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Some people ask me to help booking their trips. They ask me because usually I found cheaper flights and hotels. So the question is not if exists any flight or hotel booking site as Kayak, Trivago or the service offered by travel agencies. The question is if there is any service that given a vague description of the travel you want, find the best options.

For example, if you ask for a trip "between March 2nd and 10th to a caribbean beach", they offer a touristic package to Cuba from 3rd to 10th, a flight to maldives islands in a 4* hotel, etc. The idea is that you just describe the trip you want and they give you some budget options.

I'd like to know if there is such page to redirect all my friends who ask me to do their holiday finding job :)

EDIT: 3 years after I ask about this, I'm still looking for travels for my friends. I've found sites like Flighfox but this is flight-centric, I'm looking for something similar to the experience of getting to a physical travel agency and ask for a holiday package (or a flight or a cruise or a hotel...) I can't believe it doesn't still exist. May be there are no a unique website, may be exists Flighfox for flying, XXX for travel packages, Trivago for hotels, ... (well, really Trivago don't accept natural language, you must specify dates, place, etc, my friends come and ask about "I'd like to go to south France coast one week in July, could you find me something cheap, please?")

Just to clarify, copy&paste (and edit) a comment I made when I asked this 3 years ago: "My friends and other people I talk with don't know/like to use websites like Kayak, EasyJet Holidays or similar. For them (comming from an analogic world) travels are arranged by asking someone what they want: "I want to go to Paris next week" and don't understand that computers need to specify exactly or approximately where and when you want to go. The point is "informality", not natural language processing.

NOTE: No tips about how to deal with tiring friends ;)

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I think this is highly depends on country your friends are from. –  VMAtm Jan 17 '12 at 11:06
    
So you're wanting to build it but first want to know if such a service already exists? ;) –  Mark Mayo Jan 17 '12 at 12:14
    
@VMAtm: Well, I have friends all arround the world, but if had to focus the question I'll ask about Europe (in Spain there aren't services like that, but I don't know in the rest of Europe) –  Ivan Jan 17 '12 at 18:10
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But that's more-or-less what a travel agency does (or used to do)! The problem is that it's extremely difficult to make that profitable without charging a significant premium (and there goes the “budget” aspect). –  Relaxed Nov 17 at 11:45
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This is why travel agents still exist. –  Burhan Khalid Nov 17 at 12:41

5 Answers 5

I know an excellent service that has a highly informal interaction and is able to make suggestions based on vague requirements. It can ask questions to refine your requirements, and is even able to suggest modifications to those requirements if it thinks you can find a good deal. It has access to all the other websites that offer cheap travel, and can pick the best ones to show you. Interaction is through natural language processing, and it uses to make its selection highly intelligent 'neural net' algorithms, far in ahead in technology of what other recommendation engines use. The service is called a 'travel agent'.

Seriously, travel agents have access to all the same cheap websites you do, and probably know them better than you. They might have access to others as well. Its obvious your friends like that way of choosing vacations, because they like interacting with you, a human being, rather than searching the web themselves. Often an agent can make savings that are much better than the small fee they charge, and if you factor in the cost of your time they are very cheap indeed.

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Yes, travel agents could be the response IF they are not biased by their commission partners. Everywhere in the world (I have had to go to travel agents around the world) when you ask for a trip plan on a travel agency it will be highly biased by which are their sponsor, who gives better commissions or other factors like that. In general, my friends comes to me because I'm really independent and only want the best for them (and they know). Of course they usually come after going to a couple of travel agents trying to improve their prices and 99% of times I get it very easily (1% not easy) –  Ivan Nov 18 at 8:27

The best advice in this case for your friends would be to check the 'flights+hotel' sections of travel websites. Point is, the convenience factor of such deals is what could make them more expensive than manually putting together a holiday by booking cheapest flights and hotels separately. If you're asking for a site that does that for you - combining cheapest flights and hotels on its own - that's just not how the industry works! Kayak, for instance, routes such queries to Expedia which is essentially an online travel agent.

This also depends on where you live. Check whether your region's low cost airlines have a holidays page. In Europe, there's easyJet holidays; in Asia, there's Air Asia Go...combined with cheap airfares these can provide budget options.

What this boils down is a question of how much effort you want to put in into designing your holiday. If you don't want to hunt around, you end up paying a premium to travel agencies for figuring it out for you!

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My friends and other people I talk with don't know/like to use these websites. For them (comming from an analogic world) travels are arranged by asking someone what they want: "I want to go to Paris next week" and don't understand that computers need to specify exactly or approximately where and when do you want to go. The point is "informality". I agree your last paragraph and that's what I've find until now and my question is to try to find a site that don't sacrifice (too much) budget in order to get comfort. –  Ivan Jan 17 '12 at 18:18
    
So I'm getting a bit confused here. Do you want a website that can understand natural language queries such as "I want to go to Paris next month between 2nd and 10th"? If that's the case then you're answer is going to be no, you'll have to talk to a real-world (human) travel agent. Natural language processing simply isn't advanced enough to understand intent that well yet. Many website holiday deal sections try to approach this by offering a compiled list of destinations without need to fill out forms, which may be the closest you can get in present day. –  Ankur Banerjee Jan 17 '12 at 19:54
    
Yes, that's what I want. I don't hope the site understand natural language, of course :) I suppose that if it exists, it will have a person behind as you say (a travel agent). –  Ivan Jan 17 '12 at 23:45
    
all or most travel websites I know of will allow you to put in an interval and specify a desired length of stay within that interval. Of course using websites to find "the lowest price" for you is more expensive than finding it yourself as the website operators will charge for their services (often a percentage). –  jwenting Jan 18 '12 at 6:59

What about

adioso

It gives you the option to specify a destination city, country, region, continent or even simply 'anywhere', 'international' or 'domestic'. You can also specify a date or a date range for either outbound or inbound flights:

search

It then lists the results in a very neat way as if they were packages:

results

The only thing I wasn't able to find is hotels, maybe it is hidden there somewhere I didn't spend much time on it, and bookings are forwarded to other agencies or airlines, but at least it gives you options and ideas.

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Argh, I've spent two days (Well, every time I saw this question the past two days) trying to remember the name of this site. Good find. –  Mark Mayo Nov 19 at 23:14
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Adioso has become my primary flight search engine. It consistently finds flights and fares that SkyScanner doesn't find yet it has all the flexibility options. I'm not sure it deals with the OPs full question though which seems to be about more than just flights, but I'm not sure what's really being asked and it's written in a way that requires too much energy to read again in detail to figure it out. –  hippietrail Nov 20 at 3:46
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Good site! This will be very useful to me when looking for flights, and even for my friends (it's near natural language and no so complex as ITA Matrix). But still it doesn't cover anything except flights and no all companies are here (I've found cheaper flights after some minutes searching for alternatives). But that's the idea! Thanks. –  Ivan Nov 20 at 9:11

I guess, you are looking for a list of this kind:

The Most Popular Online Booking Sites in Travel

This summarizes the country wise usage of each site so that you can get an idea depending on the area you want to visit.

However, this list mostly shows the names of various international websites in use which may show you discounts and offers in the first look, but if you try to research a bit more and find out the exact price from the service provider itself, you may get a good bet.

I personally use these websites, to find the names of hotels, restaurants, tour organizers, etc and then contact them separately through their websites if available. This helps me save a lot, and I get a better idea of what I am looking for!

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Well, this site list most used sites (leader in their segment), but in these sites you cannot go and ask in natural language what you want: you need to search, compare and loose some time on it. –  Ivan Nov 18 at 8:32
    
Yes. Web world is evolving on the languages and translations. You could just use Google Translate until we have websites with translation features. In a second thought, if websites start handling translations, they might charge more for the services they provide. ;) –  Neels Nov 18 at 8:41

I've found Groupon Getaways helpful for this sort of "I want to travel somewhere on a budget within these timeframes/preferences" request. You can choose where in the world you would like to travel or what type of holiday you would like (eg "beach"), enter in your dates, and relevant options will appear. Some include flight + hotel, some only hotel. They are almost always discounted.

Note that this particular site seems to be only available in the US, but it looks like Groupon generally is available in Europe, not sure if it includes the Getaways section.

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Yes, European Groupon includes a travel section, but still the same problem than other search engines like Kayak or Expedia: it only includes a limited amount of options, not everything available on Internet. –  Ivan Nov 19 at 8:57

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