It doesn’t take much to inspire me to visit most any place – strolling down the travel aisle at the local Barnes & Noble usually does the trick. But what if I have a specific activity in mind (scuba diving)? Despite spending hours and hours looking, I haven’t found a great online source among the many that claim to offer such inspiration.
TripAdvisor, possibly the best-known, is a confusing mess. Sure, there’s some great advice buried in there, but only if you have the patience to parse the sponsored links from the ads from the user-generated content. Use sparingly and only as a way to do deeper research after you’ve decided on a destination.
TravelMuse, a relative newcomer, has a pretty interesting approach. In early September at the DEMOfall08 conference it announced Social Trip Planning. The social aspects are cool – it makes it easy to plan a trip with your friends/family. But what I really love is the fact that you can gather all your research – from the TravelMuse website or any other place on the Web – into one place. You can drag and drop your research into custom itineraries (if you’re a plan-every-second-beforehand kind of person, which I am not). But the killer is this: you can search the site for and use other travelers’ previous research.
Here’s why this is important, other than the obvious time-saving benefit. On any travel site I’ve seen, once it comes time to book your hotel or a tour or whatever, your only choices are the relatively sophisticated, more expensive service providers – ones with a website and “bookable” rooms. What’s a shoestringer to do? In the past, my solution has been to go out and buy the Lonely Planet. TravelMuse lets you create a hyper-customized version of your own Lonely Planet for free….at least it will if/when it really takes off.
Planning is great and all…but don’t you really need to take it with you? Sure, you could print out your itinerary, and all the content from all the links. But that seems wasteful and it’s not really in an easy-to-use, travel-ready format. Stay tuned for Offbeat Guides, which helps to solve this problem.