I am a big fan of travel tools that enhance our travel experience, save us time and money and earn us brownie points in recommending the ‘coolness’ factor to friends and family.
Being an ex-travel agent, I have used many booking systems and methods over the years to secure reservations or source destination information including face-to-face meetings, paper forms, electronic, telephone, fax. Fax! Can you believe it?
I come from the era of paper airline tickets, filing cabinets to store client itineraries and hard-cover atlas books.
I’m not a technophobe, but I’m also not super-knowledgeable with technology so I find great benefit in advances in technology that simplify your life, not complicate it.
One thing I do know is that people prefer systems that are simple to use, and accurate.
An Australian-based company, they offer a travel search engine that professes to return itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass-transit and driving to and from any location. Genius I thought! This could replace airline route searches, Google maps, Waze, ViaMichelin road directions, and all those other websites and apps we as consumers use.
Five things Rome2rio does well:
1. Fast results – Every search I completed was quick.
2. Transport icons easy to understand – You don’t need to be clued up to realise a plane icon symbolises an air sector, a train symbolises a train journey and so on
3. Calendar for airfares – Great idea as airfares fluctuate depending on seasonality and special deals. This could improve to also show ‘cheapest’ airfare for the departure month as sometimes the price difference between consecutive days is immense.
4. Ability to access suppliers from search results – Book direct with airline, coach, train operators and save time searching for suppliers who operate those routes.
5. Free mobile application – Handy to have for travellers who get flustered on the move
Five things Rome2rio could improve:
1. Tips n Tricks – Only 3 Tips n Tricks to save my time/money/patience using this tool – really?
2. Not everyone wants to tweet or email their search result – however, they are working on a print feature for search results
3. The regional coverage maps with Transport/Road/Satellite views – what are they delivering me that is a function I can’t get somewhere else already? Road/Satellite views can already be found on Google Maps.
To be honest, the Transport view looks like a hash of spiderwebs and could be very intimidating to the average traveller. I travel solo, and with my family and if I looked at the Transport view trying to ascertain the best transport route for my family it would scare the bejesus out of me.
It would be beneficial if you could click point-to-point on this map view and highlight all the sectors you do need.
Transport view on Rome2rio – scares the bejesus out of me organising family travel
4. The ‘Airlines’ page – The airline icons are displayed in order by ‘2-letter airline code’ e.g. Great Lakes (ZK), Monarch Air (ZB) etc. However, the average consumer has no idea about airline codes, IATA codes or industry classifications and will read this page alphabetically by airline name. Make the airline links easy to find or readers will leave the page.
5. Landmarks or attractions should be location-specific in the search – In one of my searches, I typed ‘Musée Picasso’ (2 words only) intending to return a result for the Musée Picasso in Antibes, France. The result directed me to ‘Musée Picasso’ in Paris, resulting in me running another more specific search for ‘Musée Picasso, Antibes, France’.
My feedback on Rome2rio search results:
I decided to test some basic point-to-point searches e.g. Point A to Point B, sticking to journeys in one country only (I haven’t included my opinion on their affiliation commissions as I ran these searches as a ‘consumer’ looking for travel route information).
How difficult can it be to get from A to B?
Below are four searches I conducted on Rome2rio for regions familiar to me, and all of them did not display optimal results from my perspective as having local knowledge and previous travel-booking experience in both travel retail and wholesale industries. See my findings below:
Searched Gare de Juan-les-Pins – Musée Picasso on @rome2rio: http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Gare-de-Juan-les-Pins/Mus%C3%A9e-Picasso-Place-Mariejol-06600-Antibes-France
1. I wanted to search from the Juan les Pins train station in southern France to the Picasso Museum in Antibes, France. Note: Juan les Pins train station and Picasso Museum are both English search phrases, so my search did not function until I entered the correct local terms in French ‘Gare de Juan les Pins’ and ‘Musée Picasso’. Be specific in the local language. Musée Picasso had to also be location-specific to avoid a result diverting to the Musée Picasso in Paris.
Musée Picasso, Antibes (image antibes.ca)
2. The search result showed Bus 250 as optimal. This is not the optimal bus route, as Bus 250 requires a 5- minute walk from the station and then 10-minutes walk from the stop in Antibes to Musée Picasso. The optimal bus route is not shown at all – Bus 30/31 has a stop that is 2 minutes from the station, and 5 minutes walk from the Musée.
Searched Lérins Islands – Château de la Napoule on @rome2rio: http://www.rome2rio.com/s/L%C3%A9rins-Islands/Ch%C3%A2teau-de-la-Napoule
1. I wanted to search how to get from the Lérins Islands (off the coast of Cannes) to Château de la Napoule, a tourist location in Mandelieu-La Napoule on the mainland.
2. A complete fail. The search results failed to link the islands to the mainland in Cannes in any way, even though there is a ferry company that travels between Isle St-Honorat and Cannes.
Ile St-Honorat (image: cannes.com)
Searched Juan-les-Pins – St Paul de Vence on @rome2rio: http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Juan-les-Pins/St-Paul-de-Vence
1. I ran a search from Juan les Pins, France to St Paul de Vence, a popular tourist village in south-east France. I chose St Paul de Vence as a destination as I have local knowledge that it is not easy to get to from Juan les Pins using public transport as it is inland, and also there is no train station in the vicinity.
St Paul de Vence (image spdv.com)
2. Search result #1 (train + bus) is accurate by routing, transport operator and price, and is the best option. Search result #2 (taxi) is correct, but I’m surprised a taxi option features before a self-drive option. Search result #3 is completely unrealistic and herein lies one of Rome2rio’s major flaws in my opinion – why would a traveller take a train from Juan les Pins to Monaco past the next city (Nice) with transport that could get them to their destination faster then fly back to Nice to take a bus to their final destination? A traveller who chooses to fly from Monaco to Nice (the options being private jet or helicopter) is not the same person who would also travel by local train and public bus all on the same itinerary.
If you think St Paul de Vence sounds like a lovely place to visit – it is – click on the link for my free walking tour itineraries of St Paul de Vence https://accessriviera.wordpress.com/2012/06/14/sightseeing-saint-paul-de-vence/
After three decidedly average search results, I was beginning to think my France-based searches with Rome2rio were doomed. So, I thought I’d conduct a search for a journey somewhere on the other side of the world…
Searched Opua – Russell on @rome2rio: http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Opua/Russell-New-Zealand
1. I conducted a search for travel itinerary advice in one of the most popular tourist regions in New Zealand – the Bay of Islands. I wanted to get from Opua, a small harbour town to Russell, another small tourist town located across the harbour.
Bay of Islands, New Zealand (image: awesomenz)
2. The first search result was quite good, though the driving time of 4 minutes from Opua Hill to Paihia ferry terminal is completely unachievable unless there is no road traffic and you are driving a Porsche. The journey route is correct though (drive and ferry).
3. The second search option (by taxi) is ridiculous. It leads the traveller to believe there is only one route to get from Opua to Russell via car and that journey would take them 2 hours 23 minutes (not to mention expensive if you travelled by taxi!). In fact, Opua has a vehicle ferry that travels a short trip across the bay to Okiato and from there you can drive to Russell in 10 minutes.
Why I’m willing to give Rome2Rio a second chance:
Delivering a one-stop shop for information on transport operators, driving options and routings is a big ask. It’s not unachievable, but it’s hard to maintain yourself as a source of information when so much of your offering (i.e. travel information) relies on accuracy from other places including the websites of the transport operators.
Factor into this the potential for airline delays, transport strikes (very common here in France), internet connection problems, grumpy kids on long journeys, adverse weather conditions, bank holidays, local languages and that static and seemingly simple Point A-to-Point B via Options 1, 2 and 3 suddenly becomes a pipedream.
Why am I willing to give Rome2rio a second chance? I believe they have potential to improve what is essentially helpful information. There is a lot I see in their system that has been designed from a software point-of-view, but maybe they need to take a step back and reconsider how people across a range of ages, backgrounds and nationalities would use this website. A multi-destination young backpacker on a RTW itinerary would use this website differently than a pensioner in the UK who wants to book a simple coach trip from Brighton to Manchester.
But I look at a hash of spiderwebs on a map and have the bejesus scared out of me, so who am I to comment?
Have you used Rome2rio and found it useful for your travel planning? Have your Rome2rio search results been accurate and helped you on your journeys? Have your Rome2rio search results lead you astray on your travels? Share my article on Facebook, retweet it and leave some comments!