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Many travellers find the sheer volume of online booking tools to be overwhelming. So this is the first in a month-long series that highlights a handful of websites that will change the travel game in 2013. We’ll compare these start-ups with established players and detail what improvements they’ll need to win travellers’ hearts.

Unique premise
Launched in August 2012, GetGoing isn’t meant for travellers who have a particular getaway in mind. Instead, the site suggests a few hotspots based on your personal preferences – and your final destination is up to the site.

After supplying your home airport and travel dates and identifying your preferred world region, the site will suggest destinations that match your criteria, listing them in order of the most affordable flight prices. Then, after you’ve chosen your two top locations, entered your payment information and clicked “purchase”, GetGoing reveals which destination you’re going to, by a virtual flip of a coin.

Test case
Say you live in Denver and are looking to fly in mid-April to Central or South America. In a test search, GetGoing recommended a four-night escape to San Jose, Costa Rica as the most compelling destination with the most affordable flights.

The site showed photos of San Jose and a brief rundown of popular local activities, such as snorkelling and zip lining. It also listed the airfares for a few flight itineraries, touting a lowest available fare of $464 a person, and gave users the option to compare airfares for identical itineraries on better known travel websites, such Expedia and Kayak. In this test, GetGoing’s fares were indeed cheaper than rival sites.

The start-up says it negotiates with airlines to find the lowest priced tickets available, often at up to 40% off the prices on airlines’ own websites. Yet tickets are non-refundable, non-changeable and non-transferable – so you have to feel confident you’ll be able to take the trip to either of your final destinations before you commit.

Unlike the name-your-own-price auction service at the US version of Priceline, GetGoing gives you the exact times of your flight in advance. You can even filter the results to exclude inconvenient flight times and limit layovers, though you will likely pay more for your ticket as a result. But unlike the US version of Hotwire, this site won’t tell you which airline you’re flying until you book.

In our test example, the site also recommended dozens of other locales in Central America, such as San Salvador, Panama City and Guatemala City. In general, when a user connects their Facebook account, they can see if any of their friends have visited the suggested locations, assuming that their friends have opted to publicly share the geo-location data on their photos and the list of places they’ve checked into via the social network.

Flaws that need fixing
GetGoing leaves some things to be desired. For instance, it only works for trips originating from US airports, though an international expansion is promised by August 2013.

Despite the site’s claims of always having the lowest price, in our tests, it had an imperfect record when it came to beating competitors’ prices, so you will still have to shop around to feel assured you’re getting the best deal. However if within 24 hours of booking you find a lower price for the same flight itinerary, GetGoing will refund the difference.

There’s another caveat. The site doesn’t sell accommodation, so a flyer risks picking a destination where hotels are expensive – without anticipating that cost. But the company will begin selling flight-plus-lodging packages “in the coming months”, said Robb Henshaw, the vice president of communications.

Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel

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