Experience Not the Destination –
Many bloggers have written about chasing the deal not the destination. In some ways I have done that. i constantly watch travel web pages looking for cheap flights. Sometimes when I see one I create a trip idea around the destination. Other times I have a destination in mind and I watch the travel deal webpages until I see that location on sale and then I purchase a ticket and plan a trip.
For years, web pages such as Hotwire and Priceline have been offering mystery hotel, airfare or rental car deals where you know where you are going and what days you are traveling but the airline, hotel or rental car company is not revealed until after the purchase is made. These web sites are frequently not used by those travelers that chase elite status as you generally do not earn miles or points on these types of fares.
I personally have used the webpages a few times when the prices from other options are so significant that it does not make sense to chase the elite status at that time.
Now that the airline and hotel programs have been devalued it may be a good time to take a new look at these types of opportunities.
Hotwire and Priceline still offer the options for choosing a mystery flight, hotel or car rental. Some new entrants into the market are changing the entire spin on things. I was recently reading an article from the New York Times that pointed out several new companies that are making travel planning a lot more unique.
One of the companies is Cheap Caribbean, which offers discounted hotel and airfare packages to Mexico and the Caribbean. They recently have been offering Mystery Deals where you pick a general location of where you want to travel but you do not know the name of the hotel or resort until about a week before the stay. The travel company markets these deals as Deals of Fortune. The company will list a few possible hotels or resorts while you are doing the booking but the actual one is not revealed until just before your trip.
Using this type of option can save a lot of money over buying from the properties on your own. A location like Cancun or Punta Cana may be a perfect place for trying such a deal as the locations are filled with hundreds and hundreds of resorts and all inclusive hotels. Many are quite comparable and the offerings between many all inclusive properties these days are pretty similar.
About a year or so ago I traveled to Punta Cana. While I was looking for a resort, I found numerous options at various price points and it was very difficult to pick one because the marketing materials for each of them was very similar. In the end I picked one and found that it was just an average experience.
If I can select a certain level of resort and let the webpage pick it for me that could be appealing because I will not have to sift through a ton of web pages trying to make a decision.
If the price was good enough, I would definitely give it a shot.
The New York Times article also brought up another company that goes even further: Brown & Hudson, a UK based company. This company specialized in luxury travel experiences. They go so far as to ask you a series of questions regarding your travel likes and dislikes as well as what is motivating you to go on the trip. They ask questions about relationship issues, work stress, family stress, etc.
Once the company has all that information set and you establish a budget, they go about and create a travel package for your personally and they do not reveal the details until the time you check in for the flight.
The service is quite expensive and they charge a hefty fee of about $2,300 just for their service.
The travel agency caters to an elite level of traveler and many of their packages use private airfare so you may not know the location until the plane lands!
I like the idea of the service but their options are a bit out of my price point.
Perhaps as more and more airline and hotel chain devaluations occur these types of travel experiences may start making a lot of sense. For the time being, I think I will continue to chase the airfare rather than the destination!
What are your thoughts on these services? Have you used any in the past?
Photos: Pintrist, Cheap Caribbean, Brown & Hudson