The home page at Stride Travel includes a banner that says “Life’s too short for vanilla vacations.” While most of us would agree with that conclusion, planning that perfect combination of travel, accommodations and sightseeing is not an easy task.
This is where Stride Travel comes in – especially for travelers who yearn for a guided tour or vacation package with a twist. This can include biking tours, hiking vacations, wildlife excursions, river cruises and more. Stride Travel co-founder, Gavin Delany provided RewardExpert with an inside look at the company and what it offers.
The Stride Travel Overview
Delany describes Stride Travel as a metasearch engine for guided tours and vacation packages. “We are like Kayak or Trip Advisor but for guided tours and vacation packages,” he said. “Users can come to our site and search through thousands of trip itineraries offered by more than 500 tour companies, river cruise lines and African safari outfitters.”
Stride Travel is not a booking site for travel alone. In fact, it’s not a booking site at all. Users search for the perfect vacation then hook up with the tour operator directly to book their itinerary on their own.
That’s not to say Stride Travel offers no help. On the contrary, the Stride Travel website includes hundreds of reviews by regular travelers. Many tour operators are vetted by Stride Travel and identified as Preferred or Premiere operators.
A Unique Search Engine
The thing that makes Stride Travel unique is the way it categorizes travel packages into specific options. Explaining how it works Delany said, “Suppose you’re a 60-year-old couple, recently retired and want to take a 2-week coach tour to Greece. Where do you go on the internet to find and compare all the thousands of options?”
According to Delany, these types of trips, which often cost $5,000 per person or more, can have complex itineraries. The best way to understand them is through reviews provided by other users. Once you’ve made a choice, Stride Travel directs you to the tour operator where you can ask specific questions and, if you wish, book your adventure.
Stride Travel isn’t a travel agent. Travel agents, Delany points out, often try to push you to a company that gives them the best commission. Stride doesn’t push you at all. You search, read reviews and then select.
Stride makes its money through payments from tour operators when travelers do book travel. The difference being, as Delany says, you pick the trip you want.
Known For Travel Style
In its short life, Stride has become known for offering information on professionally planned trips in a variety of styles. Delany says the company is the “Walmart of travel. You can buy anything you want,” he says, “as long as it is a professionally planned vacation. We have trips to almost any country, all seven continents, every style – luxury, budget, mass-market, group tours, small group adventures and private guided trips. We also have self-guided packages. We are the place for people who want the benefits of a well-planned trip without having to plan everything themselves.”
The Review Process Explained
Using a wisdom of the crowds philosophy, Delany describes reviews on Stride Travel as the best way for would be travelers to get that important firsthand knowledge and information about working with a specific tour operator.
Stride has its own vetting system that takes into account the number of reviews a company has, the average rating by customers, Better Business Bureau ratings, industry reputation, level of insurance and safety record. Companies that rise to the appropriate level receive a Stride Preferred or Stride Premier badge.
“We are a small company,” Delany says, “so the fact a tour operator doesn’t have a badge yet doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong. It likely means we just haven’t had time to rate them yet.”
The Creation of Stride Travel
For a company with recent lineage (Stride is only two years old), there is an interesting back story that helps explain the depth of Delany’s interest in travel. “I’ve always loved travel and nature and being outside,” Delany says. “I’ve gone to a couple different countries every year. I’m up to about 45 countries now. I like getting up close and personal with exotic animals. Riding elephants, petting lions and getting bitten by a wild monkey in China. On my honeymoon.”
According to Delany the birth of Stride Travel was the culmination of his realization that the type of travel he most enjoyed was hard to search for on the internet. “In 2003,” he says, “I wanted to go to Machu Picchu (Peru) to hike the Inca trail. To go on the Inca trail you have to use a tour operator because it’s a permitted trek. I was surprised to learn there was no website online that would allow me to search different operators that would take me to Machu Picchu.”
Searching for information for his next two trips, an African safari and a trip to Cambodia met with the same results. Finally, Delany and his business partner, Jared Alster, launched Stride Travel. The public version of the company launched in 2016.
While attempting to add more tour operators and, of course, more users, Stride has plans to eventually introduce a travel club membership plan. (The site is free to use.) The optional travel club membership would provide special discounts and amenities for members.
“We would like for it to be sort of like Amazon Prime for travel,” Delany said. “Members could even buy travel related products at a discount.”
Beyond that and more immediately, Stride hopes to be able to offer customized travel packages on the website. Until then, Delany says, “For any type of trip you want to take, you can find it on Stride.”