In my ongoing quest to find the best travel search engine, it's now time to review new-ish meta travel search engine Travelgrove.com. Working like Orbitz.com or CheapTickets.com, the site collects enormous numbers of prices and deals and presents them to prospective travelers in an easy-to-use interfact. Thankfully, the site has a few extras to offer, so as not to be completely anonymous. More on that later.
Travelgrove states that their primary purpose is to find deals. From the site:
"You're often left with the feeling that there may have been a cheaper way to get from point A to point B. Well, we've been there ourselves and we had our own troublesome experiences with choosing the right travel deal, so we decided to make things a bit easier for ourselves and for you: we developed a meta search engine which sole purpose is to find the best, cheapest deals around!"
There's both a part on the bottom of the homepage listing recently unearthed deals, and a deals section. For a quick comparison, I looked at two package searches: A 3 day break in Las Vegas, and a cruise in the Caribbean. I think those are pretty representative of how to find good value, if there is any.
Las Vegas 3 nights incl flights
The cheapest deal found was from $228 for flights and 3 nights in a hotel, per person of course. This was from LAX to Las Vegas (LAS), based on 2 people, and traveling 23 Nov. 2009 to 26 Nov. 2009. After going through a splash screen asking for my email address (you can skip it), I end up at Orbitz for the actual package. Strangely enough, I can actually book the trip for $203 once I get the package at Orbitz. Accommodation is with Harrah's Casino, so a pretty good deal.
But... going to a different booking engine, I can find the same dates at Luxor (3.5 vs 3 stars) for $170 per person. Not a great start.
The best 7 night deal I get is with Western Caribbean, departing from Miami. Grabbing an oceanview room the cost per person is $620 (interior is $510, but I like looking out at the sea). This would depart on 15 November 2009, for comparison reasons. No splash screen this time, good to see it's a once-per-visit thing. Note that the package includes:
"Your package includes shipboard accommodations, ocean transportation, fabulous entertainment and daily activities, on-board meals and some beverages, port charges and more. It does not include shore excursions, personal expenses, gratuities, or alcoholic beverages. Government fees and taxes are not included and can be as much as $300 per person, depending on the length of your cruise."
Once I've given all the booking information, I get a price for 2 traveling, including taxes etc, of $1,420.50 together. Pretty reasonable.
Another engine gets me a 14 November departure from Miami, with Norwegian Cruise Line, for $449 per person for an ocean view. Once all added up, I'm at $965.88 including taxes. Problem is, nowhere can I find what is actually included in this cruise, and the promotional rate may have some surprises there for the unwary. Still, the other site beat Travelgrove.
It seems like I can find better deals elsewhere, which gives me the impression that the site doesn't have access to the latest or best deals as provided by the Online Travel Agencies (OTAs).
Now we're into the added stuff that Travelgrove has, and that sets the site apart from other meta engines. There's a 'themes' section, which handily collates vacations such as Fall Bargains in one spot. This is really quite useful, as I can quickly get an overview of where it's cheap to visit: Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale, and Mexico in this case.
The Top 10 Budget Destinations likewise pulls up the best 10 places in the United States to have a cheap vacation right now. This I like. A lot.
The site's travel guides are quite in-depth, with general information, local sights, nightlife ideas, picture sections, travel tips, and in the case of Las Vegas, gambling tips too!
These are good, and well worth reading.
Travelgrove has a lively travel community on the site. People upload travel stories, tips, photos, and notes on their vacations.
There's also a forum full of useful tips. The forum is split out into useful themes such as cruises, car rentals, and also by destination. Not as big as some, but the participants share some really good information here. Worth a visit.
Overall, I'm disappointed to have walked away with 0-2 for Travelgrove when it came to vacation deals. As it's the site's main purpose, it's unfortunate. It's not that the deals are bad, and in fact by digging a bit deeper I'm sure I could unearth some real gems, but they should be highly competitive for the two types of vacations I tried. After all, those destinations and vacation types are really hurting for business, and there are loads of deals available.
On the upside, the other aspects of the site are great. Solid travel guides, a lively community, and themed vacations are going to bring me back to the site.
It should be noted that I didn't try the flight searches or hotel booking searches in detail. There aren't any notes above, but what I did find was quite competitive with the other meta search engines. This is as you'd expect, since in the main all the sites draw upon the same inventory.
Recommended. Both for getting vacation ideas and the added features.
You should follow me on twitter here.