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Upside is the new travel booking site from Priceline founder Jay Walker. It’s finally launched with its full functionality. They raised $50 million on a $200 million valuation even before they were fully operational. Because a new idea on how to deliver value to consumers from the guy who created Name Your Own Price bidding is a big deal in the travel world.
I interviewed Jay about the new site and about his Priceline days over the summer.
It’s also a widely misunderstood site. There are leisure travelers who will sometimes get value out of it, but the real payoff is for self-managed business travelers.
The idea is that if you’re a business traveler, you book what’s most convenient to you within company guidelines because your employer is footing the bill. But with some economic reason that benefits you, you’re willing to make trade-offs.
Maybe you’ll fly in the night before if it saves more than the cost of a hotel night and they’ll give you $100 in your pocket to do it. Maybe you’ll stay at a hotel a mile away from the conference if it’s cheaper and they’ll give you $150 in your pocket to do it. Upside asks the question, how much is your flexibility worth if there’s upside to you? Are you willing to book a less expensive itinerary if you put money in your own pocket to do it?
If you’re a leisure traveler, booking on your own, you’d want to:
- Price flights separately, and hotels separately, and see how Upside’s pricing compares
- In fact, you probably want to compare their packages to travel packages on other sites. On average Upside might even save you a little, but it’s unlikely to be yuge.
That’s why their market isn’t leisure travelers. It’s business travelers who save money compared to what they could have booked, and get much of the savings rebated to them in the form of gift cards.
Doctor of Credit looked at this purely from the perspective of lowest price and found,
[T]he flight is $16 more expensive than using another third party and the hotel is $45 more expensive than using another third party. This is more than offset by the $88 package savings discount and the $100 gift card.
Right now is the best time to try the site, since they’ve only just launched in all of their markets. They’re offering a guaranteed minimum $150 Amazon gift card with bookings through February 28 using promo code UPSIDE150.
And they’ll even top that — they gave me promo code VFTW that guarantees a minimum $200 rebate in gift cards on all purchases through February 28. Enter it here. Right now I think it’s fair to say they’re ‘over-indexed’ to get buzz going at launch, so definitely look to see if it makes sense to take advantage of their marketing budget.
Here’s a 2 night Vegas air and hotel package departing New York in a few weeks. You can do a $485 package and get more than $200 back in gift cards.
The biggest money is going to be in international business class, but even so here’s an economy itinerary (poor soul, working for a company that requires transpacific travel to be booked in coach!) that nets over $500 in gift cards back.
As long as you’re not spending more than the trip your employer will pay for this works out great for the business traveler. And while they’re guaranteeing a minimum $200 per trip, it’s worth comparing.
Just be sure to sign up with promo code VFTW for the minimum $200 payout.