Monday, April 28, 2008

Some Travel Planning Tools


OK, so this is not all of the sites covered are are new, though a couple of them are. But I think it is worth visiting and commenting on the more established sites, instead of just covering the newest travel sites here.

Forbes.com has an article on titled "Travel Websites Get Personal" by Wendy Tanaka, which is accompanied by a slide show of Seven Top Sites for Planning Your Vacation. If you hate those slides shows as much as I do, here is a quick list of the seven sites that they list, along with my own comments on each:
  1. Kayak.com - airline, hotel and vacation booking site, often finds the best deals in comparative studies - This is the one that I use the most on this list, though I normally enter it via the multi-site search engines of BookingBuddy.com or OneTime.com.

  2. TripAdvisor.com - massive database of user-generated review, mostly of hotels - I use TripAdvisor occasionally to get information on hotels in places that I am very unfamiliar with. Unfortunately, I find the often conflicting reviews of the same place very confusing!

  3. IgoUgo.com - user reviews of destinations, hotels, restaurants, etc., more like blog entries, now part of Travelocity.com. I used IgoUgo recently to plan daily activities in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was too cheap to buy a guidebook for the short trip that I took there and looked at several sites like IgoUgo for tips on what to do and see, which I then printed out and took with me.

  4. TripIt.com - automatically generates guides for trip itineraries that you enter - I tried this once but found the results too general and diverse and not well suited to my interests. If you are interested in this approach, you might want to try NileGuide.com, which is a new site that also creates a trip itinerary around your destination and interests. It currently only covers selected sites outside the US, but I think that will change over time.

    And there is also Ving.se's Trip Finder (image above), which does the same thing and is a 2008 Webby Award nominee for Travel, along with several other sites listed here. (Note that the the preference scales on Trip Finder are also offered on Tripbase.com, which I reviewed in June 2007.)



  5. VibeAgent.com - and more user reviews, plus a Q&A section, and links to real-life Travel Agents - I have not used this site and looking at it I am not sure that I, personally, would find its features that useful. Others might be different, though.

  6. Farecast.com - airlines and hotels, attempts to forecast future fares for mostly US cities (good luck with that these days of bankrupt airlines and sky-high oil prices!) - They are slowly expanding their forecasting coverages, but it basically does not work for international travel. Even for domestic US, I find the results of limited use as it cannot guarantee a certain future price (though I think there is a way to do that for a price).

  7. InsideTrip.com - airline fares, but with a Trip Quality Score based on lost luggage, on-time departures, legroom, and flight duration - based on what you indicate as important (US only) - This beta site is the newest on the list and I have not used it, though the concept is interesting. Here is a screenshot of its results - the big number is the quality score, the bars on the left are where you adjust your preferences:


When I plan my trips (which I have been doing a lot of lately), I start from a Hubpages.com site that I created called "My Favorite Travel Websites". Here is a screenshot of that site (the photo of me and my daughter in Hawaii is from over 25 years ago):


On this Hubpage I post anything that I think I might use in planning my own personal and professional travels. Do I use everything that is there -- nope, but I might, some day. And even with this fairly comprehensive list, I often seem to find myself using new and different websites every time I plan a new trip. Go figure...



10 comments:

Elliott Ng said...

Great post @alew.

Kayak. I think Kayak + Orbitz is the best combination for comprehensiveness. Sometimes I find better fares via Orbitz (specifically) than Kayak.

TripAdvisor. This is the granddaddy of travel communities. But many of the reviewers are newbies. Invaluable resource. Just wait until you see UpTake which analyzes and organizes all the reviews in the space.

IgoUgo. great for international destinations. Love the spirit of the contributors. Can be a bit spotty in coverage.

TripIt. Nice itinerary too. better for workflow automation than for recommendations.

NileGuide. Nice AJAX sliders. I will look at it more closely soon. Only 5-10 sources of reviews to drive their recommendations.

Ving.se Trip Finder. I cannot figure this out at all!

VibeAgent. I like the user experience, but it is far far removed from where Yahoo Travel Guides and TripAdvisor is in terms of reviews. I think they overpromise in terms of the themes too.

Farecast. Agree. Fun tool for data junkies like me. Sometimes finds better fares than Kayak. But not that different from Kayak in reality.

InsideTrip. I am pretty price and time of day and carrier driven. My company UpTake is kinda like InsideTrip for Hotels and Activities. That's where I think people are more experience driven. But InsideTrip is very interesting and will get more interesting as more competition from niche carriers force everyone to diversify their offerings. SeatGuru is actually what I really love!

Great post. I recently wrote about trip planning tools and will link to this guide the next time I do a roundup myself!

Alan A. Lew said...

Thanks for the input, Elliot. The Ving Trip Planner probably got nominated for the Webby based solely on its flashy interface. I tried it and found it a bit frustrating in that the options for the criteria were a bit too rigid (does every vacation have a beach?), and then once I made my selection there were no destinations suited to me (guess I will just stay at home).

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Hjörtur said...

Great summary, Alan. And great addition Elliott.

I don't want to look like I'm spommenting, but since you asked for suggestions of webtools for travel, I would be interested in seeing www.dohop.com (a client of mine) on your list. They have developed the fastest and most comprehensive flight search engine on the net today with over 50.000 flight connections you won't find elsewhere.

If you could do a comparison of flight search engines, that would be interesting to see.

Cheers
Hjörtur

Alan A. Lew said...

Hi Hjörtur -

WOW - you were not kidding about fast. Dohop.com has the fastest flight search that I have ever seen - impressive!

Cheers
Alan

Ph said...

There is also www.canadaXperience.com
and authentikcanada.com for Travelling to Canada.

editor said...

Troolley (trolley.com) is a new web platform, in beta version for now, suitable for the organisation of travels.
It is based on a simple principle: Choose (where you want to go), Share (your contents) and Go! (and write your diary).
You can arrange new tours using other travellers or specialized operators' tourist routes; and you can also add information, images and videos of the most important places and attractions.
The platform final version will consent to book travels too.
It will be integrated in Facebook and MySpace and its contents will be supplied by YouTube, Fotolog and Flickr.
If you want to invite your friends, they may join the trip by pressing a single button! This is a completely different way to manage small groups of travellers.
Each tour can be public (anyone can join) or private (allowed to a limited number of participants).

Headquarter
Centro Direzionale San Giorgio
Viale Repubblica, 22
Fontane di Villorba - Treviso, i-31020, ITALY
info@intelligencesoftware.it

armbar said...

The best hotels site I find is RoadTripHelper.com.
It is the largest Hotel Database in the world and it plots all of the hotels on a Map. So you can find hotels in a specific area.

It also searches all the travel sites to get you the lowest price.

Alex Shore said...

Also check out TripChill.com for travel assistance after you book your flights. It monitors your itinerary and helps you through problems, plus it allows you to manage your itinerary over text messaging and their mobile browser interface. We just launched our public beta.

tripnburn said...

I was pretty surprised that you selected 7. I would say that there are about 10 groups and in each one - 10 serious contenders. I would also have gone with sites with good traffic. Like it or not, the ones with low traffic will fall by the wayside.

Some good Road Trip Planner sites with decent traffic - TripCart, Uptake, realtravel, Tripwiser and old standbys like LonelyPlanet, Fodors and Frommers.