TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
When I was younger I knew Christmas was over when the focus of TV adverts shifted from Hot Wheels to hot spots. Inspired, we would trawl the travel agents, returning home with a small rainforest worth of brochures to keep us busy through the depths of winter.
It was so much simpler in the days before the internet. Everyone in the family would rifle through a brochure, circling hotels with pens and comparing swimming pools. The only thing to tax the brain was deciding whether to go half board or full board and was it worth paying a supplement for a sea view. Back at the travel agent, you would hand the well-thumbed brochure back to them and they would do the rest.
Now we are drowning in comparison websites which have added umpteen layers of extra work to the process. I sit for hours perusing TripAdvisor, so often sucked into reading the ‘terrible’ reviews, feeling an increasing sense of schadenfreude as I learn of guests’ mouldy bathrooms and check-in catastrophes.
Hotel chosen, it still takes time to obtain the best price, especially when I forget which websites I’ve visited and end up having to make old-school lists with a pen and paper. Then the WiFi plays up and I wander around the house trying to find an internet connection. How many hours of our lives are spent vacantly gazing at a screen while it’s buffering?
Ok, we’re online. Let’s book this thing. Do I want a classic room or superior? Romantic package? Champagne? Pillow menu? Room scent? Click, click, click and then, just at the end, they add VAT and I realise the site I’m using isn’t the cheapest after all.
Flights are just as bewildering and my stress levels escalate as I hover over the ‘buy now’ button, in case I have spelled a name incorrectly or typed in the wrong date.
As the holiday approaches, emails remind me that I need to check-in and print my boarding pass: this is usually the time I run out of ink.
Eventually, paperwork complete, I can pack my case. But there’s no luggage label. I miss not having a luggage label sent to me by the travel company: it made standing in the queue at the airport so much more bearable, trying to spot who would be staying at the same resort and hoping the man in the Panama hat, holding things up at the desk, wasn’t going to join us on the courtesy bus at the other end.
The internet is indeed a marvellous resource; the whole world is at our fingertips. But wouldn’t it be refreshing to have someone else do all the legwork. Imagine having a local business, on the high street, dedicated to finding you the right holiday, who will book flights and hotels then send the tickets and luggage labels direct to your door...
I think it could catch on.
You can follow Trish on Twitter @mumsgoneto and read her blog at www.mumsgoneto.blogspot.com