Meet In The Middle: Plan Group Travel With TripCommon

TripCommon group travel planning toolHave a friend in Austria while you are in Austin and want to take a trip together this summer? How do you figure out where to meet? Do you choose a destination in the middle, or one with regular cheap flights from both of your destinations? A new website just launched in beta, designed to make planning group travel an easier process. TripCommon is a flight search engine that computes the cheapest common destinations, giving you the option to filter by region (maybe you’ve both always wanted to explore South America), activity (make it a beach trip), and where you have local friends (if you link up to Facebook).

What makes TripCommon genius is that it doesn’t just find random points on the map that are midway between you and your friends (you can enter up to six cities for big group travel planning), it finds destinations that have the lowest average price. Maybe you are in grad school and have a fixed budget; you can find places with the lowest cost from your city. If you have frequent flier miles to burn and your friends are the ones looking for the cheapest seats, you can sort by lowest price from one of their home cities. You may discover destinations you never thought about (Canary Islands sound nice for summer!), and make the trip planning process a lot more equitable.

Start planning your group trip at www.tripcommon.com.

[Photo credit: Trip Common]

Adventure Travel Company Kumuka Worldwide Goes Out Of Business, Leaves Customers To Fend For Themselves

Its off into the sunset for Kumuka WorldwideFor nearly 30 years, adventure travel company Kumuka Worldwide had been seen as a tour operator that provided affordable and high quality itineraries to practically every corner of the globe. The company’s extensive catalog included more than 600 tours to such far away places as Africa, Antarctica, Australia and more. But that all changed recently when Kumuka announced that it was going out of business, leaving many customers scrambling to make alternate travel plans while also trying to find a way to get their money back.

About two weeks ago, U.K. based Kumuka posted a message on its website announcing that the company was suspending trading and going into voluntary liquidation. They informed customers that if they booked on a trip that was departing prior to July 22, their tours were safe and would go off without a hitch. But those that had booked travel after that date were simply told to “re-book with another operator.”

Of course, booking with another company is much easier if you have the funds but it seems Kumuka’s customers will need plenty of patience if they hope to get their money back. Kumuka recommends that travelers in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada contact the Travel Compensation Fund to begin the process of getting their cash back. U.K. customers are told that their money is protected by that country’s Civil Aviation Authority while Americans are advised to make a claim with their credit card company or to contact their travel agent.

Kumuka’s competitors were quick to offer aid to the company’s abandoned clients. Tucan Travel extended their loyalty discount program to Kumuka customers while Intrepid Travel and Dragoman are offering special deals too. That’s small consolation, however, for those who saved for months in order to take a trip and now must wait to receive compensation before they can book again.

As someone who loves to travel, and plans his trips weeks and months in advance, I can’t imagine how crushed I would feel if I were one of these customers. Imagine looking forward to getting away to a dream destination only to have the rug pulled out from under you just before you go. Seems like the very definition of disappointment to me.

20 Useful Online Travel Resources

Online travel resources, like sleeping in airports, help make travel easier and cheaper.We all do it. We hear about a new website that is supposed to be this or that and we sign up for it. At first we’re skeptical or excited, or both. We begin to fill out our profiles and then we get distracted. We never return to said site. Other times, the exact opposite is true and we find our lives turned inside out because of a website. Had it not been for Craigslist, my life would be very different today. I jotted down the URL in early 2003 when I began a search for a new apartment in New York City. Since then, Craigslist has helped to shape every aspect of my life. I’ve found jobs, furniture, pets, housing, gigs, bandmates and roommates on Craigslist. By extension of a roommate found on the site, I found my husband. It’s no stretch to say a website can change your entire life. And by the same token, a website can completely gut and renovate the way you travel.When I came across Golden Book Traveler’s list of 20 Best Travel Websites On The Internet (because the Internet is where websites live), I continued reading past the headline. Some sites listed are ones I stand behind fully. Others are sites I’m now eager to use, including Airbnb, Couch Surfing, Hostel World, Road Sharing and Sleeping In Airports. This list seems promising to me.

Read it in its entirety here.

'Sleep Box' Opens at Moscow Airport

New site helps you plan day trips from Mumbai

As someone who lived in Mumbai for two years, I can tell you there were numerous weekends when I just wanted to get away from the blaring car horns, insane traffic, and “go go go” mentality of India‘s most populous city. I relied on guidebooks and word-of-mouth to find out about nearby hill stations, such as Matheran (pictured at right), and beach-side resorts that were suitable for a day trip or weekend excursion. But even with those resources at my disposal, I knew that there had to be scores of other places that my friends didn’t know about or that guidebook writers didn’t have room to cover.

Thankfully, there’s a new website that is trying to take the mystery out of planning a short jaunt from Mumbai. A Break Please (www.abreakplease.com) recommends places to go depending on how much time you have (one, two, or three days), how many travelers are in your group, your budget, and whether or not you have a car (not a given in a country where the per capita income hovers around $1,050). Somewhat akin to Wanderfly, A Break Please also makes travel suggestions based on the type of trip you want to take. Select from beach, hill station, fort, pilgrimage, and four other options.

Having just launched a few weeks ago, A Break Please is very much a work in progress. For example, you can’t book directly from the site and options such as choosing the type of company you will be traveling with (as mentioned on the website’s blog) are not yet available. But even just a quick search on the site returned dozens of accommodations ideas, complete with contact info, nearby activities, and, for the carless, a train schedule detailing fares and departure times.

While A Break Please may not be practical for many travelers to Mumbai, it does appear to be a useful tool for locals and expats who may just need a break from the frenetic pace of Bombay.

New website helps travelers find their next adventure

Adventure travel website Kumutu will help you find your next epic trip!A new website promises to help adventure travelers find their next getaway, as well as discover new destinations they weren’t even aware of. The goal is to connect consumers with tour operators and guide services from around the globe, in an effort to make booking an adventurous holiday all the easier.

The recently launched Kumutu is the brainchild of CEO Ryan Off, who came up with the idea of an adventure travel aggregator after growing frustrated with other online options. The site already has more than 900 adventure travel companies already signed up, and they’re targeting to build that number to 20,000 by the year’s end. That means that consumers will have a wealth of options at their fingertips when it comes to booking their next trip, and online ratings and reviews will help us to decide if the option we are interested in is right for us.

As you would expect with similar websites, Kumutu offers you the option to search by activity, such as cycling, kayaking, mountaineering or by country, with nearly 60 destinations, including Antarctica, currently available. The approach is very straight forward, and easy to understand, with your options being presented in a quick, clean manner.

Perhaps the best way to search is by using the Kumutu map however. When this option is selected, you’re presented with a Google powered view of the world, with specific operators represented with a push-pin on the map. Clicking on a pin in the location of interest gives you a pop-up with a very brief description of the tours on offer. Clicking on the tour operators name will take you to a page that is specific to that company, with far more information about what they do and exactly what kinds of adventures they offer.

Kumutu is a nicely laid out and very easy to use travel aggregator, but we have seen a number of these types of sites pop up over the past year or two, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to stand out in the crowd. If they hit their goal of 20,000 tour operators by the end of the year however, Kumutu could become your one-stop shop for booking all of your future adventures.