Website review: In To The Blue.co.uk

Days out or “excursions” are probably the most memorable part of any travel adventure. While we spend more on flights and hotels these are just tools to get us to the real excitement. Spending a day zip lining from tree to tree or flying high over your favourite city for an epic view. These are the memories we hold on to from our travels around the world.

I was invited to review one such provider of unforgettable experiences, Into The Blue, a UK based company who offer a huge range of days out, taster sessions and excursions. There are plenty of “red letter day” style sites these days but I was keen to see what sets this one apart from the rest. Would I be able to find something to suit all family members? Will budget be an issue? What unique experiences can I find? All will be answered!

Company backstory

Jock MaitlandInto The Blue first started from humble beginnings. Created by Jock Maitland, a popular WWII pilot often known as “Mr Biggin Hill” where he was based. After the war he organised air shows all over the UK and especially at Biggin Hill near London. He was often asked for flying lessons and so started his own business offering days out for wannabe pilots. The company grew with more and more activities and excursions on offer and it really started long before many of the familiar names in the excursions and experiences industry, with a keen eye on customer service. They also have lots of connections in the aviation industry too so boast a number of flying experiences not available elsewhere.

First impressions

So lets delve in and explore the website. On first visiting www.intotheblue.co.uk you’re greeted with a tidy home page filled with inspiring ideas and some easy-to-navigate categories.  The site is responsive and looks great on both desktop and mobile devices. The large banners in a slideshow format give me some ideas of where to start with my search for the ultimate day out in Britain. The spitfire experience does definitely appeal to me and the driving days at Goodwood are the sort of thing I’d love to do too. The navigation bar is filled with plenty of categories to browse and below the slideshow is a handy search facility where you can search but a number of different checkboxes such as “pampering” or “water sports”. It definitely throws up some interesting options that I wouldn’t have normally searched for. With over 1000 activities on the site it can be a bit overwhelming unless there’s a useful search feature so I’m glad there was something based on my location and types of experience rather than just a search box.

Range of experiences

With so much to choose from I was keen to see just how much of a range there is. Its all very well having a lot but would the variety appeal to all ages and preferences? While there are categories for the more obvious activities like flights, track days and romantic dining, its easier to see the range available in the “Special occasions” pages. The menu offers some great collections including “for him” and “for her“. There’s also birthday categories right up to age 70 which I found the most useful. Its also interesting to see what they deem suitable for different ages.

Admittedly there are plenty of familiar looking excursions and experiences that you often see on sites like this, there were definitely plenty of notable additions I’d not seen before or even thought of like “An Introduction to Taekwondo” or truck driving schools. There’s even “create your own perfume” and Ice sculpting schools in London so the range is fairly eclectic! What’s interesting is the variety of options within categories too, something to suit pretty much any budget rather than just expensive days out. From simple tours of spitfires at Biggin Hill Airport, right up to personal air displays and pilot training days.

Getting around

One of the most important aspects for me on any website is how easy it is to browse whats on offer and get back to what I find most useful. The top navigation definitely does a good job of displaying lots of possible options and once you’re in to the results pages there are numerous ways the information can be displayed. If you’re looking for things near you there’s a handy map button which can locate your position and show you where each product is. In the default list view there’s also a drop down menu of sorting methods, pricing from low-to-high, high-to-low or by location.

 

Customer service

The site features a very useful live chat service which popped up after a short while with “Gill” ready to help me out. This service is fantastic if you’re undecided or really need some inspiration. I set Gill the challenge with this message

Hi, I’m looking for an experience that would be suitable for older people. Fairly active 70 year olds. Something unique and different. Not the usual day out. Can you inspire me?“.

Gill was very helpful and started sending me some great ideas with links I could click on for more information. I pushed Gill for some more unusual and active experiences and sure enough I was presented with some more experiences that were a little different to the norm. I highly recommend putting this live chat tool to good use as it helped me find suitable days out and made me more confident to purchase too.

Checking out

When checking out you can add a gift message if the order is for someone else. You can also choose to receive the voucher in a gift box for £3.99 extra or if you just want it sent by email there’s no extra cost. I’m a sucker for a gift box especially when the gift is such a special day out but if you’re looking for a quick purchase for yourself then an e-voucher is perfect. You can send a personalised voucher with each product you purchase although I noticed my personalisations were lost if I continued browsing the site and added another product, so be sure to add these at the end of your browsing.

Into The Blue often run promotions too with discount codes making your purchasing experience even sweeter. They usually advertise them on their homepage and its also worth asking on their live chat if you’re not entirely sure. You can pay by card or the ever popular PayPal which is my preferred method as it usually takes fewer clicks!

Conclusion

I was pleasantly surprised by the variety on offer at Into The Blue and with so many ways to view the collections I found it easy to browse and make collections of my own. The customer service was polite and helped give me confidence to not only purchase my chosen day out but find new and unusual things to do for any age.

Prices were very good and I found plenty for every budget, in fact my experience with using Into The Blue has inspired me to be a little more daring with some forthcoming birthday gifts for loved ones.

Booking excursions like these are often a step in to the unknown. We’ve all paid for flights and hotels online before but booking days out doing things we’ve never experienced before can often take a little extra trust from the seller. I’m glad to report Into The Blue’s website and customer service did a great job of letting me know all the details I needed to make an informed purchase.

BuyaTimeshare.com Review: Our Website Browsing Experience

Have you considered renting a timeshare when going on holiday? It’s an economical choice and, literally, a home away from home. You’re probably more likely to extend my visit when I’m not confined to a hotel room. In a timeshare, people traveling together are more likely to go home still friends. With separate kitchen facilities, living room, and bedrooms, you won’t be bumping into each other or annoying one another if some want to sleep and some want to watch television.

So if you’re open to timeshare rentals and maybe even buying, where will you start looking? On the Internet, of course! Where else can we get so much information in such little time? Plus you get to browse at leisure by yourself—until you want help. I was recently invited to review the website BuyaTimeshare.com which is one of the first websites dedicated to buying, selling and renting timeshares. I expect that it will also be one of the most experienced. Lets find out.

First Impressions

They really do count. I feel that I’m in good hands as soon as I see BuyaTimeshare.com‘s home page. It’s what every home page should be. It is crisp and clean, informative and very pleasing to the eye. In a matter of seconds, I can see everything I need. The first thing I saw was a delightful surprise: the phone number right at the top of the page. If that sounds like an odd thing to be delighted about, try finding a phone number on some websites for online companies—difficult to impossible. There is also a form to submit if you need additional information and a real-time Support Agent ready to “Chat Now.” They make sure that visitors to the site can easily request, and receive, whatever help they may need.   

Homepage

The buttons on the top menu bar are clearly marked and add up to an “Everything You Want to Know about Timeshares.” The Help button explains the whole deal about timeshares. Certainly very welcome information for me and would be even more welcome for anyone who is considering converting that holiday into a “dry run” for buying a unit. Under “Timeshare Help” is “How Timeshare Calendars Work” with a clear, detailed explanation of the rather “mysterious” system of rental weeks that are designated 1 through 52 rather than, say, January 1 through December 31. 

On the top menu bar, there is a Timeshare Info button, and there you learn “timeshare speak,” the esoteric jargon of the timeshare business. Also under that button is the Timeshare Calendar with the weeks translated into sequential numbers for 2017 through 2020. 

TimeShare 4 Featured Home Page

The Timeshare Directory button reveals the most commonly visited locations for easy access if that’s where you want to go or you can go to locations by city, state or country if you’re still deciding. 

I’m going to start with the other option, the Search field. Five of my cousins and I, from the UK, US and Argentina, are getting together for a mini-family reunion. We’re thinking of meeting in the Bahamas, so I’ll see what’s available. 

Renting a timeshare in the Bahamas

When I enter “Bahamas” into the Search field, I get 20  properties and a brief, but helpful, overview of the Bahamas, including restaurants and, interestingly, how to find children friendly resorts. As I was browsing around the website I saw overviews for other locations that included the most convenient and/or least expensive route to get there. I’d say that’s an “above and beyond” feature. 

TimeShare Refine by Bahamas

I refined the search for timeshares that are available to rent and ones with three bedrooms. I’m then down to two properties. There is a “Timeshares to Rent” button for each property, and then I see that, within those two properties, there are multiple units for rent. 

Most units have 10 photographs of the exterior, interior and the unit itself. Oddly, a few do not include photos of the unit. I’m going to have to pass on any of those. I always want to see what our accommodations will actually be like. But that’s a problem with the owner not the website. A Google map at the bottom of the page pinpoints exactly where the property is, which is also something definitely required for any confident order.

One problem with this section is that after I looked at the units at one property, I could not get back to the page that showed the two properties that fit my specifications. I ended up back on the page with 20 properties and had to refine the search again. Not a big deal, perhaps, but an unnecessary step, and I’m sure easily remedied.

Also for each property there is a “Make an Offer” button which is great if you want to negotiate the rental price (and you should want to do that!). What I wanted was a way to contact the owner and ask some questions. Maybe, for those units without the photos I need, the owner could provide some? I didn’t see a form for that and yet from everything I understood, I am able to contact the owner. Clicking on “Make an Offer” showed me an enquiry form. Not the easiest thing to find but got there in the end.

Last minute deals

Clicking on the “Rental Timeshare” button on the top menu I was able to find some great last minute deals. One nice thing I noticed is that some of the “last minutes” are more than six weeks away, which is a really generous amount of time to get a deal! These rentals are handled by a BuyaTimeshare partner called “Gateway Timeshare Resales”. The weeks are already confirmed as available but worth noting you will need to speak with a Gateway representative rather than a rep and the owner. 

TimeShare last minute rental

Other countries

The majority of timeshares featured on BuyaTimeshare.com are in the United States (48 out of the 50 states), the islands of the Caribbean and Mexico. However, the properties are spread around the world, including Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Spain and the UK. There are fewer options in those places, but it’s still worth checking them out. You could find a great deal! 

Conclusion

I enjoyed this website. It provides so much information, probably because it’s been around long enough to have a good grasp of what people want to know, especially the “timeshare speak,” additional information about the locations and “inside info” on ways to get to the location. There are a few unusual user interactions but nothing drastic that will have you running and screaming from the site. I’ll be going back to this website, and I’m sure the cousins will also want to see it! I suspect you will find it extremely helpful in finding your holiday rental, whether you want an expansive penthouse or a cozy nest. Check out BuyaTimeshare.com for yourself.

Timeshare selling website review

Website review: sellmytimesharenow.com

Updated for 2018

We’ve always made it our mission to explore every type of accommodation available when travelling and there’s certainly no shortage of options.

There is one, however, which has plenty of reputation and is often overlooked as a viable option. Timeshares have long been a bit of a mystery to many but we actually have experience with them via family members and have definitely seen the positive sides to part owning a holiday destination property.

Timeshares have been in my family for a couple of decades now and have proved a wise investment, depending on the type of holiday-maker you are of course. These days you can also rent other people’s timeshare properties and the internet is the perfect place to go hunting for some great deals.

We recently reviewed a website designed to help you find fantastic deals on timeshare rentals and for those that own them to sell their properties too.  SellMyTimeshareNow.com, a company based in the USA, was founded in 2003.

The website features more than 60,000 timeshare properties (for sale and for rent), so plenty of options to choose from on your next visit to the States and beyond. As ever, we like to test just how good a website is for finding exactly what you need. Does it have the variety to be a truly useful timeshare search engine? Are the deals the best on the market and how easy is it to book? We put SellMyTimeshareNow.com to the test. Here’s how we got on.

Timeshare selling website review

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

We love a homepage with some detail rather than just photos, so there’s certainly some here to help both sellers and renters get started. Lots of useful info about how to offer and some quick views of recently added properties too. The styling is clean enough, maybe not ultra-modern, but certainly user friendly. The site is now “responsive” after a recent revamp so easy to use on your mobile or tablet too. Homepages can easily become overwhelming so it’s good to see exactly what this site can do for me and where I might want to go next. I’m looking to rent a timeshare, so let’s dive right in.

Sell my timeshare now website review

RENTING A TIMESHARE IN ORLANDO, FLORIDA

timeshare website review 2018I’m thinking of taking my young daughter to Disneyland so timeshares for rent in Orlando is a great place to start. From the homepage there’s a big search box which, when submitted, takes you to a results page with various controls to help filter. By default it’ll show you all timeshares for sale, so you’ll need to change it to “For rent”.

There’s plenty of filters here for price, week, property size and if you click on “More” a whole variety of more detailed options appear. I recommend using “More” as you’ll get the most out of your searching. The “Week” filter is a little confusing to most and we’ve come across this before where timeshare companies like to list availability by the week of the year rather than dates. We have no idea what week of the year “Week 28 is” and I’m guessing you won’t either. So it’s best to enter a check-in date. Entering my preferred check-in date of “1st September 2017” gave me results for weeks 34, and beyond. Alternatively, you can check out their handy “Timeshare Calendar” which will provide you with the exact week number for your specified vacation dates.

THE RESULTS

My search and filtering returned plenty of results for my wife and I to look through. A great range of properties all clearly marked as “For Rental By Owner” and giving a short snippet of the description along with the address and unit size, plus the all-important price! I sorted by prices low to high but be careful you pick the right sorting method when doing this. While I was filtering for just rental properties I was able to sort them by their sale price rather than rental price which is rather confusing at first. Once I’d filtered correctly we had fun sorting through the properties we were most interested in. I recommend opening a new tab for each one you want to view as it makes getting back to the list much easier. We soon had 10 or so tabs open!

Timeshare rental website review

COMPARING PROPERTIES

So let’s compare the first 3 results, opened in new browser tabs for easy access. The prices are very competitive which is to be expected as Americans do love their timeshares. Competition is fierce keeping prices very reasonable. The details page could maybe do with bigger images and more of them. These properties had just 4 images each but at least they were varied in content. Exterior shots, interior, and views.

Sell my timeshare now website review

In order to gauge the size of the property, if it’s not apparent from the photos, it’s worth comparing how many bedrooms there are to how many they claim it can sleep. A listing for Sheraton Vistana Resort (Spas Villas) says that it is a 2 bedrooms but sleeps 8 which would suggest there’s ample room in the lounge for 4 to sleep comfortably while 4 sleep in the 2 bedrooms. There’s a handy Google Map on this page which sits in quite a small box on the right. You can’t expand this map but you can at least zoom in to see where the property is located. There’s also the usual details hidden in collapsible tabs for Unit Amenities, On-Site Amenities and Nearby Amenities.

sellmytimeshare review 2018

I recommend contacting a number of possible properties for your trip. The Inquiry form is clear on every property details page and you can even put in an offer on rental price rather than just accepting the displayed rental price. You can also use the form to ask questions, get more information on the property, and more. Submitting the form will take you to a page with plenty of information on your correspondence as well as what to expect from the timeshare owner. It’s a very easy system for making contact with numerous property owners and opening a tab for each one means you can simply close the tab when you’re done and move on to the next property.

Review of timeshare websites

We were able to contact numerous properties very quickly and what the site lacked in information we were soon able to get from helpful owners. I love the fact that you can make an offer too and I definitely recommend negotiating rather than just accepting a price. You could save yourself a decent amount and have more to spend on other parts of your trip, so definitely worth pushing to see what you could save.

how to rent a timeshare property

It’s worth noting that not all properties have online booking facilities, so if you’re looking for a super easy experience you might want to filter by “Online Booking” as well. It definitely adds a little peace of mind and keeps everything within the website’s ecosystem. But if you’re looking to haggle for the best deal, you’re better off dealing directly with the timeshare owner via the inquiry form. It’s great to have the option of both here.

LAST MINUTE DEALS

Another area we found very useful was the “last minute timeshare rentals” which are promoted throughout the site. If you’re looking for something in the next few weeks and don’t mind where you go, then this section is for you. The list is filtered by your search results so we had a list of amazing last minute deals in Orlando. A lot of the deals here are for spare days that owners have in their diary, so in addition to the traditional week-long timeshare rental you might also find options for long weekends and 2 night breaks. The online booking details page for these properties offers more information on a Google Map, although curiously less information than standard property details pages. Still, if you’re looking for a mega cheap deal for this coming weekend it’s definitely worth checking out. You will find some very impressive prices here.

last minute timeshare deals

OTHER COUNTRIES

While SellMyTimeshareNow.com obviously has numerous timeshares for sale and for rent in the USA (over 40,000), it does also feature properties in many other countries around the world. The number of results returned are much lower outside of the USA even for places like England but this is also partly because there are fewer timeshare holiday properties there than in the USA. In other timeshare-heavy destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean, it’s still a good source of options with some great deals.

CONCLUSION

We found the website very easy to use and we found quite a few properties that were within our price range. I love the fact that you can offer your own price for the week you’d like to stay. The timeshare industry does tend to have its own vocabulary and methods of sharing information, which to many may seem a little baffling but you soon get used to the terminology. The site has a very large amount of properties both for sale and rent and those fabulous last-minute deals too.

As I get older I definitely find myself looking more at short-term rental apartments and homes rather than hotels. You get a lot more for your money and feel more at home in the country you travel to. So it’s great to know there are so many options available when it comes to timeshare rentals. I’ll definitely be making use of this website on our next trip to the states and will keep a keen eye out for properties in other countries too. The site is easy to navigate and fast to browse around, its the perfect place to find (and negotiate) a great deal on accommodation.

Check out www.sellmytimesharenow.com and have a browse around. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Website review: oCab Brazil cab hire app

If you’ve ever embarked on an independent travel adventure in any country you’ll know that often the first type of transport you’ll encounter is a taxi. In fact this first journey can often shape your perception of a new destination and set impressions that can last the entire trip. Speaking to fellow travel bloggers I know a common complaint is the hit-and-miss affair with taxi cabs and independent transport options on the whole. So you’ll not be surprised to learn that I’m always looking for better ways to improve journeys when I’m travelling and to keep both my budget on track and the quality of my travel experience high! I was recently asked to review one such online service in Brazil that aims to do just that. Offering a reliable taxi service, easy booking and affordable options too. Called oCab it highlights a growing trend in online-only private taxi companies that are competing directly with the traditional (and often unreliable) taxi services as well as other online competitors like Uber. The difference here is the quality of service and both reliability and accountability. Something that competitors always suffer with. Based in Rio de Janeiro but currently expanding to other major Brazilian cities, I put oCab’s online service to the test. Here’s my in depth oCab review.

My oCab review

Their website is very modern and bright with a clear message and plenty of information on their services. I spent a good while just reading through their “About” pages to find out exactly how their service worked and plenty of information on the vehicles they use. Its always good to see transparency and honesty to build confidence in the company. When booking cabs from thousands of miles away that can have such an impact on the start of your travels, this information is invaluable. I felt confident that these guys would do a good job or at the very least would be easily accountable for any issues and able to sort any problems.

oCab review of website

It’s worth noting the waiting times and extra fees especially if you’re flying in to their main city or Rio de Janeiro. Your flight could easily be delayed so its important to know how long your private cab will wait for you and what extra costs may be incurred if you are running late. Lets face it most flights run a little late or if they are on time you can be delayed at border control or even the baggage reclaim. The good thing about this service is you can include your flight details with your booking and usually you wont be charged anything for delays as the driver can keep an eye on your arrival and be there at the appropriate time. If for some reason that’s not the case then the first 20 minutes waiting is free, after that its $0.70 per minute which could soon add up. So definitely worth planning ahead properly and having your flight details ready when you book.

Using the booking service online

Making a booking online is done via a large Google map and easy to use form that collects all the information they need for the booking. Unfortunately the site doesn’t work too well in either Apple’s Safari browser or Internet Explorer. When using these browsers a message pops up that translates to “This site is not supported by Internet Explorer and Safari and can suffer malfunctions. We advise you to perfect navigation using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox”. Not the greatest thing to read when you want to book. Thankfully I was using Google’s Chrome browser which could translate the Portuguese in to English for me.The site does offer English, French and native Portuguese but it seems not all messages have been translated yet. Hopefully they will in the near future.

Brazil private taxi review

The map updates in real time as you enter the details of your booking. I found this to be both useful, especially for browsing around the city of Rio, but also a little frustrating when I discovered I couldn’t use the map to “pin drop” where I wanted to go. If for example you wish to be picked up at the airport and dropped off somewhere along the Copacabana you can’t drop a pin at the beach and automatically get the nearest address. You have to specify the exact address you want to go to in the form. I’m sure most of you will have the address of your hotel, restaurant or apartment handy before you make the booking but still it would be a nice feature.

Also worth mentioning you will need an exact address. When I typed in “Ipanema” a number of suggestions were given but clicking on any of them just displayed a message saying “Please give a precise address arrival”. So make sure you’re armed with precisely the location you want to go to. I’m sure this wont be a problem for many but it did take me few moments to get used to their search system.

Airport pickup and hotel drop off

So lets say I’m flying in to Rio’s Galeão International Airport from London and I’m staying at the Windsor Excelsior Hotel in Copacabana. Booking the cab from an airport is made easy by the handy icons next to the search boxes. Just click on the plane icon and you’re given a list of Rio’s main airports. Galeão or GIG is first on the list and I’m prompted to enter my flight details. I’m flying in on BA249 so I entered those details and very impressively I’m given all the info on my flight time, estimated arrival and advice on what time to book my cab. I really like this feature as it gives me confidence that oCab and its staff are aware of my flight details and based on their experience with this local airport can help me book my cab. There’s a handy “Book a ride how long after landing?” drop down menu where I selected 35 minutes just to be on the safe side. That gives me some 55 minutes after landing before the cab starts costing me money for waiting. You don’t have to enter flight details if you prefer not to (or you’re just using the airport as a starting point without flying).

Brazil airport taxi online booking

Once the pickup point is confirmed its on to the destination. The map updates to highlight this and prompted me to enter the exact address of the hotel. I was worried the address I had may not be exact enough but thankfully it was and a big black pin is dropped on to the map. It also shows me the suggested route although I should point out this is merely Google maps giving its preferred route, local drivers know the streets much better than a search engine so you may find your journey is shorter and easier than the map might suggest.

Brazil online taxi booking service

You can now set a date and time for your journey, if you’ve already entered flight details the information is copied here so you can quickly move on to vehicle type. There’s three simple choices here, regular Sedan that can fit 4 people and luggage, a 6 seater “people carrier” or a minivan that can accommodate 15. In my experience its not the people that are the issue when picking a vehicle size, its the amount of luggage you bring so pick your vehicle carefully. A regular Sedan can only really carry 4 people if all 4 have medium sized luggage and small carry-on bags. For anything more I highly recommend you book a vehicle with more space as you’ll soon fill it. If there’s 6 of you with large suitcases and plenty of carry-on then book the minivan. Don’t start your travel adventure crammed in to an undersized vehicle or be disappointed at the airport when you find the car you booked can’t fit your luggage in.

Time to pay

The next step is paying for your booking. I know to some it may seem unusual to pay for a taxi before you’ve completed your journey but this is fast becoming the norm with online services and I much prefer it as you know exactly what you’re paying, you don’t have to deal with tips or paying in local currency when you arrive. It makes the whole service a lot easier and I like to know exactly what I’m getting before it begins. The payment process is painless and I liked the way the information is summarised, even giving you a journey duration and estimated time of arrival. You can easily modify your journey here if needs be.

oCab brazil website review

In order to use their cab service you have to register which may surprise some people. The reason here is that while the cab service is accountable for their side of the business arrangement, your participation in the booking is something you are accountable for. Your information is kept securely and it also offers more functionality to you like favourite addresses, booking history and passenger names. You can also add credit card details for super quick bookings. Very handy if you use this service regularly or have multiple journeys during your stay.

Rio oCab online bookingOne major drawback to the registration process is that I was taken away from my booking and made to register and log in, when this was done I clicked on my account details and my yet-to-be-completed booking had disappeared! I had to re-enter all my details which was frustrating. It didn’t take me much time but I do wonder why this happened. If you’re already logged in this doesn’t happen so it might be worth registering first to save a little time.

Once your card details are accepted you can confirm your booking and you’ll be emailed full details for reference. Its always worth printing these out in case there’s any issues when you arrive.

Conclusion

On the whole my oCab review found the service very easy to book and despite a couple of stumbles along the way I felt very confident they could deliver on the promises their website makes. In fact you can even review your journey on the site and give feedback to help ensure future journeys go without a hitch. The peace of mind you get from knowing the first journey of your exciting holiday is all taken care of really makes all the difference. Their prices are reasonable, especially if you’re sharing with family or friends.

Mobile app

They do have a native iPhone and Android app but only in Portuguese at the time of writing. If you’re going to Brazil I highly recommend brushing up on the local language!

The oCab review was sponsored by oCab, all opinions are my own and the review was conducted independently by Matt Preston for Travel With A Mate. 

Mybreaktrip review

Website review: MyBreakTrip Group travel

In my many varied travels over the years I’ve often utilised the internet to arrange much of our flights, hotels, excursions and tours. When there’s just 1 or 2 people, it’s so easy to do online. A few clicks and my dream holiday is booked. When it comes to group travel, though, it’s totally different story.

If there’s 4 or more of you to arrange travel for, it can be a real pain & time wasting to organise the people travelling with you and the trip’s logistics, find good group deals, to arrange everyone’s payments which may often mean out of your own pocket before they reimburse you too! The hardest thing is to search for competitive deals as you’re often stuck with whatever is available rather than what’s right for you.

So when we were asked to review MyBreakTrip.co.uk we were very curious. The site claims to help group travellers get the best deals and make the entire process of booking group travel a breeze. But could it live up to the hype? I put it to the test.

Here’s a quite table of contents if you want to jump to a specific section of this review:-

MyBreakTrip.co.uk

Mybreaktrip logo

So the premise is pretty straightforward. MyBreakTrip offers a platform for you to create a group trip the way you wish; you can select your perfect itinerary, invite your friends and family on the trip or even find other like minded travellers to join your trip. Once your group is happy with the itinerary, you can request quotes for your trip from well-known UK holiday suppliers. You can review multiple quotes, pick the best one and get everyone to pay separately (or as group). It’s touted as a one-stop-shop for group travel. It’s a refreshing new approach that I know from experience could have come in handy on numerous occasions over the past couple of decades I’ve been travelling!

Homepage

So let’s start at the beginning. The bright and friendly homepage makes it pretty clear how you step through the process, with a few teasers on current public group trips you could join and some dream destinations you might want to visit. If you’re logged in you’ll see notifications on the user links at the top too.
Mybreaktrip review

There’s a handy video worth watching to quickly understand how the site works. I would expect this video to be embedded in the homepage as it’s often the first thing I’d watch if it was right there when I first visit the site. Here it is embedded in our site for you to enjoy.

Group travel website service review

While you can browse the site without logging in, the service really requires you to be a member to tailor the experience directly at your favourite destinations and travel requirements. I signed up pretty instantly thanks to the Facebook integration and was prompted to enter some profile details. The profile is an important aspect of the site so it’s worth filling it out in full, especially if you plan to create a publicly accessible group trip idea. While you can have an entirely private trip for just your friends and / or family, the idea that like-minded travellers could join my trip (public trip type) and ultimately make it cheaper for us all is very appealing to me. So I filled in my profile complete with avatar and details of my past travels. It also asks you what type of travel you like the most which helps to tailor any public trip results to your liking. You may not need this for your trip but if it helps make the website more useful then I think it’s worthwhile. It’s also visible to others so when people join your trip you can see if they are your kind of traveller.

Searching for group trips to join

I’ll get on to creating my own group trip in a moment, first let’s try searching for a few trips I might want to join. You can do this in a couple of ways. Either using the search box which appears at the top of most pages (including the homepage) or start browsing around the “Trip Board” on the top menu. On top there is also the “Traveller Hub” which I found be an interesting way to connect with like-minded travellers. There’s two options here, either click around on the map, dropping a marker on whatever country you’re interested in, or click on the style of travel you like to refine your experience.
How to find people for group travel

I found playing around here actually helped inspire me and check out a few group trips I’d previously not thought about or even been aware was an option. The map does appear a little blank at first so I wasn’t too sure what to do here but once you get clicking it becomes apparent. It would be useful if there was maybe a counter showing for each country so I knew how many trips were available. That would save me having to click around multiple times just to find out there were none in certain places. Also at present its only by country rather than region, Not too big an issue for places like Morocco but a big issue for large countries like America, Canada and Australia where you might only want to see trips in California for instance. The great thing is you can see who put a particular country as their dream destination, you can check out their profiles, add them as friends and message them directly too. Its early days so the membership levels will only increase but I can see this being a great social hub for like minded travel junkies like me. A social network built around the kind of travel I like.

Creating my own group trip

Let’s get down to the real concept of this service now. I want to find the best group deal for me, my friends and maybe some like-minded strangers who will accompany me on a trip. I’m a huge Formula 1 fan so I put together a trip based around attending the Singapore F1 Grand Prix held every September. Creating a new trip is easy, you can’t miss the big green “Create a new trip” button usually found top right of most pages. It’s a fairly straightforward form to fill in from there to create your trip and become the Group Leader. The Group Leader is responsible for organising the rest of travellers and the logistics of the trip.

mybreaktrip review

Group trip reviewOn this form you enter the city of origin and the destination city. It tries to match your search with a location in its vast database or world cities, not always finding cities I was searching for but for the most part was accurate. Of course one reason for this is that its only major cities with airports or rail stations that you’ll need to search from. So my trip starts in London and the destination is Singapore. If your trip involves an itinerary visiting numerous cities and countries then you can add all of them here too. I made my trip open to the public to see who else would join me and entered a detailed description of the trip, what people can expect, what would be included and what areas of interest to entice people to join. I also created a graphic for my trip. This can be a snapshot of the destination but I decided to try and tempt people a little more with this graphic.

My trip settings

There’s some important information to enter as well that not only tells group members when the trip will be, expected budget and number of members allowed to join, but it also tells suppliers who will offer you quotes for your trip. You can put in age ranges, type of travel and even gender, which lets you really specify the type of people you really want accompanying you. There’s some fairly strict criteria here which on my first attempt I had trouble meeting but after a couple of tries my trip was set up.

Creating a trip

Once I’d entered all the information about my trip it was set up and ready for people to search for and find it on the Trip Board too. Just like I had searched earlier. I could share this directly on Facebook which is a very handy feature and also send the link to my trip page via email too. It’s really just a waiting game now, for people to join my trip both from friends I had invited and strangers on the site. My trip page is a very inviting layout with a large map showing the full itinerary, mine was simple but it’s a good representation of where we’ll be going. There’s also easy to read info on all aspects of the trip. Other users can also leave comments asking questions about the trip.

Mybreaktrip review my trip

Waiting for members to join my trip

This waiting period really depends on the kind of trip you’ve added and the travellers you’re looking for. You can of course share the link with people on twitter, Facebook, any other network you’re on, friends, family and just wait for members of MyBreakTrip to join. Thankfully on my trip it wasn’t long before some of my friends and some people on the site had joined and I was notified by email with their profile images appeared on my trip page too. I was hoping for around 10 members but was happy to have 5. I could contact them directly, chat about the trip and get a sense of who they were so I knew the trip would be a success.

group travel website review

Getting quotes from suppliers

Once I was happy with the members that had joined my trip, I could move on to the next stage which is getting quotes that match my trip’s requirements. In the past this was always the tough part. Group travel is notoriously tough to administer and get good deals on too. Most price comparison websites deal with specific prices for specific items, no bulk discounts applied or the ability to get members to pay separately. Moreover, most online search engines limit the number of travellers/passengers to just 8 or 9 while travellers on MyBreakTrip can create group trips with up to 50 travellers. Certainly not much offering for a bespoke package like the trip I’d created.
review of mybreaktrip website

Moving on to the next step is very simple. Just a quick form to submit that tells the group that we’re now getting quotes and not accepting any more people to the group. It’s important that the site locks down the number of people and the trip’s requirements (e.g. budget, destination, dates, etc.) here so that the quotes provided are accurate. Again once you’ve submitted it’s pretty much a waiting game for suppliers to come forward and offer quotes. No doubt as the sites popularity increases the number of suppliers competing will also increase so you can expect faster responses and hopefully lower prices too.

Thankfully I had a quote back within 24 hours with a cost I was happy with. I could share this with the group and get their feedback. The quote included a total price for all of us, details on the hotel, flights, inclusion of extras like the grand prix tickets and details on any excursions they suggested.

Website review of Mybreaktrip.co.uk

Again how long you’re willing to wait for more quotes is up to you. It’s good to have a rough price in mind so you can see how they compare to your expected price. If you get more than one you can always contact them for more details (or travellers can optionally vote for the best quote) and you can even add your own suppliers who will be contacted and invited to quote too. Quite a clever system for getting more suppliers and more members to the site.

Paying for the trip

Moving on to payment is a similar experience to moving on to the quote stage. Informing all the travellers of the group, that I’ve accepted a quote and they can now pay for the trip. I specified when I created my trip that I wanted each member to pay individually. There’s also an option for one person to pay for all but I’m not keen on that. The hassle in the past has always been that I’ve had to be responsible for all payments which inevitably leads to stress and headaches sorting it all out.

mygrouptrip review suppliers

Each member of my trip was emailed and invited to pay for their portion of the total cost. I didn’t have to do anything other than pay for my share. The payment page clearly shows the breakdown of costs per person and invites me to pay. The information here is as much a mental relief as it is a useful display. Knowing others had to pay their share and had been notified took the pressure off me to do this! I could just relax and not have to deal with the hassle of collecting payments and chasing people! As each member paid I could refresh my trip page and see the progress. Once they’d all paid I was notified by email and could move on to booking the trip.

Another key aspect of the online payment is the security. MyBreakTrip uses WorldPay for secure online payment processing and they are also a member of Travel Trust Association which means you are 100{bec4beb4183ddc16376e6eff89836f2abe3407e857522bf84005ba0ad48d654d} financially covered.

Collecting payment for a group trip

Booking the group trip

Once again another step where I can notify the members that we’re now booking everything. This also informed the supplier to go ahead and take the money from MyBreakTrip to book our flights, hotel, tickets, etc. This can take a while depending on how quick the supplier is for your trip but I didn’t have to wait too long before I got confirmation that everything was booked and I could see some of the details on my trip page too.
Group travel booking review

I could even request all of the details by email as well as print off what was displayed here. Before the trip actually takes place I can now use my trip page and the MyBreakTrip service to contact the group about anything that needs discussing before we leave. Things like meeting up at the airport, discussing preferences for days out and just generally getting very excited about our impending travels!

Conclusion

The service is in its early days but what strikes me about MyBreakTrip is the really easy approach to group travel booking. Something I’ve not come across before and so dearly would have liked when organising trips in the past. Allowing travellers and suppliers to join for free and use an intuitive platform to move through the many steps of successfully booking travel for a group of people. Easier said than done in the past so this service is a breath of fresh air! I constantly felt in control of the trip I had created while also relinquishing responsibility to MyBreakTrip  suppliers and other group members when it was called for.

MyBreakTrip also make it clear you can contact them directly via email for support which I used a couple of times. Their friendly and quick responses meant my trip was able to progress from just an idea for a trip to being fully booked! All with the peace of mind their service was doing much of the work for me. Exactly how the internet should be.

I really enjoyed the user experience of mybreaktrip.co.uk and would definitely use it again. It is a great tool to use for a family holiday, a city break with friends or for finding more travellers like myself. We’ve all got dream holiday ideas, maybe even some that you’ve yet to find the right like-minded person to go with you. This website could be the answer to a lot of group travel problems. I’m keen to see how it progresses in the coming months and years. The more members, trips and suppliers it has the more useful it becomes.

Go Euro transport comparison site

GoEuro review – Is it good for cheap transport…

I was recently discovered the website GoEuro a relatively new player in the travel industry with a big idea that could revolutionise the way we book travel.

So I decided to put it to the test. Here’s how I got on. I hope you find this review useful.

The concept

Go Euro LogoIt’s pretty simple and one I often think about when I travel, but I’m sure many travellers don’t. When you think of travel overseas our first thought is always to book flights and hop on a plane. But what if other modes of transport were cheaper?

What if they took less time door to door? Or maybe were just more convenient than flying? Wouldn’t it be great if you could compare all of this in one place and pick the option that’s best for your trip?

Take a look at this quick video from The Guardian with the founder of GoEuro.

This concept really puts the power in your hands but with all those options and preferences can it live up to the challenge?

At present GoEuro is honest enough to announce they’re still in Beta, busy adding more partners and deals to give a greater range of offers. You’ve got to start somewhere right?

The homepage announces the site is currently “Optimised for the UK and Germany” but searches indicate a lot more destinations are in their database now.

The Homepage

When it comes to the internet, first impressions are everything. GoEuro’s homepage is a great mixture of impressive photos with a sleek search form that keeps things simple. There’s a list of approved partners which is relatively small at the moment but this will grow in the coming months I’m sure. The homepage is a responsive design that looks great whatever size your browser is and worked well on mobiles too.

Go Euro transport comparison site

Domestic searches

Go Euro ReviewIf you’re looking to travel from point to point in the UK then GoEuro did a great job of giving me all my options very easily. My first search was travel between London and Edinburgh. The results loaded quickly and at the top of the page you see the progress for each type of travel available.

Prices are listed next to each mode of transport so you can easily compare and I like how the length of the bar next to the prices compares the time it takes to complete the journey.

While flying is easiest it involves 3 types of transport to go door to door, whereas the train was only fractionally slower and was over £10 cheaper. The bus was by far the cheapest at just £15 but would take over 9 hours!

Armed with this knowledge it’s easy to see which I would prefer. Everyone has their own preference, some want to save money and have the time, some one convenience while others will want to save time. I like this approach to comparing.

Travel comparison site

I tried another simple route outside of major cities to see what it would compare then. Bristol in the South West of England to Norwich in the mid-East is a fairly unusual route so a good test. The results found direct buses between the two cities for just £20 which is great.

The train was £33.80 and a little quicker than the bus. The anomaly was the planes. It’s not a route you’d need to fly so I’m not sure why it suggested anything.

The result it suggested costs a whopping £154.21 and takes 24 hours and 17 minutes! It involved a train, a bus, 3 flights from Exeter to Belfast to Edinburgh to Norwich, followed by another bus in to the city.

While the route will indeed get you there it’s rather redundant suggesting it, amusing to see but I’d imagine if flying really were your thing then a train to London and a flight from an airport there would be a lot easier and cheaper than the route suggested.

International Travel

As the name suggests most destinations in Europe are searchable on the site although the results you get can be a bit hit and miss. Flights are well catered for over most of Europe especially out of the UK.

It’s interesting to see estimated driving times and roughly how much it will cost, presumably at current petrol costs rather than car hire costs. London to Paris takes approximately 5 hours 26 minutes although there’s no mention of ferry crossing or channel tunnel costs in this.

Interestingly the flight costs include other transport costs. Flights from Luton airport cost £68.70 for 2 people while the train to Luton (from “London”) is £30. so the total flight cost shown is £98.70. Unfortunately there’s no train option for Eurostar from London to Paris. Something I’d expect to see and want to compare with other prices.

I also tried Berlin in Germany to Innsbruck in Austria. Two popular cities and fairly well connected too. Trans were the slowest of course, around 8 hours, while flying produced some weird and wonderful results. In all cases the transport was of course getting you from A to B but the suggested routes didn’t make much human sense.

A flight via Air Berlin, for example, involved flying from Berlin to Cologne in the morning, waiting 8 hours at the airport before catching a 1 hour flight to Innsbruck. A costly and frankly silly suggestion. There were some good results in there once I’d worked out which ones were no good.

European travel comparison review

Conclusion

I can see a lot of promise with GoEuro the idea of comparing modes of transport directly next to one another is a fine example of how large amounts of data can be put to good use. The site itself is well designed and fairly easy to understand, its ability to compare easily worked very well. There were however a couple of issued that hindered my experience.

The current lack of partners meant obvious routes weren’t available. I believe the team at GoEuro are busy securing more partnerships so this will only improve with time but I would suggest that as many routes as possible be added now, even if profitable partnerships are yet to be completed.

That way the routes I expect to find will appear and I’m more likely to use the site frequently in the future.

The other issue was the redundant and sometimes confusing suggestions that got in the way of listing the results I really should be seeing. I think there should be a comparison time limit. If a plane route takes 3 hours more than a train, bus or car journey then it should not be included.

Aside from these points which I am confident will be easily rectified in the future, GoEuro did a great job at comparing the transport types and I’m eager to see how the site improves in the future.

The design is sleek and simple, the concept is definitely interesting to me as I love all modes of transport.

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