Last night, I participated in AAA Travel’s “Biggest and Best Virtual Travel Show” at their website, where they were featuring vacation deals for the coming months from a number of travel partners. I was really looking forward to this show, because I love AAA and their services, and I thought it sounded like a really cool, unique concept. What a disappointment.
Let me get this out of the way first: I am a reasonably technologically savvy person. Normally, I love exploring new technology online. I have intermediate HTML skills and have created a few websites in my day, and I spend more hours than I care to admit on the Internet. That said, their website was anything but user friendly. It was time-consuming, cumbersome, and way too “busy”–with too many different sections, too many chat rooms, and too many links to drill down on. If a visitor had nothing better to do for the next three hours of their lives, it might have been mildly–very mildly–entertaining. But for those of us who were just seeking information about travel deals. . .Well, let’s just say it’s an hour of my life I’d like to get back.
The advertising for this show indicated that the “show” would start at 6pm EST. So I logged in promptly at 6pm and waited. And waited. And waited some more for something to happen. I was expecting a show along the lines of a webinar or a video show featuring travel deals from AAA and these partners. But no. When they say “virtual show”, they really mean “virtual expo”, or “virtual trade show”. My bad. The virtual doors opened at 6pm so people could check out the virtual vendor booths in the virtual Expo Hall and chat with each other in chat lounges, but that was it. In order to get information about deals, visitors had to click on each booth to pull up a menu specific to that company, including a video presentation, a downloadable PDF file of their special offers, and more. Each time I clicked on something, it took more than a few seconds to pull up. At 7pm EST, the first speaker held a webinar, but by that time, I was fed up with the whole production and logged off.
Aside from the frustration of having to spend so much time trying to access the information I wanted–information that would have taken just a few minutes to eyeball had it been released in one text document–my biggest disappointment was that so many of the deals were “per couple” or “for a family of four”. No deals were being specifically marketed to solo travelers. (I know, what a shock, right?) I found a handful of decent deals, like saving up to $1,100 on international airfare with Tauck World Discovery and special member offers of up to $200 shipboard credit with Disney Cruise Lines, but frankly, I see travel deals just as good if not better in the news and pushed into my email inbox by Google alerts every day. I sure don’t have to work so hard to pull them off a website!
In summary, while AAA and its partners are offering some decent travel deals, you couldn’t pay me to attend another one of these virtual shows. If you want to know what kind of deals you can get from AAA Vacations, use that archaic piece of technology called the telephone and call your AAA travel agent. It’s quicker and easier.