Wanderu’s Site Lets You Research And Book Bus And Rail Travel

If you’re a traveler, then you’re a Kayaker. Not a paddler, but a devotee of Kayak.com, the airline (and hotel and rental car) search engine that makes booking the lowest fares a breeze. If you’re a traveler, then you’ve also probably cursed the fact that a similar site doesn’t exist for bus and rail travel.

We can now count our blessings, thanks to Wanderu. According to Thrillist, this ingenious domestic search engine offers “hundreds of routes, operators, and schedules into a free, trip-aggregating database.” You can even make bookings, which is like a giant gift from the Travel Gods.

As soon as Wanderu or a competitor makes this info available for international travel, budget travelers won’t have anything left to complain about – except maybe the quality of their guesthouse banana pancakes.

[Photo credit: Flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com]

Kayak Explore: cheap airline tickets based on your budget

A neat new online tool from travel firm Kayak tells you where you can fly, based upon your available budget. Simply pop your departure airport into Kayak Explore, tell it how much you can spend, and when you want to fly – and the service will deliver a map of the world with little pins showing how much it’ll cost to fly there.

The site gathers its data from the millions of airfare combinations Kayak monitors, and allows you to find real bargains. Of course, with a tool like this, you can also find ways to maximize your mileage account, finding the furthest destination with the lowest price. Search filters even allow you to pick activities, spoken languages, and the average daily temperature.

The one thing the tool won’t do is tell you exactly when that fare can be found – the fare displayed is merely the lowest within a general time frame. Once you’ve found a cheap destination, you can enter your dates and head to the main Kayak search pages. You’ll find Kayak Explore at kayak.com/explore. Happy fare hunting!

The online travel market moves past pulling the trigger

If you think you need to sell seats or rooms to be a player in the online travel industry, think again! Travel research firm PhoCusWright found in a new survey that the online travel marketplace has evolved over the past few years to include a wide selection of non-transactional travel sites that serve as “pointers” to those online destinations were eager travelers can melt some plastic. But, the publication of regular content — at sites like Gadling, for example — is where many travel buyers are forming their relationships, leading to the possibility that the strongest online travel brands may not have any selling capabilities (or interests in developing them) at all.

For companies in the business of selling travel online, this opens a new range of considerations, in which relationships with non-transactional content providers have to be managed carefully. After all, the seller wants to cultivate the customer’s loyalty but also wants to ensure a steady stream of traffic from complementary businesses. “Metasearch” sites, like Kayak, which scour several online travel sales sites, are also playing an increasingly important role in the online travel dynamic.

“Before consumers ever hit the ‘book now’ button, they undergo a whole process of gathering, qualifying and comparing travel options,” says Carroll Rheem, director, research at PhoCusWright. “Both metasearch and review sites are designed to help consumers in this often cumbersome decision-making process. Therefore, it is not surprising that the popularity of these types of Web sites has grown significantly over the past several years.”

As of the end of June this year, Kayak was the top met search site on the web, with close to 7 million monthly unique visitors. Rheem observes that Kayak is among “the most exciting brands in the travel space today.” She notes, “We wanted to take a closer look at which elements of their content and functionality consumers are gravitating toward and what impact they have on booking behavior.”

Markets tend to change during periods of upheaval, so look for the next few years to yield a completely different landscape online. The online travel agencies and other sellers will probably become spots for trigger-pullers only, with the relationship being owned further up the travel information supply chain. Travel buyers will form their relationships with sources of information, not sources of inventory.

Honey, Are You Sure We Packed The Lizard?

I travel pretty light so packing up after staying in a new hotel room is usually a straightforward matter, although my wife Carol still struggles with my uncanny knack of locking our pack keys IN the pack. Maybe if I did travel with more luggage, I’d be as absent minded as some other travellers uncovered by the travel search engine www.kayak.com.

A recent survey unearthed some surprising items that travellers have been lucky (ahem…) enough to find in their hotel room when they checked in. Dr Dolittle would have been impressed with a range of critters from tarantula spiders to foot-long lizards and racoons – even a hotel security guard having a light afternoon sleep.

Strange discoveries have included a male wig, a bathtub full of beer (hooray!), and a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately a dead body was also included in the tally, but at least there were no horses’ heads – even in New Jersey.

Thanks to Captain Solo on Flickr for the picture of a racoon enjoying takeout.