Updated May 29th, 2017.
This week we caught up with backpacker-turned-entrepreneurs Ela and Douglas, who are the founders of new travel website Quest Organizer – an easy to use flight search engine that finds the cheapest flights by adding a stopover into your trip, making your flight into a multi-city adventure.
Like all good ideas Quest Organizer was born out of a notion that there was something missing in the travel world. During an eight month backpacking adventure in South America, the couple discovered that the cheapest flights were ones that included a stopover. With time on their side, but little money in their pocket, they took advantage of factoring interesting stopovers into their trip in order to see much more of South America than they’d planned.
When they spoke to other travellers on the road, many of them had no idea that they could save money by booking flights with ‘multiple destinations’. When their travels were over, they decided to help others like them to discover and access this money-saving, adventure-enhancing travel hack! Within a year, the idea became a fully functioning website that helps thousands of travellers to save money and enrich their travels…
We decided to ask the couple a few questions to find out more about their travels in South America and their inspiration to start Quest Organizer:
Tell us about your backpacking experience in South America.
We arrived in Brazil then covered several countries by land: Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia. We were on strict budget so we hitch-hiked, took local buses, slept in a tent, Couchsurfed or found the cheapest hostels.
In Brazil, we hitch-hiked 1100km along the north east coast, stopping at many beautiful beaches, undiscovered by tourists. One highlight was hiking from the small town Corumbau to Caraiva, where all the streets are made of sand and the whole village looks like a beach! And of course – Carnival!
In Peru, we visited many incredible archeological ruins like Choquequirao, on an 8-day hike via the more famous, Machu Picchu. We carried our tents and all our food on our back along zig-zagging trails that seemed to never be flat! It was the most difficult hike I’ve done so far but how rewarding as the majestic Andes surrounded us at every step and the mighty river flowed between the mountains providing epic views during the whole hike. It was also in Peru where Douglas ate guinea pig (local speciality) luckily I’m a vegetarian! (Ela.)
Those are just a few of the highlights of our trip, there are too many to mention!
Was hitch-hiking scary at times?
We didn’t have any bad experience but it’s important to be careful and use common sense.
Also I would highly recommend learning to speak Spanish to communicate with drivers. In some places like Colombia or Brazil hitchhiking was difficult, but other countries like Chile and Argentina are very hitchhiker friendly. During our eight-month trip, we were very lucky as we met some amazing people. In Chile we met a really friendly guy Ronny, who not only gave us a ride, but spent a day showing us amazing places around the area!
What were your lives like before travelling?
I was a Manager for a company in Warsaw, Poland and looking back, leaving was the best decision I ever made – totally worth it! Douglas was working on a startup which was a stock prediction analysis software. (Now of course, he has put this on hold to concentrate on Quest Organizer!) Like me, he is also very happy with his decision to work daily on something that he is passionate about.
Did you plan on returning to ‘normal life’ after your travels?
Our lives already, had taken us to many different places – and we didn’t identify just one place as ‘home’. I grew up in a small town in Poland and Douglas grew up with a third of his childhood in Colorado, Hawaii, and Virginia. As an international couple, our visas dictate that we move every three months to a new country, so we end up living in four new places each year – which is just fine with us right now!
How did your travels in South America inspire you to start Quest Organizer?
During our travels in South America we became an unbeatable team in saving every penny we could, whilst at the same time having valuable experiences. We quickly realised that the biggest items on our budget were transport and accommodation. For accommodation the solution was camping and couchsurfing, and for transport the solution was hitchhiking. We managed to spend on average $16 USD a day per person throughout our entire time in South America!
Flights were the biggest and most expensive challenge and it seemed that all flight search engines offered the same price. From the USA to South America, we flew from San Francisco via Las Vegas and Miami to Rio de Janeiro and this was the first of our combined efforts to find deals through multi booking one-way flights. To consistently keep our flight prices low, we’d add simulated stopovers to every long haul flight and managed to beat the flight search engines every time! Finding those flights manually however, was very time consuming, so our idea was to automate this flight search technique – and Quest Organizer as a concept was born! The rest is history.
Can you give us an example of a flight that you booked the ‘manual’ way that enhanced your journey?
When the time came to leave South America and travel back to the USA we booked three multi-city flights: Bogota to Cancún to Panama City and eventually to Miami. Manually adding Cancún and Panama as extra destinations was a big challenge that took a lot of planning, but saved us a lot of money! These visits also became very memorable and I’m so glad that we added them to our itinerary! Panama was incredible – we did a diving course in Bocas del Toro where we saw beautiful starfish in the ocean and hiked some awesome trails where we spotted a cute baby sloth on a tree!
How can QuestOrganizer help backpackers to save money and have more adventures?
Connecting two one-way flights opens endless possibilities of all sorts of flexible trips! You can combine two non-partnered and low-cost airlines and significantly lower the price of your trip. Even better – as your trip includes a stopover you have a bonus destination to visit during your trip!
Many travellers have no idea that they can often get a free stopover on their trips. Quest Organizer hopes to rectify that. Read more over at South East Asia Backpacker.
Has Quest Organizer been receiving positive feedback so far?
Check out some of these from travel bloggers –
Savoredjourneys: “It’s a brilliant tool, really. You should give it a try, even if you aren’t looking for a stopover. For me the best part of this tool is suggested destinations to visit on your way or return, because it can take hours of digging through flights in order to find these stopover cities. It takes Quest Organizer a split second to tell you exactly where you could go. Extremely handy!”
Techly: “In one of their impressive flight result examples, QuestOrganizer shows a flight from Los Angeles to Paris that would cost more than $1030 USD … on travel search engines like Expedia, Travelocity and Google Flights. … QuestOrganizer brought the cost down to about $830 USD by adding three-day stopovers in Copenhagen and Stockholm.”
What are your future plans for QuestOrganizer?
We want to improve Quest Organizer even further. Our goal is to build a flight search engine that finds the best prices and flights according to preferences of all types of travellers. The passion for this development is from the feeling that we entering a new era of online travel tools where innovation through technology is going to make travel easier and of a greater value. Every flight we book we use Quest Organizer. Our friends and family do too.
Where are your next travel plans?
A backpacking trip in South East Asia… Can you help?
Yes we certainly can! Head on over to southeastasiabackpacker.com!