Travel-Related Websites That Really Engage Their Customers

They all talk about it. “Like us on Facebook,” “Follow us on Twitter” and “Read our blog,” say travel-related websites selling everything from guidebooks to airline flights, gear and gum. Many give us little reason to like them, follow them or do anything other than buy their products on the way to the next online destination. But some travel seller sites actually do put some time and effort into creating a reason to visit other than to buy something.

The task of buying a hotel room for a night is easy to define. The short list of variables includes location, price and availability. Easy. Any number of search sites can gather that information, whirl it around and present viable options. does more. On their blog we find The Ultimate Guide To Cooking In Your Hotel Room that brings us unique, interesting content that in and of itself is a good reason to visit their site.A Different Kind Of Hotel Search
Providing step by step directions and video, teamed up with chef Nicola Whistle (the Secret Restaurant) to hack hotel room food. Using things commonly found in a hotel room, like a shower cap and iron, Chef Whistle cooks up some delicious dishes. Poached egg on toast with steamed asparagus for breakfast? Cooked in your hotel room? Yes indeed, it can be done and visiting shows travelers exactly how to do it. Visitors to this site actually have a reason to like, follow and maybe check in with their #ultimatehotelguide hashtag from @hotelinfo_EN on Twitter from time to time.

Still, visitors would probably leave the site if their search results were not productive. Running a test search, vs. Kayak, Travelocity,, Expedia and others, results were similar but engagement was not. They all ask for our like and follow but only had additional content worth a look.

15,000 Things To Do On Planet Earth
Another travel buy site that earns our vote is Viator. This travel tour buy site caught our attention last year with their “Win Your Dream Travel Job” contest that had four winners tasked with traveling through 20 countries in 60 days in both North America and Europe, and documenting their adventures on camera. Viator also earned likes from cruise travelers, saving them money with Viator Shore Excursions offering more than 500 shore excursions in over 80 of the most popular ports around the globe. But more moving past simply selling tours, Viator engages site visitors with features like inviting travelers to submit photos and a rich library of tour-specific videos.

Selling a no-wait Skip The Line Guinness Storehouse Entrance Ticket for visitors to Dublin might be reason enough to buy. But Viator builds on that value with recent photos and a short video that is an accurate representation of the tour. A new Viator Tours & Activities App makes finding and booking activities for almost any given destination we might visit while traveling easy too, with more than 15,000 curated trip activities in hundreds of destinations including photos, video and reviews.

Clicking a “like” or “follow” button takes just a split second. But consider that click as a vote and be sure your vote counts. The best travel-related websites not only offer good pricing but come equipped with unique content that makes for a better overall value.

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, 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]

Cruise Vacation Shore Excursions: A Better Value With New Service

Cruise vacations may have an all-inclusive nature but, as anyone who has sailed knows, the cruise fare paid far from covers everything. Incidental, but nearly mandatory, expenses like gratuities, soft drinks or alcoholic beverages and transfer services to and from the ship can add up fast. One part of it all that can make or break a cruise vacation experience is shore excursions — what we do off the ship. A new service now offers remarkable savings on the same or better tours than those offered by the cruise line.

Going live this week, Viator Shore Excursions offers more than 500 shore excursions in over 80 of the most popular ports around the globe, including new destinations Juneau, Monaco and Mykonos.

“The new Viator Shore Excursion platform builds on the increasing popularity of independent shore excursion bookings on,” Barrie Seidenberg, CEO and president of Viator told Gadling. “We’ve taken our great inventory and added innovative technology to create the new user experience and give cruise passengers direct access to the best excursions in their ports of call to help them make the most of their time and money in every port.”Commonly thought of as the safe way to go, tours offered from the cruise line are often priced much higher than when bought from independent operators. Those tour companies are often the same people that provide the service to cruise lines. Now, our friends at Viator, a leading resource for researching and booking tours and activities around the world, unveiled a new website specifically designed to help cruise passengers find and book shore excursions with savings up to 60 percent off typical rates offered by cruise lines.

“For far too long cruise passengers have been beholden to the cruise lines for shore excursions that are often overpriced, over crowded and represent only a fraction of what’s available locally,” added Seidenberg.

The site has been designed for the complex nature of shore excursion bookings and will offer only relevant tours and activities based on the specific itinerary of the most major cruise lines.

Passengers select the cruise line, ship name and departure date, and Viator instantly loads the cruise ship’s itinerary and then shows only those excursions that can specifically work for each port of call based on arrival and departure times and availability.

Comparing Viator tours to similar tours offered by cruise lines, Viator comes out on top often with savings of up to 60 percent on tours we compared to cruise line prices.

Still, one of the big concerns passengers have with using third-party sources is missing the ship if the tour runs late. Viator has that covered too with their service “Viator’s Worry-Free Bookings.” If a passenger misses the ship because of a Viator excursion, Viator will transport them to the next port of call at no cost to the traveler.

On top of that, budget-conscious travelers will enjoy their Low Price Guarantee that really nails down their pricing as the best.

“Viator’s Low Price Guarantee also protects you two ways. First, if you find a lower price for the same tour or activity offered by the same operator (priced in the same currency) within 72 hours of booking, send us the details and we’ll refund the price difference. No gimmicks, no exceptions,” says Viator on its website. “Second, we also protect you against arriving at a destination and finding the same tour or activity offered at a lower price from our operator. If you do happen to find a lower price direct from our operator, simply send us the details and we’ll refund the price difference. It’s that easy.”

Low price, good availability and the worry-free policy make the new Viator Shore Excursions a great tool to consider when planning a cruise vacation. We suggest a simple comparison test. Open two screens on your computer — one with the ship’s offerings and one with Viator’s shore excursions for that same itinerary.

Going port by port it looks like Viator’s savings could be considerable.

[Images via Flickr user JorgeBRAZIL] launches dream travel job contest for budding filmmakers

If you’re a travel buff with a passion for film, you could be in the running to win the gig of a lifetime from online travel agency

Through Viator’s “Win Your Dream Travel Job” contest, four winners will be tasked with traveling through 20 countries in 60 days in both North America and Europe, and documenting their adventures on camera. The winners will be placed in teams of two and provided with professional video equipment, roundtrip travel, and a budget of $15,000 per person to cover lodging and expenses. In addition to providing content for Viator’s library of travel videos, the teams will also produce final wrap-up videos, which will be pitted against each other in an online Facebook competition with $10,000 awarded to the top-voted team.

To enter, submit a one-to-three minute video on Viator’s Facebook page showing off your travel experience, storytelling abilities, and cinematic prowess on one of three subjects: things to do in your city, top travel tips, or memorable travel experiences. Every two weeks starting March 15, Viator will select a new winner. The last call for submissions is April 25.

For more of the nitty gritty, watch the following video, or check out Viator on Facebook.

Last minute travel plans made easy with tour expert

Looking for something unique to do this summer on short notice? Don’t have a lot of time to plan but want a good travel value? Finding destinations, flights and hotels sold out when you want to go? Travel agencies have pre-planned packages put together that bundle attractions, hotels, airfare and more making for what can be an economical travel option. Compared to doing it all on your own the economics of buying in to a travel agency package can sometimes make sense. Let’s take a look at ten last-minute travel destinations one tour operator has to offer over for those who can travel in the next week or so.

Viator is a leading online resource for travel experiences, providing access to nearly 9,000 tours, attractions and activities in 750-plus destinations in more than 150 countries. Their in-house travel experts hand-pick trusted local operators to ensure quality, value and service all backed by a low-price guarantee.

“Sometimes the best things do come to those who wait, and travelers who haven’t made plans yet for the July 4th holiday weekend will find many bargains on last-minute tours and activities at,” said Ms. Barrie Seidenberg, president and CEO of Viator Inc. According to Viator, the top 10 list with the best deals to celebrate the July 4th holiday weekend, great for last-minute travel destinations include:

  1. New York – Watch one of the best fireworks displays in the country with a once-in-a-lifetime July 4th VIP Exclusive: Fireworks from the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck. A limited number of tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis for this two-hour, private evening event, guaranteed to sell out quickly.
  2. Washington, D.C. – See 100 of the most popular monuments and points of interest in America?s capital after the sun goes down on the Washington D.C. Monuments by Moonlight Night Tour by Trolley, currently more than 50 percent off.
  3. Philadelphia – There’s no better time to visit our nation?s first capital than during a weekend to celebrate America’s Independence. Travelers will save more than 45 percent on admission to six of the city’s premier attractions with a Viator Philadelphia CityPASS.
  4. Las Vegas – Hit the highway out of Las Vegas and spend the day touring two major tourist attractions on the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam Day Trip, currently on sale with savings more than 50 percent.
  5. Orlando – Get two days for the price of one at Kennedy Space Center, a short drive from Orlando and the launch site for every U.S. human space flight since December 1968.
  6. San Diego – Tour one of the largest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy fleet at the USS Midway Museum, San Diego’s newest visitor attraction. A visit to this historic naval aircraft carrier museum is an essential experience for patriots of all ages.
  7. Boston – Travel north from Boston to historic Marblehead, the birthplace of the American Navy. Along the way, visit Salem, the Witch City and learn about the history of witchcraft and the reasons why the trials occurred.
  8. Niagara Falls – Visit New York’s first state park on an overnight trip to Niagara Falls from New York City. On your journey, experience the state’s diverse ethnic heritage and the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes, one of the country’s premier wine producing areas.
  9. Oahu – Take a sobering journey through U.S. history on a tour of the Arizona Memorial and the USS Missouri, the last battleship built by the U.S. Navy. Tickets include skip-the-line access to make the most of a day at Pearl Harbor, complete with a tour of downtown Honolulu and a drive through Punchbowl National Cemetery of the Pacific. An added bonus: receive one free child ticket for each adult ticket purchased.
  10. Memphis – Walk in the footsteps of the King of Rock and Roll at Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland Mansion the number one thing to do in Memphis, Tenn. Upgrade to the Elvis Entourage VIP Package and also receive entrance to a VIP Only Exhibit, Front of the Line Access to the Mansion and more.

Looking at the tour company itself is important too just like choosing a travel agent.

Viator has a rich website with a lot of information as does their iPhone App that connects you to 9,000 “unforgettable tours and experiences around the world” they say, as well as more than 250,000 unbiased traveler reviews and photos. The Viator app lets us research and book tours from a trusted global resource quickly and easily (even at the last minute) directly from your iPhone.

“As passionate travelers ourselves (Viator is the Latin word for “traveler”), we understand the value of having a trusted resource where you can easily find, research and book the world’s best travel experiences” says the Viator website, adding “Over the last 15 years, Viator has built the industry’s largest selection of tours and activities — all provided by local tour operators we hand-pick for quality, value and service, all backed by our low-price guarantee, all supported by more than a quarter of a million unbiased traveler reviews and photos.”

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Flickr photo by Bruno Girin