This vacation better be worth the headache

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Few things are as fulfilling as going on vacation. Leaving your cares, deadlines, awkward relationships, and everything else at home and travelling to a exciting or relaxing place. As perfect as getting away from it all can be, the gatekeeper to these experiences can be unbelievably frustrating. No, this gauntlet of grief has nothing to do with asking for the time off from work or setting your affairs in order so your time away doesn’t end with a surprise catastrophe at home. The real pain before pleasure comes in the form of booking your travel.

You’d think living post-phone vacation booking would be an era of sweet relief; no more calling airline after airline, hotel after hotel, rental car company after rental car company. Thankfully we’ve traded that torture but for something that is an entirely different painful experience.

There is no silver bullet in the digital age for booking travel accommodations. The first savior came in the form of websites that allow users to book “everything” on one site and present what looks to be decent deals at the same time. Most starting right around the turn of the century, sites such as Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, and Orbitz were everywhere. All of these sites offered the same flights, hotel rooms, rental cars… but for some reason the times and details were just enough eskew that you couldn’t figure out if you were getting the best deal.

The worst part is all of visits to these sites come with a serious dose of FOMO or “fear of missing out.” If a visitor doesn’t take the deal in front of them, there is a chance it will comeback to haunt them a day later should they change their mind and discover the price has skyrocketed. The worst of these is Priceline, a site that occasionally presents great deals with its “name your price tool,” which allows hotels the opportunity to take your offer or leave it for a lesser establishment. Sometimes you are staying exactly where you want, other times you end up sleeping an hour drive from where you need to be.

Right around the time President Obama was first walking into the oval office, a new batch of travel apps started to pop up; many being part of “the sharing economy.” This economic model has normal people renting out their apartment or house and allowing others to stay if they follow a few rules, e.g. AirBnB. This can be excellent if you are travelling with a large group and want to stay under a single roof. But there is always the threat that your renter will end up being a weirdo or show up when they said they wouldn’t. If that makes you skittish, know that the sharing economy is very staunch about their “community” and won’t tolerate jerks.

Today, travel applications sprout and die almost as fast as Amazon delivers packages. The new take on travel is last minute accomodations. Roomla or Hotels Tonight want you to know it’s okay to hit the road without a plan and just book something when you reach your destination. In theory this is great, but the rates are never as good as the advertisements want you to believe.

Outside of AirBnB, there hasn’t been a real gamechanger in travel reservations in a while. If anything there’s been a reversion. Many airline and hotel sites offer better deals than the big deal sites. So not to add to your booking headache, but if you don’t mind opening one more tab on your web browser, considering going straight to the source.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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