My Favorite Travel Site

My favorite travel site doesn’t have a database filled with thousands of hotels or cruises or flights. My favorite travel site doesn’t use words like “amenities,” and it doesn’t change prices on me depending upon the time of day, day of week, week of month, or month of year.

There’s no fancy content management system, live support chat, keyword stuffing of page titles or headings or content, and the word “cheap” doesn’t appear in that title the way that it does in most of the pages that you’ll see if you search for “travel” in one of the major search engines.

The word “sale” doesn’t show up once on my favorite travel site, and I’m not bombarded with information about how much of a percentage I’ll save on my journeys. There’s no inexplicable lawn gnome, or standard stock image of an operator with a headset, or Canadian celebrity, or “top deals” or “packages” on its pages.

If you visit my favorite travel site, you may find yourself imagining that you can smell the salt air wafting through your windows. You may find yourself hearing people enjoying shops and cafes and life, echoing through roads empty of cars, filled with laughter and joy much like they were centuries ago. You may not feel like a tourist at all.

My favorite travel site doesn’t include top 20 lists, press releases, legal disclaimers written in all capital letters. But it does have a Frequently Asked Questions section that might have been written by a warm and knowledgeable friend or relative. It has a page of links that you could spend months studying, so that when you arrive you will have hundreds of things to do, and likely not enough time to do them all. It has a picture gallery lovingly put together with views that make you wish you were there taking the pictures yourself.

My favorite travel site is for a couple of cozy and charming apartments in the heart of a city with a very long history, and an incredible amount of charm. I’m not going to tell you which city, and I’m not going to give you a link to the site – I don’t want you to book one of the apartments before I do.

Though I’m tempted to send you there. I’m tempted to show you what this site is like, so that if you were to decide to build a site like it, you just might do so. You might show me, rather than tell me, what I would see if I visited. You might talk to me as if I were an individual, explaining to me about the little things that I might experience – good and bad – and how to prepare for them. You might offer, if the apartments are booked, and unavailable when I intend to travel to contact you anyway, and you will help me find alternative places to stay.

But I won’t send you to the site. I might think about it, but I probably won’t. At least, not unless you ask me nicely.

I have no economic motive in writing about my favorite travel site. I have no interest in bringing you to its pages, except maybe to inspire you. But I did want to share a few thoughts with you about why it’s my favorite travel site. When I visit its pages, I feel like I’m there. I feel like I know the person who created the site, and the people who make these apartments available. I feel like they want me to have an experience that I wouldn’t come close to having if I were to stay in a hotel that looks and feels like it could be anywhere it the world.

They’ve made me want to travel there in person.

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43 thoughts on “My Favorite Travel Site”

  1. What a fantastically good read that was, you got right into the feeling of what it “should” be like and i hope to emulate that as much as possible as i continue to build the site i am working on.

  2. Hi Dean,

    Thank you for your kind words. I hope that you can capture that connection with your audience on the site that you are building, too. It’s something that I think about often, and am striving to reach myself. :)

  3. Hi Susan,

    A human experience is important. It’s funny, but the site I’m writing about has some misspellings, and an awkward grammar of the type that happens when the author isn’t a native speaker of the language he or she is communicating in. On many web sites, I might find that just a little offputting. On this one, I find myself not minding at all. It’s as though the designer/developer is there in front of me.

  4. The best website/content is the one that makes you feel like the writer. When you feel like you share all the experience with an author it’s easier to enjoy yourself.

  5. Hi Bill,
    I clicked through to read your post because of the travel reference. Finding a site that is not simply rehashed content from other sites is a challenge. We are a niche expert content provider for those who prioritize active and healthy living when they travel. Because our content is 100% original, I hope that our readers/subscribers can feel our personality come through. We are passionate about what we have created. Have you ever visited us? http://www.athleticmindedtraveler.com We cover over a 100 destinations including cities in Canada and Europe.

  6. Hi Erin,

    I can’t say that I have ever visited your site, though the idea of creating information for travelers who are interested in maintaining a healthy lifestyle while traveling is an idea that sounds worth pursuing and sharing. I could see others who might try similar ideas with different concepts attached to them as well. Thanks.

  7. Hi Recenzje,

    Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is telling you about a journey or a destination is an experience that could be very successful. I really do like when I come across a site that allows you to do that.

  8. Bill, I can’ tell you how much I want to see the site you speak of. It’s a shame because I guess a lot of people won’t see it due to the lack of on-site SEO. It’s just one of those things…

  9. Hi Joel,

    I purposefully didn’t link to the site because I think that there may be a number of sites like this one, that reward a visitor with an experience that is both human and touching.

    I’ve gotten at least one email from someone who did ask me for the URL to the site, and pointed me towards another site that did a great job of reaching out to visitors on a human level. The site they gave me a link to wasn’t a travel site, but it was one where you couldn’t just read one page and leave. It was a family business site that sold products, and did a wonderful job of describing the history of the business, and the charming and personal philsophy they had towards the products they sold. I love coming across sites like that.

  10. Hi Adam,

    The site doesn’t do badly at all in terms of search engine optimization, but it also doesn’t strive to be at the top of search results for fairly general terms. If you know the name of the city it is located in, it ranks pretty highly for terms related to what it has to offer, and for phrases that people searching for those things will likely use to search to find it.

    It is an information heavy site, and search engine friendly, and I imagine that they get a fair amount of visits to their pages.

  11. This travel site sounds awesome… please do share. I am sick of going on these travel sites that are so impersonal and give you no feel for the place you are visiting. Thanks for the post.

  12. Everything is about price these days in the travel industry. It is refreshing to hear that there are sites that care more about the experience instead of just price alone.

  13. Hi Willis,

    You’re welcome. I’d be happy to email you the URL of the site, but I’m holding off on posting it here. I think this is a better post if it gets people to think about what they see in the travel sites they visit, rather than discussing whether the site I have in mind is one that someone should consider being a favorite of theirs. Hope you understand.

  14. Hi Alethea,

    I think that’s one of the major reasons why I wrote about this site – it doesn’t stand out for its design, or its use of technology, or because of how competitive it is with other travel related sites. It’s the experience it provides that makes it one that I like.

  15. Very true.

    I’m pretty sure that you’re not referring to Vakobi.com just yet, but we’re working hard to make some great content available!

    Your point, however, that content (presumably as well as search and database facilities) is extremely important is exactly right.

  16. Hi Steve,

    Thanks. The site that I wrote about doesn’t use search and database facilities. They just aren’t necessary considering the size of the site and the scope of its content.

    However, I think the tone and the approach that the site I wrote about uses would be something that a much larger and more complex site could emulate, and a friendly and useful search function, and a great presentation of material from a database could be helpful. For many travel related sites covering a wide range of locations, I think it’s helpful to make visitors feel that there are people involved who know a lot about those places, who can answer any questions they might have, and who share information about them.

    For example, on a site that provides bookings for flights, I think it would be incredible if it also provided some history and background and useful details about the airports that I might fly into and out of, where they are located, how I might get to and from those airports, and more.

  17. Bill,

    fully agree – great content is certainly king – even though it’s difficult & time consuming to write, edit and keep up-to-date, particularly for small, independent sites.

    Steve

  18. Hi Steve,

    I hear the same thing for large sites as well. :)

    When you offer thousands of products or flights or cruises or hotels or anything, being able to create unique content for those can mean some significant work.

  19. Hi Bill,
    You’re right, I do very agree :)
    You see, more and more people tend to find money nowadays without concerning on how their client feel. That’s why a lot of traveling sites offer discount, cheap fare, etc. If only they know your true feeling :) or their customer a lil bit more, I’m sure that they will attract more people to their site. Yeah, money is not everything to me :)…now will you tell me the site?…hahahahahahaha :)

  20. Bill.
    i agree with you. Japanese travel sites are so colorful and put price tag on them. No chance to think where to go! Please share the URL of your favorite site!

  21. Hi Hiro,

    Thank you.

    I’ve thought about whether or not I would share the location of the site I’ve called my favorite travel site for a while, and decided that I probably should since it inspired me to write this post. The site is:

    Apartment for Rent in the Historical Center of Genoa (Genova) – Italy

    Remember, it’s not the design nor the technical wizardry nor the copywriting that makes this my favorite travel site, but rather its ability to make me want to actually travel and visit – the human connection and the engagement that it creates. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

  22. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the person who is telling you about a journey or a destination is an experience that could be very successful. I really do like when I come across a site that allows you to do that.

  23. Hi Bill, I know that you moderate and approve comments so please feel free to delete any URLs or edit this post if you feel it may be spamming – that’s the last thing I want to do.

    I’ve made a couple of posts here with my juicer site ID but my other site which I started first was about my home town and local area (Oban & Argll in Scotland).

    I tried to write it as though I was sitting talking to you over a couple of drinks so I’d give my eye tooth for someone to say the complimentary things you say about your favourite site.

    I started it as a hobby site with a genuine desire to tell people about about the wonderful place I live. I was trying to connect with people – do you know how difficult that is? I’ve had emails form visitors saying how much they enjoyed it and others saying “yeah, very good, but I want to book a room”

    Then the realisation that most things worth having cost money so I sold some ad space on it so that it now pays for itself – just!

    I’ve had a look at “your favourite site” and you’re right – you just want to pull up a chair in a cafe and crack open a bottle – they obviously know and love their locale.

    One of things that irritated me to the extreme and gave me the idea to start my site initially was that when I searched for info on my home town I was presented with lots of regurgitated inaccuracies – even the local tourist board site was littered with errors!

    When I pointed those errors out to them I was pointed to the “sources” – the other inaccurate sites! Now I rank #2 in google for “oban argyll” sandwiched between Google maps and their site so perhaps now their “sources” will at least be accurate. The site is nowhere near finished, and probably never will be, but it’s on the back burner for a bit

    Cheers, John

    PS.. I may be “by the sea” like yourself but this SEO stuff is a mystery!

  24. Hi John,

    I’ve started a few sites like that myself, and they are combinations of labors of love and hobbies. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in some advertising to do things like cover some of your costs.

    In the community where I am now, I’ve had problems finding many of the services and information offered by nonprofits, by government, by the local newspaper. The local newspaper was a weekly, and decided to start publishing two editions a week. When they made that choice, they also changed their website so that you now have to subscribe to see a “e-edition” of their paper – in other words, a PDF that can’t be linked to or accessed unless someone subscribes. Seemed like a step backwards to me. So I started a local site to include some of that information. Only wish I had more time to spend on it.

  25. Hey Bill. My own local newspaper, The Oban Times, a broadsheet weekly decided to have their online news. Initially that consisted of someone simply scanning the paper in as a pic and putting on their site. You spent ages scrolling up, down, side to side – you would have needed a 42″ plasma screen to actually read it!

    Eventually got their act together (reportedly at great expense) and put it on as a subscription PDF. It’s proved a runaway succes! The Oban Times is practically a local institution – you don’t read it because it’s full of rivetting news, you read it “just in case you miss something!). Small town metality – and I love it . . .

    I did try a weekly newsletter but it was way too time consuming and the returns were pratically nil. In fact if I took into account the time I spent working on it I reckon it was costing me!

    Anyways, I love my local site and like yourself wish I had more time to work on it.

    Seeya, John

  26. Hi John,

    The one thing that bugs me about my town’s subscription based PDF is that it’s really the only newspaper in the area that has adopted that business model. The towns and counties surrounding mine publish their stories online in an HTML format, even papers that share the same publisher as my local paper.

    It’s interesting to hear that your local newspaper is having so much success with subscriptions. I’m not sure that mine is.

    Thanks.

  27. I belive it was, one of the best articles about traveling sites. you realy said it in every paragraph. most of the traveling sites doesn’t follow the simple basic needs of the tourists all over the net. thanx for sharing it with us.

  28. Hi Ouri,

    Thank you. The intent or aim to provide a great experience, both for users of a web site, and users of the service behind that site can help create something that people find a great amount of value in – like I do with the site mentioned in this post.

  29. I totally agree with this article. Good travel sites makes visitors experience the thrill of traveling on to different destinations.

  30. Hi Sherwin,

    Thank you. A great experience on a web site can get people to return over and over again, bookmark sites, share links to those pages with others, and for commercial sites, it can convince them to become customers.

  31. Hi Bill,

    Needless to say its a great post. Little wonder, comments(read complements) are not stopping to come by for you. They will go on forever.

    Without meaning to offend people who want to know the URL of the website you’ve talked about, or the URL owner I want to tell you that your post and message/advice in it was very inspiring and practical and I don’t need to know or visit the URL. I have got my message.

    I am working on my site and will get there someday I know. Thanks. One last fact that I want to put on record – I found your site recently and have been visiting it often since for latest updates and trends in the industry.

    Thanks for sharing!

  32. Hi Purva,

    Thank you. I did end up sharing the URL in the comments, but I’m not sure that it was necessary to do that either.

    Good to hear that you’ve started becoming a regular visitor. I’ll look forward to seeing more comments from you. Thanks.

  33. Enjoyed your writing and thanks to Nasif for sharing a nice link.I enjoyed your reading and also experiences.

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