Oct
09

Travel Advice: One Stop Shop for Trip Planning?

October 09, 2013
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Tony Carne

It is hard to believe that in 2013, when a new technological breakthrough happens every day and new startups are constantly emerging for something that is “broken in travel”, that it is still nigh on impossible to pull all the research elements you want to see for your trip into one place for when you are on the road. It actually drives me batty.

There are plenty of startups trying (and I’m always looking) but because they all rely on the data available to them to supply the information they can show the customer, I haven’t found anything that comes close to satisfying my needs. Maybe I’m too different or niche for someone to provide a solution to, but somehow I don’t think so. Let me me explain how it works with my little family and I’d love to hear from anyone if they have another solution.

We pretty much always know where we want to go in a broad sense, so we don’t need a lot of inspiration at that level. This year, for example, we are going to Japan. To work out a bit of a general route, we will usually look at Intrepid’s site to see where their main itinerary goes as a starting point (we have a two-year-old, otherwise we’d just jump on a trip and that would be the end of the planning process). We contact those we know who’ve been there or lived there for any other must-do’s. In a week we pretty much have the route sorted. For flights we will usually use Adioso or Momondo, as they tend to come up with the best prices and combinations for flights, and I like the way Adioso shows the prices for pretty much the whole month so it is possible to save a couple of hundred dollars by modifying travel dates slightly.

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My wife takes care of accommodation. She truly loves searching through the endless possibilities. It’s not a task for her, it’s a pleasure, so that is how it rolls. She always comes up with a mix of different things. For Japan we have mix of hotels, ryokans, guesthouse with onzen and a monastery to camp in. Kaz will cross reference everything with Trip Advisor and we book direct or sometimes use Room 77 if the hotel is very expensive, because they will use their influence to get upgrades, etc. Sometimes we see a great deal on Travelzoo and snap that up, which is what we’ve done for Osaka this time around.

If it was a business trip, I’d forward all these confirmations through to TripIt so I have all these functional bits in one place, because my days would be full of work and there would be little need to do other research. For dining, etc I’d just ask whomever I was there meeting what their favourite restaurant/food was and go and eat that or jump on one of our food tours.

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As it’s a family trip, we are all doing our own little bits of research we find from friends’ recommendations or Googling or whatever, about things we might want to experience there and herein lies the problem. How do we put all these bits of research into one place so we can access them on our phone when we get there?

Our solution is Pinterest. I’m pretty sure this is not what Pinterest is for but for us it is the easiest way to put down all the tidbits of research into a spot we can see on our phone and if need be take us back to the webpage where the important pieces of information from the research are. My mate Rob sends me a link to restaurant I must go to – Pin it. For my wife’s birthday we are going to a famous tofu restaurant – Pin it. The Ikegami Honmonji O-Eshiki Festival is on when we are there – Pin it. None of these places/events come up in any other planning tool I’ve tried! They offer generic sightseeing which of course we will do a bit of but it is not worth using a specific tool just for that and then have a list of other specific things elsewhere?

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As we follow each other on Pinterest we can invite one another to Pin to a communal board. All the research on the cool stuff ends up here. It gives us specific information but also allows us to be spontaneous. When we get hungry, for example, I’ll go to the post about Tokyo’s top 10 ramen spots and find out which Pin is closest. You can see our board taking shape here. We know we will meet people along the way and they will tell us about other must do/see/eat places and we can continue to add those as we go. We’ll also stumble across some places and we’ll photo and Pin those too. At the end we’ll have a record of our stay, made more valuable by having been able to follow some great recommendations and if someone asks us about our trip for tips – we can just share our board and they can take what they need.

Is there a better way you know of? Let us know in the comments below.

Can we help you plan a trip? We have experts everywhere so it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a mate who used to live there, we are your mate and we have a bona fide expert who lives there now. Just follow us on Pinterest, create a travel board about where you are going (you can use our Destination Images with the city name on the as the cover if you like) and then invite us to Pin. We’d be happy to pop some ideas on there for you.