1) Solo Cruising: Set Yourself Sail
Likewise, hotels like New York City’s Jane are introducing rooms for singles — they’re tiny (50 sq. ft.!), but the idea is that solo travelers are unlikely to spend time lolling around inside.
2) Loyalty Perks via Tweet
Because of increased price transparency — you can compare airfares and hotel rates much more easily than in the past, especially on meta–search engines like Kayak that search all over the Web — airlines and hotels are desperate to build whatever customer loyalty they can. They think that if everything is equal, or at least close to it, you’ll reserve with them.
So they reward loyalty — not just by giving perks to repeat customers through frequent-user clubs but also by offering last-minute discounts via promotional codes, through e-mail newsletters and to friends and followers on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. (Here’s a list by Resideo.com of hotels using Twitter, organized geographically.) And in a related development, travel companies are already looking at ways to customize offers to you based on topics you’ve written about on Facebook, on Twitter and elsewhere.
The deals are last-minute because airlines and hotels want to avoid handing deals to the very folks who might have been most interested in booking anyway.
3) Private Sales: Are You on the List?
Price transparency has also made it harder for the travel industry to fill seats and rooms at rock-bottom prices without everybody knowing it; hotels and (to a lesser degree) airlines don’t want to cheapen their image or alienate customers who paid full price. That’s why we’ve been seeing more “private sales,” in which a controlled group of people — like on Facebook or Twitter — gets access to a deal.
The Gilt Group, known for its private-sale fashion sites, introduced Jetsetter.com, which offers deals on luxury hotels and vacation rentals; fashion site Ruelala.com has followed suit. Tablet Hotels, a booking site specializing in “noteworthy” hotels, has a private club; to join, you have to book a stay on the site, be invited by a member or fork out $195 for a Plus membership, although the site has been known to post a promo code (see trend No. 2) on its Facebook page. The same goes for Bonvoyou and Vacationist.com, an invitation-only site launched in April by LuxuryLink.com and Travel + Leisure magazine, which offers private sales on rooms at luxury hotels and resorts — follow it on Facebook or Twitter. Kayak also launched what it calls a private sale; its deals are exclusive to Kayak but not exactly private — you merely have to submit your e-mail address. (It plans on adding deals for airfare and hotel packages.) And then there’s Spirit Airlines, which has a club that — not surprisingly (see trend No. 6) — you have pay to join. For $40 a year, you get access to certain members-only fares.
Note: Many of the hotel deals are nonrefundable and unchangeable. Which leads us to …
4) Nonrefundable Hotel Deals: No Payin’, No Gain
5) Tarmac Rule, Canceled Flights?
There’s less downside to simply scrapping the flight: airlines already have the passengers’ money, which is why they may suddenly be willing to rebook with no penalty — they’d rather book someone onto a new flight than risk having to refund money later on. If you’re flying out of a European Union country, be aware that the E.U.’s passenger-friendly laws cover all passengers, even if they’re on a non-E.U. airline. So if your flight is delayed or canceled, the airline may have to cover your hotel and meals or — now this is a switch — pay you a fee.
6) Airline Fees: No End in Sight
7) Electronic Boarding Passes
Remember when you needed a case for your travel documents? Find another use for it, because one of the last scraps of important travel-related paper, the boarding pass, is headed for the recycling bin. As the industry has embraced 2-D bar codes vs. the relatively expensive magnetic strips on old-fashioned boarding passes, the location of that bar code — on a pass you printed at home or at a kiosk or on a Web-enabled cell phone — has ceased to matter. So has where you checked in; you can do that from your phone.
Continental leads in the adoption of smart-phone boarding-pass technology, allowing passengers to board with electronic passes at 42 U.S. airports, followed by American (27 U.S. airports), United (18, which will add to Continental’s total, now that the two carriers have merged) and Delta (17).
8) Part-Time Voluntourism
Doing good while traveling has been a trend for years, but organizations have long required one or even two weeks’ commitment, arguing that it takes time for people to get trained and make a difference. For someone who’s never volunteered, that can be a high threshold. But more organizations are discovering that a day of help is better than no help at all. Most U.S. national parks have cleanup days and other volunteer opportunities for which they put out a call — often on Facebook — for locals and visitors who want to donate four hours. (Also check out volunteer.gov/gov for volunteer projects at national parks and with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service.)
It’s not just the Teva-wearing set that’s gotten on board: in 2008, Ritz-Carlton launched Give Back Getaways, in which every property has joined with a nearby organization for a social or environmental endeavor. Guests might spend half-days assisting staff and locals as they build facilities for street children in Jakarta or plant endangered indigenous trees in Tenerife, Spain. You can do good in the morning and kick back in the afternoon.
9) No New Taxes, for Locals, That Is
10) No-Clip Coupons
There’s nothing like a recession to help remove the stigma of coupons, both for the clipper and for the company offering the discount. Groupon, a website that gives away daily 50%-to-90%-off coupons (for purchases like spa treatments, dance classes, restaurant fare and desserts) as long as enough people buy into the deal, now operates in 92 U.S. cities and 22 countries, and while it’s primarily aimed at locals, the fact that the coupons are usually good for a year will undoubtedly make more travelers pay attention. (Similar sites include LivingSocial, KGB Deals, Buy with Me, ScoutMob and Scoop St). Fashion-bargain site Gilt, meanwhile, has launched its own local-deals site, Gilt City.
While many of the offers on those sites aren’t exactly high-end, Blackboard Eats has finagled 30% (and sometimes deeper) discounts at upscale, respected restaurants in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco — the kinds of places where coupons, and the people who love them, used to be shunned.