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SITE REVIEW: Adioso

adioso screenshot 2

SITE: Adioso

TYPE: Travel booking site

START: 2008

CREATORS: “Nerds with backpacks”

COST: Free

A travel search site that lets you ask vague questions on travel plans, and comes back with specific — and potentially money-saving — answers.

I’m old enough to remember when the very idea of researching and booking travel on your own computer was so new that just having online access to OAG was a thrill — and if you know OAG stands for, you are officially old in Web years.

(And trust me, the initial consumer versions of OAG weren’t nearly as user-friendly as they are now.)

Nowadays, we’re buried and drowning in travel sites, to the point that the list of “usual suspects” is almost as long as the typical airport security line. Odds are you not only know them all, but have used or at least looked at most of them yourself many times.

To make itself noticed above all the digital din, a new booking site needs more than just the ability to find good deals to take us to cool places. It needs a gimmick, a new approach, something to hook our attention.

Comes now Adioso. The approach its creators took was to build a booking site that works the way folks typically think.

And let’s face it, even in 2014, most of us still don’t think like a Web site (and let the church say “Amen!”).

Which means that on Adioso, there’s no pushing this button for dates or doing a mouseover with your cursor to bring up a calendar or all the other nerd-like things the Web has conditioned us to do routinely.

It also means that you don’t have to know exactly when — or even where — you want to go. Adioso will still do its best to hook you up.

(NOTE: If you’re in the habit of skipping over things like introductory videos or online tutorials, don’t do it this time. Adioso features both a prominently placed video and a tutorial it calls “Academy.” Both are handy introductions into the way the site works and its basic features.)

The site will perform its searches for you based on whatever location you set. No need to keep resetting it after each search.

Say you’d like to spend a couple of weeks in West Africa in March. I entered the following into the search box:

“West Africa in March for two weeks.”

It then scours a lot of those familiar booking sites like Expedia,Cheapoair or even directly to airline sites. Within a few seconds, there were six images on my screen, one for each of a half-dozen West African capitals in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Burkina Faso, the Gambia and Niger.

I thought it a bit odd that Ghana wasn’t included. So I tried a separate search with the same parameters, Ghana in March for two weeks.

Another few seconds and I was looking at flight information and prices from San Diego to Accra on KLM and British Airways.

No need to go back one screen or refresh my search. That’s because each of the parameters of my original search — my point of origin, destination, time of year, trip duration, and whether the trip was round-trip or one-way — was in its own little box in an orange horizontal bar across the top of the page.

You’re free to change any or all of them right on that page, then click on the little magnifying-glass symbol on the right end of the bar and try your search again.

The results appear on that same page, below that handy orange bar. It quotes you three prices, one each for the cheapest trip, the fastest trip and what it judges to be the best trip.

If the price isn’t right, click on the “Watch Prices” button on the left to set up alert to notify you when the airfare drops to the price you’re looking for.

Now run your cursor over each section of that flight information. Adioso brings up a set of filters for each, enabling you to fine-tune every aspect of your search.

Not sure where to go? This site tries to help with that, too, by means of a feature it calls “Wanderlists.” In the words of the Adioso crew, these are “curated collections of inspiring travel destinations.” Each comes automatically with flight schedule and pricing info.

So far, there are 33 Wanderlists, everything from the world’s best beaches and US national parks to hidden adventure destinations, the greatest theme parks on the planet, the top Roman ruins outside of Italy and where to find the world’s best beer.

The list currently being featured: World’s Best Winter Festivals.

Bear in mind, though, that these lists are neither encyclopedic nor all-inclusive, nor are they meant to be. I realized that when I saw that the ice festival in Harbin, China didn’t make their winter festival Wanderlist.

If nothing else, the lists can make a great starting point for your trip research.

What may be an even handier feature is one called “Fly To Your Friends.” Adioso scans your contacts and their locations. You choose which ones you want to visit. Adioso shows you the flight schedules and airfares to get there. Pick the best deal and book.

The site creators also offer you a little reassurance when it comes to your friends: “Don’t worry. We don’t contact them or post on your behalf without permission.”

One thing you won’t find on this site is a conveniently labeled “Home” button. Since there’s no need to return to the homepage to start a new search or alter an existing one, there really isn’t much need for one. But if you just feel compelled to return to the beginning, just click on the orange word “adioso” at the top-middle of the page.

Also remember that with airlines increasingly refusing to share their booking information with Web sites they don’t own, no site is going to have info for every airline.

Still, this site looks like fun. I’m not sure how much I’ll actually use Adioso, but I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it each time I do.

And that’s more than I can say for a lot of travel sites.

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