation with the place you're going. Whether you use Drupal or Wordpress, a properly used blog can drive many tourists in your direction.
- STA Travel does a wonderful job of blogging about travel destinations.
- Timetables. Whether its hours of operation or departure times, a tourist needs to know when NOT to go.
- Finding train departure times in Egypt was insane. This website was a lifesaver in giving a complete breakdown of timetables.
- User Contributed Images. Lets face it, hotel and city images are meant to be inspiring and attract tourists, and that doesn't always tell the true story of what you're going to get. By allowing user contributed images, you not only see the truth behind your establishment but also decrease the cost of hiring professional photographers.
- Trip Advisor does a nice job of displaying user generated images, although the excessive use of ads is noted as annoying above.
- Simplicity. A site doesn't have to be flash(y) to attract my attention. I know places don't have monster budgets to hire a flash developer to make items fade and fly in and out of my screen. In fact, I prefer to see flat high resolution jpgs on a site over a bunch of moving flash images. I want to relax, make the site reflect relaxation.
- A simple yet professional design and execution by Hotel Juliana in Cairo
I love to travel, and in some ways working for a web development company has made me more critical of the places I will be traveling to. This search is part of my experience and is perhaps the most important part, because you lose could lose me before I spend a dime at your destination. The availablity of tools like Drupal and the lowered cost of websites means that even the smallest hotel, travel agency, tour operator, or museum has no excuse for a poorly constructed website. Whether you're looking for image galleries, blogs, advertising in restrained ways, or simply re-designing an aging website, take a look at some of the Open Source Content Management Systems out there like Drupal, Joomla, or Wordpress and I bet you will find something you are looking for at a price that fits.
Your customers are looking for a great experience, please help us all by starting with the first part of that experience, the search.
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P.S. A close 6 on my list was YouTube videos. I am personally not a fan of YouTube as a whole, but I must say that I watched my fair share of YouTube videos before settling on a location. Here's a great example of someone asking the same questions I had before settling on Iceland in November, and then answering visually!