Planning travel is one of my favorite aspects of a trip. As odd as it sounds, I love the process of sifting through information to figure out where I want to visit and in what order, then using the power of the Internet to find the best deals and most efficient transport between those points of interest. But the process itself is extremely inefficient. There are plenty of search engines for flights, sure, but booking train and bus tickets and linking everything together can be an exercise in frustration. That’s why, when I heard about Omio (GoEuro at the time), I was intrigued.
Currently fully operational in fourteen European countries and expanding, Omio is an application built to let “… travelers search for any location, including cities, towns, and villages, showing the best possible transport combinations while eliminating the need to visit multiple websites to plan an entire trip.” The best part? It allows users to get transportation options for buses, trains, and flights in one simple search. I love the concept, so I’ve put the app through its paces and written an Omio app review to highlight my findings. Here they are!
Right away, I was curious about the ease of the sign-up process. I was pleased to see that Omio options to sign in with both Google and Facebook, as well as a standard option to create a new account using an email address.
One thing I look for when evaluating a travel planning app is how much it speeds up the booking process for me. Mostly, can I input my relevant personal info into some sort of profile which will auto-populate the corresponding fields when I go to make a booking? Omio does this as well, with fields for your name, birth-date, passport number, and billing address. In addition, users can save discount cards for various rail companies. Lastly, credit cards can be saved in the app, further streamlining the checkout process.
Setup complete, I dove into exploring functionality for my Omio app review.
Ease of Use
The home screen of an app is crucial to get right. The core function of the app needs to be easily accessible, and the interface should be streamlined and uncluttered. Omio nails this, with a straight-to-business approach that allows users to input trip parameters without having to scroll to input additional data (at least on my device). A standard menu button brings out a likewise streamlined menu, with options for My Bookings, Passenger Details, Payment Methods, Settings, and Customer Service.
Perhaps the most important factor for a good travel planning app is the ease with which users can parse search results. Luckily, Omio knocks this out of the park. Results are displayed in three tabs, one for rail, another for bus, and the last for flights. The cheapest fare for each is listed on the tab itself, allowing you to immediately see which transportation option is most economical.
Within these tabs, helpful green messages denote which option is fastest, cheapest, etc. Also displayed are the price, window of travel, amount of transfers, company used, and total travel time, as well as an expandable option to display the route details, which include transfer points and stations of arrival and departure.
Value of Results
While I’m not as hardcore of a budget traveler as I used to be, price is still king when I plan the transportation aspect of my trip. Even if a third-party app helps to simplify my research, I usually won’t use it to make a purchase if it’s more expensive than booking directly. So I chose a random route (from London to Bournemouth) and put Omio to the test.
It was immediately clear that traveling by bus was the most economical option (you can see the results in the picture above), so I chose the cheapest bus fare and clicked through to the checkout screen. A message popped up, informing me the price had changed. My gut reaction was to be annoyed, as this is one of my biggest frustrations with booking travel — directly or indirectly. Luckily, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The ticket price had dropped!
There were no added fees on the final checkout screen, so I hopped over to the National Express page and quickly found that the total price wasn’t any cheaper than Omio. Not only was the app more convenient to use, but there was no financial penalty.
Chalk one up for Omio!
To fully test the app, I decided to plan a mini-vacation. I chose London as a starting point and Siena, Italy as my final destination. Along the way, I wanted to stop for fish ‘n’ chips in Bournemouth and visit the Spanish cities of Madrid and Barcelona. To eliminate variables, I picked ‘fixed’ dates of travel and solidified the order in which I’d visit the destinations. I merely wanted to find the amount of time it would take me to research and book my transport, as well as the total price and travel time.
The result? I researched and ‘booked’ my trip (London -> Bournemouth -> Madrid -> Barcelona -> Siena) in 11 minutes and 22 seconds. The total cost of my tickets came out to $222.05 USD, inclusive of taxes and fees. Total travel time? 9 hours and 40 minutes. And I never had to leave the Omio app.
A caveat: I chose to travel by train from Madrid to Barcelona, which was not the cheapest or quickest means of transport. I just wanted to have one rail ticket in the mix, because trains are awesome!
Mobile Ticket routes
Omio has a couple bonus features I really like which make the process of researching and traveling even easier. One appeared when ‘booking’ my train ticket from Madrid to Barcelona — a notification letting me know I’d found a ‘Mobile Ticket’ train route. These routes eliminate the need to print your ticket and store your boarding pass (offline!) under ‘My Bookings’ in the Omio app. A huge convenience!
Include airport transit
There’s also a handy feature for the flight search that incorporates airport transit, allowing you to get a more accurate picture of the time required to get from destination to destination. As many who’ve flown budget airlines in Europe know, the airports used are often smaller ones far outside city centers, which can add hours to what may seem like a short flight. This feature attempts to eliminate that often-overlooked factor and does a relatively good job of it.
Local city guides
In addition to in-app features, Omio has commissioned city guides from locals in certain cities around Europe. There happen to be guides for London, Madrid, AND Barcelona, and they contain all sorts of useful tips and recommendations to help make the most of a visit. The guide for London is particularly extensive. Check it out!
Things that Need Work
All right, everything so far sounds great, but no app is perfect. What needs work?
Countries fully compatible with the service
First off, it’s not very clear which countries the Omio service is fully compatible with. Due to the nature of the app, the ability to book train tickets must be worked out with each country’s rail network, the same is true with regional bus service providers. So while flight results might display for countries outside of the fourteen Omio is currently designed to work with, bus and train results do not. Instead, a message saying, ‘There are no trains/buses available for this destination’ is displayed, when — in fact — there may be, just not in-app. Changing the wording of the above message would alleviate this confusion.
Departing from and arriving at satellite cities
Perhaps the biggest potential pitfall I found in the app had to do with booking flights. As I mentioned above, many smaller cities and towns don’t have airports, so flights may depart from a completely different city altogether. For example, the flight from Bournemouth to Madrid doesn’t depart from Bournemouth at all, but from London. Likewise, the flight from Barcelona to Siena actually departs from Girona and arrives in Pisa.
While the app does a good job of displaying the actual cities involved in the trip, the variation can lead to gaps in travel plans. It would be awesome for the app to combine transportation types, such as allowing users to purchase a package which includes a bus from Barcelona to Girona and a train from Pisa to Siena, in addition to the flight from Girona to Pisa.
**I’ve been informed there is a fix in the works for this already — a good sign!
Omio App Review: Verdict
So what’s the verdict of my Omio app review?
Long story short, I love this app. The few areas for improvement I listed above are minor issues and not at all exclusive to Omio, while the benefits of the app are seriously impressive. The core concept of consolidating the search process for bus, train, and flight routes is fresh and desperately needed in today’s fragmented travel booking industry, and Omio executes on this admirably well.
The Omio app is intuitive, easy-to-use, and saves huge amounts of time while providing budget-friendly results. It is a must-have for planning a trip to Europe!
*DISCLAIMER* While this Omio app review was sponsored by Omio, all views and opinions in this article are my own honest impressions of the app.