Someone finally did it — created the mother-of-all-accommodations sites.
It’s called AllTheRooms.com and it’s a one-stop shop for the best deals in everything from five-star hotels to vacation rentals to couch-surfing.
The concept is simple: create one site that aggregates all other accommodation sites. It features listings from the more widely known booking sites like kayak.com, expedia.com, airbnb.com, vrbo.com and hotels.com, as well lesser-knowns such as sleeping.com, onetravel.com and skoosh.com.
“There are 12 million rooms in the world and part of my job is to go out and aggregate every room on the planet,” explained Joseph DiTomaso, co-founder and CEO of AllTheRooms.com, during a phone interview from his Manhattan office. “My goal is to give consumers access to everything.”
Easy to say; not so easy to do. Yes, the idea is basic, but until recently, the technology to execute the idea was unavailable.
“You have to plan right,” DiTomaso said. “Pull together the right team, make the right choices.”
Then he explained a few technical things about AllTheRooms.com, most of which I sort of understood but can’t repeat. But suffice it to say that 39-year-old DiTomaso (a Morgan Stanley man for many years) and his business partner William Beckler (formerly of Travelocity) have gone where no man or woman has gone before. AllTheRooms.com went live earlier this year.
I tested it and found that searching for a place to stay was pretty easy and more efficient than ever before. The site offers five categories of places to stay: hotels; homes and apartments; rooms and hostels; B&Bs; and “amazing,” which lists the-best-of-the-best deals.
I searched for one-night stays in early September near the city center in Oslo, Norway.
The choices were both wide and deep. Skoosh.com offers a three-star hotel room for $78; gloveler.com has a room with a kitchen for $113; homeaway.com features a one-bedroom apartment that sleeps three for $336; roomorama.com offers a two-bedroom apartment for $370; and for $1,000 a week on airbnb.com, I can rent a bright, mid-century modern apartment that sleeps four.
Four-star hotel rooms in Oslo start at $350.
“As I’ve told others,” DiTomaso said, “If there’s a hammock in the Caribbean, a couch in New York City, or a five-star hotel in Las Vegas, it will be on our site. Think of it as the Google of accommodations.”
AllTheRooms.com’s arrival is timely if you’re considering visiting Cuba. It’s still difficult to travel to the island country on your own — and expensive. Group tours range from $3,000 to $6,000, so it might be worth waiting for the rules to change.
Booking your own flights and lodging could save you hundreds. AllTheRooms.com has nearly 300 listings in Cuba, ranging from rooms in private homes to luxury hotels.
Here are some things to consider when traveling to Cuba, according to DiTomaso:
Americans have always been embraced by Cubans. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens visit the country (illegally) ever year.
There are no major hotel and resort chains in Cuba.
There are no airlines flying directly to Cuba yet. Americans must go via Canada or Mexico.
Credit cards from U.S. banks don’t work. Bring cash or American Express traveler’s checks.
The exchange rate is good; the U.S. dollar is widely accepted.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at eondash@ coastnewsgroup.com