I see myself on this post. Several years ago we decided to build an amazing trip planning, that allowed you to plan your trip day-by-day. You can see some screenshots on the Chrome extension (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/touristeye-planner...) (not working now). We got over 100k users using it on their trips (not daily users obviously). It was gorgeous, people really loved it, Google really loved it, but the usage was pretty low. Just 5% of our users used it.
So because we were a startup we decided to kill it and we focused on capturing user wishes, and recommending those things for their trips (kind of Google Now for trips and offline). That's what gave us more usage, more income and finally it was one of the reasons of our exit.
So, yes. Trip planning sucks as a business. But all our team remembers it proudly. It was just fucking amazing :)
Congrats on your success with the product though, it's really beautiful!
The problem is generating a consumer willingness to pay. Kayak has a commission on every sale, so their business model is baked in. But a travel planning site will need to get customers to pay extra, in some way, and they're reluctant to do so.
Travel planning is something that people have never paid for directly -- travel agents used to extract their fees invisibly -- so a travel planning company will either need to sell the travel themselves and collect commission like existing travel sites, or create a new market.
The problem with infrequently used sites comes when the pain point is fairly small. Even if that pain is reduced a LOT by the site, down to almost nothing, if the absolute magnitude of the pain of the problem is low enough, it's just not worth it for people to hunt down their vague memories of a site and try it out and see if it's any good and learn its process. They'd rather accept the pain.
About the only thing you can do in travel is find some way to make something essential (housing, transportation) cheaper than it already is. If you can't do that, you're a middleman, and the game of the middleman is competitive and well-defined.
You're totally right that monetization is the next concern though.
This is exactly why this doesn't work. There are tons of things that people do that need fixing, but they do them so rarely that the costs of adopting the new way of doing it are significant when compared to the cost of just doing it the old way.
Said another way, very few people are going to take an hour to learn a new process which would otherwise only take two hours a year to do.
edit: This also is a way that a start-up could go super wrong and not know it until they try to scale. Identified pain point, good solution, engaged users with a real problem use it once and then it drops off completely. Talk about frustrating!
After going through different rounds of evaluating the idea, we came up with the same conclusion that a service/app with 2-3 uses in a year is not a viable app to make money off of.
We followed the first anti-pattern of startup ideas and immediately started thinking about making it a platform (when in doubt abstract away). When we realized that we were pushing too hard to make a fun project a financially viable startup idea, we gave up and eventually moved onto different ideas.
It's a pity that such a commonplace problem is such an unattractive business model at least with the current approaches that come to mind..
- Incentivize employees who share rides from/to hotel/airport traveling on same dates/destinations
- Show dates for destination that maximizes networking opportunities (in between conferences)
- Show locations with wifi in-between meetings
- Locations with ambiance ideal for business discussions
- Expense capture to identify opportunities for deals (employees love Starbucks during business trips, sign up for corporate deals)
For those solving these sorts of problems, you might wanna to check this out - https://developer.concur.com/devcon/PerfectTripFundAwards
What problem is the travel planning software startup solving?
Never have I planned a holiday and thought "I need an app for this." Maybe a better flight booking system, or a better guidebook, but never a website or app. In fact, I find planning holidays enjoyable and fairly straightforward.
I know of no-one who has difficulty planning their holiday, beyond the flight problem. And to make this work, you're going to need a lot of people with the same problem, whatever that problem is.
I ended up going through a human travel agent who planned a wonderful trip at a steep discount to the luxury safari pre-planned trips because she understood what we wanted to pay for (experiences) and what we didn't care about (fancy hotels).
Couple of questions:
Not many people go on six week vacations, right? If you were planning a two week holiday, would you still be faced with so many decisions and complexity? If not, the market you represent would be limited to longer holidays, which may be a very small market.
Second, could an app provide you with a better service than your travel agent? i.e. is this a "problem", or is a "solved problem" because a satisfactory solution exists already?
To me, the most in need of this are gap year travellers i.e. people travelling for a month or more around the world.
Are you satisfied with your current solution, or is there an outstanding problem to be solved?
I agree about gap year travellers. How big is that market? Also, is the problem not already solved by STA Travel and similar companies?
I want a rough plan with bus/train times, hostels shortlisted and other notes about how to make it all work together, then I'll probably change the plan if I stay in a place longer or shorter than expected. I'd like to have record of how much I've spend and will spend too. A lot of people in Europe are interailing, which mean they mostly just book trains and hostels - which seems like a simple use case compared to elsewhere.
Existing solutions in general are basically:
- plan everything before hand e.g. get a bunch of receipts from STA travel before you go.
- book a tour (e.g. g adventures), then everything is organised for you
I don't care, really. I just got back from 5 countries in Europe in 4 weeks. I just... went. I mean, we booked a couple places to stay ahead of time, and I planned my car rentals and bought tickets, but none of that was remotely difficult.
I never once thought "gee, I wish I could... uh.. go to a site.. and ..click things".
That was snarky. But it points to the historical problem here. Most travel agents didn't/don't have a lot of expertise outside of fairly narrow domains. And they mostly depended on commissions from pretty routine stuff to subsidize labor-intensive planning for oddball itineraries--which I'm guessing can't be easily codified in software.
In fact, I'm sure there are plenty of competent travel planners but they cost money--i.e. are luxury goods--and most people don't want to pay the money.
I also sometimes use one myself in specialized circumstances such as when I'm doing a pre-arranged adventure trip of some sort and the company is familiar with logistics and other activities to add-on.
25 years ago when companies like G Adventures, Intrepid etc. started, nobody knew about small group travel, mingling with locals etc. Now that's all the rage for westerners. Bring that idea to markets that are new travel and you've got some opportunity.
We are guaranteeing 3 good proposals for your trip and the best will receive the specified reward (anything from 5-100 dollars).
The struggle we are facing is that we are unable to get a decent amount of traffic because of the really big competitors with deep pockets to acquire this traffic. We're not in the same 'idea space' but we are still in the travel segment. This makes it incredibly hard to compete.
Despite good press, really good customer satisfaction and a business model, the site is struggling. We are now looking to partner up with one of the big brands to 'catch' drop offs from their main site with a service that can retain the customer. Maybe I'm being to optimistic that any big brand will take this chance, but I'm confident that our platform does it job and that it can be a tool to get your drop off rate down ("Didn't find what you were looking for? Let our experts help!)
If anyone can hook me up with the right people to pursue this, I would be very grateful :-).
My interpretation is that the domain is simply too big, and the field of "personas" so varied that finding a critical mass of core users around common use cases is nigh impossible. Even within those identifying as "digital nomads", you have adventure tourists, travel-blog content marketers, $100/hr front-end consultants, cultural commentators, resilience quacks, and so on.
Look at a site like TripAdvisor, which does a great job of aggregating the most basic reviews of restaurants, hotels, etc., and even it contends with enormous problems like data rot, internalization, etc.
I suspect that, if the "long-term travel" community continues to grow, there will emerge specific niches that could reach that critical mass needed for an MVP of a serious travel planning app. For now, trying to parse through google results for "apps for digital nomads" is something like a nightmarish goose chase through an illegible jungle of travel blog shills.
Travel planning software is difficult because there's so much competition and a lot of political forces trying to keep the newcomers out.
When you first hear about a travel planning site, it probably doesn't just happen to coincide with a time you're planning to travel, so best-case scenario is you bookmark it, which just goes into a giant list of bookmarks that you'll never look at again.
And when you need to plan a trip, you'll just go to expedia or hotwire or some other site that's gotten burned in your brain through advertising. Or you'll just google flights. Because that's the simplest thing to do and it comes up with pretty decent prices.
A company is not "truly disruptive" before it's disrupting something. I'll bet there are thousands of apps and services out there that have ideas that could potentially become disruptive if they gained traction. Many, maybe most of these will never go anywhere.
Considering how much money goes into travel (and related mergers/acquisitions - these are real acquisitions and not inflated valuations from 7-8 figure investments), it's definitely not a bad idea though.
But I agree with the OP. Travel planning is a rare luxury, even for the rich. And I don't know what it's like to be rich, but when I find time to travel, I put a loose itinerary together and then improvise most of the way, with occasional lookups on TripAdvisor. There's not really a travel service that can meet the needs of wanderlust.
Selling on eBay or renting a property are highly intentional decisions: trip planning is something that will happen. The trip itself is intentional, but the exact itinerary will vary, and the lack thereof won't prevent the trip from occurring.
On top of that, AirBnB is a marketplace. I would imagine that marketplaces are affected more by supply and demand ownership than daily retention.
Is this a good time investment for you? You have a choice on what you spend your time on. You could install your own plumbing, write your own t's and c's etc. or you could pay someone to do it.
I've just read many comments that show getting traffic is not an issue. Yes it might be more competitive but lots have gotten traffic. The common issue I see is that none of them have been able to generate enough revenues to support themselves, even with good traffic.
My friend came up with this idea. I think it will help many people. The idea is that one put in how much they want to spend and how much time they have. The site will show various travel or activity options that are possible. One can further limit by parameters such as road trip only, out of state destinations, in town activities, etc. Almost like travel agents.
I have been looking for something similar but haven't found it. My friend is a great traveller and he and his wife have run out of places to visit. They just want to explore new places.
On other hand, my wife & I are not so great travellers, we never know where to go. We end up picking top destinations from TripAdvisor, then we find those a bit too expensive or require too much travel time, etc. Sometimes we just want to get out of town and not worry about where we are going.
For now, I have solved this problem for us by creating a spreadsheet, with a list of places we had picked and estimate cost, best travel time, and ideal # of days to spend there. But of course, this is for places we researched and could not afford at the time.
When Myspace was neglected and Livejournal stagnant, a lot of small actors tried to fill the void but there was absolutely no money to be made and I predited them all dead within two years. I was almost completely right.
Eventually, the realization was the same problem as most people have mentioned, retention. So then comes the weekend planner. Miniature trips or adventures for weekends or long weekends are much more common, spontaneous and way easier to make decisions. Google Now already offers suggestions of events and places to be during the weekend based off Geo and whatnot, just have to take it a step further.
The big problem in travel is competence. It makes user (re) acquisition REALLY expensive and probably, as a startup, you can't afford it (an this mixed with no actual retention is painful). And why is it so expensive: because you cant compete with advertising, SEM or even SEO with big players out there with a LTV that multiplies yours by 10x. And actually, do a better job than you when we are talking about user satisfaction.
Airlines, big online travel agencies are really good at this and pay for a) Long tail SEM, b) content for being top SEO. Remember, Online Travel Agencies are technology companies with big resources. They are extremely good at SEO, at loyalty, at landing page optimization, at design, at customer service... their life is on it.
Think about this scenario:
User searches at google for "traveling to Vienna" (or even "travel planning vienna").
You know two things about that user:
1) He wants to plan his trip to Vienna (75% true)
2) He is going to buy cheap tickets to Vienna (95% true).
Big OTAs or Airlines know this, and what they do? They fake they are travel planners doing better (expensive) SEO than you as they know that user is going to buy the ticket at their site (that's 2$ per visit revenue)... because they do that extremely good. If they fail noone cares: User wont remember and at least they had brand awareness for their plane tickets.
Anyway, i think the problem is much simpler and applies at every industry: if you don't have a great retention (and this can be something not under your control, e.g. because what you are selling is needed twice a year) you have to be really good at user acquisition. And being good at user acquisition at a not-niche sector is extremely hard, no matter how good your product is. Probably you will have to focus first on what's your hack on getting users instead of at having a good product. Sad but true.
I've been reviewing Alexa's top travel sites for years hoping something changes... and its pretty discouraging: only 1 of top 25 sites not a ticket-seller: Tripadvisor (2nd). 4 in top 50, and all of them are super seo sites.
Google has been punishing not content sites for years, even being the best solutions. We've seen a lot of amazing ajax tools for almost every problem we could figure out... but if they were not seo compatible, everyone forgets them. I hope this changes in the future, e.g. mobile apps have another search scenario.
Interesting about the only non-ticket seller being Tripadvisor, I didn't realise it was that skewed toward trips sales.
Being able to use the context of peoples existing plans and calendar/schedules to provide automated concierge type suggestions of what would suit them best in terms of travel (e.g flights, hotels etc)
Focused on B2B travel rather than vacations though for reasons others have put very well in here :)
To begin with though, we want to solve the problems inherent in calendaring/scheduling in the first place, and then build a technology platform from there that people can use to add context and automation to all sorts of use cases, travel being one of them.
Anyone interested in what we are doing would really appreciate feedback, good or bad :)
I think this is a good strategy since even a small population of traveling power-users who are keen on sharing their experiences can generate a lot of content and value for your site.
Here, that's a reason for having very low trust for travel planers. They want to bring you sideways. You're the product.
Once someone creates a self-hosted, WordPress-like, trip sharing software, I'd be all over it. Like my blog, I'd like to know that my time spent writing and uploading photos is going to last longer than the typical lifespan of a startup.
Based on what you said, you seem like the user we would target. Any feedback would be brilliant!
It's more about the "how" than the "what". If you have a general idea about what you want to do the trip planners give you unbiased advice on how to do it and save you maybe 3 or 4 weekends of trip planning
IMO, the key issues to cracking this space (and these are beyond building a great product that people will find useful which is crazy hard anyway!):
1. Getting new users from free channels/biz dev
2. Getting new users from free channels/biz dev
3. Getting new users from free channels/biz dev
Most startups look at user acquisition as a secondary consideration to the product. In the travel space, it has to be atleast an equal priority, if not an even higher one. You HAVE TO figure out how to hack user acquisition from free (or very cost effective) channels or you will fail. The sooner you start thinking about that the better.
4. Making money. If you can acquire millions of users, this becomes significantly easier.
5. Breadth/size of the space. This is a huge space with tons of variables and different personas. You have to figure out a way to make this work to your advantage. For example, most travel startups, being based in the US, seem to think that users only exist in the US. There are millions of users, especially in fast growing developing countries, who are pretty much being ignored. Another example - if you can figure out how to service the whole space well (and I know thats a BIG if), then at any given time you are going to be catering to some kind of user (increasing your likelihood of reaching millions) unlike a niche service that requires to scale based on a very specific user persona
If you can keep acquiring new users cost effectively and delighting them with your product, you will succeed in the travel space. Most startups cant do this and thats why they fail. they dont fail because of the frequency of need or name recall.
1. The problem exists ( and is a genuine problem that quite a few people care about! ).
2. A good solution has not been found yet. ( also kind of good for you! ).
Apart from this, it also gives you a lot of information about the industry. Especially the discussions that are happening here. So, why dont you consider this a loooot of great feedback and go back to the drawing boards and go disrupt this industry ?
Don't get discouraged by a guy explaining why it can't work according to its theory.
20% retention is neither good nor bad. There are a lot of businesses that survive on one or two events a year. If you are in the business of selling metrics software (like his friend at MixPanel), you probably want people to come every day.
The "I don't have room in my brain" argument is just silly. I can open my refrigerator and see hundreds of different brands. There are millions of websites, of all kinds! Should we stop building websites because there are a lot of them and it's harder to differentiate?
It's pretty hard to swallow this kind of advice from a guy who founded a blogging platform in 2008, 5 years after blogger.
Anyway, as our man PG likes to say, just go make something useful. The rest will take care of itself.
As depressing as it sounds, there's little point in continuing product development without solid validation. Its a problem I ran into at my previous startup - a good product, but just not needed by enough people.
Way too many travel planning softwares try aggregating resources from across the internet, just posting it in varied forms. But they don't really give me the confidence that it's the cheapest and the best place I can be at. Moreover, when you look carefully at them, they skimp the details -- the prices and timings are usually way off. To top, if they try to put a fees on top of the original price, it adds to the cost without actually providing any ease. So I still have to resort to going to the original source of the content or just doing my own research. Also, many of the travel planning softwares overlook the fact that motivating people to go for a new trip is a huge challenge. It's also interesting to note that the blogpost was written over 2 years ago and is still true.
People in America don't plan travel often enough.
If that was the reason, then almost any travel startup is non-worthy. This is definitely a problem, but it's more to do with the difficulty of ranking a travel planning site in Google which is where people who don't travel often usually begin their planning. This is why SEO is so critical to any travel website.
It also conveniently ignores the rest of the world as a market. People outside the US do in fact travel far more often and more elaborately and ignoring them in the equation just boggles my mind.
Disclosure: I'm also one of these people who acted on this bad idea of creating a travel planner: http://www.travellerspoint.com/planner/
My experience from this is that people do have very different expectations of how a travel planning tool should work. So the earlier comment that it faces the same challenges as to-do apps, etc.. rings very true to me.
When I'm travel planning, I like to somewhat explore the destination (like reading a guide book) and think about what to do, where to stay etc -- rather than being immediately shown a list of hotels & airfares.
What I do see a market for are the tools which sit in the middle and enhance your ability to plan once your in a location. Tools like:
- flight management
- hotel booking management
- local knowledge resources
- tools for connecting with locals
- language tools
A lot of these are already available in various forms through dedicated applications. I use kayak, hostel bookers, app in the air, wiki travel plus local subway and language apps. Whether there could be an advantage to it all being in one place I'm not sure but the tools on their own seem to do pretty well once you've put together your toolset.
Reading this article made me think back to some of the challenges I had initially with customer development. People were always interested in the idea, but everyone seemed to want to use it differently. It was a real challenge to come up with something that would be useful and satisfying for most customers.
Along the way, some people tried to talk me out of it, saying that the app should be more like location exploration, because people don't travel alot. My response was that while everyone doesn't travel often, there is always someone who is planning a trip. I don't think the frequency of travel is the issue--it's the logistics of it.
Enough of waxing nostalgic, I think I'll get my packages and libraries up-to-date and get back moving on my idea.
a) We created an elegant solution to free. That is always a bad idea
b) User acquisition is extremely hard without spending tons of money
c) Even though the users love the product, the fact that they would only use it couple of times a year means that you need to have lots of users, which circles back to the previous point
It sucks because the travel space really needs quality apps and I would like to believe that there is a way around all the issues for startups. But the fact remains that it is a bad idea for most people.
I believe that there is probably an opportunity to build these services that have never worked in the desktop world but can work in the mobile world.
Travel planning has other problems (e.g. all the money is in bookings and not itinerary creation). Hotel bookings are super profitable - and hence expedia can spend > $1B per annum on adwords to re-acquire customers.
The acquisition/reacquisition and learning to use some specific software paradigm is a legit difficulty. Something that works for a hotel concierge using it daily may not work for an occasional traveler.
OTOH, I think that ultimately "travel planning" or something to that effect is not impossible, just difficult. Review sites like Yelp are great for finding something that is popular but not terrible on average, but I have gotten far more mileage out of guide books where the author seemed to have tastes that I enjoyed. Usually I don't have one, but.. There is still a ways to go.
It would be facetious to seriously suggest some solution because obviously these things need to be banged out in the real world, but I can imagine all sorts of things that might work. How about you enter the location of your accommodation, tick a few boxes for your budget and travel modes (walking, taxis) and it spits out a decent guidebook chapter. Local walking maps, restaurants, bars, local gigs for this evening. Some explanations about local tipping norms, buying train tickets and maybe a one page phrasebook. Give me an app where I can push a button to do this from a Cafe's wifi and I'll at least give it a try. If I can print it out, I might.
Maybe a person could be in charge of a city or part of one. Maybe not. I dunno. The idea that good ideas and execution can't penetrate this industry doesn't sound convincing to me. I have no doubt that its hard but I also wouldn't be surprised to see startups take off that really nail informational based stuff for travelers.
One upside that the commercial realities of this industry can offers is a multitude of opportunities to make money from having a userbase . IE, if you have 1,000 active users in a city on any given day, that's enough to make something.
In fact, I think it's something that's accessible for people to have a go at. Even authoring a local guidebook for your city (provided it is not New York or somesuch, in this case, pick an area). Keep sections up to date with weekly info and release it as an evoke, app or whatever.
Information is still what the traveller needs, IMO.
I'm planning a road trip. And I have been actively searching for a "road trip planner" site.
Whatever Yahoo had at the link he mentioned apparently is gone; it just goes to the Yahoo Travel page.
And everything else I found was complete garbage. "Wrap a Google Maps Directions page with something to put pins in the map near the route for certain categories of attractions" is as far as any of them went.
I don't know what Yahoo's "Trip Planner" was about, but given the overall lack of ANYTHING like a decent road trip planner available, I'd have to guess that it also sucked. Otherwise some of the competing sites would have stolen at least SOME of the obvious features.
What was missing, you ask?
1. Some way to tally up a list of interesting sites. Showing me sites along a route is only about 20% of the way to being interesting; before these sites I could Google cities on the way to find destinations to visit. Actually providing more value than Google already provides is critical.
2. A way to print out area maps and contact details for each of the interesting sites.
3. A way to sort the sites and travel details by day (I'm planning a multi-day road trip).
This is for the MVP, and shouldn't take a competent developer more than a week working with Google APIs or equivalent. A good developer should be able to crank this out in a day or two. I'm tempted just so I can use the functionality to plan my trip!
I have to assume that the dozen or more sites that I looked at were made by people thinking "I'll make a road trip planner!", but who had never taken a road trip. Or who were copy-and-paste developers who could figure out just enough of the APIs to get a basic Google Directions view going, but more complexity was beyond them.
Bonus features (post MVP):
* List the cities at both ends of the road trip and the KINDS of places you might like to visit, and suggest various route options along with the unique stops you could make on the way.
* After you list the places you want to go and how many hours you want to spend at each, plan the driving stops and an optimized order of visiting the destinations. "Day 3: Get up, go to X restaurant near your hotel, drive 2 hours to Y museum, lunch at Z restaurant, then spend 3 hours at the museum across the street..."
* Include AirBNB locations on the map in addition to hotels, but ONLY show both near the end of a day's drive (corollary: give it a range of how many hours you want to be driving per day).
* Let me put in preference categories of food, and after planning a route, look for restaurants near where we'll be at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Double-plus bonus: Only recommend restaurants that are open at the time I'll be there. (Yes, Google does have a first approximation of this information, though it's often spotty.)
* Let me (easily!) blacklist specific businesses or chains. I hate calling up a map with that shows 15 restaurants in an area, and where I would only ever go to 2 of them, and having to click on all the dots until I find the right ones. Google Maps needs this feature!
* Let me filter attractions that get terrible reviews, so they don't clutter up my map -- and pull in reviews from Google AND TripAdvisor (assuming they let you?) and other sites. In some small towns, you might have one review on Google and one more on TripAdvisor -- if there are a ton on both it doesn't matter, but if there are only a few, even one more can be relevant.
Is this a good business plan? Heck if I know. I only know that I really want a site that does all of this right now (or at least points 1-3). And I sure-as-heck would remember a site like that and find it again when I took my next road trip. Bookmarks are magic ways to supplement your memory. No idea how many people still do road trips, though. Maybe more would if they had the right tools, and knew what awesome places can be found in the middle of nowhere, then it would be more popular?
I assume you're not a developer?
I'm not asking for restaurant menus; the restaurants ARE categorized in Google Maps already.
I know exactly what data is available, and how I'd code it. I just don't have the time.
My first reaction was "you'd have to explain some things are easy cause there's libraries/tech that does that". I guess the real explanation is " countless hours and dollars spent by others who came before us make this easy...".
Would probably take me 3-4 solid days to get to MVP, maybe even the full first week, given that I'd be slowed down by the learning curve. But I'm also very busy (see: "I'm an awesome developer").
It's also about five hours of work to just do it the boring way by hand. An 8-12 year amortization of a project that people have argued eloquently is a total waste of time as a start-up? Why wouldn't I work on something I cared more about, instead?
So what did you end up doing for your roadtrip? Did you find a tool or did you just do it on your own? I'd be curious to see what you ended up using.
It's not going to help you plan but if you'd like to blog about your road trip when you're on the road, take a look at my attempt to build a "micro blogging" website. Each day, you're only allowed to write 250 characters and attach a single photo:
It's free to use, feedback welcome. I wrote the site for my little road trip because I was so unhappy with everything else out there. The idea being that a character and photo limit forced you to be concise (much appreciated by friends and family), making it easier to maintain and look back on. Here's our trip (we were lucky enough to get some air time on the BBC world news):
just signed up, i'll give it a shot for my upcoming trip, few points from the sign up process:
- Dates seem to be American Format (this is fine but at least indicate it in the placeholder text)
- I have no idea what a marker is, perhaps explain it or even let people know it can be blank!
I'm going to sign up and give it a try. Thanks!
How often do you take road trips like this one? More than once a year? Monthly? Weekly? If you can convince me that there is a large addressable market full of people who take weekly or monthly road trips, I'll grant you that someone needs to spend some cycles making a better road trip app.
Now, this isn't to say that it's not a real problem. Clearly it is. Case in point: you're taking a road trip, and the apps you've looked through suck. You'd love something better. As would others. Fair. So perhaps the ideal solution here is for someone to make a better road trip planning app on the side, as a hobby. It's probably not a big enough market to warrant a startup. The use case is too specific and too infrequent to build a viable, fast-growing business model around.
AAA apparently has a road trip planner that's only available to members. That's one business model. :)
TripAdvisor could offer something to help promote their site. As I said above, a strong developer could crank out something better than most existing alternatives with a small time commitment.
A hobby app might be the right speed. Some suggestions I got above might end up being "good enough", though.
I don't want a library of guide books to be taking up space in the trunk.
edit: There is even a bigger problem with your site, the prices do not match even close, see "kotimaailma" - the actual price is not even close to the price you display.
edit2: Or is the price per night? Not the whole stay?
There's also the question of fees, and we haven't handled that as well as we need to. For example, Airbnb adds fees on during checkout that aren't included in their landing pages. When we include those fees, which we do right now, it looks like our prices are too high. But we keep them there anyway so that there is a fair comparison with other accommodations options.
After I wrote the above I also found https://www.myscenicdrives.com -- which makes it almost to the MVP level, though it's very clunky to use.
A trend that I've noticed is that many people don't put much effort in trip planning. Their workflow is basically read travel blogs, talk to friends, pick a couple of big points of interest, book a place that seems nearby to some things, and rely on mobile internet/concierge/locals for everything else. And maybe aside from finding the best place to stay, I haven't seen people consider the other steps to be pain points.
Heck I've done the equivalent of screen scraping by visiting tripadvisor and lonely planet thorntree forums and even that was not enough.
I tried a new site called triptips.com and found they had good balance of human intervention from locals to simplify the hardest part of travel planning.
Its relatively easy to book a flight or hotel or air bnb. The hard part I've always found is determining which hotel makes sense given what i want to do at the destination. should i rent a car and so on..
So I too don't think the seasonal argument holds up, it's just about quality and marketing.
"26 cities available for the United States" ? I'm not visiting some big famous city by air; I'm going on a road trip. Looking at the list, I'm going to be at two of them, but I'm also going to travel through New Orleans, Kansas City, Springfield, MO, Memphis, TN, and about 100 smaller towns on the way. The point isn't to get to (e.g.) Orlando ASAP, it's to have fun on the way.
Regardless, if I have to list each town individually, the site is almost worthless, because I can instead just Google the destinations myself. It looks like I can accumulate lists of destinations IN a town, but for anyone who's traveling by car, a travel site that only shows the most famous attractions in a small number of big cities is doing no one a favor.
Have been a dormant user of Ycombinator for some time. I have been researching on this topic for the last 4-5 years. To be really honest I think TripHobo.com does not fit SomeCallMeTim's use case. I think Roadtrippers.com may fit the bill. Having said that, I am a big fan of TripHobo.com. I have seen the portal evolve for sometime and I see it as the closest solution to fixing travel planning
I have my reasons here:
1) The only source which gives you draft itineraries created by other users. This is immensely useful as i can see what other are planning to my destination. I planned a trip to Rome using TripHobo.com and i find it immensely useful..
2) If you hit Plan my trip button, the TripPlanning functionality is awesome. You can add almost all attractions in a city to your trip plan and you can hit the optimize button, you get an automated route planned. What TripHobo claims is that the route plans generated are not only optimized for distance but also for opening and closing times of attractions. I think this is really cool.
No one does it so easily.. not even google!
3) The ease of usage: This is the most easy to use portal for trip planning.
I think there is only one limitation as SomeCallMeTim pointed out..
Limited number of cities .. I counted the number of cities manually in August last year, i could find 171 cities to which i could plan trips to. I counted again on 5th october 2014 and i found that there were 243 cities. Today i saw that they have changed their interface to a search bar and hence I am not able to determine how many cities are enabled on Triphobo.com.. If they go on increasing the number of cities to which one can plan his/her trip to say 3000-4000 cities around the world.. i think TripHobo.com will have fixed travel planning for sure. My 2 cents!
I am also tracking folks like roadtrippers, mygola and tripomatic. To me these (along with TripHobo) are the leading 4 travel planning players today. MyGola has been a disappointment..Tripomatic is difficult to use..Roadtrippers and TripHobo are i think getting some serious traction .. Roadtrippers has primary focus on roadtrips whereas TripHobo is a holistic leisure travel solution if they are able to scale their content..
My girlfriend insisted for years on how great Triple-A was and wouldn't take any of my suggested routes (I live for road trips, I've driven all over North America). Triple-A routed her from South Dakota to North Carolina via every toll-road and congested interstate there was (Chicago, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh). I said drive down to St. Louis and enjoy a toll-free drive through the Kentucky and West Virginian countryside. She went with Triple-A's route on the way out and spent who knows how much money on tolls just to sit in Chicago's traffic. Took my route back and got a beautiful ride through Appalachians in the fall.
I'm co-founder at https://www.wanderant.com. We started off with similar frustrations on planning trips. All the information you could ever want is online - and for free - so we should better off than where we were when you'd just buy a Lonely Planet book. But that's not the case, I think it's actually gotten harder - partly because there's so much info, and so many options.
We're a year+ into it, and have been iterating multiple times on an MVP. It's a big problem to solve, so 'minimal' is a bit high - plus it's a different minimal for every traveler you meet (e.g. comment here on "an option for children" which is absolutely critical for some).
Here are some things we've learned along the way:
* Top 3 things people need / want that haven't been solved:
- Local expertise - esp when traveling abroad - what is the local yelp / gothamist / etc?
- Help with logistics - mostly around how to get from A to B - Rome2Rio is a great help in that regard, still takes a lot of work for planning an entire trip though
- A way to manage a plan in one place - instead of email /bookmarks / excel
* Some of the challenges we've encountered:
a- Making a product that's easy to use - If you're only solving one step (e.g., online booking), it's easier to create a workflow that makes sense. I love examples like how hipmunk have simplified UX for booking flights. We are building towards a workflow that lets you keep your entire plan in one place - ideas, map, notes, reservations,... and finding a UX to make that easy is a lot of work.
b- Getting to a product that really adds value to planning- We want a tool that simplifies the process of planning. However, we clearly can't start with a product that does everything you need for a trip. Even in the near future, our product will continue to be an incomplete solution. So paradoxically, by being an additive tool in the process, we've successfully worked against making it simpler :)
We have to make up for that by really adding a lot of value and saving time fr the user- and getting to that point is also a lot of work
c- Marketing is hard - others have mentioned the challenge of facing giants in the space- I'd like to offer another piece- which is reaching trip planners at the right time. Only a small % of people we reach are in the process of planning a trip. Then if they are, we most likely don't yet offer very rich content for where they're going - because currently our higher-quality content is still nascent. So that makes finding the right users hard. Any help here is appreciated btw - if you know someone who could use this send them along :)
* Why we're continuing
- Times like this, when we see someone get passionate about how much they wish this existed or how they can't believe it hasn't been done before. We feel the same :)
- While it's a hard problem to solve, and there's a lot of challenges we already know of and more we don't yet - it is a really interesting problem to think about and try to crack.
- More than all, we love to travel to new places and explore the world. If we can share that experience and make it easier for a few others, we'd be ever so pleased.
I just discovered Rome2Rio on this thread and it seems useful for things like whether I can take a train from A to B or whether flying makes more sense.
I use Tripit for much of my organization but it obviously only captures some things and it's format for displaying a whole trip is moderately awful.
Biggest concern with Google's business model initially was that they are "just a search engine" meaning they don't get as many page-views as portals. However Google managed to make more money than portals because ultimately they provided more value to the adviser (less impressions, but more targeted). At the end of the day, Google's service was intrinsically valuable - if they charged an annual fee to access the search engine, lots of people would pay up. The business model extracted that value, albeit in a different fashion.
You can't monetise trip planning with advertising indeed because there aren't enough users to make that model work. But if it's a valuable service - you should be able to charge a small fee for it. "We'll help you plan your trip for $10. Or $20 if you want us to put in some human effort". Given that it takes X hours to plan a trip, and a user's average wage is $Y per hour, some number should make sense. And of course the service would generate leads and other commissions.
Would anyone pay $10 for a service that planned a trip for them? I'm afraid not many people would, which means it's just not as valuable as people believe it is.
Up-market travel agencies plan trips for wealthy clients for free - there's plenty of commissions to go around - so that model works. Trip planning "software" however doesn't seem to provide enough value in its current form, but that doesn't mean it isn't feasible. If someone booked my flights, hotels, restaurants, tours, sight-seeing, theatres etc for a 2-week journey for me, they'd probably have a decent revenue stream from commissions alone (hotels pay 15%). Hell, I know a guy that plans trips for high-net-worth individuals and takes 10% of everything they spend.
I think the problem is that too many startups are afraid of the human element involved - having people make recommendations doesn't scale - they say. However a semi-automated approach, that gave you a real PA / concierge service throughout your trip would actually provide sufficient value imo. I know many wealthy people that would pay significant sums to have the whole thing planned (and booked!) for them in advance. Monopolise the up-market niche of VIP travel planning, before going mass market and you have a shot at a profitable business.
Yahoo is good at one thing slapping ads on content and making loads of money from it. Everything else they need to stop doing.
That's because America is one of the very few 1st world countries without mandatory holiday time. 25 days of paid holidays + unlimited sick leave here in the EU are the required minimum by law.
I'm a (regrettable) example of this. I get 22 days off a year, and maybe take off half of that. I've usually accrued the max vacation we are allowed, so it just goes to waste each pay period. It's ridiculous, but its not caused by anyone but me.
Sorry to be annoying about this, but in EU if you don't use your vacation time you have to be paid for it, at full rate. So it never really goes to waste, even if you willingly decide not to use it.
However, one trend I've noticed with travel review site TripAdvisor (which has been around for 15 years) is it's becoming a Yelp alternative. In that sense, it gets more of the regular activity that the OP referenced.
In the internet startup world, there is an invisible food chain, whatever "higher" models will eventually "eat" "lower" models.
A travel planner, with low frequency, no real pain, doesn't stand very high on the food chain.
This was in Germany and a few years ago, though. With only tech people. Not a bad demographic, but there's probably a reason it got canned.
But it cracked OP's issue of needing daily use so you remember the service. I would check Dopplr to see which of my friends were coming to London -- that's much more frequent than me travelling, to the tune of travel_frequency * friends / cities. It was useful, and I still miss Dopplr today.
> everyone has the problem of not spending enough quality time with friends and family. Travel is the best and most meaningful way to do that.
Travel is an acceptable means to making it possible to achieve the end goal of spending time with friends and family, especially when separated by great distances. However as a means of directly spending time with one another travel is the most time-consuming and stressful way to do that; especially when you mix the ambiguity of squishy human sentiments with a rigid travel schedule.
And this is probably why nobody really gives a damn to use such things.
A context for spending time together is (to generalize) a pretty good way of maintaining relationships, relaxing and having fun. You might have a friend, parent or child with whom you occasionally go fishing, hunting, bird spotting or whatnot. You might have an old army friend you meet every few years for something else. You might have a cousin you meet for a run once a week. Whatever the specifics, context for spending time together between people works in many cases.
Travel is a good context. It's accessible, easy to arrange and works for a lot of people you might want to catch up with.
As if they really have a choice in the matter.