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Is Your Resort Website’s Vacation Booking Form Wasting Space?

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I sometimes feel I do too much critiquing and too little suggesting. Like, somehow, I’m the 400 pound, mullet-sporting guy on his 4th beer at the baseball game yelling at the 3rd baseman to hustle. So, every once in a while on a Wednesday I’ll try to balance the scales a bit and put my own ideas up for display, analysis, and critique. (view all ‘WID’ posts).

Over the last ten years of interweb innovation, one element has remained almost completely unchanged: the vacation booking form. True, jquery made choosing a date more interactive (notice I didn’t say, “easier”), and the engine behind the form may be more robust, but in effect, the form looks the same today as it did in 2001.

I, for one, think we can do better. Much better. A couple years ago, Dustin Curtis attempted to prove this point to American Airlines and did a beautiful job. Two years later, technology is even more powerful, yet improvements still haven’t been made. Today, in a “what I’d do” style post, I’d like to suggest a few semi-radical ways to improve the usability of your website’s vacation booking form (I’ll tackle how results are displayed another time) because, as I see it, most of what resorts have on there now is just wasting space.

1) Ditch the JQUERY Date-Pickers
Ok, so it’s May and I want to book a vacation in January. So what do I do? I click on the box, and arrow through 8 months worth of dates before finding the one with the day I want to choose. What would I use in it’s place? Similar to what Dustin suggested, I’d use a box that lets them type in a date like “Jan 5” or “jan. 5” or “January 5” or “1/5” or “5 Jan” or however the user thinks about and writes dates in the first place. A developer with an afternoon free could easily whip up an engine that would decipher just about any date a user could plug in.

2) Ditch the Second Date-Picker Option
So, I’m coming on Jan 5 and staying for a few days. Why should I have to pick another date with a date picker that might make me start at May again? The fix? I’d do what I’ve only seen done at Mammoth Mountain so far, a “How long will your stay be?” menu. You don’t even have to say it. If the first field is a date, and the second field is a list of “1 day, 2 days, 3 days, …” they’ll get the idea.

3) Ditch the Rooms, Adults, Children, etc.
By making the first step incredibly easy with the steps above, I’d stop it there. That’s all I’d tell them just so I could get them into my (hopefully just as easy to use) booking system. I’d let them choose more options to refine their search on the next page, but what I’d focus on is getting people to the point where I can throw some tailored offers in front of them and let them pick and choose from there.

4) Change Button Text to “See My Options”
I’ve seen enough “Submit” buttons to last me for a while and “Check Availability” sounds like I’m being put on hold while the operator finds a way to tell me they don’t have what I want. “See My Options” sounds friendlier and more optimistic in my book, while more accurately describing what should happen on the next page.

As I mentioned above, Mammoth has a form closest to what I’d build, with the exception being their third option of choosing between Airfare, Tickets, Rentals, etc. Perhaps if I could select more than one of those, I’d keep it, but I think that would be best served on the next page as I build my package.

Now, this design may fail miserably. Perhaps the two most important elements are to let them type in a date range and choose how many people are coming, only split testing could tell (have you ever split tested your vacation booking form?). The point I am getting at is this: vacation booking forms are old, slow, and unexciting. Try making the process simpler, faster, and more fun to use and you might just get more people using it. Crazy, I know.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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