Last week I attended the annual PhoCusWright travel technology conference to see what’s new and on the way. It was a blizzard of mobile apps, Facebook apps, and sites designed to ease our pain in booking travel. The Hipmunk flight booking interface actually sorts by “agony,” giving preference to the flights that are shortest and with the least stops. Unfortunately, they can’t ease our agony at U.S. airports or they’d really be making a bundle!
I sat through 32 presentations one day and lots of panel discussions on other days. Here’s what I saw that would help luxury travelers get a better travel experience. Far too many developments are limited to the U.S., so I’m only mentioning a few notable ones with options south of the border.
GroundLink says they can set you up with a car and driver “any place in the world that has a stoplight.” I love the appeal of this and can see where it would make great sense on say, a trip to Peru. With one stop you can set up a driver in multiple cities and only have to deal with (and pay) one company that has the relationships in place. If you’re sure you want a stretch, try Limos.com too.
MileBlaster is one of three mileage/points-related sites that presented info. It’s designed to help you keep up with all your frequent flier mile programs and then help you maximize your miles to get the most out of them. It focuses on key goals like getting bonuses, whether a flight will get you to elite status, and what’s about to expire. There’s a fee, but it’s only $10 a year and there’s a nifty iPhone app too.
LuxuryLink presented at the conference and I see consistently good deals on there, both from auctions and from regular luxury hotel packages. I know quite a few travelers who use them regularly when their plans are flexible. Also on this “private sale” panel was Jetsetter. I don’t personally know anyone who has used this service yet, but I’ll try to check it out soon to see if there’s anything from Latin America.
A new entrant to this space is OffandAway, a fun site where you can bid on a nice suite at a luxury hotel and if you don’t win, you can apply the money to a regular room or another auction. It’s a bit complicated and you have to put some skin in the game ahead of time, but you could end up with an awesome score. They have Mexico properties and one winner scored three nights at Casa Dorada in Los Cabos for under $100. This is quite a nice hotel (I had lunch there once) and the terraces have amazing views of the harbor and arch.
Have you tried any of these services? If so, let us know how it went!