Online travel planners research. Part 4. Underdogs

Pavel Nosikov
9 min readJul 9, 2019

Table of Contents

Part 1. Inspirock + its official response with my comments
Part 2.
TripHobo
Part 3.
Fancy apps: Sygic Travel, Blink (Tinder for Sightseeing), Google Trips (then: Google Travel)
Part 4. Underdogs of online travel planning: Roadtrippers, Tripplannera, TripFactory
Part 5.
Utrip: the two-headed monster
Part 6.
Timescenery
Part 7.
Overall conclusion

This part contains the research of 3 services that are worth paying less attention to than Inspirock, TripHobo, Google Trips or Utrip. One of them is dedicated solely to road trips, one is a B2B service for travel agents and one is a spin-off of an online travel portal.

4.1. Roadtrippers

Founded: 2011
Social following: 440K on Facebook, 75K on Instagram, 147K on Pinterest
TrustScore: 7.4/10; 1 review

4.1.1. TL;DR

Broadness of possible request - 0/2
Quality of suggestions - 3/5
Quantity of suggestions - 1/3
Real use of preferences - 0/3
Routing and transportation - 3/5
Eating out - 1/3
Absence of other bugs (duplicates, etc.) - 2/5
Variety of free functions - 1/2
UX (predictability, smoothness, etc.) - 1/5
TOTAL - 36,4% good

Why did I call underdogs a 8-year old company with large social following on different platforms?

First of all, because this service is dedicated solely to road trips and you probably won’t think to consider it for trips without driving. Secondly, its powerful features are hidden deep within and one time was not enough for me to discover them. Only giving Roadtrippers a second chance I realized it’s even better than previously researched services in some aspects.

Initially, I was discouraged because you can’t plan a stay with it. When I entered the same destination as a starting point, the output was nothing: o miles, 0 hours 0 minutes. With no suggestions, I had to add places of interest myself.

Pardon my Russian. 2 different writing systems mixed at a single map definitely look messy but I failed to find the language setting here.

But when I did it — here was the magic. The service rearranges places for better sequence and the route was updated with every added attraction (I couldn’t say it is definitely an advantage because it took time for every added attraction). The sequence was mostly (but not always) perfect (see the example below).

I first thought it is impossible to use Roadtrippers to get the best route for your attractions within one city but then found a way. You should use a “Make round trip” option (or enter the place of stay manually two times and set it as a starting point and a destination). But the base of places to stay is limited, entering a random address is not supported and thus it is possible you won’t be able to find your place. And as the service is dedicated to road trips, there is no pedestrian routes or public transport. This can be confusing in city centers overwhelmed with attractions (as we have already seen in Part 1).

To create a multiple-day itinerary you should enter the place of stay some more times. Your routes will be geographically good but unbalancedbecause the duration of stay is not supported and thus one day can turn out to be overwhelmed while another one — underloaded. And more importantly — the plan can include only 7 locations without payment (starting and ending points included). Otherwise, you have to pay $30 for a year, no free trial is offered.

Another interesting feature is the map with filters for places:

  • You not only can use categorized lists of attractions but also apply these filters to the map.
  • These filters are multi-level: you not only can choose among attractions and food&drink but also among museums and vegetarian&health food or children’s attractions and coffee&tea. But the list for eating out is really narrow or empty at all.
  • You can choose several sub-categories to show at the map, e.g. museums, winter attractions, bars&drinks, and burgers&BBQ. There are several layers at the map, the places of the primary layer are shown with brighter foreground and background colors, and their names are on the top. The list at the left also displays places from the primary layer.
Names of museums are written in black, names of other places — in grey. It is shown that there are currently 3 layers of places on the map. If you change the layer museums will become pale and places of that layer — bright.

The system is sophisticated and not so easy to discover, but when you manage to get to know it — it is really powerful. I would like to see something similar at services that are more suitable for itinerary building.

All in all, I have already listed some disadvantages of Roadtrippers and here I would like to add some more:

  • The base of places lacks standardization and doesn’t really look curated. Names of places are in different languages (at the screenshot above you see at least 3) and there even is an object with only 1 antique picture and no reviews. It has been destroyed 85 years ago. But somehow it found the way to get to the map.
  • Roadtripper’s categorization is not excellent. For example, Novospassky Monastery in the subcategory of Museums. There are museums within churches and monasteries, but not in this case: it is only a monastery with monks living there. And for religious buildings, there is not separate subcategory at all.
  • The service is not so convenient to use even for one destination, for a trip with multiple destinations it will be even less convenient (unless you plan to drive from one to another). You would have to create separate trips for every destination.

Conclusion: the service is not really convenient for making itineraries if you are not driving and to enjoy its features for the full you have to pay. It also lacks some basic features present at other itinerary planners. But it anyway has the best routing of trip planners (that also rearranges places) and a progressive system for browsing places on the map.

4.2. Tripplannera

Founded: 2016
Social following: 2K on Facebook
TrustScore: N/A

4.2.1. TL;DR

Broadness of possible request - 0/2
Quality of suggestions - N/A
Quantity of suggestions - 1/3
Real use of preferences - 0/3
Routing and transportation - 2/5
Eating out - 1/3
Absence of other bugs (duplicates, etc.) - N/A
Variety of free functions - 1/2
UX (predictability, smoothness, etc.) - N/A
TOTAL - 27,8% good

There is (or was?) a service called TripPlannera.
It is focused on B2B (featuring “for your clients”, “Share with clients”) and the business model suggests that users have pay to use most options. All in all, personal use is not prohibited.

Though it is less known than competitors in the B2B field (e.g. TripCreator) there are some nice moves that made me include Tripplannera in the research:

  • Creators of Tripplannera decided that travel agents also need customized suggestions (rather than simply lists of attractions split into several categories) and automated sequencing (rather than putting attractions in right order manually). Or a least gave an opportunity to use their beta,
  • Basic options of Tripplannera are available for free (unlike Tripcreator where all plans are paid ones).
Free trial is available for Start and Pro plans.

I created the route and it had both the same disadvantages I had written previously and new ones:

  • Tripplannera also suggested visiting the same area in different days (in this case it was Kremlin where admission is paid). The description of Kremlin even suggested that it contains The Armory that was included into the route for 2 days before.
  • I created a plan for 5 days and every day there was a lot of unplanned free time:
  1. 2 times there was nothing for more than 2 hours between last place and dinner,
  2. 2 times — nothing between lunch and dinner at all,
  3. 1 time the route started at 11 (while from 9:05 to 9:40 in other days).

It seemed that their database lacks enough interesting objects in the area. It would be much easier to demonstrate this if Tripplannera had a screen with all activities for several days but it hadn’t one.

  • The service suggested me to book a visit to a free Sparrow Hills (Vorobyovy Gory) park. When I clicked the button it turned out that in reality, it suggests booking a tour to Kolomenskoye that is included in the program of another day and is situated at a different part of Moscow. But not all places have a booking button nearby.

But some features that I failed to find or disliked in Inspirock were implemented better here:

  • Tripplanera does not stick to 30-minutes intervals (and the plan doesn’t suggest that visiting next place starts only 30 minutes after visiting the previous one or later),
  • There are designated lunch times. With the overall lack of suggestions, lunches made plans look not that empty.

All in all, these routes with giant holes are for everybody and not customized.
There was an option “Organize itineraries by categories” for Pro plan, that is why I decided to try that one. But it doesn’t affect itinerary creation (as I initially thought). At least I failed to find how.

There is quite no contact information at the website: no official name of the company, no phone, just one email.
Their social pages are not updated for more than a year.
It seems Tripplanera is one of the numerous companies that have not managed to get through Death Valley.

4.3. Tripfactory

Founded: 2013
Social following: 36K on Facebook
TrustScore: N/A
TL;DR — N/A

TripFactory is an Indian giant that mostly sells tour packages but also features “Create Your Trip” option:

  • The number of options is the planner is limited: mostly Asia, no America, there also are Australia, Europe and Switzerland (not included in Europe, though),
  • After choosing your preference you, first of all, are shown the most popular tour packages once again. If you still want to have your own custom trip, the only chance for you is to scroll down to the bottom and click “Create Custom Trip” button,
  • At the next step, you should choose an approximate duration and the month for the trip. The weather forecast, local and regional events are shown for each month.
Is it really the case that the only rainy month at Bali is January?
  • After that, you get recommended itineraries. I chose Europe and for this time Switzerland is inside. Here is the list of sets with quite no possibility of adjustment: you can only adjust durations in multi-destination trips, exclusion of a destination or choosing your own one is not possible. And their list for Europe is limited: London, Paris, Amsterdam, combined trips for Spain, Italy, Switzerland, and entire Europe.
  • We could stop its research here but I was curious to proceed further. After selecting the favorite plan the system lists activities you may add to your list (like TripHobo). The list of activities for Paris I chose was very tiny (less than 1o options) so there was no room to test sequencing etc. I chose neither Disneyland nor kids but a budget stay. However, the planner suggested staying close to Disneyland and visiting it for 3 days. That was enough for me.
  • As the main profile of the company is to sell packages, at the final stage the planner shows you the price for the trip (that includes accommodation, transfers and some tickets) and features a discount after getting a quote to your email.

Conclusion: the only feature worth mentioning is a page for choosing a month of a trip. The attempt to diversify into custom trips is good but the coverage is narrow.

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Pavel Nosikov

Founder&ex-CEO of a local B2B marketplace in a ready-mix concrete industry seeking the professional transition.