The weather is warming, school years nationwide are winding down and the summer vacation season is creeping up. Somewhere between 50 and 70 percent of Americans will take some kind of vacation during the 12-week stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day, depending on whether or not one counts a staycation as a vacation.
But for those with loftier plans than staying indoors for a week off and watching all the Netflix they can handle, a vacation presents an annual paradox for the ambitious. Going on vacation, seeing new things, eating new foods and having new adventures is fun, relaxing and an excellent way to recharge one’s batteries. Planning to do any and all of those things ahead of time, on the other hand, is neither fun nor relaxing, and feels a bit like having taken on a second job in service of relaxing from the first one.
Historically travel agents (and more recently travel concierges) have taken up that slack for consumers, but the team at Journy offers a digital alternative — the platform will do all the logistical planning for the trip ahead of time, send the customer an agenda for fun to approve and (after all adjustments have been made) send travelers on their way.
Journy Co-Founder Susan Ho stumbled upon the idea for the business while trying to plan a last-minute trip to Buenos Aires — and realizing that despite being internet savvy, well traveled and willing to do the work researching the best possible experience, she kept ending up with exactly the types of tourist trap she had been trying to avoid. There were options out there, but they either required paying a very high premium, spending a great deal of time interacting on the phone — or they weren’t all that reliable or trustworthy. In 2015, she and Leiti Hsu founded Journy to help other travelers avoid that dilemma.
To use Journy, the customer signs on and fills out a questionnaire about where they are going, how they prefer to travel and their overall preferences for the trip. That questionnaire then goes to a travel coordinator who then plans the itinerary for the guest. How much planning they do depends on what package the customer has purchased. For $25 per day of the trip, the consumer gets paired with a travel advisor who will plan for up to four people per day, with links to all recommended bookings, hotel booking assistance if necessary and two full trip revisions if necessary. Customers who want to upgrade to the $50 per day package get all of the above features as well as activity and tour bookings done on their behalf, restaurant reservations, in-destination support, two additional rounds of trip revisions and a 20-minute phone call.
The goal of the two-tiered pricing, Journy says, is to allow customers to really have full control of their own destiny. Some customers want to “set it and forget it” when it comes to travel bookings, meaning they want to make their preferences clear and then be confident that when they arrive on the scene everything will be ready to go. Other consumers actually want to have that direct hands-on control, with final say in each element of the process, even if they don’t want to get tangled in the minutiae of researching every individual option.
Moreover, Journy noted, what the customer is really looking for in the vacation-planning process is expertise — because they are almost certainly going someplace unfamiliar. What they want is unbiased service they can trust — and that will align with their preferences. It is why Journy does not mark up or get kickbacks on activities or restaurants — the fees they charge are the firm’s money source because at the end of the day giving customers what they want is the core of the businesses. The also don’t require a hotel booking with trip plans, though they offer the service for those who want it. The reality of modern travel, according to Journy, is that people want to use rewards points or chose an Airbnb — and a major limit of the legacy travel business is that it takes an all-or-nothing approach to a customer’s travel booking.
The goal for the firm is pretty simple: putting the fun back into going on vacation. The average trip takes 30 hours to plan — a full day out of a customer’s life. At the end of the day, that one-day process can be replaced with a two-minute survey and a few digital check-ins with an expert. It’s a more relaxing way to plan a trip — which, according to Journy, is the point of vacationing in the first place.