Bundling, Unbundling Travel Services For Convenience, Savings

Bundling travel services can often be the best value when compared to buying individual services in an a la carte sort of way. Buying airfare then adding on a rental car and/or hotel package is a good example of saving travel funds via bundling.

Unbundling, on the other hand, is where fees for everything from checked luggage to exit row seats on airlines came from, generating millions in non-fare income. In a bit of a turn in a different direction, some travel service providers are introducing new bundles that can add up to savings for frequent travelers.

This week United Airlines announced a $499 offer that gives air travelers annual subscriptions that guarantee more legroom and no-charge checked bags. Exclusive to those booking through United.com:

  • The Economy Plus subscription starts at $499 and includes seats typically paid for as an upgrade for flights in the continental United States. Make that $599 to include all North and Central America flights and $699 is the price for Global access.
  • The Baggage subscription starts at $349.00 giving you and up to eight companions traveling on the same reservation up to two bags checked per flight for free. The program does not waive oversize/overweight bag charges.
  • The United Club subscription gives access to more than 45 United Club locations complete with complimentary snacks, beverages and Wi-Fi. The cost: 65,000 miles or $500 per person.

The world of cruise travel saw an unbundling of sorts with the advent of specialty restaurants, charging passengers an extra fee for a fine dining experience. The nature of a cruise vacation still swings towards more inclusive travel than, say, a land vacation. But optional extra charges can add up fast, even doubling the total price of a cruise vacation

In a similar move to United’s subscription plans, Royal Caribbean International has a variety of dining packages on various cruise ships. On Allure of the Seas, for example, passengers can choose from the following packages:

  • Central Park Dining Package, at $70 per guest (regularly priced at $90), includes Giovanni’s Table Italian Trattoria, 150 Central Park fine-dining restaurant and Chops Grille steakhouse.
  • Chef’s Dining Package, at $130 per guest, includes the five-course, gourmet Chef’s Table and wine pairing, 150 Central Park and Chops Grille
  • Choice Dining Package, at $80 per guest, includes Chops Grille, Giovanni’s Table, Izumi and Samba Grill Brazilian steakhouse

Bundled dining packages are also offered by sister-line Celebrity Cruises in a Specialty Dining package with three, four or five dinners.

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]

Call a Toll-Free Number for Travel Help

Here’s travel help that caught my attention after reading Neil’s post “GPS Platforms Help Working Girls in the Night.” That Neil. Although this service I read about isn’t exactly like GPS in your shoes, the idea is kind of the same–well, not exactly, but kind of. The company 1-800-INACITY is to help travelers who are stuck in a bind, or maybe not stuck, but need some help to find lodging, a neat place to eat or other travel related info. The only thing you need is a telephone.

Steve Stephens, the travel editor for the Columbus Dispatch, wrote an article that gives the specifics, but here’s the main idea behind how it works. Let’s say you were me a few years ago and left Columbus, Ohio at 7 PM thinking that you’d be able to find a place to stay in Wheeling, West Virginia on your way to New York City. But, no, all hotels were full. So you motored on, still confident. At every exit that listed motels, you pulled off with high hopes. Still nothing. Finally, at 5 am, there was a vacancy near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You had to stop here because driving on had become impossible. You were driving with your mother who could go no further and just four hours of stretching out was worth paying for a night’s stay.

If this service had been available, you could have called the toll free number and said, “Hey, I’m on my way from Columbus to New York City. I’ve hit Wheeling, West Virginia and I have ended up with a goose egg for lodging. Any ideas?” The service that is hooked into a database with thousands of tourism related companies and an operator might have hooked me into hotel.com to find a place. Actually, the call is taken by a voice activated system that will get you to an operator once it’s clear what you need. Here’s a menu of what you could say to get all sorts of travel help.

There are plans for the company to act as a GPS service where you can provide a landmark or intersection for where you are for directions on how to get to where you want to go. By the way, James Halk, the person who started this company, is from Columbus–Upper Arlington, actually, but close enough. Here are some comments from folks who have used the service. Also, there are no ads to listen to before you get the help you need.