The desire to travel is simple, but the actual process of finding and booking a trip that fits specific time, geographic, and cost preferences can be tough. In fact, a recent study showed that the average American spends 176 hours scrolling through social media for travel inspiration.
“That’s a lot of time people could spend actually traveling,” Alex Simon tells Travel + Leisure. “We want people to close their tabs and open airplane windows — to wander more and worry less.”
So, he and Frankie Scerbo founded the app Elude, which streamlines travel planning as a new budget-first travel search engine. “Often, people don’t know that they can afford to go somewhere incredible because the travel industry encourages them to take the same trips to the places they know over and over again,” Simon, who is also Elude’s CEO, says. “Sometimes, the best memories come when you don’t have a set plan in mind. We want people to think about trips based on budget, not location.”
The duo of avid travelers built the platform, which launches on Aug. 5, to eliminate the struggles they experienced while booking trips during their college days. Paired with the increase of a “work from anywhere” mentality sparked by the pandemic, Elude hopes to inspire getaways catered toward the current realities and disrupt the formula of existing booking engines that put dates and destinations at the forefront of searches.
“Elude is meant to showcase the potential of diverse travel opportunities and making the most out of any desired budget,” Scerbo says, noting that budgets can fall anywhere on the scale. “Whether you want to backpack across Europe, hostel hop around Australia, or experience the vibrant luxury hotel scene of Asia, our community of spontaneous travelers all share the same hunger to see the world.”
One recent search turned up that it was actually cheaper to fly to Spain than have a staycation in the cofounders’ home state of New Jersey. “We strive to open access to global travel for those who never imagined they could afford to fly halfway around the world,” Scerbo says.
While budget is top of mind, it’s not the only preference that can be set, as prompts and questions also help guide travelers to the right travel choices, Simon explains. That includes the basics such as flight timing, airline preference, and hotel class, as well as questions like how reachable travelers would like to be, how much they’d like to mingle, and whether they prefer outdoor or indoor settings. Other customizable options include cravings or hard passes on dining options and a try or skip section on experiences and classes.
The idea quickly attracted a wide range of advisors, including Priceline entrepreneur Jeff Hoffman, former Instagram head of marketing Clifford Hopkins, and Snapchat executive Juan David Borrero.
“For many, travel is something that comes with a lot of overthinking and stress,” Simon says. “In a world that can keep us stagnant, we help more people get out and go. The way people plan their vacations has ultimately changed, and Elude is the go-to platform for people looking to travel in a modern way.”