What’s it Like to Work with Us? We “Send an Employee to Mars”
At the beginning of 2011, FareCompare co-founders Rick Seaney and Graeme Wallace were talking about all the great deals they’d been able to find for customers when it suddenly occurred to them: Why not share some of these deals with their employees?
And that’s how the great Mars Trip Contest was born; a monthly company drawing for a free trip including flights and hotel to who-knows-where (“Possibly Mars,” deadpanned Graeme, “or maybe even Duluth. In winter.”) Fortunately for the winners, FareCompare’s powerful deal-detecting search engines have so far found terrific airfares to destinations in the Caribbean, Hawaii and the wine country of northern California.
Reaction from employees was immediate and overwhelming. “Rick and Graeme play Oprah!” exclaimed one, who declined to be identified. The winners, however, have been only too happy to step forward and share their stories. Here are a few of them:
Winner: Barry Knight, Ad Operations Manager
Barry and his wife, Carin, spent their trip in Banff, Alberta, Canada, exploring on two wheels as well as their feet. After flying into Calgary on WestJet – “very laid-back and funny flight attendants, reminded us of Southwest Airlines” – the couple picked up their bicycles and traveled west to Banff National Park and began their gran fondo trip, which was a 90-mile, 4,500-foot climb and roundtrip took about six-and-a-half hours. They also explored Lake Louise – “very touristy and crowded” – as well as Moraine Lake, which was more quaint and less crowded and the rain didn’t slow them down one bit. All together, the couple loved Banff, with its great pubs, bike shops and very friendly citizens.
Winner: Jeremy Jameson, Director of Strategy and Corporate Development
Jeremy and his fiancee traveled to the tiny island of Bonaire in the Caribbean and “stayed at the gorgeous Bellafonte Chateau de la Mer hotel for four days. The island of Bonaire is a diver’s paradise – and a gastronomical heaven – is about 55 miles off the coast of Venezuela.” One of the most exciting parts of the trip was the final flight to the island – a 17-minute flight in a propeller plane.
Winner: Jeff Kreska, Chief Geek
“As luck would have it, tropical storm Shantal was bearing down on the Caribbean during our trip, but we didn’t let that put a damper in our fun. A little rain and murky waters kept us above water for activities like tubing and skiing, which were great. A must see is Dunn’s River Falls, where you climb the waterfall; Mystic Mountain, where you ride a roller coaster through the tropics; and the water park inside the resort, equipped with swim up service, a lazy river, water slide and plenty of relaxing coves to retreat to.”
Winner: Collin Quick, Social Media Manager
Going to Ireland in January probably wasn’t the best idea, but that didn’t stop Collin. After touring and exploring the Jameson distillery and Guiness Storehouse, Collin made his way around Dublin, from the shops and restaurants to Trinity College. Not content to visit just one city, Collin hopped a train north to Belfast, Northern Ireland, and spent an afternoon walking along the river/bay and visiting the brand new, state-of-the-art Titanic Belfast museum (seen in the photo), built on the same shipyard where the Titanic was constructed more than 100 years ago.
“We loved the luxurious accommodations at the Atlantis Resort; don’t miss the stunning glass sculptures from artist Dale Chihuly in the casino and be sure to check out the Mayan temple water slide – just one of many ways to cool off at the resort’s amazing water park. Best of all: the opportunity to swim with dolphins. I loved it all. You’ll like the shopping, too; there are so many flea markets in Nassau, which are great for souvenirs. The food was great too: restaurants offer everything from local Caribbean cuisine to French specialties and beach shacks featuring a nightly fish fry.”
“I’m not a ‘Caribbean beach’ kind of guy, so I was really looking forward to this trip, and Seattle absolutely delivered,” said Greg. The best part? Mt. Rainier. “It was majestic,” said Greg, “and I loved how it loomed ahead of you for miles and miles as you drove toward it.” Besides discovering mountain hiking trails and enjoying vistas that included beautiful woods and water falls, Greg and his wife also took a drive to Portland since it was so close. Back in Seattle, they enjoyed must-see sights including the original Starbucks and Pike Place Market, and chowing down on fresh fish. And never mind the stereotypes; Greg reported that his entire visit to the Pacific Northwest was rain-free. His overall assessment: “A nice and relaxing trip.”
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Cindy who took her two sons along on her trip to Bermuda. The highlight of course was the beach with its “crystal-clear, warm turquoise water” and she and her family made the most of, swimming, snorkeling and even jet-skiing. Like most first-time visitors to Bermuda, she was initially shocked by the high price of food in grocery stores and restaurants but she also noticed portions in her favorite dining spots were large enough for leftovers. None of which mattered compared to the friendliness of the Bermudian people and the beauty of her surroundings. “If it wasn’t for FareCompare,” said Cindy, “I probably never would have gone to Bermuda – and I’m so glad I did.”
“It was a dream trip and we had a fantastic time,” said Jeb who traveled with his wife and daughter. Their room at the Marriott Waikiki Beach Hotel & Resort offered an incredible view of the ocean where they later snorkeled (“beautiful schools of fish and sea urchins!”). Since this was the Stones’ first time in Hawaii, they played tourist at all the must-see attractions: hiking at Diamond Head, enjoying a luau at Paradise Cove, touring Pearl Harbor and visiting a pineapple plantation. Jeb’s dining tip: Duke’s on the beach. “Next time, we’ll visit the other islands, but our five year old is convinced we should just move to Hawaii,” said Jeb. “Thanks, FareCompare!”
This old British colony offered beautiful vistas of azure water and colorful street scenes (“Sheep and goats on the street”). While the heat and humidity were memorable, so were the people: “The locals were very nice,” said Sergei, and so was the local libation he sampled, Barbados’ famous rum punch. Sergei, an expert photographer, used his Mamiya RZIID to capture hauntingly beautiful images of tiny beachside cottages, palm trees moored in white sand, and the landmark boulder just inside the surf at Bathsheba Beach.
Destination: Yountville, California
Winner: Katrina Witherspoon, Marketing Director
“I took my mom along on my trip to Yountville for a special Mother’s Day Weekend,” said Katrina. “We had an absolutely lovely time.” The charming northern California town is in the heart of Napa Valley so they were not really surprised at the advice they got from a local resident: “Eat great food and drink fine wine,” to which Katrina and her mother responded, “Perfect!” And so was the spa that provided them with exquisite pampering. The only thing wrong with the trip? “Much too short,” said Katrina.
“The ocean was so clear and so blue,” marveled Rhonda who visited Cancun with her husband. Of course, she expected beautiful beaches; what she didn’t count on was the graciousness of the hotel staff at the Fiesta Americana: “They never failed to greet us by name.” The food was excellent too, wherever they stopped. “We dined at La Destileria, Lorenzillo’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.” said Rhonda, and savored every bite, when they weren’t mesmerized by their sultry surroundings. “I’m ready to go back there right now.”