5 of the best search engines for tours, excursions and activities
Anyone who has ever traveled will have a few hotel search engines and a few flight search engines in mind. Accommodation and transport are some of the essential elements of a trip, so it is normal that we have them under control. What is not so common is that we know of search engines for guided tours, excursions, tickets, activities or combination tickets. And it won’t be by offer! In this post we are going to analyze 5 of the best leisure websites for travelers. Let’s go there!
Back in 2008, when we started with the blog, we had the first news about Civitatis, which was born around the same time. Since then, the company of Alberto Gutiérrez from Valladolid has not stopped growing. So much so that today it is the main booking portal for activities in Spanish, they have two offices in Madrid and are already advertising on TV. To date, they offer services in more than 150 destinations and their catalogue (which is constantly growing) exceeds 1,500 proposals.
In terms of design, after the radical change of image they made at the beginning of 2017, Civitatis seems to us to be an exemplary website. We love the pink color and the cleanliness of the page, as well as the usability in desktop and mobile devices. The activity sheets are very complete (prices, details, opinions, conditions, etc.) and the purchase process is very agile. Almost everything they offer has very good reviews, so we understand that there is a high level of general satisfaction and a good quality filter. And the best thing is that almost all the experiences they offer are in Spanish. Other details to highlight: newsletter, customer area with booking history, mobile app for iOS and Android, active in social networks and attention in Spanish 24/7.
Today the great challenge of Civitatis is to continue increasing the catalogue of destinations and the number of activities and tours offered in each city. Although in places like New York there are more than enough (45 proposals), in certain countries their presence is minimal (Germany, United Kingdom or France, where they only cover capitals and some other cities) or none, as in Switzerland, Norway, Finland, almost all of Eastern Europe, Central America, sub-Saharan Africa, etc. However, we follow their evolution closely and we know that they are expanding their offer every month at a dizzying rate. As far as cancellations are concerned, although this is not necessarily negative, it must be borne in mind that conditions depend on each supplier.
is a monster of tour reservations, tours, tickets and guided tours worldwide. The company was founded by four university students from Zurich and Berlin at the beginning of 2009 and today has almost 400 employees, locations in 11 countries (including Australia and China) and offers more than 30,000 activities in 7,000 different destinations.
The highlight of GetYourGuide, of course, is its wide range of activities and guided tours around the world. To give just a few examples, we could contract services in countries such as Uganda, Belize, Ukraine, Oman or French Polynesia. Moreover, it is a worldwide website (translated into 13 languages), so its most popular activities usually have tens or hundreds of opinions. As for the design, without being particularly eye-catching, it is clean and the navigation is very simple and agile. Other details to highlight: best price guarantee with return, customer service in Spanish (7 days, not 24h), app for iOS and Android, active in social networks (in English), customer area with history, wish list and free cancellations up to 72h in advance in most bookings.
The worst thing about GetYourGuide for the Spanish-speaking public is the language issue. On the one hand, although the entire website is translated into Spanish, many of the translations are quite improvable and in some cases it feels like they were done automatically. On the other hand, although they offer many activities in Spanish and have a filter to select them, many times this filter is not completely effective or generates distrust, since the same tour can be in many languages and you do not know how it will be done exactly (will they give you an audio guide? will they be multilingual guides? will there be several guides and different groups? will they give me a brochure in Spanish?) Also, having so many activities, many lack opinions and the descriptions are too short.
By turnover, tradition (since 1997), number of visits, etc., Viator is the world’s no. 1 in tour and activity reservations for travellers. If it was already a giant before 2014, when it was acquired by Tripadvisor it was further consolidated as a reference portal in the sector. Viator, based in San Francisco, offers more than 60,000 activities in 450 destinations around the world.
In addition to its long history and membership of Tripadvisor, which generates a lot of confidence, Viator also stands out for the enormous range of experiences, tours, guided visits, tickets, etc. it offers all over the world. And almost all of them have tens or hundreds of opinions. The language of the activities can also vary, but in this case it is usually indicated in a concrete way if our guide will speak Spanish, if they will give us an audio guide or if they only have brochures. The activity sheets, as an interesting detail, show photos uploaded by the clients. Other aspects to emphasize: web in 10 languages, newsletter of offers, assistance in Spanish 24/7, social networks in Spanish, app for mobiles, guarantee of low prices and client area.
Perhaps the worst thing about Viator is its design. The website is totally outdated and compared to the websites mentioned above it is quite bland. In addition, it lacks filters that dynamically update activities (without reloading the page) such as price limitations, hours, type of activity or language. The navigation through the web is also not as pleasant and fast as in the previous ones. As for cancellations or changes in reservations, these also always depend on each activity.
Do you need a presentation of the biggest travel website in the world (with Booking’s permission)? Tripadvisor is known for being a portal of reviews and opinions of the tourism sector, but they also offer accommodation, activities, restaurants and flights. In total, they have 535 million reviews, 415 million unique visitors per month and 760,000 activities worldwide.
Although all the activities that can be booked directly on Tripadvisor are managed through Viator and therefore it would not make sense to include both websites in this selection, if we wanted to highlight Tripadvisor it is because they also show many experiences that cannot be booked on their platform. In other words, while the rest of the websites only sell through their platform (they do not provide you with direct contact with the provider of the activity), Tripadvisor does show a good number of activities that you can book by calling or writing directly to the organising company. This makes their catalogue of proposals by far the largest. And, of course, the one with the largest number of opinions. Other details to highlight: user area, present in dozens of countries, active social networks, mobile app, best price guarantee, numerous filtering options, etc.
Opinions are the best and the worst of Tripadvisor. While the activities that they sell on their platform do have verified opinions (by customers who carried out the activity), those that do not sell directly lack a reliable filtering system, so the ratings can be easily manipulated. In terms of customer service, we miss a method of direct contact in plain sight, such as a telephone number or email support. Also the design is not their strong point and in many activities the details are very poor, although all this seems logical considering the large volume of data they handle.
WePlann was founded in 2013 by a Colombian-American team. Although it is mainly focused on the Latin American tourist visiting Europe or the USA, the Spanish can also enjoy its catalogue of excursions, tours, guided visits and tickets without queues. In fact, they have long been based in Spain (as well as others in the USA and South America). They currently offer activities in 18 cities.
WePlann is a modest company compared to the previous ones, but in a few years it has managed to make a name for itself in the Spanish-speaking market. Although their catalogue is relatively small, they are specialists in cities like New York, where they offer unique advantages in Broadway shows, for example. Details to highlight: customer service in Spanish by phone (Colombia, Mexico, Spain and USA), many payment options (including cash payment in the USA), nice design and very complete experience sheets, social networks in Spanish, etc.
WePlann is still a «small» company in constant evolution, so it still has many shortcomings: quite limited range of experiences, web in 2 languages, no mobile app, few opinions (except in «top» activities), fixed cost of US$30 for any cancellation or modification of reservation (when allowed in the conditions of the activity), etc.
In our humble opinion, when we talk about booking guided tours, leisure activities, experiences, tickets without queues, guided tours and similar tourist products, there are two great references: Civitatis for the Spanish (or Spanish-speaking) market and in general. These two companies seem to us to be the best in every way and they almost always cover our needs.
In certain destinations, when we do not find what we want in the previous websites, we usually make use of Viator and/or Tripadvisor. The latter, as we have said, is especially useful for finding less popular activities, which cannot be booked online, and is almost always ideal for reading reviews.
Finally, new companies such as WePlann seem very interesting as alternative options and are especially useful in certain destinations in which they specialize (in this case New York, Las Vegas and Orlando, for example).