Website Review: Air Canada Vacations
One of our life goals is to visit 5 new countries every year, so finding a good travel deal is very important to us. We make all of our own travel arrangements and rarely seek the advice of travel agents, so we rely heavily on the Internet and online booking engines.
We prefer to research for flights and accommodations on our own terms, so we’re always open to testing new websites and online booking engines. Most recently, we reviewed the Air Canada Vacations website – http://www.aircanadavacations.com/
When booking a hotel, flight, cruise, car rental or vacation, there are literally thousands of travel websites to choose from. So the question becomes – how do we choose which site to book with?
Above anything, we look for the BEST price. This doesn’t always mean the cheapest price – but a combination of price, schedule, airline, route and airports (many budget airlines depart from remote airports that are usually inconvenient and can actually be more costly in the long run).
We also look for efficient website navigation and websites that offer multiple options for flight itineraries, airlines and destinations.
What we Like about AirCanadaVacations.com
- Its for Canadians!
Most travel sites focus on the United States, often limiting options to/from Vancouver. In many cases, we have to fly out of Seattle or Bellingham to find the cheapest deals. We then need to worry about long-term parking and the border crossing (headaches we’d rather avoid). Air Canada Vacations is focused on Canada so they only offer destinations from Canadian cities.
- Displays the full price, including taxes
Nothing frustrates us more than thinking we’ve found a great deal but later realizing at checkout that the taxes weren’t included and now it’s twice the cost. Feeling deceived, we often stop our search at that point and move to another website. We were happy to see that it wasn’t playing games with its pricing.
- Displays preferred departure city results
At the top of the website you have the option to select your preferred departure city. Once you have selected your city, the intuitive website auto-populates the best deals from that departure city, ultimately helping users cut through the mountain of offers.
- Vacation search box – Travel inspiration
Sometimes we don’t care about specific destinations when we’re in the planning stages. If we want to go someplace warm, we don’t care if its Mexico or an island in the Caribbean, we just want a deal. What we’re really looking for is travel inspiration. The quick search box has pre-packaged vacations (flight & hotel) for broad searches, like “All Europe” or “Top Sunny Destinations” and it has a function that allows all-inclusive options and flexible dates.
- Browse by interest
If you have a specific travel interest, like Ski & Snowboarding Vacations or Couples Only Packages, there is an option to do a quick search by clicking on the link. It then provides a more comprehensive search that focuses on your travel interest, making for an efficient search.
- Flight schedule from major Canadian cities
In the vacation search box there is a link for “View flight schedule” that opens a 3-page document that breaks down the daily flight schedule from major Canadian cities. We like this feature because we are often creating our own itinerary and it allows us to plan our itinerary better.
- Easy to earn and redeem Aeroplan Miles
We love rewards programs and often fly with Air Canada because of its relationship with Aeroplan and Star Alliance. We like that we can use and earn Aeroplan miles by booking with Air Canada Vacations. Integrating the programs is smart.
- Alternative packages offered when there is no availability
We love this feature. When there is no hotel availability for your preferred dates, the search engine offers alternative options for the same destination. For example, we selected a vacation package for Varadero, Mexico that was full during the dates we selected. Instead of saying “Sorry – no availability”, it offered us 3 alternative options in the same area.
What we Dislike about AirCanadaVacations.com
- Toronto and Montreal have the most options
It’s understandable that Toronto is a larger market than Vancouver, but when searching for last minute deals the difference in options is significant. Toronto and Montreal have over 240 destinations to chose from. Vancouver offers only 55 and Winnipeg has only 2.
- Limited options for “Last Minute Deals” page
There is a “Last Minute Deals” tab on the main toolbar that takes you to a page that allows you to select from a “Going to” list. The drop down list has several destinations to chose from, but when you do an actual search there are rarely any results. We searched for Boston, Turks & Caicos, St Kitts and Barcelona and it returned zero results.
- Some selections are not compatible with iPad
We use our iPad – a lot! Currently, we are not able to switch to the “preferred city” feature at the top or middle of the site. The issue is that we are in Vancouver, which is at the bottom of the list, and iPad users cannot scroll through the drop down list, which is annoying. There is currently an iPhone app, so we assume that a feature correction is in the works.
We found some good deals on Air Canada Vacations, especially last minute packages to Mexico and the Caribbean. As long as you are departing from a major Canadian city, it’s an easy way to research and book vacation packages online.
We found round-trip flights to Honolulu for less than $400 dollars, so perhaps a trip to Hawaii will be in our future travel plans!
What is your preferred travel booking engine?
Share your top picks in the comments section below, we’re always looking for new sites to try!
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Disclosure – we were compensated to review this website, however the expressed opinions are entirely our own.
The photos used in this post are property of AirCanadaVacations.com.
Yves Rannou says
Hello there – I am the director of eCommerce at Air Canada Vacations. I did enjoy reading your review. We are constantly looking at ways to improve our online experience and do spend a lot of time with real users to understand issues they face with our website. I passed along your review to my colleagues who are responsible for last minute deals. For iPad, we will definitely look into adding a compatible version down the road but I don’t have a timeframe. The preferred departure city also exists on our iPhone version as your preferred home airport. I encourage you to download our app where you can manage your booking, check-in online, be notified of flight changes, etc. There is also a wishlist and our social media are also listed inside our application.
Traveling Canucks says
Hey Yves – thanks for your comments. Overall we like the user experience and would likely return to the site when looking for travel deals.
Happy to see that you are taking note of some of our dislikes – gotta love the power of social media! 😉
Christy @ Technosyncratic says
Wow, FIVE new countries every year?? That’s a new one almost every other month! This seems like a cool site, but being non-Canuck I’m not exactly the target demographic. 🙂
Traveling Canucks says
We won’t be traveling every second month, but we’ll likely do 2-3 countries per “big trip”.
Yeah, if you’re not a Canadian it’s not the ideal site, as most of the vacations depart from Canadian cities. But if you’re every in Canada and looking to escape… 🙂
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I did enjoy reading your review. We are constantly looking at ways to improve our online experience and do spend a lot of time with real users to understand issues they face with our website. I passed along your review to my colleagues who are responsible for last minute deals. For iPad, we will definitely look into adding a compatible version down the road but I don’t have a timeframe. The preferred departure city also exists on our iPhone version as your preferred home airport. I encourage you to download our app where you can manage your booking, check-in online, be notified of flight changes, etc. There is also a wishlist and our social media are also listed inside our application.
orange property says
Flight Centre and Air Canada’s tour operator, Air Canada Vacations, are proud to offer you a wide variety of holiday packages to captivating destinations worldwide. Connected to the country’s largest airline means Air Canada Vacations provides you with a vast array of leisure travel packages with direct or connecting flights from across Canada.