Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Social Media Adventures

Ok so I posted my random thoughts yesterday about the various travel sites I've been shopping on and within an hour of my post going up, I received this comment:

Hi Lauren,

Appreciate your post and hope you find the perfect trip.

I noticed you mentioned that had the least variety and higher pricing.

I would welcome further feedback at your convenience as we want to be able to provide the best online experience and our package holiday pricing is guaranteed.

Jason Sarracini

Total PR move of course, but it was impressively effective PR. Every blogger I know of LOVES to get comments on their posts; it's definitely the highlight of my day *g* Little things in life people :)

The only thing that would've made this post better would've been if he'd included contact info (although he did include an id that I could follow through to his website and presumably contact info there if I were so inclined). What it did do was inspire me to revisit their site -- and since I was impressed by the response, I did so fully willing to purchase from there if the experience was better.

Unfortunately it wasn't much.

The first issue is the insanely long search. A friendly message appears on the screen: "we are working hard to find you the best options ... sifting through thousands of vacation packages" -- Promising and cheerful the first time. But by the 3rd, 4th, 10th time you've seen it, far less fun. Really, you know your search algorithm is too slow when you have to keep your customers entertained in the interim. They are not the only travel site that does this, but the better ones do not seem to. Certainly not to the same degree. After the second or third time I was forced to wait while it did this, I found I was spending that time tabbing to other travel websites whose searches were quickly displayed.

After the search a chart of random prices showed up; lots of pretty numbers, with no countries attributed to them. Strange. I clicked on some random numbers and after they worked hard to find me the best options I *finally* got some results (seriously, your vacation might be over by the time you manage to research and book it on this site!) I was sorely disappointed with the quality of the filters.

I had picked "All South" -- now given that I live in Canada, this does, technically, leave a significant portion of the world open. *Most* of the other last-min travel sites are intelligent enough to limit results to SA and the Caribbean. However in the wisdom that is TargetVacations (and incidentally itravel2000 -- which is also painfully slow to use) some of the Southern States are included. If I'm looking for a winter vacation, the Holiday Inn in Orlando is just not going to cut it. If I wanted to go to Orlando, I'd be searching accordingly. Besides, both FL and CA have had snow this winter; that's a deal breaker to me. Maybe including this is a value-add to some people, but to me it just wasted my time forcing me to look through more items that I have no interest in. And I stand by my theory that most people wanting somewhere in the States will search differently than those aiming for a random beach escape.

On top of that, the majority of the responses on the first page, while cheap, were not all inclusive. Some of which had that noted more obviously than others. At which point I realized there was no box to check (or if there is one, it's well hidden). Likewise no box for "beachfront" or "adults only" or "couples only" or any other number of things I might want to filter by that were standard on many of the other sites. Booo. Such a little thing that makes such a huge difference.

When I did *finally* get something worth reading, I discovered the same bland hotel summaries that are provided on all the sites; no personal reviews or even site reviews (such as provides "Our Opinion" for many of the hotels). Many of the hotels also had no thumbnail image. Pictures sell the trip -- I'm not going to book something I can't see.

For reasons I don't understand the "Last minute" search provided trips that cost more than simply entering the date into the normal vacation finder. Last time I didn't try the normal one, hence the "more expensive" comment; this time I did both and found prices matching those of the other site's.

Now the first time I visited the site I never got to the multiple room display -- I found this the second time around which was the site's one redeeming feature. This shows the prices of various other rooms for the same package (as does and I found it to be very useful.

On the site there is a somewhat interesting blog, but I found it more an amusing distraction than a value add; perhaps you could read it in another tab while waiting for the search engine to do its thing. My thought is though, if their search engine were as impressive as their blog bot, and they put a little more info about the various hotels, this could be a great site; right now, however, it's mostly an act of frustration.

So this inspired me to take a second look at some of the other sites I had already dismissed. The winner -- Once I found my way to the right section (which clearly didn't happen the first time) I found a ton of super-cheap trips. The limit, of course, being they only feature their own packages -- but it does mean if I decide I want a sunwing package from one of the others I'll be double checking the price there first! My fav thing about this site that I didn't see anywhere else was that for every trip alternate travel dates/prices were included. Most of the sites somewhere had an "alternate dates" category, but it was a fresh search -- not the same locations on other days. That to me was very useful -- if the price drops $400 (as one example I looked at did), I'll wait an extra day. Downsides to this one -- very slow and no reviews.

Tripcentral seems to be cheap but stupidly difficult to navigate; itravel2000 I was thoroughly disappointed in - all the negatives of targetvacations without the promise of potential.

selloffvacations is incredibly easy to navigate and has great reviews posted; the only downside to this site was the results weren't displayed in as useful a manner (ie no other dates/room price options for a particular trip). is still coming out on top of my completely informal study. They have stupidly locked departure dates in their "last minute" trips -- for which I can see no purpose, but so long as you use the regular vacation search it's excellent. Lots of detail, some reviews (albeit not as many as selloff), all the search filters I want, and a very user-friendly display for the results.

As to where we're actually going? I don't know yet! And I have exactly a week to figure it out :)


Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your feedback. We continue to work on our travel site and look forward to implementing some of the upgrades you recommended in the near future.

If you have any questions or concerns, I can be reached directly at


Jason Sarracini


Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find? haha...


Definite bonus points for paying attention :) Worth ordering from there just for that...


Hello Lauren;

I appreciate your opinion about - "stupidly difficult to navigate" and I was wondering what sections you found most difficult? A large number of our visitors thoroughly enjoy the website so please contact me either in response to this post or directly so I can further understand your difficulties

Lucas Clements
Manager of Online Marketing & Web Strategy

I look forward to hearing from you


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