ChatGPT was released into the wild after Thanksgiving and within a week was heralded as the opening salvo of the AI apocalypse — or at the very least, a cheap replacement for fair-to-middlin’ writers. And so, like many writers, I decided to test out this new competitor. I used a very simple request — write a blog post with the top holiday travel tips.
I noticed a couple of things right away: ChatGPT is a lot faster than me, and it would spit out a slightly different take at the blog post each time I clicked the Try Again button. So I squinted my eyes and mashed together a half-dozen outputs to come up with this “consensus” version of ChatGPT’s top 5 holiday travel tips:
- Plan ahead: The holiday season is a busy time for travel, so it’s important to plan your trip in advance. Book your flights, train tickets, or rental car early to get the best prices and availability. This will not only save you money, but it will also give you peace of mind knowing that everything is taken care of.
- Pack light: Packing light can make your holiday travel much easier. Avoid bringing unnecessary items and focus on packing the essentials. Keep in mind that most airlines have strict weight limits for luggage, and you’ll have to carry your bags to and from the airport or train station. Consider packing items that can serve multiple purposes, such as a scarf that can double as a blanket or a versatile piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down.
- Stay organized: Keep all of your travel documents, such as your passport and boarding passes, organized and easily accessible. This will save you time and stress at the airport. Consider using a travel organizer or wallet to keep everything in one place.
- Be flexible: Flexibility is key when it comes to holiday travel. Be prepared for the unexpected and try to stay flexible. If your flight is delayed or canceled, or if you encounter other unexpected issues, try to remain calm and focus on finding a solution.
- Stay connected: It’s important to stay connected while you’re traveling, especially if you’re traveling internationally. Make sure to keep your family and friends informed of your travel plans and let them know if anything changes. It’s also a good idea to have a plan for staying connected, whether that means purchasing a local SIM card for your phone or using a portable WiFi device.
Verdict? Not bad. Nothing egregiously wrong, but it’s at a basic “Traveler 101” level. There’s nothing that even the occasional traveler, someone taking just a couple of flights a year, wouldn’t already know. To compare AI-generated tips with those generated by 35 years and a few million miles of road warrior experience, here are TravelCommons’ top 5 holiday travel tips:
- Figure out if you want to fly or drive: My normal fly-vs.-drive tipping point is 350 miles; anything less and I’ll drive it. If you fly, expect that all the airport logistics (security, lines, crowds) will add 2 hours to your in-flight time. When you arrive, it could take you another hour to de-plane, collect your luggage, and find your rental car or wait for an Uber. And that’s if there are no flight delays.
- Fly Non-Stop: It’s the cardinal rule of air travel. Holiday travel stacks up problems — high passenger load factors combined with winter weather disruptions almost guarantees late arrivals and missed connections. Even if you’re connecting through a warm-weather airport like Houston, an intermediate stop adds one more point of failure, one more opportunity for the airlines to screw up. Pay the extra $100 for a non-stop flight.
- Catch the Early Flight: Delays stack up as the day wears on. As your airplane goes from airport to airport, the probability of it getting stuck increases. Overnight, airlines have a chance to recover – late planes finally get their destinations and operations groups can reassign planes. A recent TravelCommons’ guest has a different opinion, but I rarely hit a delay on the first flight out.
- Carry On Your Luggage: Unless you’re heading to the slopes for Christmas, everyone in your travel party should be able to fit into a carry-on bag. You can save $25/bag and increase the probability of having clean clothes at your destination. But if for some reason you need to check your bags — maybe you’re bringing pre-wrapped gifts or a special bottle of wine for Christmas dinner — split everyone’s clothes across all the bags. It’s rare for an airline to lose all of your checked bags. This way no one sits down at Christmas dinner in sweats from the nearest Walmart.
- Bring a Battery Pack: It’s tough to travel today without a working mobile phone. It holds our boarding passes, gives us gate change and flight delay notifications, and routes us around traffic jams. A dead phone while flights are being canceled is more than a minor inconvenience. Having that second or third charge immediately available is critical when trying to swerve a long delay.
You be the judge, but I’m feeling pretty good about keeping this unpaid travel blogger gig — at least until ChatGPT gets its next upgrade.