The journey takes you to the highest peaks. The planning? The lowest of the low.
To get started, you need to figure out exactly where to go, book a plane ticket, look for accommodation and then, of course, last but not least, how to finance said plane ticket and accommodation. Now factor in all the extra hurdles that come with traveling in a post-pandemic world: expensive plane tickets and plenty of cancellations and delays, among them. It’s stressful enough to make you wonder if all that rest and relaxation on the other side is even worth it.
Enter VIP Traveler. VIP Traveler is a new and free subscription service that uses “proprietary personalization technology to ensure the right trips reach the right people” — not unlike Stitch Fix. (For the uninitiated, Stitch Fix is a personal styling service that, thanks in large part to an opt-in survey, offers users a completely personalized experience. VIP Traveler functions in much the same way.)
To try it out, I signed up for the free version of VIP Traveler. The survey consists of 20 questions, which are apparently intended to create a profile of the traveler. Examples include: “When you travel for pleasure, how do you usually fly?” “How much do you expect to spend per night at a resort?” “What hotels do you prefer to stay at?” “How does your work schedule affect your travel?” “When you travel for fun , who are you traveling with?” and a series of “do you prefer”. It then ends with asking which destinations you wanted to visit.
I kept my answers honest: as travelers, I’m pretty much middle of the road. When I travel for pleasure, I almost always fly economy. I don’t stay in hostels, but I don’t stay in 5 star resorts either. I use my points to travel, but I’m not exactly The Points Man. I travel with my partner, family and friends, depending on the occasion, but sometimes I also travel alone. Destinations I wanted to visit included cities in Australia, Italy, Africa and Greece.
I say all this because, at least in my experience, there are plenty of travel planning tools for frugal travelers and just as many for luxury travelers, but there aren’t nearly as many for just…regular passengers. Of course, VIP Traveler isn’t necessarily about any of these categories in particular, I just want to say that I wasn’t holding my breath for my results.
However, my first set of recommendations included two of my all-time favorite cities and two others I’ve long wanted to visit, neither of which I had mentioned in the survey, with a full list of places to stay and deals attached that put the mentioned accommodation firmly within my budget. The following week — to my pleasant surprise — I received my new “Travel Finds” with all the new destinations, which again seemed very much to my taste. I couldn’t believe how good it looked i know although I have never booked anything yet and subsequently let them mine more data. According to VIP Traveler co-founder Josh Borenstein, that’s exactly the goal.
“This is where you come when you want that trusted ‘travel buddy’—someone to help guide you when you need inspiration, advise you when you want the lowdown on a particular destination or hotel, and give you help get the most out of your trip when you decide where to go,” says Borenstein. “By that we mean not only the best rates, but you also get the benefits of not being an anonymous Kayak booker or cold booking. When you book with us, you will be taken care of.”
For his part, Borenstein is no stranger to the travel space. Besides being an avid traveler himself, he also co-founded a business that specializes in flash sales with a strong focus on travel. However, his ultimate goal has always been to build a business that “makes it easier for people to travel more and discover parts of the world that might not have been on their radar, but do it in a really different way than the same old.'” This method, he argues, is pretty much broken anyway.
“There’s just too much content and too much time wasted looking at options — and it’s hard to actually decipher the nuanced truth from review sites. We thought there was a way to bring personalization to the travel booking experience through a combination of proprietary technology and the human touch of our connected “Travel Stylists,” says Borenstein.
Plus, he adds, “The situation on the ground is changing every week both in terms of regulations and how hotels are dealing with the post-pandemic rush. Some hotels are at a maintenance impasse and can’t attract good staff, while others are struggling. It’s handy to know which is which. Additionally, the flexibility of our ‘buy now, travel later’ options with free date changes and cancellations gives additional options.”
This option is only enhanced with the VIP Traveler+ option, which gives members access to local destination experts for local advice, a personal ‘Travel Stylist’ for personalized travel planning, 24/7 support and VIP benefits with all bookings. While it’s certainly not the best option for the budget traveler, for those who jet even a few times a year – it’s worth (as some might think) the high price of entry (currently $495 per year). In fact, according to Borenstein, your first trip with a VIP Traveler+ membership will probably pay off.
“Not only in terms of access to the best prices, but also the experience offered, the access to opportunities you never knew existed, and the ease with which you can contact us about those little details that you never could find out yourself or through a traditional online travel agent,” he says. “Even members who belong to platinum credit card travel services are unable to offer on-the-spot advice or negotiate on your behalf for individual treatment.”
And if you’re not in the market to book a trip? It’s also a great one-stop shop for travel information. In addition to your weekly “Travel Finds,” there’s a bucket list building feature that lets you name the destinations you want to visit. That’s what inspired Borenstein’s upcoming trip to the new Buahan by Banyan Tree in Ubud, Bali. (“There is literally nothing like it in the world and we have access to an incredible introductory offer.”) And most feasible why, I can’t stop dreaming about my trip to Corfu.
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