Planning a major trip with friends and/or family can be like herding cats, especially if you’re widely scattered geographically. Never fear: The social Web is all over it.
It’s that time of year again. The Christmas bills are paid off. Spring break is upon us, summer is just ahead and that income tax return is burning a hole in your passport.
Time to start planning a trip someplace.
Believe it or not, planning trips is one big part of the fun of traveling, especially when the trip includes folks you like to hang out with, anyway.
Or it can be a nightmare.
INFORMATION TIDAL WAVE
The Web promised us access to a flood of information. The promise was kept many times over, to the point that the flood of available data has taken on Biblical proportions…nd nowhere is this more true than in the realm of travel.
Every airline, cruise line, bus line, hotel chain, car rental agency and nearly every travel agent seem to have their own Web site. So you turn to other sites that let you check out multiple airlines, hotels, cruise lines et cetera simultaneously…only to find seemingly a million of them.
Add in all the various travel forums that let travelers post reviews and opinions on this hotel or that resort, and the result is enough to make your head spin.
In three different directions…at once.
It’s bad enough when you have to take all this on by yourself. But when you’re planning a trip in conjunction with others, it can get a lot worse.
I have a couple of friends with whom I sometimes travel, usually for major league baseball around the United States and minor league ball almost anywhere on the planet. One lives about two hours north of me on the West Coast, the other in Connecticut on the other side of the country.
Over the years, we’ve gotten used to coordinating our travel plans via email, from wherever we happen to be in the world, and it’s a snap for us.
For lots of other folks, it’s nowhere near that easy. They have a hard time sharing their ideas, itineraries, opinions, from their various locations around the country or the world.
Even when they try, they have a hard time putting it all together in one place where everyone can see it, respond to it, make changes, all that good stuff so vital in putting together a smooth travel plan.
The result, in the words of an old Paul Newman flick, “is a failure to communicate.” Which often turns what could’ve been a great trip into a hot mess.
This is the 21st century, people. It doesn’t have to be like that.
And organizing all this in a string of emails may not be the most efficient way of doing it anymore.
Never fear, though. As usual, the Web’s got your back.
There are numerous Web sites that not only help you organize your travel plans, but let’s you share and coordinate those plans with others, all online. Itineraries, maps, pics, videos, everything. Here are but a few examples:
Travel planning platforms like these literally you and all your travel partners on the same page — itineraries, travel contacts, all the research you’re all doing separately for your trip, all in the same place where everyone can see it, respond to it, discuss it, modify it.
Result: No confusion, no hurt feelings, no wasted time.
(NOTE: All the sites listed here are presented purely as samples of what’s available. There are plenty more out there. You are your travelmates need to check them out for yourselves and agree on which one(s) to use.)
And none of this even takes into account the growing role that social media are playing in traveling planning.
NETWORKS OF TRAVELERS
That’s right, the 8,000-pound digital gorilla known as social media has already left one of its sizable footprints in travel planning.
And that footprint is growing.
It started with online travel forums that led travelers share information, tips and critiques. Some of them have been around forever. That’s about a decades or more in digital dog years. Others are relative newcomers on the scene, with more arriving all the time:
You can find them broken down by destination, category, type of travel. There’s even a forum for people who like to travel with their dogs.
But all that was just the start.
Take, for example, Hotels.com (which is owned by Expedia, just so you know). They weren’t content with letting you review and book any of thousands of hotels around the world with a few keystrokes and a couple of clicks of a mouse. Oh, no.
They had to go create an app on Facebook that lets traveling FB friends choose a hotel together. It’s called Hotels WithMe.
Indeed, almost any major player in the travel industry who has a site on the Web now seems to have a presence on Facebook or Twitter, as well.
iPad? Are you kidding? Just do an online search of the term “iPad travel apps” or “Android travel apps” or “Blackberry travel apps,” then sit back and embrace the avalanche.
There’s more. Some planning sites were created to help you plot and share your itineraries with your travel mates. Others are designed to share info on your destination, and maybe even help you connect to some of the locals who call it home.
(We recently looked at one of those, called Tripbod. We’ll examine others in future blog posts.)
These days, however, even social media is quietly being eclipsed by something called — and a part of me shudders even to use this term:
So does all this mean yet another round of digital overload? Not if you and your travels buds play your cards right. Find the online trip planning applications that work for you all, agree on the platform to use, then go to it.
You’ll want a well-designed site that easy to use, one that lets you freely share and save your information. If it has its own provisions for backing up your saved trip plans, that’s a plus.
But there’s more to successful trip planning than picking the right online platform…and we’ll get into that tomorrow.