AirWander for your wanderlust: legitimately impressive

It’s reassuring to know that, jaded as I am, every so often, I can still stumble across a service that makes me think: “At last! I’ve waited years for this to exist!” So I’m exceedingly pleased to tell you all about AirWander, a web site built for peripatetic travel junkies like me; one which — at last — allows you to easily search for, and book, multinational flights with multi-day stopovers.

This is admittedly something of a niche market. Most people want to travel straight to their destination. But the truly itchy-footed, like myself, love the notion of spending three days in Nation X on the way to Destination A, and maybe three more days in Nation Y on the way back. Alas, I can tell you from painful experience, most online booking sites are terrible at this sort of thing; they theoretically offer “multi-city” bookings, but their search algorithms either roll over and die before returning any results, or they offer you ludicrously overpriced bookings with byzantine routings only a mileage runner could love.

AirWander is noticeably better. It’s not perfect, of course. Hey, it just launched last month, at TechCrunch Disrupt London. But I can assure you, as an inveterate traveler (I think I’ve been to ~90 nations now? Though as the numbers mount up you realize that both “been to” and “nation” have a surprising number of edge cases) and frequent airfare hunter, they are definitely a step in the right direction from anything that previously existed.

Consider: I’m loosely plotting a trip to Japan sometime this spring. On a whim, I told AirWander to find me an itinerary with a 3-day stopover in Jakarta on the way there, and 3 more days in Hanoi on the way back. It promptly fetched up multiple itineraries for a decent price ($1800.) It wasn’t perfect — for one thing, between time zones, the International Date Line, and connecting flights, I’d actually get only about 36 hours in Jakarta — but it’s a far better aspirational airfare browsing experience than its competitors, which generally insist on knowing precisely when and where you want to fly if you’re planning anything more complex than a round-trip, and then make you tap and type for what feels like ages.

Admittedly, If you do know your exact dates and destinations, I’d still recommend my usual go-to, Kayak. But if you’re just looking for an interesting place, maybe any interesting place, to spend a little while on the way to or from your final destination, AirWander, as its name promises, already seems to be the site to use. And best of all, it’s so young that I feel confident that it will only get better. I look forward to a world where people use it to wander more, just for the sake of wanderlust.

(As a semi-irrelevant personal aside; I’ve been columnizing here for more than five years, and I get something like a dozen PR pitches a day, but this is only the second time I have ever written a piece as a direct result of a cold email pitch. I suppose the moral is: don’t lose all hope, PR people, but don’t harbor much, either.)