Leisure travelers, doesn’t it seem as though business travelers get all the perks? Take the new travel website Upside, which rewards you for saving money by giving you gift cards.
The site is supposed to be for road warriors, but leisure travelers may be able to benefit too.
Here’s how it works: You tell Upside (which is still in beta) where you want to go and what kind of hotel you want. It finds the top six flights and hotels for a traveler’s dates and destination.
It tells you what the flight and hotel would have cost you. But the final, discounted price isn’t broken down. You don’t know how much of the package price is airfare and how much is accommodations.
“Airlines and hotels are willing to sell for less, but don’t want to advertise it,” said Jay Walker, chairman and chief executive of Upside.
“Playing your own travel agent is hard to do, so we’ve come along to take about 90% of the time out of the process and show you a way to save money,” added Walker, who founded “name your own price” site Priceline. “Buy a trip… in less than five minutes.”
Plus, you get gift cards from a variety of merchants for your booking. They are designed to reward you, the working stiff, for saving your company money.
You can save money and/or increase the value of the gift card by departing earlier, adding a connection or staying at an equally good hotel a few blocks from the meeting. Walker said gift cards usually are $100 to $200.
Although Walker created Upside for small and medium-size businesses without their own travel agents, he thinks it’s also a fit for bleisure travelers — that’s a business traveler who spends a bit of time relaxing on his or her own dime.
Upside offers 24-hour customer service by phone, text or chat. Although the $35 fee for the service is currently waived, Walker expects to begin charging as soon as the second half of this year.
Through March 31, Upside is offering a promo code that gives travelers a minimum $150 gift card, regardless of trip cost. Enter UPSIDE150 in the promo code box.
(Walker recommends following @UpsideTravel on Facebook and Twitter to learn about future promo codes.)
I tried it for an upcoming trip. Although I often research trips on my smartphone, I rarely finalize bookings on it. But Upside was so easy to use on my phone that I would have booked my trip on it too if the website hadn’t gotten stuck.
Remember, Upside is still in beta, so an occasional glitch may happen.
I wound up buying my package on my computer. Using the promo code, I booked round-trip flights from LAX to Las Vegas with a one-night stay at an upscale hotel. The package cost: $207.75, including taxes.
I paid about $20 less and earned a $153 gift card by choosing that hotel instead of one closer to the convention center, where I needed to be.
Some caveats: The policies of the airline, hotel and Upside are in force if you need to cancel. Travelers can book either flights that carry a penalty for a change or fully refundable ones.
Also, Upside didn’t always give me the lowest hotel price. For instance, the starting price for one night at a Vegas hotel I wanted showed up as about $18 more than the lodging’s website offered.
Upside still has some bugs to work out, but it could help you save money. Just don’t tell our business friends.