Category Archives: Online Travel Annoyances

IMG_0548

Collaboratively Explore a Destination — via a “To Do” List

Why not make discovering the city a competition among friends & acquaintances?

That’s a question on my mind recently. I spent a month in Medellin, Colombia (some thoughts here). There was (and stil is) a strong community of expats there – most of whom are either teaching English or digital nomads – many of whom were fairly new to the city.

IMG_0548And, there were things to do in the area.

The challenge is matching them up. The people who want to go explore, with the others in the community that wish to see and do the same things. Few want to go explore a city by themselves.

So, why not a friendly competition among the expat community to help ensure everyone sees the city? The goal being to incentivize a larger percentage of that group to venture beyond their comfort zone.

What functionality is needed to deliver on this:

  1. Group permissions.
  2. A collaborative list of things to do, editable by anyone in the group (preferably pre-filled with some popular options).
  3. Basic profiles that indicate which things on the list a person has already done, and which ones they want to do.
  4. A group leaderboard.

It seems you could build this using FourSquare, Yelp, or Trover lists (doesn’t make much sense to re-create that functionality) — and add the profiles and leaderboard on top.

This would likely end up being a relocation application, which is essentially what long term traveling is; constantly relocating to new cities for extended stays. The revenue model could be to have real estate agents or property managers sponsor the experience for their specific city.

The problem is, it’s largely only applicable for the long term travel and relocation segments. The average traveler doesn’t really have time for this, given they are only in town for a short period of time. I’ve seen where a product targeted at that crowd ends up.

Anyone working on this?

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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holy grail

Online Travel Annoyance: Reaching The Holy Grail of Travel

holy grailThere has been a lot of money thrown at the online travel industry to make the travel experience better. Yet no one has reached the holy grail of travel. Not even close.

 

And that annoys me, because I know there is a better way.

I recently wrote a guest article for Tnooz on this subject. It’s message is angled toward industry veterans, but the primary goal was to get at the question of “What is the holy grail of travel (to YOU)?”

What is the holy grail of travel, for me?

No matter what city in the world I’m in, I want an app sitting in the palm of my hand that contains the knowledge, connections, and resources that a BEST FRIEND who lives in that city has at his/her disposal.

What does a best friend provide?

  • A friendly face to greet you at the airport.
  • A ride from the airport.
  • Free accommodation.
  • Answers to your questions within seconds. No need for Trip Advisor, as they already know fun things to do/see.
  • Someone to explore the city with.
  • An “in” to experiences with other interesting people in the city – usually their friends. It should go without saying that you’re likely to get along pretty well with your best friends’ friends.
  • Access to a car.
  • Great conversation.

So….what is your holy grail of travel?

[Photo via http://www.returnofthechrist.org.uk/]

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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ohw-whereareyoutoday

You Never Know Who Might Care About Where You Are

ohw-whereareyoutoday

You see them all the time on Facebook and Twitter. The infamous travel check-in…

“San Francisco, I am in you”

“Hello Boston”

“Oh hey, Beijing”

“What’s up Barcelona”

“Tom is at LAX via 4Square”

They are often accompanied with a photo.

Why do people do it? Two primary reasons.

  1. To broadcast to their network that they are now safe in a new city.
  2. To get recommendations for things to do, events, places to eat, or people to meet.

But you know what?

The vast majority of the time — I don’t care. I care about the first, that they arrived safely, but their arrival does not directly effect me 80+ percent of the time they check-in somewhere, so it’s mostly just noise to me. Their public check-in is only achieving half of it’s purpose and, in the mean time, that update is not enriching their travel experience in anyway by me having seen it.

You know the check-ins I want to see? People I know who happen to be nearby or close friends and family anywhere. And maybe friends checking-into a place I know extremely well (such as Seattle, Santorini, or Chiang Mai).

These are the people I can help, these are the friends I can connect with other friends in that new city, or share a quick tip of my favorite Seattle coffee shop. But instead I have to sift through the noise and, lets be honest if we’re talking about the travel community, spam. The sad fact is that I just don’t end up seeing the relevant check-ins because the signal to noise ratio, so I feel frustrated by the onslaught of information and that friend/traveler checking-in somewhere loses the chance to find an amazing new experience or a new friend by not asking the right people for help.

We know there are many other people not in your Twitter stream or Facebook graph, who would be willing to help you with some great information or an introduction — IF they knew about your location. Those people could be friends of friends in that specific city, someone who went to the same high school living in the town you just arrived in, people with extended knowledge of the city or country you are in, or a local who lives in that specific town. THOSE people should have an easy way to see your check-in and provide the trusted travel information you seek.

But the ability for the right people to see those check-ins doesn’t exist today. In fact, the lack of transparency surrounding the locations of other travelers was the very original frustration I encountered in 2010 that led me down the path of creating Oh Hey World. Twitter, FourSquare, and Facebook? None of these solve the problem.

I hope we agree.

You see, transparency is good. Bringing visibility to information, databases and conversations that used to be locked  in dark silos is a common theme across successful web properties. The benefits of “one to many” compared to “one to one” are well documented so we won’t hash it out, just to say that we recognize it’s needed in the travel sphere.

There’s a basic premise behind Oh Hey World:

You never know who might care about where you are.

I first mentioned the quote in AGBeat’s piece on Oh Hey World, and it keeps popping up again and again in my mind as I run across different travel scenarios. With OHW now, we aim to ensure your location is made visible to the people who wish to know your whereabouts. A centralized system for tracking locations and future trip plans for everyone would improve the entire travel experience for millions … and most pointedly, you.

This type of platform has been tried by many, and many have failed. But the problem is still not solved, so we’ll keep trying. We know it can be done, and that it’s going to take years to execute on, and so we’re building the OHW community one step at a time. Asking the right types of travelers who share our values, those who value meeting the right people at the right time on their travels, to join the community.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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ohw-whereareyoutoday

Online Travel Annoyance #3: Answering “Where are you?”

If you travel extensively either for business or leasure, you’ve heard it over and over and over. The questions that never stops…

Where are you?

Almost without fail, the first question I’m asked when catching up with anyone (on the phone, in person, or via social media channels) is “where are you?” I answer it over and over and over, at least 2-3 times a day it seems.

You care where a lot of people are.

You always care about where your family is. Your close friends. Some influential public figures you’d love to meet. The person you’re scheduled to speak with in 30 minutes. Your fraternity brother who happens to be in the same city as you next weekend. The individual interested in kiteboarding and Pearl Jam (if those are two of your interests) arriving in town in 3 days. The super hot girl (or guy) you met in Australia 6 months ago and still have a crush on.

But you don’t care where everyone is. Not your friend across the country you haven’t seen in 3 years. Not your fraternity brother you would rather not see again. Not the random guy you met in Asia 3 years ago. Not someone you haven’t seen since high school currently in China.

Wouldn’t it be great to have one place that answers the “where are you?” question no matter who you are wondering about?

Right now, the process to answering the “where are you?” question comes down to one of the following:

  1. Hope that the person you’re wondering about either emailed, called, or texted you — but we all know this is a very small use case. Unless you’re a close family or friend, this literally never happens.
  2. Hunt around Facebook for the last status update that includes a location
  3. Hunt around on their blog to find out where they currently are. In many cases, even once you find it, the most recent location is wrong (my personal blog fits in this category)
  4. Call, email, or text them and ask them.
  5. Continue wondering where they are for eternity until you hear from them…

We think there is a better way.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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Online Travel Annoyance #2 – The Dark Art of Flight Book­ing

[Note from editor: The Dark Art of Flight Book­ing originally published on WillMoyer.com]

I probably don’t have to tell you this, but booking flights – especially international flights – is a shadowy and mysterious process.

There are plenty of sites like KAYAKSkyscanner, and Hipmunk that try to make it easier and the information more digestible. They’re great. But the underlying process of finding flights and figuring out the itineraries that give you the most bang for your buck is something I constantly struggle with.

Why does KAYAK show one price but Delta’s site show another? Why do some sites show only certain routes or only some carriers?

Look at this example between KAYAK and Travelocity. Same exact flight, time, day, everything. But a huge price difference. (I didn’t go out of my way to find this example. It was the first test search I tried.)

I don’t understand the economics or politics between these companies and airlines or between the airlines and each other. It’s completely opaque to me.

But there’s more than just complex relationships that make this hard to figure out. Airline websites are notoriously bad. They’re riddled with clumsy user interfaces, obscure step-by-step processes, and even dark patterns.

Look at this example from American Airlines.

Here is a flight from Beijing to Chicago to be booked as a one-way ticket. The price is 1225.60 USD.

Here is a flight from New York to Beijing, a one-way ticket. The price is 1450.70 USD.

Here are the same two flights but this time, they are booked as a multi-city ticket:

You can buy them both for 1556.50 USD! Why?

Again, I’m not sure what’s going on here behind the scenes. Is it a “bird-in-the-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush” situation? American Airlines would rather have a guarantee you’ll fly twice rather than only once, even if it’s for nearly the same amount of money. Is that what is really going on? Maybe not, maybe it doesn’t actually benefit American Airlines. It might just be an unintended consequence of complexities of the flight booking world. Who knows?

And, like I said before, this is coupled with poor interface design. Interface design that feels almost intentionally bad. It is entirely believable that some ordinary user would go to AA.com, click “one-way” and buy two tickets. They might never realize that by clicking the “multi-city” link and using that form, they could save more than a thousand dollars.

The multi-city link: it’s not exactly a “click here to save a thousand dollars” button, is it?

Raise your hand if you think American Airlines would send that user an email alerting them of their mistake.

One more example, and this one is going to blow your mind. Below is a flight to be booked as a one-way ticket and the exact same flight to be booked as part of a multi-city ticket. Look at the price difference:

It’s insane. You would literally save 3000 USD by buying two tickets and throwing one away than you would by buying the first flight individually.

World of international flights: what is wrong with you?

Will Moyer

A web designer, consultant, and photographer living in Beijing, China. More at WillMoyer.com

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travelcostestimates

Online Travel Annoyance #1 – Dated Cost Data

Yes, I’m a travel addict.

Yes, I do lots of research online prior to departing.

Yes, cost of travel is a consideration when I’m planning and booking my travels.

Which brings me to the constant annoyance of dated cost data.

Why oh why is it so hard to find up to date cost data for traveling to various regions in the world?

You’re left to peruse Google in hopes of finding a somewhat recent blog post from a travel blogger who happens to be kind enough to track, and blog about, their expenditures in Chiang Mai, Beijing, Rome, or Barcelona (or wherever you are going next).

Even if you do manage to find a great resource about the specific destination, there are two likely problems. First, the information is dated the second it gets published. It could be from 9 months, 3 years, or even 5 years ago. Costs change over time, some regions more so than others as a result of inflation (like Argentina) or currency fluctuations. Second, the traveler publishing the data is unlikely to be the exact same travel profile as you. If I find cost data from a 45 year old couple, that’s largely irrelevant to me given that I’m a single 30 year old male.

There is, however, a second option for determining a budget for a specific destination. Find someone with similar travel habits who has just visited the location you’re headed towards. But short of having a massive network of travelers to tap into, and know where they’ve all been recently, this approach isn’t likely to work for many people.

Accurate travel cost data for your travel profile really shouldn’t be so hard to find.

Where do you go to research travel costs? Does it work most of the time? All the time? Do you find it accurate?

And yes, I have a pretty good idea on how to solve this travel problem — but would love feedback on what type of traveler you are and what your thoughts are on the “accurate travel costs” problem outlined here so as to incorporate your feedback into an even better product down the line.

Drew Meyers

Drew Meyers is the co-founder of Horizon & Oh Hey World. He worked for Zillow from September of 2005 to January of 2010 on the marketing team managing Zillow’s API program and various online partnerships. Founder of Geek Estate Blog, a multi-author blog focused on real estate technology for real estate professionals, and myKRO.org, a blog devoted to exploring the world of microfinance. As passionate as you get about travel.

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