What I Hate About Booking Travel Online

I’ve traveled a good bit in my day; I’ve been to some 20-odd countries, 4 continents, you know, the works.  And if there’s one thing that I hate more than airports, it’s booking travel online.

The problem is this:  my goal is not to book flights at specific airlines, at specific airports, with specific ticket classes — it’s to book a trip.  Trips have different goals.  For example:

“I want to visit Albany and New York City next week.  I have to be in Albany on these days; NYC is flexible.”


“I want to go to central London next week, and need to be there for at least 3 days.”

I don’t care about the details.  I want to know:

  • What are the options?
  • How much do they cost?
  • How long do they take?

I don’t want to have to know that Airport X is actually 30 miles from London, so I’m going to have to get a bus that costs me another £30 and takes an hour.  That should be worked into the equation.  I don’t care that renting cars is twice as expensive in Manhatten as it is upstate.  If it turns out that a high-speed train is almost as fast as a plane, I want to know that.

See, travel sites create the illusion of providing the information that I cite above, which is what makes them so infuriating.  In practice, it almost invariably takes me several hours of looking at options just to figure out how I effectively can get from point A to point B, and what the costs and logistics involved will be.

In my dream world:

Here’s how it works in my dream world:  I pick two places on a map, just like I do on Google Maps, and I get back options for how to get from point A to point B, with all variable covered.  I get nearly exact amounts of time, total costs and when I can get started.  I can chose to optimize for speed, comfort or price.

7 thoughts to “What I Hate About Booking Travel Online”

  1. Ha, your annoyances sound very familiar! Especially the hard-to-find flexibility in departure/arrival times and the hidden costs (both the extra charges related to your flight and getting from and to the airport).

    Had a related idea restricted to public transport when I was in Berlin last week. You know perfectly well how to use your publics route planner in your own city/country, but most of the time you’re extremely inefficient in a new one. It doesn’t help if the route planner is in a different language either. In any case, you still have to find the appropriate route planner in the first place!

    So it would be great if you could enter start and end points/addresses. Then the application would access the publics route planner for that city/country, and feed you back the route. Nice and easy.

  2. Interestingly with public transit, in the US several major cities work with Google Maps. I noticed that in both in Houston and San Francisco / Silicon Valley. That may have been part of what set me thinking that having generalized transportation on a similar model could be nice.

  3. Hi Scott / Peter – We are about to launch a new door-to-door travel search engine that addresses this exact problem:

    It’s a bit like zoombu, but has a more global focus, is faster and uses a google-maps interface. The focus so far has been on combining search of flights, inter-city trains, ferries and driving directions but we plan to expand to include local transport, buses, etc. in the future.

  4. hey Scott! nice to find your blog 🙂 got here by way of Github…

    booking callisthenics – sounds awfully familiar. “ready to leave at hh:mm earliest, need to be there by then. can leave no earlier than that, and please get me a stopover there on the way home, thank you very much”. That’s called a “travel agent” 😉 and until our controllers killed the company contract with Carlson Wagonlit and made us DYI it they charged about 20 EUR for getting me just that answer, and usally cheaper and more reliable than any of those steenkin’ portals. I guess said controllers are quite happy that the time we spend booking is not recorded, or else they would have been controlled away long ago together with their smart ideas and fancy suits.

    My recommendation – go oldschool. Find a nice little travel agency near you, and get them used to accepting that kind of input, my local “Reisebüro” became quite adept at it and they charge a surprisingly acceptable fee on top of the ticket itself, I guess it’s the ticket commission that allows them to do that. And they might even like a change in between all those Fuertaventura there-and-back-again-with-a-headache tickets


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