Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

The Fussy Woman’s Guide to Online Travel Sites

I have “free spirit” roots that began in the middle 1970’s when I would just take off. It didn’t matter where I ended up, as long as I was having an adventure. My fellow flower children left-over friends and I never had enough money and we didn’t fuss over the details.

Nothing was planned. Most things I did were spontaneous. Today, my kids love my stories because I’m so different (and boring). They can’t imagine me with a crew cut during the punk rock days, or dancing at clubs wearing telephone cords, or hosting Grateful Dead concert parties because I lived near a popular place where they had played. My son, not long ago, asked me what “tie dyed shirts” were.


So why is it that when it comes to web site usability, I suddenly see the kinds of things only a fussy person would think of. Surely no programmer for travel site design would ever consider the following user needs and requirements because, frankly, there may be only two of us on the planet who are this nuts.

My dream travel site would have:

1. Lots of pet information, such as can you bring your pet, board it close by, bring a bunch of them and are there a vet or groomer nearby?

2. Say I’ve had my nails done for a luxury trip to a sunny resort, and break a nail on the flight out. Is there a nail salon on or near the resort that can save me from this tragic experience? (No, I would NEVER do this. But my daughter definitely would.)

3. If your bookings application has a check box for “hot tub”, please tell me how many people it holds. I don’t want to fly 3000 miles to a pretty condo, only to find the hot tub fits one person at a time. Related: Where is it? Is it private? Is it maintained? Will I be able to see the stars in the sky or is there, like, a hundred lights or tall buildings in the way?

4. When your site covers nearby events, be sure to add directions to them. I easily get lost.

5. I LOVE to imagine myself in your hotel, townhouse, condo or rental house on the beach, mountains or smack dab in the middle of a noisy city. Please show rotating pictures with speed control. Put some people in pictures to help me get an idea of how big the bed is, how many steps from the bed to the TV and how far I have to reach to pick up a phone for room service. You don’t expect me to move a muscle, do you?

6. For beach rentals, there are always those crazy details such as beach tags, beach umbrellas to rent and beach parking. Make sure your web page has all this extra information because I’m a worry wart and will have nightmares wondering if I can park my rental car at the beach.

7. About the rental car. Make sure your booking application has a number I can call before I select to reserve a car. I have questions about how many people it seats, how much extra I owe if my dog pukes in it, if your driver will come and get me and what time it has to be dropped off. I need everything perfect when I arrive. You advertised a stress free vacation, right?

8. What do I need to bring? Some web sites are very good at understanding that some people like to plan ahead and be prepared. Other sites are not. The ones that tell you what linens to bring, if you need to bring mustard and salad dressing for the fridge and towels for showers, is the site that gets more business. What are check in and check out times? How much cleaning is expected by us? Is there a washer and dryer? This is a MUST for traveling with children. Is there a place for Buster to go potty outside? For white noise addicts, is there a fan or something handy? Are there enough outlets for laptops, Portable Playstation, cell phone chargers, blow dryer, flattening iron, curing iron and the extra TV we brought so the boys don’t fight over what to watch?

9. Accessibility is another area programmers aren’t considering, and I’m not just talking about on page accessibility. Are there check boxes for those who need ramp access, lower cupboards and rails in the shower for wheelchair bound guests? Are there stairs? I once rented a cabin that had a 1/4 mile of steps to the front door, all up hill, from the driveway, which was also uphill. This, and the “Warning Bears” signs were so much fun!

10. When I hit “Submit”, will you send me an itemized list of all the teeny tiny details I want for my trip and promise to make my dream trip come true or have I spent an hour filling out a 7 page application, only to get to the end of it and the instructions say “Call us to book your trip”?

I’m not sure where or when I got so fussy. Some of it comes from being a responsible mom. Most of it comes from bad experiences and lessons learned over time. If the web site travel, vacation rental and hotel industries intend on selling their services online that people are used to doing through friends, newspapers and travel agencies, they may need to take the time to get into their visitors heads on a much deeper level.

It was so much easier to bum a ride from friends and crash on someone’s couch.


  1. March 3, 2008    

    I know you’re not talking about one of OUR clients are you? hee hee – I’m SO with you and had the nail salon emergency in San Jose for SES – tragic, but i finally figured out how to get it fixed!

    Also – esp. when traveling with kids – here can I get tylenol at 3am because my son got water in his ears in your pool and is now battling an ear infection? Been there done that!

    Great post – going to bookmark this for our account managers!

  2. March 3, 2008    

    This post is awesome!




    The website needs to answer every question you can think of that a visitor might ask. Every lodgings owner should read this post to see how to set about setting up the architecture and content of their website.

    The one point of the above I, personally, wouldn’t agree with is showing people in the photos. For me, that’s a distraction from imagining myself there, but I’m probably in the minority with that, I realize.

    Truly, this post deserves some kind of award.

  3. March 3, 2008    

    >extra TV we brought so the boys don’t fight over what to watch

    heh I sooooooo have been there ;-)

  4. March 4, 2008    

    A vacation rental site should offer all of these things to you so you can plan on what is there and what is needed. Knowing exactly what you want is important and helps to find the perfect rental for your trip. Not so sure about the nail salon. But rental sites should offer info what is at the property, pet issues, things to do in area and weather.

  5. March 4, 2008    

    Thanks all :)

    Miriam, you’re correct in that seeing other people might be a distraction. It’s about balance. Some pics w/people and some without. They each serve a purpose.

    When using people, I dislike the slinky models draped over pool furniture on family vacation sites. When I’m on vacation with kids, I’m not feeling or doing “slinky”.

  6. Carrie Hill's Gravatar Carrie Hill
    March 4, 2008    

    When using people in photos – try to target your “demographic.” If retirees are your “niche” or make up a majority of your business – a retired couple walking on the beach is a great idea – if you’re family friendly – kids playing video games in the room or building sand castles is a perfect fit.

    Because I vacation with kids – I crave all the information I can get to make sure they’re entertained and not FIGHTING when we’re on vacation!

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