I’ve been planning a solo road trip to see some old friends. Driving south on I-65 from Chicago to Louisville, Nashville, and Mobile, and then across Alabama and Mississippi Gulf coasts — the western half of the Redneck Riviera – then up I-55 to Memphis, and then back home to Chicago. It’s a 2,000-mile loop of humidity and barbecue.
I decided to try some of the new social trip planning web services. My trip itinerary is very loose — no hotel reservations; any time commitments of the am/pm type, as in “I’ll be in Mobile sometime Saturday night”. I’ve had good experiences using social media apps like Untappd and Foodspotting to find good restaurants or beer bars in new cities, but have never used them to plan a whole trip.
The first service I tried was Tripl, but quickly found out it wasn’t a front-end planning tool. It seems more of a back-end trip recap service. Tripl aggregates Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Tripit posts into a “travel story” infograph. It’s an interesting way to keep track of your social network’s travels, but wasn’t what I needed.
I next tried Trippy. It bills itself as the “place for you to collect and share travel ideas” and to “get a ‘friend-sourced’ itinerary”. Seemed like the perfect tool. I struggled with it though, perhaps because it tries to use too many social media concepts. You can follow travel personalities (Anthony Bourdain) or semi-celebrities (Jason Mraz) a la Twitter. You can browse picture tiles of locations and pin them to a board a la Pinterest. Or you can create a trip and search for hotels/restaurants/activities to add to your itinerary. Since I’m not a Pinterest user, the whole board thing confused me; I think in trip itineraries. Once I found the trip planning function, I was good to go.
However, the functionality I really wanted to try — “friend-sourced” itineraries, or at least ideas — was what I quickly turned off because Trippy seemed to post every click to my Facebook feed. As I was clicking away trying to figure out Trippy, my wife yelled from the other room “Who are all these people and places you’re liking?”. I popped over to my Facebook News Feed page. Nothing from Trippy. I scrolled down and clicked on the “Activity Log” link. There was a couple of pages of posts that Trippy had spewed across my feed. I quickly flipped over to “App Settings” and deleted Trippy. Looking at the Trippy account settings, it had checked “Allow trippy to post to my Facebook timeline” by default, but there was nowhere that it described just how chatty it would be.
After this, I decided to go old school. I hit Google with the “Top things to do in…” search phrase, and searched the travel section archives of the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. When I found something interesting, I hit the “Clip to Evernote” button at the top of my Chrome browser and saved the article into my Drive South notebook in Evernote. I didn’t abandon social media completely. I asked for suggestions on Twitter and received back some good suggestion. And my “Top things” searches pointed me to TripAdvisor’s suggestions.
Maybe after a couple more iterations, these apps will be useful. But until then, I’m still clipping articles from newspapers and magazines. The only thing that seems to have changed in two generations of travel planning is replacing my mother’s physical scissors for Evernote’s virtual ones.