June 10, 2019 / Leave a Comment
TravelUp is a United Kingdom-based vacation planner that describes themselves as what might best be described as a white-glove service budget vacation website that is truly full service. In fact, on TravelUp’s website they describe themselves by the following:
In addition to amazing flights and hotels, TravelUp also offer a wide range of products to ensure your trip is perfect from start to finish. We can arrange all your excursions and attraction tickets organise your travel insurance and take away the hassle of arranging airport parking. When you arrive at your destination TravelUp can have your hire car waiting for you, allowing you to beat the queues. If you prefer not to drive we can arrange a choice of transfer from shared shuttle buses to a luxury chauffeur driven car that will drop you off at the door of your chosen hotel.
Arrange your excursions and attractions? Organize your travel insurance? Configure airport parking, and having rental car or chauffeur-driven car service ready for you upon arrival? It certainly sounds like a first-class experience. But, does TravelUp live “up” to their billing?
Trip Planning and Flexibility
For us, the quality of a travel website or booking agent begins at determining how flexible and easy the actual planning and booking of the itinerary is. Price is a close second, which we’ll get to in a moment.
The booking machine within TravelUp is pretty sophisticated, depending on what type of activity you’re trying to accomplish. Since we often build out itineraries from scratch, we would be the type to select “Trip Planner” from the menu bar, with the hopes of being able to fully-form a vacation itinerary (minus excursions) rather quickly. I would say that the experience on TravelUp is “just ok” for us. Not great, not bad.
While the introductory screen within TravelUp’s “Trip Planner” area starts off simply – by simply typing in the first city of your planned destination, and then the city from which you’re departing. The beginning is simple enough, and well laid-out.
Typing in your first location of arrival prompts a second selection – where you’re originating from.
Once we select Miami, we’re able to dive a little deeper and add multiple cities we’re visiting. In this instance, we’re going to fly from Miami to London, and then visit Paris. Each destination will be three nights in duration each. You can customize this and the actual dates into and out of each city by clicking the “calendar” icon. I’ve pushed the dates for this test into September, more than three months away, to get a realistic idea of how expensive a flight itinerary would be in the timeframe it might actually be booked.
Then press “show flights” to see those options.
What comes up is a pretty simple list of available flight options, with sortable characteristics to the left such as the amount of layovers, departure times, and airlines available. Overall, the prices for such a flight are relatively inexpensive, especially in comparison to what you would find booking directly through the airlines. In this example, it’s just under 1,500 GPB for two people to fly out of Miami, to London, then to Paris with a layover in Dublin, and finally on the return flight to Miami.
The next capability is the ability to add excursions, such as sight-seeing or ticket purchasing through the website. This is a matter of preference, but it’s probably not something we would use. Instead, we’ll use a low-cost excursion provider like Viator for sight-seeing tours in London and Paris. Additionally, we’re advocates for being a little more spontaneous when you travel. Too much booking destroys any chance of magic happening when you travel.
If you prefer to combine this under the same provider? Help yourself.
One thing that I noticed in several run-throughs on the site is a considerable about of latency or lag. Perhaps it was the server I was working from, or even the equipment at the time, but when trying to change dates the booking engine seemed to have consistent lag, and often I couldn’t change dates when selecting a new itinerary. In fact, it bogged down several times while preparing this post. If I was actually trying to book a trip, to be frank, I would’ve given up.
Actually, I did give up after selecting my flight options, clicking to go to the next screen, then waiting five minutes for that screen to load.
Additionally, at this point the usability gets a little clunky in comparison with using something like Gate 1 Travel or Tripmasters. It’s a little less intuitive beyond planning the flights, panes move in from different directions (instead of from one consistent angle, which builds repetition). It ends up being a little more confusing than what is necessary.
Once you progress to the point where you can add a hotel, which will be a pane that slides in from the right. It looks a little something like this.
What I like about this is the detail in the listing. It’s simply displayed where the hotel is in terms of the nearest attraction, price, and has basic information regarding the hotel’s price. You can also quickly toggle between the city you’re looking at hotels for – in this instance, between London and Paris.
I even like that it leads off with hostels, which is a cheaper option (normally) that most other trip planners don’t have. The prices run slightly higher than what the hostels would offer directly, but part of the advantage is that you don’t have to deal with them directly.
We’re hotel people, so I’ve selected a few hotels in both cities for the trip. Once you’ve selected the hotels, you can either add excursions to your itinerary, or proceed.
Here’s what I don’t like…
On our favorite websites to book trips, you can peruse endlessly. They understand the power behind daydreaming. You can see your price, go back, edit the trip, and continue to tweak until you have everything you need to move forward.
Our overall thoughts on the booking engine is that it’s just okay, but has a few neat bells and whistles. Ultimately, for larger trips for non-U.S. residents, it’s a decent option to a U.S. site like Tripmasters, although we prefer Tripmasters or Gate 1 Travel, in the “daydream” factor.
TravelUP does have some other great features, despite not being our preferred “trip planner”, and the rest of the website is worth checking out.
Flights and Hotels
If you’re in the U.K., and looking for something a bit simpler than a full-on itinerary for a long vacation, I could see TravelUp offering a lot of value.
The user interface is really slick on this part of the website, and draws the eye to look down to the booking engine – which is pretty simply laid out. You do have a multi-city flight option on this screen that is separate from the trip planner, which is a nice feature that isn’t found on every flight and hotel booking website.
The user functionality is a lot more reliable here – we didn’t experience any bog downs on either the flight booking or hotel booking functions of the website, the transitions between screens were crisp, and the prices on the back end were fair-to-good. Running a sample flight from London (Heathrow) to New York yielded numerous flights under 700 GBP, and about a half-dozen airlines participating. I like the aspect of having enough on one website to compare, contrast, move dates around and find the lowest price – which is something you can easily do.
Here you don’t have to submit information prior to seeing the final price – which gives you back a bit of the daydream factor even though it isn’t on a long-term itinerary.
There’s nothing remarkably different between the flight and hotel booking engines in look or feel, and they each have a long, detailed list of additional flight and hotel deals that run page-length (which you can see the beginning of, above). These deals are seemingly pretty solid, and clicking through you can see it isn’t just an “advertised” price, but something that is actually running. That’s actually more rare than you might imagine!
One thing that is apparent with TravelUp is that they’re really aiming to be the U.K.’s one-stop shop in terms of travel. In addition to the individual flight and hotel selector, there is a joined “holidays” section where you can bundle flights and hotels for one single destination – much the same as you would on a website like Expedia.
In addition, you can find other services at reasonable pricing like travel insurance, airport parking, airport transfers, and even car rental.
Overall, we like TravelUp. It’s a website that has the potential to be great, if they’re able to cure some of the bugginess with the longer trip planning section of the website. Additionally, if they allowed people to view price and details without submitting personal information, it would give it more of the daydream factor that websites like Tripmasters has.
However, TravelUp is more of a comprehensive website. Others, like Tripmasters, don’t specialize in travel insurance but rather offer it after booking. There’s nothing bad to say about the rest of the site, and the UI/UX components of the site are very solid and easy to use.
We recommend using TravelUp as a rotation of sites you check and compare against one another to get the best deal possible when traveling!