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If Niagara Falls is on your

If Niagara Falls is on your “bucket list,” Expedia may get you there. Photo from Niagara Falls State Park.

You may have seen the Expedia.com TV commercial in which a man stops random passersby, questions them about their dream trips and inquires, “If you were asked to drop everything right now, would you go?” and suggests that Expedia is ready to buy them a ticket and send them wherever they want — if they go now.

The ad is titled “Find Your Spontaneity,” a teaser for Expedia’s current “Trip A Day Giveaway” promotion.

Some say no, they just couldn’t do it today. But one man, whose dream is going to China, does agree to leave that night — and the next image we see is him standing on the Great Wall, not quite believing his good fortune.

The first thing that bothered me about this ad is that unless the man happened to have a valid Chinese visa in his passport at the time — highly unlikely, to say the least — he’d be in for a rude awakening when he got to the airport and was turned away for his flight.

But OK, let’s chalk that up to artistic license, the mere quibble of a frequent traveler who has spent days waiting for Chinese visas to be approved.

It got me curious, though, about the giveaway. How does it work, exactly? Do Expedia reps really stop random passersby and offer free “bucket list” trips (as the longer, online version of the ad characterizes them) if only the lucky chosen ones will pack up and leave that day?

Putting the visa and other bureaucratic issues aside, it’s a very intriguing, romantic concept. I could see being whisked off to the Greek Isles at a moment’s notice, though my wife and our cats might not exactly purr about it. Or would Expedia spring for Antarctica, my own personal top bucket list destination?

Unfortunately, however, “spontaneity” has very little to do with the actual giveaway. And good luck getting to — and staying for any length of time in — most overseas destinations with the prizes being offered.

In reality, 70 daily prizes of up to $1,200 in travel coupons each are being awarded in random drawings from August 5 to October 13 of this year — if you download Expedia’s new app for mobile phones. And winners have until the end of March, 2014, to redeem them.

But keeping to the “spontaneity” theme, which after all is what hooked me in the first place, I went to Expedia’s website to see what a roundtrip ticket from New York to Beijing would cost me if I were leaving today. The least expensive flight was more than $1,500.

And then there’s the matter of paying for hotels, food, in-country transportation, admission fees…$1,200 (which is certainly better than nothing — don’t get me wrong) really doesn’t go very far these days for “bucket list” trips.

Admittedly, none of the folks pictured in the Expedia commercial are baby boomers. But baby boomers like me will certainly see the ad, and many can be expected to visit the Expedia site to learn more about the giveaway.

Speaking for myself, I’m puzzled as to why Expedia would try to lure people in with such a misleading ad. And I suspect a lot of my fellow boomers will feel the same way.

The giveaway has little to do with spontaneity. The prizes offered won’t go all that far in fulfilling “bucket list” aspirations. And the strong implication that Expedia will make your dream trip come true if only you’ll agree to fly off today just doesn’t hold up.

As a New Yorker, though, I admit it would probably get me a nice vacation in Niagara Falls for a week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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According to government and private surveys:

  • Leading-edge baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1955) and seniors account for four out of every five dollars spent on luxury travel today.
  • Roughly half the consumer spending money in the U.S.--more than $2 trillion--is in the hands of leading-edge baby boomers and seniors.
  • Baby boomers (born 1946-1964) travel more than any other age group.
  • When asked what they would most like to spend their money on, baby boomers answered “travel” more than any other category, including improving their health or finances.

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