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Have Your (Travel) Wits About You

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Startup Simplifies Making Travel Plans While Also Saving Money By Chris Mueller, Cosmitto Booking a vacation can be quite the hassle, right? Maxim Likhachev experienced it firsthand while booking a cruise in Florida for him and his family during Christmas time. Figuring out and locking in flights, hotels, transportation, eateries and all the other logistics associated with a week’s worth of travel was exceedingly difficult – especially finding it all at an affordable price. If only, Likhachev thought, modern technology could eliminate the strenuous process in a matter of minutes (and clicks). That’s where the idea of came into existence, a Pittsburgh-based tech startup currently thriving as a one-stop-shop for the itinerary planning of both vacations and corporate business trips. “I realized the process was nothing that a computer couldn’t have done for me,” said Likhachev, TravelWits’ co-founder and CEO. “Once we got to the point that we had the whole search engine built, now I don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out a trip. It’s just a matter of five minutes and I have the trip planned.” Likhachev, who also teaches at Carnegie Mellon University, jointly with Arman Bimatovs and Alla Safonova, created an optimized search engine that identifies numerous combinations of destinations, flights, car rentals, hotels and other travel factors into TripKits, which all come at a single upfront price without any hidden fees or extra costs. For business travelers, users can plan their entire trip around specific meeting times, with the ability to assess the costs of day-before vs. day-of flights, the price of Ubers compared to a rental car, and account for high-traffic rush hours near airports, hotels and offices. On the leisure side, users can search for a wide array of vacations within their budget. “What we do is a new generation, 21st-century type of travel planning solution that is completely free and available online through a web portal so a user can just go in, register and immediately start using it,” said Likhachev. TravelWits began as a B2C-only search engine appealing to the vacation travel market with similar services to Priceline and Expedia. However, the company’s Summer 2018 expansion into the business world marked the first of its kind. Over 30 companies currently signed up to book their employee travel through TravelWits, but the services are available to anyone around the world. And through its incentive program, business travelers are able to split any money saved on with their employer. “It’s literally the first tool out there that provides full itineraries for business travelers that is completely free and available to anyone,” Likhachev said. TravelWits is offering PTC Members a special discount to book travel plans: