There’s such an overwhelming amount of travel information in the world, it’s beneficial to be able to narrow down your sources to solidly reliably ones. For parents planning family vacations, a new contender, MiniTime, is sure to come to the head of the pack. This post is sponsored by MiniTime, and in as such, I’ve given myself ample time to familiarize myself with the family travel site.
According to Think with Google, the five stages of travel are dreaming, planning, booking, experiencing, and, post-trip, sharing. 85% — a huge percentage — of leisure travelers use the internet as their main source for planning travel. So not only am I not the only one, I’m not even NEARLY the only one who spends hours mucking around online, narrowing down destination possibilities and hotel choices. Since the bulk of my leisure travel is done with my family, I’m really happy to have MiniTime as a new “mucking around” site. MiniTime is a new family travel planning and booking site; it has TripAdvisor-esque user-generated reviews and ratings, and more in-depth family-friendly hotel/resort/inn/activity reviews written by family travel specialists.
MiniTime is, like I said, a pretty new site. But I love its pedigree. The guys who created its algorithms that filter ratings are the same smarty-pants that created a few dating sites, later bought by and integrated into JDate. Like a dating site, MiniTime has a filter. In this case, though, it filters though the large assortment of lodging options (and child-friendly activities) by destination and the ages of the users’ children. After all, this is a family travel site, not a dating site! MiniTime also helps the user — the mother or father, presumable — book vacations and later, the MiniTime member can leave brief reviews and load in some relevant photos from their trip.
While I haven’t booked travel through MiniTime, there is a function that allows users to find the best deals online (through parters) and book their stays. Just from noodling around, I found that there can be a large disparity in price options listed. For example, I selected a resort in Carlsbad for an imaginary LEGOLAND vacation (my kids are actually much too old to enjoy LEGOLAND anymore, though Carlsbad itself is a very pretty beach town). For my family of four requesting two rooms at the resort, one site (Skoosh) listed a $228 price, the other (Venere), $837. I’ll let you guess which booking site I’d have chosen. It’s clear that MiniTime saves time researching travel deals.
The site interface is generally very easy to navigate, and the algorithm sorts well by age and destination. I do wish it was simpler to figure out a couple of things, though. One, it’s not obvious to find how to “follow” a different user (unless that other user is already following you). You’ll need to go to that user’s profile page to do so. Two, it’s not possible to create a rating and review for a hotel, resort, or inn that’s not already in MiniTime’s database, or to create the page for it yourself so that you can review it. And three, not all countries are represented. In fact, at this time, there is a heavy bias toward the United States, Canada and Mexico. But wait! Remember, this is a new site! The more travel planners use it (and create the reviews, and rate hotels, etc), the more fleshed-out it will be. I’ll be happy to watch MiniTime grow and, possibly, give some competition to that other travel-planning site, TripAdvisor. I love the simplicity of the navigation and the ease with which photos — even huge ones — load up to it.
Try MiniTime for yourself; you don’t have to sign up as a member to avail yourself of its algorithm or navigate around the site. Plug in your children’s ages, where you want to go, and then request either a destination overview or local accommodation options. Click “Bring the Kids,” and blammo. Instant results, and other suggested options as well. If even this sounds like too much of a commitment, click “Take a Tour” on the main page. There’s short video that’ll show you around. There is also a “Trip Tips” section, with useful family travel service pieces such as packing tips and road trip game ideas.
You can see my reviews of the Grand Wailea in Maui, Craftsman Inn in Fayetteville, and Homewood Suites in Miami for some examples of these brief user-generated write-ups. So far, the other users have created an amiable, easygoing site culture. MiniTime will even cut down on your “mucking around” time spent planning travel online. I like what I see, and I’m pretty sure you’ll like it, too.