Being My Own Travel Agent With Kayak [en]

[fr] En mars, je vais en Irlande, puis à Austin (Texas), puis à San Francisco. Ça fait pas mal de vols à organiser. L'agence de voyage que j'ai contactée me propose un circuit à CHF 2800. En utilisant Kayak, j'arrive (non sans mal, sueur, et heures investies) à faire le tour pour CHF 1650.

Cet article est le récit de la façon dont j'ai procédé.

I have some **serious travel** planned for March.

First, I go to Cork, Ireland, for [Blogtalk]( and the preceding [WebCamp on Social Network Portability](, from 2nd to 4th.

Then, I head for Austin, Texas for [SXSW Interactive](, from 7th-11th.

I’ll be **speaking** in both places.

As I’m in the States, I’ll then head out to spend two weeks or so in San Francisco. Here are what my travel dates and destinations look like:

– 1st: GVA-ORK (ORK is Cork, yes, funny)
– 6th: ORK-AUS
– 12th: AUS-SFO
– 25th: SFO-GVA

I chose the 25th to go back because it seems to be the cheapest day around there. The other dates are fixed by hotel or event constraints.

After fooling around with []( for a fair number of hours, and finding it a little confusing (I’ll detail below in what way), I caved in and **called a travel agent** in Lausanne to ask them to sort it out for them.

They got back to me, speedily and kindly, but with a surprising price tag: **2800 CHF** for the whole thing. That’s $2400 for those of you who like dollars.

Now, even though I wasn’t very happy with what I came up on Kayak, I had figured out that this trip would cost me around about 1200$. Not the double.

So, **back to Kayak**. In the process, I’m starting to get the hang of how to do searches for long, nasty, complicated journeys, so I thought I’d share it with you.

A side issue before I start, though: flights to and from the USA have a **much more generous luggage allowance** than flights elsewhere (20kg + cabin luggage). If the first leg of a journey to the USA is inside Europe, though, you still get the “US” luggage allowance for that flight. I was hoping I could make things work out to have the more generous luggage allowance for the GVA-ORK part of my trip too, as I tend to have trouble travelling light (particularly for 3 weeks). But it seems that won’t happen.

As I understand it from the kind explanations a few people have given me, the GVA-ORK part of my journey is considered a completely separate one from ORK-AUS, AUS-SFO, and then SFO-GVA. In short, I’m dealing with **four separate flights**.

So, let’s do the obvious thing first, and **ask to do all the work**. My dates are fixed, but I’m open to the idea of using nearby airports. This is what I gave

Kayak search: GVA-ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA

And here is what I got: GVA-ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA

Oops. It seems Geneva dropped off the map. If I select the “neighbouring” airport LYS (Lyon), I get this. Slightly more encouraging, but… GVA-ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA

…slightly expensive. Roughly what my travel agent told me, actually. Gosh, I wonder which part of the journey is costing so much? **Let’s try and break things down.**

**First, GVA-ORK:** GVA - ORK

Wow, is that their best price? $384 and 9 hours of travel to go from Switzerland to Ireland? I should be able to find something better. So, I hunted around a bit on my own. I know I can get to London for around $100 or less with [easyJet](, so what about the other low-costs? From the Cork airport site, I got a [list of airlines flying there]( Then I went to individual airline sites — I’ll pass you the details, save to say that [RyanAir]( has got some “virtually free” flights (1 penny + taxes) but as they only allow 15kg of check-in luggage (I can make sacrifices and try to stick to 20, but 15 is really low), flight + excess luggage fee actually comes down to not-that-cheap.

Oh, wait a sec! Let’s enlist Kayak’s help for this. Here are GVA-LON flights, according to Kayak: GVA - LON

That’s helpful, actually. I wouldn’t have thought to check [BA]( The flight is way too early, though. And now gives results with European low-cost airlines — I don’t recall it did this early December when I first tried.

What about LON-ORK? LON - ORK

I removed RyanAir from the results (they were the cheapest, around $48 — plus extra luggage tax!), and the winner is… [Aer Lingus](!

So, if I manage to get the timings right, and accept that I’ll have to pick up my luggage and check in again in London, I should be able to get a better deal than the $384 Kayak suggested “out of the box”.

Oh, another idea. Let’s tell Kayak I’m flying through London, and see what happens. Here are the results for GVA-LON-ORK: GVA - LON - ORK

Still no luck. The first flight is the same as the one I got when I asked for GVA-ORK. Clearly, Kayak introduces constraints (like… airlines must be working together) when asked for a trip. That probably explains why my total trip seems so horrendously expensive.

Right, now we’ve dealt (more or less — at least there seems to be hope) with the first part of the journey, let’s look at the rest.




SFO-GVA: $530

Adding all that up, we’re quite far from the $2400 my travel agent or Kayak suggest for the whole flight.

Now, let’s dig in a little further. How about I ask Kayak for ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA? I’ve already identified that the GVA-ORK part was problematic, so maybe… maybe: ORK - AUS - SFO - GVA

$1029! And all with American Airlines! That sounds nice. Add to that a bit less than $200 for the GVA-ORK bit, and I should manage to do all this flying for roughly $1200. Much more reasonable (though still a big hole in my bank account credit card, given the sad state of my finances these days).

So, ready for the details? Because, no, in case you were wondering, the fun doesn’t stop here. Sick around, there’s still work to do.

**First, GVA-LON-ORK.**

London has a problem: it has too many airports. Aer Lingus fly out of LHR to Cork, so ideally, I should plan to arrive there. I don’t think I want to go through the fun of commuting from one airport to another if I can avoid it.

That unfortunately rules out easyJet, who don’t fly to LHR. They fly to LGW, Luton, Stansted, but not LHR. So, let’s check out BA, who were actually cheaper (though at an ungodly hour, and for LGW).


Right, so for 144 CHF, I get to fly out around 10am, which is actually quite nice. I land around 11am. Let’s look at Aer Lingus flights to ORK, then:

Aer Lingus: LHR-ORK

I’m very tempted to take the 14:05 flight instead of the 18:05 one, **but**. That would leave me with only 3 hours in LHR to get my luggage, go from terminal 1 to terminal 4, and check in again. The London crew on Twitter tells me it’s a little tight, though others seem to think it’s OK.

So, well, that would be it for the first part of the journey.

Now for the rest.

**Then, ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA.**

Here are the details I get from Kayak for this multi-city journey: ORK-AUS-SFO-GVA 1029$

As you can see, American Airlines seem to like Chicago airport, ORD. [Dennis Howlett]( warns me against going through that airport, but it seems the other options are going to cost me an extra $1000.

But that’s not all. What exactly are the “layovers” here? I’d assume they are plane changes. But 55 minutes in Chicago and 1h35 in Brussels on my way back don’t really seem to allow time for that. Chances are I’d miss the connection — but then why would (and AA!) suggest this kind of combination?

It’s not the end of the world if I get home a day late, so I guess that for $1000, I’ll take my chances.

Let’s not stop there, though, shall we? I decided to dig a bit deeper into all this. See, for example, I tried asking about:


Why isn’t Kayak coming up with one of the (obviously cheaper) combinations for the SFO-GVA leg? Why is BA suddenly the cheapest option? I don’t get it.

See, for example, this flight option for SFO-GVA, $550, is much more exciting than the AA one via ORD and Brussels: SFO-GVA

Just one change in Newark. And it’s a shorter overall flight, too.

That means I need to get the ORK-AUS-SFO part separate. Let’s look at it now: ORK-AUS-SFO

The cheapest deal is $624 with AA and Frontier, which is an immediate (and logical! what a surprise!) combination of the two cheapest deals for ORK-AUS and AUS-SFO taken separately. I don’t seem to gain anything (financially) by booking them together.

Now, the problem here is that the flight times are really long (20h). I’m quite tempted to force my journey through some European city other than London and see what happens.

A quick trip to the Austin airport site seems to say there are [no direct flights there outside the US]( I can’t find that kind of information for DFW, unfortunately. I’m keeping an eye on [DFW]( because I could land there and take a road trip to Austin with a friend. It’s 3.5 hours on the road, though, so I need a flight that lands early enough.

For example, let’s take Dublin, as I’m already in Ireland.

Here are Kayak flights from DUB to AUS: most interesting deal $484 with Delta for a 19h flight: DUB-AUS

Come to think of it, you know what I’d like? I’d like to be able to place all the flights on a chart, with for example “price” on the x-axis and “total flight duration” on the y-axis. I’d be willing to pay $50 extra or so to cut of a certain number of hours of travel, but as of now there is no way to visualise this kind of thing easily. The “Matrix” tab in Kayak has a promising name, but all it does is give best price and number of stops per airline. Not very exciting.

What about ORK-DUB? Well, the fine folks at Blogtalk recommend [Aer Arann]( (they have a great “travelling” page, btw, I’ll have to take example on them for [Going Solo](

Aer Arann: ORK-DUB

Cheap flight, $36. What would Kayak say? ORK-DUB

Well, RyanAir is cheaper but I don’t want them, and the Aer Arann flights are there, but a bit more expensive than what I found. Hidden costs, maybe? Or maybe just an update glitch — I’m aware it’s difficult to keep everything perfectly in sync.

Gah. This is turning into another nasty headache.

Let’s go back to letting Kayak take care of ORK-AUS-SFO. I had a look at flights from [Shannon](, but the price difference is not worth the couple of hours by bus to get there. I also considered SAT (San Antonio) but it’s really out of Austin, so not interesting. I’m willing to fly in another airport than SFO though.

Sidenote: this is where I discover I can “favorite” flights in Kayak. I should have started doing that hours ago. So, here’s the flight I’m favoriting for the ORK-AUS segment. I don’t want to land at 12:15am in Austin, so the choice is easy to make. Will have to get up early in Cork, though. Ugh. ORK-AUS favorite

You know what would be really cool? If I search for ORK-AUS-SFO, I’d like Kayak to let me know which flight combinations contain that flight I’ve favorited. I wonder if it does that. Let’s see! But before that, I’ll go and favorite the flight I want for heading over to San Francisco. So, here is what Kayak gave me for that segment, remember? AUS - SFO

The cheapest flight is $125, but if you have a close look, you’ll see that all these are either dreadfully early, or quite late. I’d rather leave sometime later in the morning. Luckily, Kayak provides a “filter” that allows me to select that. (Remember, earlier on, I was wondering why Kayak was suggesting routes with 55min stopovers? Well, there’s a “stopover length” filter too that I could have used to avoid that.) Here’s what happens if I decide to leave between 8 and 10am: AUS-SFO Flight Time filter

For roughly $200, I get to sleep a bit more. This is another case where the price/something-or-other graph would come in handy: it would help me visualise how much I have to pay to leave later. (I’m learning to factor in cab fares and stuff like that when making flight decisions.)

So, back to our combined ORK-AUS-SFO trip: ORK-AUS-SFO best choice

By playing with the time sliders for flights 1 and 2, I managed to filter out the flights that didn’t contain my two favourites (at no surprise, Kayak doesn’t tell me that this “multiple flight” actually contains a single flight that I favourited… too bad). Result: $695 and decent flying times.

**So, let’s recap.** (I’m going to be doing the actual booking tomorrow, it’s getting late and I’m tired, which is usually a recipe for mistakes. Also, the prices the airlines and Kayak give could be slightly different, so this is an approximation.)

GVA-LHR: BA, $125
LHR-ORK: Aer Lingus, $60

That’s $185 for me to go to Cork.

ORK-AUS-SFO: AA and Frontier, $695

SFO-GVA: United and Qatar, $550

Total: $1430 = 1650CHF

That’s a bit more than what it seemed I’d get away with at first, but there are less stopovers and the flying times are nicer than the cheapest deal. That’s worth a couple hundred $.

So, thanks Kayak. That’s more than 1000CHF less than my travel agent came up with. But God, did I have to work hard for it. There is definitely room for improvement in the business of helping people sort out their travels.

While I was writing this post and [twittering about my trials](, [Bill O’Donnel]( (find him [on Twitter](, he’s the Chief Architect at Kayak!) sent me a message saying he [wanted to read my post]( when I was done. He also added that he was [forwarding my twitters to the UI team]( So, guys, hope you enjoy the free [experiential marketing](! In a way, only — it’s not really an experiential marketing campaign because nobody asked me to do anything, but this is typically the kind of stuff I *would* write up in such a campaign, and an example of *authentic user behaviour* that experiential marketing “re-creates”.

So anyway, hope you enjoy this tale of user experience. And I also hope my fellow travellers will find useful input here to help them sort out their travels.

Thanks to everybody who answered or simply put up with my numerous questions and tweets during the process of sorting out this trip.

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Not All Switzerland Speaks German, Dammit! [en]

Here we go, yet another misguided attempt at localisation: [my MySpace page]( is [now in German](

[MySpace]( now joins [PayPal](, [eBay](, [Amazon](, [Google]( in defaulting to German for Swiss people.

[Switzerland]( is a multilingual country. The linguistic majority speaks Swiss-German (reasonably close to German but quite un-understandable for native German-speakers who have not been exposed to it). Second language in the country is French. Third is Italian, and fourth is… (no, not English) …[Romansh](

You know how linguistic minorities are. [Touchy.]( Oh yeah.

As a French speaker with rather less-than-functional German, I do find it quite irritating that these big “multinational” web services assume that I speak German because I’m Swiss. I’d rather have English, and so would many of my non-bilingual fellow-cititzens (particularly amongst web-going people, we tend to be better at English than German).

Yes, I’ve said that [English-only is a barrier to adoption]( But getting the language wrong is just as bad, if not worse (most people have come to accept the fact that English is the “default” language on the internet, even if they don’t understand it). If I want my Amazon books to be shipped here free of charge, I have to use [](, which is in German, and doesn’t have a very wide choice of French books. [My wishlist]( is therefore on too, which maybe explains why I never get anything from it.

Paypal is almost worse. I can’t really suggest it to clients as a solution for “selling stuff over the internet”, because all it offers in its Swiss version is a choice between German (default) and English. You can’t sell [a book in French]( with a payment interface in German or English.

So please, remember that country != language, and that there is a little place called Switzerland scrunched up in the middle of Europe, caught between France, Italy, Germany and Austria ([Liechtenstein]( is even worse off than us I suppose), and that not everyone in that little country speaks German.

Thank you.

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Why I Got Lost in LeWeb3 Videos [en]

[fr] Petit tour des problèmes d'ergonomie qui ont été la source de mon billet précédent concernant

Right, I’ve somewhat figured out how I managed to [get lost in the LeWeb3 videos]( and not find things like permalinks or slider bars.

When you’re on the [fullscreen page](, no controls are clearly visible. Where is the pause button? There is “launch your TV” (tried that, but never go the answer to what it does, too slow to load for me) but that’s about it. When you click on individual videos, the URL never varies from Well, I poked around as I could, and gave up.

One thing I had overlooked was the four little icons near the bottom of the video which is playing (you can click on all the photos I’m showing here to access notes and extra info):


Which one would you click on? Well, after I really started to suspect there must be a way out, I tried them all. The third one was the most interesting to me:


To be fair, when you mouseover the buttons, some text is displayed. For example, text for the four buttons in the first photograph is “Sound”, “Video Greeting”, “Menu”, “ShowHide”. Unfortunately, you **do** have to mouseover to get to that information, as the icons themselves are not all self-explanatory. I definitely do not expect to find a menu listing of useful stuff I might want to do under the logo.

One shouldn’t expect a site user to drag his mouse over every portion of the screen which might be clickable to see what it is. Scanning available options is a job meant for the eye, not the hand. To make matters worse here, the mouseover text takes roughly twice the time a normal “title” tooltip would take to appear (on my system). A good two seconds. Who knows — I might even have mouseovered those icons and come to the conclusion there were no tooltips, when they didn’t appear after the expected delay.

The problem repeats itself. Look at the vertical bar of icons in the screenshot above. Have a guess. What do you expect them to do? Well, here is what the tooltips say, from top to bottom: “Share”, “Get link”, “RSS feed”, “Info”, “Flag it”, “Help”, and “About us…” — you’ll notice that the same logo is used for the “About us…” link as for the “Menu” one. It makes much more sense for “About us…”

In short, [rather poor usability]( for essential navigation items and functionalities on a page like this.

Now, I’m still hunting for a permalink to the video I’m watching, remember? “Get link” sounds like a good one, though “Info” is tempting too (chances I’d click on that directly if I start mouseovering from the bottom, which would be logical as that is where my cursor was).


Bingo! There’s my permalink. Let’s click on it.


Well, that worked as expected. I get to see the video, I can display useful information about it, and I can even download it. Nice. The only sad part is that the URL in the address bar has changed from to What a pity!

A slider bar appears when I put my mouse over the video, and there is a pause/play button. I’m still not sure if such features are available in the [fullscreen version]( and I couldn’t find them, or simply not available. The slider works, but unfortunately doesn’t tell me which moment of the video I’m aiming for, so it’s a bit hit-and-miss if, say, you want to jump to minute 8 of my video to hear me try to talk (hint, hint).

So, I started watching [my panel]( The sound is good, and that’s pretty cool (as I heard that it was almost unintelligable during the conference for people who were listening in on the stream). Unfortunately, somebody must have been a little overenthusiastic about compression and the small amount of key frames, because LeWeb3 speakers seem to all have contracted a really horrible skin disease which makes unsightly blemishes appear on their skin at regular intervals:

20070121-vpod-compression-illness 20070121-vpod-compression-illness-scott

Seems like [Scott Rafer]( and I should both go and see a dermatologist pretty quickly, doesn’t it?

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BleuBlog test [fr]

[en] Testing a blogging platform.

Il y a très, très longtemps, après avoir passé une bonne journée ou deux à [tester la nouvelle plate-forme]( (ils ont viré mon blog depuis, tant pis), j’ai ouvert un compte chez [BleuBlog](

Je viens de [passer un moment dessus]( et je m’apprête à tester la publication par SMS.

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Lisez Ollie! [fr]

[en] You should read Ollie's blog if you're interested in corporate blogging. Some pointers to recent articles of his that I particularly liked.

Une petite page de pub pour un camarade blogueur dont je trouve les billets de plus en plus pertinents: lisez [le blog à Ollie](! En particulier, si les rapports entre blogs et business vous interpellent, il est à mon avis incontournable. Quelques billets récents qui m’ont favorablement impressionnée:

– [une remise à l’heure de pendules concernant la place des blogs d’employés]( et le rôle positif qu’ils ont à jouer pour l’entreprise, suite à [l’interview assez alarmiste de Marianne Favre Moreillon dans Le Temps]( (c’est pas le genre d’article qui va faire remplir [notre cours sur les blogs en septembre](, ça non)
– [une analyse lucide de “l’affaire Nestlé”]( “La révolution promet d’être passionnante.”
– [gérer ses tâches avec GMail, mode d’emploi](
– et enfin (je ne résiste pas), [une critique bien complète de coComment]( (et de ce côté-là, surveillez bien ce qui va se passer prochainement — je n’en dirai pas plus, non, même pas sous la torture…)

Bonne lecture, et merci encore à Ollie pour son blog!

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Delicious! A Great Bookmarks Manager [en]

Delicious is an online bookmark manager. It makes it very easy to add and categorize bookmarks, as well as share them with other users. You can also extract your bookmarks from delicious and integrate them in your blog to create a linklog. When I say ‘easy’, I really mean it!

Now, why on earth didn’t I start using delicious ages ago, when I first stumbled upon it? Maybe it didn’t look pretty enough, and didn’t flaunt its features loudly enough for me?

A couple of days ago I paid delicious another visit. See, somebody on #joiito mentioned my Keeping the Flat Clean post, and I suddenly found there was a bunch of people from delicious visiting that article. I thought: “My, people are actually using this thing!” and signed up for an account.

So… what does delicious do? It allows you to easily add pages you visit to your bookmarks, using intelligent bookmarklets (two clicks and no typing to add a link if you want to be minimalist). This is already easier than what I have to do to add links to my LinkBall.

You can categorize your bookmarks very easily by typing words in the “tag” field of the bookmarklet. No need to define categories — delicious takes care of it all for you. You can then view your bookmarks by category or (and this is where it gets interesting) all the bookmarks marked with a same tag. Each bookmark in your list is one-click editable, and each bookmark in somebody else’s list is one-click copyable. For each link, you can also view a list of all the users who have bookmarked it.

Does it stop there? No. All the bookmark lists (by user or by tag) are available in RSS and can be subscribed to within delicious. As a user, you have an Inbox which aggregates the feeds you have subscribed to. You may subscribe to a “user feed” or a “tag (category) feed”. On top of that, bookmark lists are available in plain html, and many users have contributed various hacks which can help you integrate your bookmarks with your weblog. (Update 02.06.04: one thing you shouldn’t do, though, is simply include that HTML feed with a PHP include or an iframe, as this will cause the delicious server to be hit each time somebody views your page.)

If you aren’t a user of delicious yet, you need to go and register right now.

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Bellaminettes [en]

I found some nice bunnywabbit illustrations, by Bruno Bellamy. Here they are!

Sketch of a bunny-girl with a carrot.
© Bruno Bellamy

Pretty pretty. Bruno Bellamy not only draws pretty girls, he even has a couple of bunnywabbit ones.

As Bellamy has a sensible reproduction policy for somebody who publishes his art on the web, I’m happy to show you the two bunnies which caught my attention.

This first one is just a sketch, but I really like the hair and the carrot. The next one is in colour — maybe I should consider changing my pink layout to blue?

Blue bunny-girl without any carrot or hair.
© Bruno Bellamy

Bellamy allows personal website owners to reproduce a few of his pictures on their sites, under certain conditions. He has now added a new one: he does not want his pictures used on sites which brag “optimised for Internet Explorer”

Well… what did you think a bunnywabbit looked like?

Thanks to Tristan for pointing out this artist to me!

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Getting Less Welfare Because One is Homeless [en]

From The thoughts and opinions of a homeless girl: some insight into the financials of homelessness.

Crystal’s bio page will give you more information about her and how she came to be homeless. She doesn’t really fit the stereotype, does she?

To look at me, you wouldn’t expect me to be homeless. I’m clean. I dress nice. I’m educated. I’ve graduated high school and have 2 1/2 years of college education. I’m intelligent. I have 5 years of experience working in the medical field. But I am homeless. if you saw me walking down the street in the morning, you might wonder why I’m carrying a back pack and/or a duffle bag with me. But homeless? That’s probably not the first thing that would come to your mind if you saw me in a crowd of people. Homeless people are often stereotyped. I want to break society’s view of that. Being homeless doesn’t make one ‘less human’ than another. We are all equal.

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Pompage d'octobre [en]

En ce mois grisouillant d’octobre, vous offre Les coulisses d’un design: une explication détaillée du processus et des décisions prises pour monter un des designs du Jardin Zen CSS, Golden Mean.

Le moment de découvrir CSS Zen Garden si vous ne connaissez pas encore.

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Touchée [en]

C’était il y a un instant ou il y a quelques jours. J’ai été touchée. Par

Dehors, on dirait l’hiver.

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