Travel Contest Offers The Chance To Check Off Your Bucket List In One Fell Swoop

Everyone has a travel bucket list. Mine includes going on safari in Kenya, scuba diving in the Maldives and watching the championship game at the World Cup.

Now imagine if you had the chance to check off your bucket list in one fell swoop. That’s what global travel resource My Destination is promising with its new Biggest, Baddest Bucket List contest.

In partnership with Viator, Travelex and Hotels.com, My Destination will send one winner on a round-the-world journey to six continents in six months, with expenses paid up to $50,000. The winner will also receive $50,000 cash upon his or her return.

However, it won’t just be hostels and Heinekens. The winner will also have to write blog posts, take photos and film short videos on their journey, for publication on the My Destination website.

To enter, prospective journeymen must tackle two challenges:

  • Write a 200- to 500-word blog post about your best travel experience, with three accompanying photographs.
  • Produce an original three-minute video showing the sights and sounds of a destination that you love. Points for creativity.

Once your submission is in, you’ll have to rally your friends and family to vote on your entry. The five entries with the most public support, along with five selected by My Destination, will make a “Top 10” shortlist. Those 10 entries will then be put to a public vote, and the top three will be interviewed and evaluated by the My Destination co-founders, travel blogger Norman the Nomad and Ben Southall, winner of Tourism Queensland’s “Best Job In The World” contest.

If it sounds like a ploy to generate social media buzz for a new travel company … well, it is. But it’s also an opportunity to dip your toes into the wonderful world of travel writing, as well as a chance to go on what sounds like the trip of a lifetime. Deadline for entries is March 31.

[Photo Credit: My Destination]

Travelers’ Favorite Foods While On Vacation

sushiIf you love sushi, you’re in good company. Travelers from around the world voted Japanese as their third favorite cuisine to eat while on holiday. This relative newcomer to the global travel favorite snagged 18 percent of the vote, just behind traditional dishes from Italy (32 percent) and France (24 percent).

The more then 27,000 travelers surveyed stated a preference for Sushi, Tempura, Ramen and Japanese Soba, particularly when it comes to fine dining.

“Japanese food is seen as a great example of healthy eating and there are a variety of Japanese restaurants in every multicultural capital,” said Alison Couper from Hotels.com. “The fact that it beat more traditional holiday dishes such as Tapas and Burritos is testament to the world class reputation of Japanese chefs.”

Several other Asian countries appear in the Top Ten list, including China (13 percent), Thailand (8 percent), Taiwan and India (5 percent). The popularity of Paella and Tapas could have contributed to Spain clinching fifth place (11 percent) on the list, while those who love Burger and Fries have helped the USA secure sixth place (10 percent) in the table.

[Flickr via ZoeShuttleworth]

A New Way Compare Hotels: The Club Sandwich Comparison

club sandwichOne of our favorite parts of travel? Food. We love trying local dishes and delicacies, ordering the freshest and newest dishes available to tempt our palate. But sometimes, an old standby will have to do. Which explains our fascination with Hotels.com‘s new Club Sandwich Index, which measures the expense of the ten most popular U.S. cities by the cost of a club sandwich.

It comes as no shock that the most expensive club sandwich can be found in New York City for an average price of nearly $17. (That’s good, compared to Paris, where that price jumps to $33.)

Why choose the club sandwich? The classic chicken, bacon, egg, lettuce and mayo sandwich is a standard lunch available in hotels worldwide. The CSI average price has been calculated by taking the real prices paid by guests for a club sandwich within 1,000 five, four and three-star hotels located in popular travel destinations across 26 countries, with 10 U.S. cities measured.This standard lunch fare is known for its popularity among hotel restaurants worldwide where it has been a staple since the 1800s. Although the exact origin of the club sandwich has not been proven, popular myths point it to an exclusive – wait for it – gambling club in Saratoga Springs, New York, where it became popular before spreading to the rest of the world.

Within the U.S., it is no surprise that New York City is home to the most expensive club sandwich prices due to the city’s reputation for an expensive cost of living. Although affordable lunch can be found in San Diego, visitors can assume while traveling in the U.S. that lunch will set them back around an average of $12 – $14. An interesting regional difference travelers should note is that many restaurants in New Orleans do not serve club sandwiches, but rather the Big Easy favorite, Po’ Boy, which can consist of a variety of seafood or meats and condiments served on French bread.

In London, the top overseas destination for Americans according to the HPI, a club costs an average of $19, making the city ninth on the CSI. The least expensive cities for a club sandwich from all 30 global cities surveyed are New Delhi, India, and Mexico City, Mexico, with the average price coming in at just $10.

Here’s what we want to know: how much would you pay for a hotel sandwich?

[Flickr via avlxyz]

Better Search, Blazing Fast, Tested

fast car searchTravel search engines commonly claim to produce the lowest prices or best selection. Some say they have the most accurate reviews or are quick at what they do. When we received a press release from hotel-finder Room 77 claiming “blazing fast” results, we put them to the test.

On our 25.5 Mbps DSL line, it took just 3.5 seconds for Room 77 to deliver 573 results for an overnight stay in a hotel in Miami later this month. That did seem fast so we compared it to a couple other hotel-finding sites. Hotels.com brought 437 in 3.6 seconds and Kayak returned 354 in 3.8 seconds – about the same speed-wise. But in addition to more results, Room77 delivered lower prices and included hostels in the search.

“Room 77 searches other sites for you and compares the prices right in the search results,” Kevin Fliess, Room 77’s general manager and VP of product development told Gadling. He added, “In addition to a fast and comprehensive search, we also allow travelers to earn loyalty points or pay at the hotel.”

Going a step further, Room 77 has their Room Concierge, a free service when booking a 4-star or above hotel that helps travelers identify a hotel room matching their preferences. Buyers specify what type of room attribute is most important – size, noise level or view – and Room Concierge staff goes to work finding just that room for buyers.

On Room 77 and other travel-related sites, it’s all about providing detailed, intuitive results that match what buyers want: a search process that is quick and easy.

Another site that delivers rich content fast in a very “we’re not wasting your time” sort of way is a new feature from Nerd Wallet that searches and compares airline fees.

Nerd Wallet, best known for finding and comparing credit card offers, says they “scour the financial universe to bring you any and every bank and credit union we can find, along with our own unbiased take on what various rewards programs or deposit accounts are actually worth,” on their website.

Now, Nerd Wallet’s Search and Compare Airline Fee finder, gathers information for pretty much all domestic airlines quickly and efficiently. Users can compare, say, the baggage fees of all airlines or find out all the details about one airline in a speedy and easy search.

The results at Nerd Wallet also are intuitive and consistent with predictions made earlier this year; new technologies may create changes for our future travel planning methods.

“Today, we stand at the forefront of a technological evolution in travel that we refer to as Online Travel 3.0, which recognizes the power shift from suppliers to retailers and to end consumers,” Stephane Durand, Director, Online & Leisure at Amadeus, a major provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel and tourism industry told Gadling earlier this year.

That was just back in February when Gadling covered how travel search was becoming more personal, focused and nosy.

Then, we told of a global study that identified the online shopping behavior and future motivations of trend-setting travelers: micro-targeting information to specific consumers offering products that are actually relevant for the buyer.

Today, sites like Room 77 and Nerd Wallet’s Airline Fee Finder are delivering on that promise.

Up next, look for sites that learn from our online behavior over time and become interconnected, sharing information about us among each other.

Broadway Hotel and Hostel in New York

[Flickr photo via Viernest]

Suspicious About Hotel Reviews? You Are Not Alone

Hotel reviewsHotel reviews come from a variety of sources. Trusted travel experts, agents and professional organizations may have delivered in the past when travelers chose an unfamiliar hotel so, naturally, people continue to utilize the resources for their future decisions. Others might check in with TripAdvisor or online travel sellers Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotels.com. Whoever travelers are checking in with, it’s big business with mixed results.

As reported in the Wall Street Journal, the hotel review equation is difficult to navigate. “It’s hard to overstate how important customer reviews are [to hotel sales],” said Douglas Quinby, senior research director at PhoCusWright Inc., a travel-research firm.

Common complaints about online hotel reviews stem from their accuracy. What one guest experiences and reviews turns out to be an entirely different experience for someone else.

Reviews often highlight a stark difference between commonly rated factors like the “value received” and whether a hotel “exceeded expectations” from one stay to another.

Oh, and those reviews that jump off the page as being just too good? Reviews that sound like they were written by a hotel manager looking for business? They might very well be.

In a study of hotel-review websites last year, PhoCusWright decided to remove one small national brand of hotels because the data was suspicious. “The volume of reviews was off the charts and the [rating] scores were off the charts,” said Mr. Quinby. He declined to identify the hotel brand.

Which reviews should you trust? Probably not TripAdvisor.

In February, the United Kingdom Advertising Standards Authority ruled that TripAdvisor’s advertised claim of “trusted advice from real travelers” was misleading, because fake comments could be posted without verification.

TripAdvisor says it has technology to filter reviews, weeding out problems and that customers and hotels themselves are able to police the site for fake or inflated reviews.

But do they?

“When reviews don’t match up with reality, consumers return to the site to post reviews of their own experience,” said Adam Medros, vice president of global product for TripAdvisor in the Wall Street Journal report. Hotel owners sound the alarm either when another hotel is suspected of adding in fake reviews.

“It just works,” said Mr. Medros. “The site wouldn’t have grown as it has without users coming back and saying the information was useful.”

Experts disagree.

Travel-guidebook legend Arthur Frommer told the Journal that he began printing reader letters about hotels in the 60s. After a few years, he realized that hotels were writing him letters about themselves. “I was being gamed,” said Frommer. “Hotels are so dependent on reviews that of course they will generate their own. They would be crazy not to.”

Should You Trust Online Hotel Reviews

Flickr photo by notphilatall