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Chatbots for Travel and Tourism – Comparing 5 Current Applications
Pamela is Managing Editor at Emerj. She previous worked in B2B digital publishing with Innovation Leaders and Boston MedTech. Pamela holds a Master's degree in Media Ventures from Boston University.
A 2017 Nielsen report titled “Young and Ready to Travel (and Shop)” revealed that the millennial generation travels more than any other generation, including Baby Boomers. The report suggests that, unlike previous generations, the travel industry will need to shift in order to cater to the millennial’s unique preferences and “lack of predictability.”
While past travelers may have planned an elaborate trip with an in-person travel agent, today’s travel consumer—often a millennial or working professional—may be turning to a virtual concierge instead. Nielsen’s report explained:
“Today’s Millennial travelers have distinct approaches to travel, largely because they want to control their experiences—a notable shift from how older generations were more likely to allow brands to drive their travel experiences…”
Travel chatbots, often called “virtual travel agents,” are now emerging as a tool which can learn about its consumer and take on action items, such as booking, or searching through booking emails and calendars to build an itinerary.
As large companies like Kayak and Expedia have brought bots to apps and mobile-optimized websites, they are also integrating them on mobile messaging applications used widely by millennials, like Facebook Messenger . At its 2017 F8 conference, Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products, David Marcus announced that the Messenger platform now hosts over 100 thousand bots.
In a 2017 study from 3CInteractive , 40 percent of millennials say they use a chatbot on a daily basis. In an earlier 2016 Pingup survey, titled “ Messaging and Chatbots in Local, ” 55 percent of millennial respondents said interaction with chatbots positively effects their view of a company, while 50 percent of these millennials said they would like to use chatbots for booking reservations or appointments.
But big companies, like Google, Kayak and Expedia, aren’t the only ones attempting to disrupt the travel industry with artificial intelligence. This article compares five companies that are using chatbots to assist customers in planning their next getaway.
(Users with a more broad interest in chatbots might enjoy our chatbot use-cases article, or our article about what chatbots can and cannot do .)
Travel Bot Comparison
Listed companies offer either a chatbot, or chat thread which combines responses from chatbots and human agents. Ranked in order of raised funding, each company listed either offers an app, mobile-optimized site, or integration options with popular messaging applications. All chatbots featured can offer users travel suggestions, as well as flight or hotel booking assistance.
Hipmunk (Hello Hipmunk)
Funds Raised : $55.2 Million (Acquired by Concur on Sept. 13, 2016)
Year Founded : 2010
Headquarters : San Francisco
Staff Size : 53
Data Processed : Chat (text)
Target User : Prospective travelers, business professionals
Hipmunk is an online platform which offers a suite of services that aim to help users plan a trip and book reservations. It also can weed through booking emails and calendar items to build personalized itineraries.
Hipmunk’s chatbot product, Hello Hipmunk, is chat interface that enables a user to send its Hipmunk chatbot questions or comments like, “Can you find me a hotel for June?” or “Send me flights to Boston for this weekend.” The Hipmunk will respond with recommendations that it has pulled from various airline, hotel, or other travel sites. The company, which now has a team of over 50, was co-founded by Reddit Co-Founder Steve Hoffman .
This demo shows how Hello Hipmunk claims to help users with quick travel bookings. It also demonstrates how users can interact with the Hipmunk chatbot.
While the Hello Hipmunk service claims to use AI to learn its users preferences and search the web for the best matching deals, it can also be sent booking emails and search through user calendars to build an itinerary for the users trip. These itineraries can then be sent to others, such as family or colleagues.
In line with bigger companies, including Expedia, Hello Hipmunk, can be integrated into a user’s Facebook Messenger, as well as Slack or Skype apps. In 2016, a Hipmunk study presented more evidence that millennial audiences should become a key target in the travel industry. When asked if they’d consider taking vacation days to travel at the end or beginning of a company business trip, 81 percent of millennial respondents said they would consider it, compared to 56 percent of Gen Y travelers and 46 percent of Baby Boomers.
Hipmunk has also won two Webby awards, and is nominated for a third , in the travel category for its excellence and variety of tools. In 2016, the company was acquired for $58 million by Concur Technologies, a travel expensing platform. It is unclear how much Concur paid for the acquisition, but in a press release, the company said Hipmunk will still continue to run as its own service. However, Concur plans to integrate Hipmunk’s search technology on to its company oriented business-trip oriented platform.
Funds Raised : $11.8 Million (Recently acquired by American Express)
Year Founded : 2015
Headquarters : Sunnyvale, CA
Staff Size : 11-50
Target Users : Business professionals, travel agents, travel companies
Mezi also claims to be an online concierge that users can chat with for trip recommendations, flight information, and hotel availability.
When users open the Mezi app, they are directed to a chat interface where they can send Mezi a message explaining where they are going and when. Mezi responds quickly, asking preference questions about hotel ratings, budget, and amenities.
Users can respond to Mezi by giving answers with multiple details. Mezi will then search the web and respond with links to hotels that match the user’s preferences. Once a user books a hotel stay through the links provided, the bot will send messages to confirm the booking. Once a trip is booked, users can also ask it for restaurant, shopping, and other excursion suggestions.
In addition to targeting business and leisure travelers, the company also offers Mezi for Business subscription, which features a marketed to travel agencies and travel management companies. With its Travel Dashboard, Mezi claims that a traveler working with a partnering agency can message the chatbot to find booking options. After an agency directs a client to its Mezi site, the chatbot can ask the user questions to get hotel, flight and destination preferences.
According to Mezi, an agent from the partnering travel management company can then look through the entirety of the conversation to learn more about the client. Mezi also claims that it uses the client’s responses to build a traveler profile that the agency can access. In 2017, Mezi announced its full launch of the product, noting that companies including Bluefish, Adelman Travel, Casto Travel, W Travel and American Express were already subscribing customers.
CTO and Co-Founder Snehal Shinde comes from a strong technology background. He received his M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Southern California in 2004 and went on to become product manager at Yahoo from 2009 to 2011. Swapnil Shinde, the company’s CEO, was also employed in technical positions at Yahoo from 2007 to 2011, and previously held a software engineer role at IBM Software Labs between 2000 and 2002.
The company was acquired by American Express in January 2018. According to a press release , the app will replace the need for the card company’s AskAmex service, a similar AI concierge which was in its piloting stage.
While its user numbers are unclear, the app has a 4.5/5 star rating, and 203 reviews, in the Apple App Store , and a 4.4 rating with over 500 installs on Android’s Google Play .
Funds Raised : $9.2 Million
Year Founded : 2016
Headquarters : San Francisco, CA; Toronto, Canada
Data Processed : Chat (text), Links
Target Users : Prospective travelers
SnapTravel is a bot and hotel booking service that can be accessed to users through Facebook Messenger or SMS with no app download requirements. The bot is marketed to users looking to book cheap hotel deals, which the company receives from its roster of hotel partners, according to its FAQ .
Below, SnapTravel’s CEO gives a detailed demo of the SnapTravel experience.
This simple program is accessible by text message and Facebook Messenger. When a user contacts SnapTravel through either messaging platform, its chatbot begins by asking the prospective traveler a few preference questions, such as “What’s your budget?” or “Do you have a hotel in mind?” The company claims it automatically searches online deal finders, such as Expedia, and sends the user website links to the best-matching travel options. The user can then click the links and book from the site which posted the original deal.
According to Crunchbase, the company has received $9.2 million in Seed Round and Series A funding . While its primary headquarters is in San Francisco, CA, AngelList notes that a secondary headquarters is based in Toronto, Canada. Both AngelList and Crunchbase listed the company of having 11 to 50 employees.
The company’s CTO, Henry Shi, previously served as a software engineer at Google , where he assisted in the launch of Youtube’s Music Insights. The feature aggregates viewing information from all videos that the artist has uploaded, as well as videos from their profile that have been copied and reuploaded by fans. Music Insights then generates a dashboard for the artist, which offers easy to understand fan demographics. This dashboard includes a list of tour suggestions, made up of cities that hold the highest viewer population.
Funds Raised : $4.6 Million
Year Founded : 2012
Headquarters : Austin, TX
Staff Size : 8-10
Data Processed : Chat (text), voice
This Austin startup has developed an IOS application which allows a user to interact with a chatbot through voice or text commands, similarly to Apple’s Siri. HelloGBye claims that users can type, or vocally describe, complex travel requests involving one or more people into its messenger app and receive a chatbot response with a detailed flight and hotel itinerary in under 30 seconds.
On its website, HelloGBye says it aims to solve pain-points of frequent professional travelers who need to book complex business trips or adjust travel plans quickly.
In this video, HelloGBye’s CEO, Jonathan Miller, demonstrates how to use the mobile application.
When a user first opens the HelloGBye app, they are asked a few multiple-choice travel preference questions on a page which looks like a simple online survey. Once this step is complete, HelloGBye opens to a chat interface, similar to Apple’s IMessage.
When the user is ready to start planning a complex trip, they can request all of their travel needs, such as hotel dates or flight times, by recording one voice message. Similarly to Apple IMessage’s voice to text feature, HelloGBye converts the vocal request to text which then appears in the chat thread. The company claims that, within 30 seconds, its software can search the web for flights and hotels that fit a user’s preferences and messaged request.
Its chatbot will then respond with a full trip itinerary, with clickable links to hotel and flights recommendations, which can then be approved and adjusted by the user. This seems to be based on an approach similar to recommendation engines in media and other sectors . Once a trip is booked through the app or website, a user can then send a voice or text message to request travel adjustments, such as cancellations.
HelloGBye also says its software can manage itineraries and even more complex voice requests involve more than one traveler. Users who don’t wish to record voice messages can also send a text-based message with multiple travel requests to its chatbot.
The service, which offers free and subscription models, also targets business users by offering features for group collaboration. While individual users can use HelloGBye for free, they can also gain more perks, such as the ability to earn rewards points and no booking adjustments fees, with a subscription for $19 a month. Companies also have the option to purchase business subscriptions for $199 a month, according to its website .
The company is privately held and does not list full funding information. However, Pitchbook suggests that it has received roughly $4.5 million in funding from angel investors. While HelloGBye can be accessed online, it is only available as an app on IOS devices.
Similarly to Mezi, HelloGBye has announced a partnership with American Express which will allo them to gain insights on the corporations users while the card company begins to explore the voice technology further.
The company’s Chief Analytics Officer L, James Valverde, Jr, has a PhD. from the Engineering Systems Division of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Funds Raised : $1.5 Million
Headquarters : Denver, CO
Target Audience : Business Professionals
Pana claims to combine chatbots, humans and artificial intelligence to help companies and professionals manage travel. While professionals can use the app for individual business trips, companies can use the app to assist guests that they’ve invited to their offices, such as interns, job candidates, or other colleagues. All users of Pana’s free and paid versions require a company email to download the app.
With the paid version, which costs $49 a month or $499 per year, Pana allows a manager to fill in guest details, such as trip dates and contact information. Pana will automatically send the guest an introduction email. Through Pana’s app, the traveler will be able to message a virtual travel agent, a chatbot, or access human concierge.
The bot will ask the user a few questions through the app or via email, and will then send booking suggestions for flights and hotels. A human concierge can assist in troubleshooting when issues like flight delays arise. Along with 24/7 access to a human, Pana also claims that the paid version can also automatically check a user into a flight. Like Hello Hipmunk, Pana’s free version offers a chat interface and a bot which can respond to a user’s text message requests with flight or hotel recommendations. It also claims it can notify them of flight delays or schedule adjustments. The program can also filter through a user’s booking emails and activity within the app to create a shareable itinerary.
This demonstration video shows how young professionals and other company employees can use Pana’s free app to plan and make adjustments to their business trip.
In 2017, Pana was included in a group of travel-friendly apps that partnered with the business-expensing startup, Expensify . With the partnership, Pana’s paid users can now link the app to their Expensify account . According to Expensify, the expensing platform has also added integrations with companies like Jettly, a private jet charter marketplace, and ParkWhiz, an app for searching finding and booking spots. Prior to founding Pana, CEO Devon Tivona studied computer science at University of Colorado Boulder before analyzing new and emerging technologies on the research and development team at Hewlett-Packard. He’s also worked on IOS teams at Flipboard, a personalized news application that recommends news stories and publications based on user preferences, and MapQuest.
The company’s former product design head, Paul Ballas, has also focused on UX design at major companies including Deloitte and Oracle. According to LinkedIn, many current software engineers have completed advanced computer science and software development programs with organizations including Galvanize , University of Colorado Boulder, and Turing School of Software & Design .
Concluding Thoughts on Travel Chatbots
When it comes to travel industry chatbots, a few key themes arise, which may correlate with an industry shift to millennial audiences.
- Chatbots are acting more than they are reacting
Rather than offering a bot that reacts and responds with simple travel suggestions, all listed travel companies have implemented booking or reservation opportunities with partnering airlines, hotels, restaurants, and other various hospitality businesses. As millennials and younger generations are more engaged by products that provide “instant gratification,” the strategy of offering recommendations and immediate booking in one chat period may entice this audience.
- Most bots are mobile, but they may not necessarily have their own app
All companies listed were compatible with at least one mobile device. However, most were not just built-from-scratch applications. Instead, many companies are offering chatbot integrations on pre-built, heavily used messaging applications such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, Skype, and WhatsApp. This may further increase reach to millennials, the most frequent of social media users , and the most willing to travel than generations before them.
- Shifting to professional travelers
As the oldest millennials began moving up in the career-world, a 2016 survey from MMGY Global revealed that millennials have become the most frequent business travelers. The survey polled over 1,200 professionals who had taken at least one business trip in the last year. While the overall group of respondents took an average of 6.8 business trips in 2015, millennials took an average of 7.4. Those in Gen X and baby boomers took an average of 6.4 and 6.3 business trips respectively.
A later 2017 study from the research firm Phocuswright, a majority of working-professional respondents said that they prefer to “go rogue” by booking their own travel, rather than using travel agents or coordinators provided by the company.
While these studies show further evidence that the millennial audience is a key travel chatbot demographic, large companies have also begun to use startup partnerships and acquisitions to zone in on millennial professionals as well. Concur Technologies’ 2016 acquisition of Hipmunk, or American Express’ affiliations with HelloGBye and Mezi, shows that companies and professionals are looking for both fast and efficient travel solutions.
In a press-release announcement from Concur, a travel expensing platform for businesses, stated, “The Hipmunk team and its innovative technologies bolster Concur’s strategy to deliver consumer-grade travel solutions to corporate customers. As part of Concur, Hipmunk will continue to offer its metasearch products to consumers free of charge.”
Header image credit: Salsa Travel Advisor
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How to become a virtual travel agent.
Technology like cloud services and chatbots can help you build a virtual travel agent, with fewer of the overheads that such businesses required in the past. This allows you to focus on offering unique travel packages, create a better personal service while focusing on growing a hyper-local or globe-spanning business, whatever you feel the need to provide.
The digital business era is an exciting time for all types of company in any market. Now, banks can exist entirely online, while your local coffee shop or bar uses an app to speed up ordering and improve loyalty. Even local and regional travel agents now do the majority of their business online, and new startups can use the power of technology to build their brand and attract customers.
Using cloud services, a startup can scale up faster than any traditional business ever could, hiring online freelancers or subscribing to automatic tools to handle what were considered key roles like HR, accounts and reception. These low-cost, always-on resources free up the business leaders to focus on the key aims of the company without worrying about the day-to-day operations side.
That’s an advantage for any type of company. So many people from the travel industry want to start out on their own, to work for themselves, or offer a better service, and technology acts as an enabler for that. It helps explains why so many new businesses are starting up, allowing them to focus on the product and service with a degree of focus that leaves old-time business leaders feeling both threatened and enthused by the prospects of what’s happening now.
The rise of the virtual travel agent
When it comes to travel agencies, digital creates a huge boost across the market. The same cloud and AI power that helps travel comparison sites make fortunes by scanning prices minute-by-minute around the world can also help the smallest niche or boutique agent. These can function at a level of scale and efficiency that can help them punch way above their weight.
Any business can deploy a number of IT tools to help grow the scale, reach and appeal of the business. Virtual assistant travel agents are one of the fastest growing ways to add value to the travel business, and are not to be ignored.
Apps and websites
Advertising traditionally will see most small, new and boutique travel agency ventures priced out of the market occupied by larger businesses. However, an app or website allows the agent to show their tours, trips or destinations in amazing detail with high-quality photos, videos and glossy content.
With good SEO, sites can attract the ideal customer to your travel agent site, online advertising is affordable and can be precisely targeted, all of which puts the key pieces of the business together, all you need is the right destinations, travel ticket sources and those key hospitality factors that will make your idea different or successful.
From bespoke tours of famous movie or TV filming locations to traditional package trips or voyages to the furthest-flung emerging destinations, you still need the idea to make your travel agency stand out, but marketing and promoting it has never been easier. And using technology means you can focus on the important details, with digital services, and an army of freelance online contributors or workers handling many tasks to help keep your wage bill and office footprint down.
Chatbots help take the business load
For any growing business, there are plenty of areas where a chatbot can help take some of the strain when it comes to internal management, customer service or communications. The key benefits is that along with the app and website, bots provide a 24/7 company presence, engaging with customers, answering questions and expanding the company’s presence across social media.
Bots using scripts or learning through artificial intelligence (AI) can help provide a customer service presence, lead generation or deal with basic queries, answering frequently asked questions and so on. They can help to build and sell travel packages, develop customer profiles if you need to find what they want, or help set the scene for a particular tour, cruise or event.
Using chatbots a business can operate with fewer customer service staff, or have them focus on serious sales queries, letting the bot handle introductions and the basic level of information. Bots can also help potential customers find the ideal trip or event they want, and then link them to a sales agent to complete the deal.
But, bots for many types of companies can now help handle the basics, create a package and complete the sales transaction. Bots can increasingly pass for a human agent, or be given a persona or character to make them interesting for customers to engage with.
Chatbots in the travel industry are already popular with airline chatbots, hotels and booking bots gaining in use and popularity, so travelers are used to the idea and happy to interact with them. While most bots started off with travel businesses that have high customer service loads, small and boutique firms can use them to help level the playing field against larger players, without losing any of their charm or personality. In fact, bots can be loaded with personality, made highly knowledgable or fun and engaging, depending on the brand you wish to build.
Within a growing business, this use of bots also helps the company save time and money, with internal bots increasingly used to help with tasks like human resources, helping with staff presence, their own time off, illness and so on. As bots become smarter, they can also link to other bots and services, such as helping talk to a rent a car bot from a partner.
As cost-effective solutions, bots are among the most valuable, easy to develop as a free or low-cost cloud service, through providers like SnatchBot , using chatbot templates to help build functional chat services. Or, they can be custom built with advanced features like natural language processing to provide a higher level of customer service.
Through social media tools like Facebook Messenger, travel bots are increasingly used to provide web check-in services, flight delay/gate changes and other useful information, while helping customers change their travel plans. Providing this type of information by bot helps the small travel company fit in with their customers as they travel, they don’t depersonalise the service, just make it more practical.
From beach breaks, cruises and island hopping to off-the-beaten-track travelogues, bots are a great tool to help a small business act big, to present adventures in new and interesting ways, with images, video and other content. They can help a company handle spikes in demand that would leave a smaller traditional business unable to cope.
Cloud services help you take off
As well as apps and chatbots, a travel agent functions better, faster and more smoothly using cloud services. These can include cloud-based sales, booking and payment services to improve the selling process.
Growing companies can also use cloud human resources, accounting and other tools to keep office costs down and allow staff to focus on building the best business possible. Office packages like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365 allow essential documents, spreadsheets and databases to be maintained live by staff wherever they are. That’s ideal for those who travel for a living, and make it easier to work with partner agencies and other parts of the travel industry.
Social media helps you dream big
The likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook help bring your holiday or touring options to the whole world. You can sell dreams and stories, using great photos and video to tell the tale, and get customers sharing their adventures to help build the business and tie into trending topics.
With bots running on social media, you can also be “there” even after office hours are over, getting people interesting in the latest travel destinations, offers you have, with bots handling customer questions and helping defuse any problems before they are posted over social media leading to negative sentiment.
Living the travel dream
Put all these technologies together and you have a way for sole trader, startup or small travel businesses to grow fast and reach a huge audience. With the rest of the travel industry increasingly using automated services, it helps them maintain independence or partner with other players as required, and with customers in all types of markets increasingly used to dealing with bots and automated services, there’s nothing big or scary about the use of technology now.
All of these tools and services are helping the next-generation of young travel agents build their business faster and quicker than ever before. Focusing on putting together a great tour roster or unique travel product, and not having to worry about managing (or even owning) an office is one of the huge benefits of operating in the digital business era, allowing you to focus on the heart of the travel company, not stressing about the details of business management.
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[…] all travel agents will be largely automated, but yours can still stand out by focusing on local customers who want to go far, or a global […]
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7 Free Travel Planning AI and ChatGPT Apps to Get an Instant Itinerary
These free travel planning apps use AI and machine-learning tools like ChatGPT to prepare an itinerary for you in a few seconds.
You can tell a travel agent your preferred dates, the place you want to visit, and your budget, and expect a full itinerary of what to do there based on your preferences. Can AI do the same job?
1. Roam Around
Of course, the first AI that comes to mind these days is ChatGPT. Roam Around uses the internet's favorite new AI chat app to help you plan your travel in any city, as yet another one of the amazing things you can do with ChatGPT .
It's not a super sophisticated app by any means, but it's simpler than even learning how to put the right prompt in the original ChatGPT to get what you want.
Roam Around asks you the city you're planning to visit. However, you can also specify how many days you have to spend there. Based on this information, it queries ChatGPT and presents the response in an intelligible manner.
The app is quite basic and doesn't let you refine or filter your results, other than adding a few special requests like family travel or vegetarian. We'd advise treating it more as a reference or template to start your travel planning, which you can then check with other guides to fix an itinerary.
It's also a good app for users who can't access ChatGPT due to it being blocked by their universities or authorities.
Wonderplan is a wonderful tool to plan your trip. To create your itinerary, Wonderplan first asks you to enter your destination country and city, your budget, the number of days you'll be staying, and your interests.
It then creates a travel plan within a few minutes, displaying various places to visit, their descriptions, and the time usually spent at each location. Although Wonderplan doesn't show the trip map, it does provide a link to Google Maps for each place.
It also displays different types of accommodation available (like Airbnb, hotel, or hostel) and their respective costs. Similarly, there are details about transportation, food, and activities. This way, you can estimate the potential cost of your trip.
Besides your itinerary, Wonderplan also shows essential information about the country you're visiting. These include currency conversion rate, electricity plug type, languages spoken, weather, and popular conveyances.
However, note that Wonderplan can only create an itinerary for a maximum of seven-day trips. So if you're planning a longer vacation, maybe it's not the best option for you.
3. PLAN by ixigo
PLAN by ixigo starts by asking you about your dream destination. Then, it provides an option to describe the type of experience you want to have. This is just like a ChatGPT prompt, so you can enter anything you wish.
For example, you can specify the duration of your stay, your interests, the kinds of activities you're looking for, whether you have a family with you, and so on.
But if you can't think of any prompts, PLAN by ixigo provides a few trip ideas, so you can always select those. PLAN by ixigo then shows a day-wise plan, showing what you can do in the morning, afternoon, and evening.
However, if the suggested itinerary doesn't sound appealing, you can again enter a prompt to edit it.
While iPlan.AI doesn't mention which AI or machine-learning algorithm it uses, the results are fantastic enough to gloss over that. The app works beautifully on phones to give you a full itinerary for any one city at a time, depending on how many days you have there.
The app first asks you to name the destination city. As far as we checked, iPlan.AI works best for popular tourist cities, not offbeat or obscure travel. Next, note how many days you will be there, and then choose your free time on each day—a cool step to ensure a better itinerary if you already have some plans in mind.
Tell iPlan.AI if you're traveling solo, as a couple, with family, or with friends, and then choose your interest among topics like history, art and culture, nature, entertainment, shopping, food, sports, relaxing, etc. Finally, choose a budget between economy, normal, or luxury.
After a few minutes, iPlan.AI gives you a day-wise itinerary for your trip. It's plotted on a map for you to see all the locations, and each point of interest has additional details like how many minutes people typically spend there.
You'll also find information on estimated travel time and transport modes between those places. And you can share it with a friend or export it all to Google Maps for help while traveling .
The app is free, and in our usage, we didn't face any ads. The only real limitation of iPlan is that you can't get an itinerary for a multi-city trip. For now, you'll need to make a plan for each city you're visiting, one at a time.
Download: iPlan for Android | iOS (Free)
The easiest last-minute travel plan is to get into a car and drive. Curiosio specializes in helping you plan an itinerary for a road trip to several major countries on all continents. It doesn't cover every single place, but the existing collection is impressive enough.
Curiosio uses its own AI engine, Ingeenee, that is trained on several crowdsourced travel-based resources, such as Wikivoyage, Wikipedia, Wikidata, Freebase, DBpedia, GeoNames, OSMNames, OpenStreetMap. Through this dataset, it's able to chart an itinerary that meets your requirements across various parameters.
You can set options for a round trip or a one-way trip with starting and finishing points. If there are any places you want to visit on the way, add them in. Then set the number of travelers, dates of the journey, what vehicle you're using, total budget, and whether you want to visit places that spark curiosity or are obscure. The AI will usually give you multiple plans and routes for these options.
The itinerary includes a map of your route, along with a day-wise breakdown of where you'll be going and what you'll be seeing. Each point of interest is clickable to find more information about it. There are easy shortcuts to copy the link to share it with co-travelers, print it out, or even export it to Google Maps. Curiosio is one of the best road trip planners for your next adventure .
6. Trip Planner AI
Trip Planner AI plans a perfect trip to your dream destination. Begin creating your itinerary by entering the city you wish to visit, the duration of the visit, and starting date. Trip Planner AI then suggests flights and hotels based on your details.
For instance, you can specify the number of adults and kids, your luggage bags, the number of hotel rooms, expected hotel rent, and available amenities.
For Pro users, there is a host of unique features like itinerary preferences, setting a budget, exporting to a calendar, downloading PDFs, and options to edit travel plans.
Finally, Trip Planner AI generates a detailed itinerary along with a map. For each destination, it provides the details of the place, expected traveling time, distance, and cost. The free plan only provides you with an auto-generated itinerary with recommendations for flights and hotels.
Trip Planner AI Pro costs $7.99 for a month's access (not recurring).
7. Genius Trip
Genius Trip creates a customized itinerary based on your preferences. There are multiple options you can choose from to customize your trip.
To discuss a few of these, you can select your budget and trip duration, pick your dietary preferences and specify whether you want a relaxed trip or a packed one. Similarly, Genius Trip lets you select whether you're going for a romantic, adventure, family, cultural, or tourist trip.
It shows a simple itinerary, listing the different activities to perform and restaurants to visit each day. Genius Trip also suggests an accommodation and lets you find flights. A pretty simple tool, it doesn't feature any maps or other settings like the ability to edit the trip plan.
The Limitations of Travel Planning AI Apps
All these travel planning AI apps urge you not to use the itinerary as-is and only treat it as a template or guide to begin planning your trip. There's a good reason behind this. While AI tools like ChatGPT are excellent, they currently have several limitations, like databases that aren't recently updated or require specific prompts from the user.
A real human travel agent is still going to understand you better and give you a more customized itinerary that suits your requirements. But of course, that's going to cost you a few bucks. If you want a free base guide, more basic travel planning apps are a good starting point.
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The best VR apps for travel
Travel the earth from your easy chair with these 11 vr apps and sites.
This isn’t a far-off technology, either. There are several virtual travel apps already available, and companies such as Qantas, British Airways, and Marriott have already started experimenting with it as a marketing tool. On the consumption end, YouTube and Facebook are just a handful of the major sites that now support 360-degree content.
But even if you have no plans to physically go anywhere, VR is a fantastic video-based medium for armchair wanderlust. It takes the Google Street View approach of dragging your mouse around 360-degree photos, and transforms it into an immersive experience in which you can explore those environments in greater detail. You can travel to places you may never be able to go (or want to), including destinations that are off-limits to tourists or simply dangerous. And when you add narration from a tour guide to those videos, the experience becomes that much greater.
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While video resolution quality isn’t there yet — depending on the production quality, viewing through VR goggles and headsets can be nauseating — it’s getting better. As we experienced back in 2015 with Marriott’s “VRoom Service,” using the Samsung Gear VR , the audio-visual “sensory experience” did make us feel as if we’re there (pardon the cliché). Expect to see more content uploaded in the near future, including a mix of professional, high-quality videos and those shot by consumers on their phones or cameras.
So if you’ve purchased a VR headset with your new Galaxy phone, or were sent a cardboard viewer as part of a promotion , here are a few sites and apps that will give you a taste of virtual travel.
Google Earth VR
Have you ever wanted to fly around the world? Google Earth’s VR app for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive does that and so much more — virtually, of course. Google Earth VR starts you off in space, but you can zoom in on any part of the globe and, within seconds, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the locale in question. With a simple long press and drag of your controller, you can fly from the top of the Eiffel Tower to the inside of Disney World — and it happens quicker than you might expect.
If you need inspiration for your next adventure, Google provides tours of famous landmarks, along with themed destinations. You can even go from day to night — just point to the sky and swipe. You can also type in an address and Google Earth VR will transport you to said destination, where you can capture and save snapshots of what you see.
In Boulevard (formerly WoofbertVR), you can explore 3D renderings of various museums and cultural sites located throughout England and San Francisco. However, the app allows you to do more than merely look around. You can access a virtual tablet with the tap of a button, which will provide you with textual information on what you are looking at and allow you to to take a brief audio tour. It can even show you which exhibits you can further engage with.
For instance, if you tap on Édouard Manet’s famous 19th century painting, A Bar at the Folies-Bergère , you’ll be transported beyond the frame and into an animated reimagining of the events depicted in the painting. Or, if you tap on a 1969 photo of painter Helen Frankenthaler, you’ll be able to walk around a 3D rendering of her minimalist workspace, giving you the feeling you just stepped into a memory. If you’re looking to indulge in fine art on your next trip abroad, Boulevard might be right up your ally.
Virtual reality has turned photo galleries into 3D experiences. Gala360 consists of a collection of shots culled from professional photographers, all of which allow you to examine events, museums, landmarks, and different locales with a mere swipe of your finger.
You can walk around and explore the cavernous lava tubes of Hawaii, for example, or take in the breathtaking views of Yosemite National Park. Certain experiences even have audio commentary, providing you further context about what you’re seeing as you scroll through the app’s various photos. Many of these experiences are free, though, premium content will cost you a $1 a month.
For its YouTube page, German airliner Lufthansa created several 360-degree on-location videos in Beijing, Hong Kong, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Tokyo. Each 46-minute clip lets you pan around a notable area in each of those cities, such as Wan Chai Street Market in Hong Kong or Lombard Street in San Francisco. You don’t need a VR viewer, although it’s more immersive if you use the YouTube Android app with Google Cardboard viewer.
Action cam maker GoPro is getting into the VR game in a big way. Its Odyssey uses 16 Hero4 Black cameras to capture an 8K panoramic video, and its consumer-friendly 360 camera, the Fusion , is coming soon. Of course, GoPro’s videos are short of amazing, and its 360-degree ones are no exception. From surfing in Tahiti to riding a BMW bike on the rooftops of Gran Canaria and inside an Indycar over the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out the personal New York City tour with photographer and Instagrammer, Neil Britto. GoPro won’t be the only big camera company getting into VR: Samsung , Nikon , and Ricoh all have 360 cameras, and we can expect to see content from them. The New York Times, for example, has a series of 360-degree videos created using the Samsung Gear 360.
Chances are, most of us will never experience space travel in our lifetime, let alone journey to Mars. Thanks to thousands of images that have been transmitted back to Earth from its Sojourner and Curiosity rovers, NASA was able to put together 360-degree videos and images of what walking on Mars would be like. The most recent panorama comes from the Curiosity Mars Rover, from a site known as Ogunquit Beach .
As its name would suggest, Ascape is a VR app that’s dedicated entirely to travel. Available as an app for both Android or iOS, and viewable on a phone or VR viewer, Ascape has a bunch of 360-degree video and photo tours — from the Star Wars parade at Disneyland Hong Kong to reindeer racing in Norway — and are neatly categorized (called “collections”). You will need to download each experience, which could take up a chunk of space on your phone.
Littlstar is a VR “cinema network” hosting a variety of 360-degree photos and videos, available on the web or via its app for Android or iOS. Its aerial and travel categories contain numerous content from around the world, including videos from Discovery and National Geographic. When you’re looked through all the travel videos, check out the many others, including tech, sports, cars, and fashion.
Like Littlstar, YouVisit lets you experience its content on the web (through a web browser or the Oculus Rift) or with a VR headset via its app for iPhone or Android . YouVisit has a variety of interesting travel-related 360-degree photos and videos, from the Ayautthaya temples of Thailand to the Louvre Museum in Paris and helicopter ride over New York City. You can even get onboard the Carnival Breeze and explore the different parts of the cruise ship.
Destination B.C., an agency that promotes tourism in Canada’s British Columbia, launched a virtual reality experience called “ Wild Within ,” which explores the natural areas of this western province. In the videos, the viewer travels through the Broughton Archipelago of the Great Bear Rainforest, but has the option of taking one of two paths — the coastline or up a mountain. Wild Within was first developed for the Oculus Rift on a desktop, but it’s now available as an app for iOS or Android .
Discovery is one of the major media companies to dive into virtual reality. Last August, it launched its Discovery VR initiative that lets users experience TV shows like Gold Rush , Survivorman , Puppy Bowl , and MythBusters , in an immersive manner. Besides exploring the exotic locales, you can swim with sharks, ski downhill with Bode Miller, or learn to forage for food, for example. Discovery VR content can be watched online, but it’s best via a phone and Google Cardboard or similar viewer, or Samsung Gear VR (via Oculus store).
Update: Added Boulevard, Gala360, and Google Earth VR.
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There are plenty of apps available in the Microsoft Store, but the best Windows apps can remain elusive. Calendar apps are a popular choice for those looking to improve productivity, and there are plenty of free apps you can choose from if you don't want to pay for the privilege.
To help you choose, we’ve put together a list of the best Windows 10 and Windows 11 apps for every user to try out, whether you want better productivity or just seek to be entertained. Best Windows apps for productivity
Apple's Mac Mini is one of the best miniature PCs out there, with incredible performance and connectivity in a tiny package. But you can only make the most of it with a great monitor, and there are a range of exciting displays to choose from.
Apple's own Studio Display is our current favorite, but it's not our only one. Here are the best monitors for the Mac Mini in 2023.
If you’ve never used a curved monitor before, you might not understand the hype. Much like a curved flatscreen, a curved monitor is a popular choice for gamers or anyone who enjoys watching videos on their computer. The unique design can step up your gameplay or make your favorite movie feel that much more immersive.
With so many different brands on the market and a variety of features, pricing, and specs to compare, choosing the right curved monitor might be overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t need to wade through all the information -- we’ve already reviewed these top picks for you.
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Virtual Assistant Company
How Virtual Travel Assistant Benefits A Travel Agency Or Agent in 2022?
- Virtual Assistant
- April 6, 2020
What is Virtual Travel Assistant?
A virtual travel assistant is a big boon to travel companies. Currently, thousands of companies have already hired a virtual travel booking agent for their business. Their demands have enhanced ever since the corona lockdown is initiated.
A travel company or just a travel agent has a very busy schedule. Staying updated about unpredictable changes in flight costs or ambiences of the considered travel spot could be worrisome. Customers nowadays are very sensitive.
They will ignore your travel service if you fail to attend to their phone calls or any problems. Besides, in situations like coronavirus lockdown , you cannot afford to freeze your business or bear huge expenses over letting employees work from home.
Thus you need a virtual travel assistant to change your life and help your business thrive. Travel business is a promising business if things go smartly.
Also Read: A Complete Guide To Virtual Assistants- What They Do, How To Hire, Benefits, Pricing In 2022
Top 11 Benefits of Virtual Travel Assistant for Travel Agents or Agencies?
A virtual assistant is a perfect virtual employee of your travel business. he or she can book flights, buses, trains and even find the best deals that can reduce the cost. The best part is that once you hire a VA company, they will assign agents who will work 24 hours 365 days.
Thus, you can leverage them to offer services to international clients. As a travel agent or a owner of a travel agency, you will find a virtual assistant helpful in terms of managing your commercial emails and processing administrative services.
Organising Your Files
They can organize your important documents & files and even record relevant data in spreadsheets. Moreover, a virtual office assistant can also perform V lookup and H lookup if you have a large database.
Travel Itinerary Research
The biggest advantage of your travel agency can get from a VA is the research work. Suppose you want to know about a place where your clients want to visit. You can ask a VA to research it and provide details about the place, the motels over there and even the sight scenes famous out there.
Finding Best Places and Scheduling Appointments
They can dig further; collecting information about wine stores, bars, and many more. Being a travel agency owner you can leverage a virtual assistant in booking appointments of interested prospects. A virtual office assistant can schedule appointments and also screen unwanted calls that might bother you in the middle of work.
Updating Customer Preferences
Furthermore, you can ask them to contact your customers and take relevant information regarding their travel needs and preferences. There are many more ways they can help your travel business thrive.
Managing Social Media Accounts to Attract more Leads
Another advantage of hiring a VA for your travel agency will be social media marketing and running essential digital marketing campaigns. Since the travel business relies heavily on marketing, in order to make clients reach you they will help you in projecting ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube which will be a great idea to target potentials leads. The best part is that the prices offered by a professional e-marketing company is much higher than a virtual assistant company.
Running Email Marketing Campaigns
A virtual assistant helps a travel agency to fire email marketing which is a great way to target potential clients. Since they are experts in such fields of profession you do not need to train them in this part. Besides, you do not have to hire a professional for email management and marketing.
Best in class Infrastructure
They know how to confront unprecedented challenges and the virtual office assistant companies are also equipped with the latest technology and infrastructure to provide the best service. A virtual assistant can also maintain your travel blog and adorn the webpage with relevant images and videos. They can research on right places as mentioned by you and write quality content for the same.
Managing Blog and Website
If you want a blogger to maintain your travel blog then it might become very expensive, however, a virtual office assistant can deliver you the same service but also at affordable rates. This difference is because they are trained in creative writing, administrative services, and even technical skills. So whatever service you demand, based on that you would get the right outcome.
Finding new Vendors for Best Deals
A virtual assistant can also learn about the new trends of travel agencies popular in a particular year. You can get accurate information about other businesses you would like to connect with. Suppose you are a travel agency wishing to connect with car rental service offering business, online travel booking company etc then they can provide you data over the same and you can sort out which could be better for your choice.
A virtual assistant can also act as a personal assistant. As your business would expand, you will have many connections and your stress level will also increase. However, a virtual office assistant could do 85% of your work and render a stress free life in your soul. Moreover, as a virtual personal assistant, he or she can find your best deals of if items, movie tickets, baseballs show etc so that you have a peaceful life with your family.
Team of Experts
Last but not the last, being a travel agency owner or just a travel agent, your top benefit is in having a right virtual team of professionals who are trained to handle all types of back-office and front-office services. In this time where Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on Earth, working remotely is the only way a business can survive. Thus, without setting up an infrastructure in your own office or home, you can enhance your productivity with a virtual assistant.
We’re TaskVirtual , a company dedicated to bringing change in your business productivity. We are a team of Virtual Assistants specialized in handling front and back office works of all companies.
View all posts by Siddhartha Basu | Website
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The Pros and Cons of Booking Through Online Travel Agencies
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .
You’re likely already familiar with online travel agencies, even if you don’t travel often. These companies — such as Priceline , Expedia and Orbitz — act as intermediaries between you and a travel provider.
Booking your travel through an OTA can be a good idea in some circumstances, but you’ll want to be wary of its pitfalls. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of online travel agencies, so you’ll know what to use to book your next vacation.
Pros of booking through online travel agencies
There are certainly advantages booking through online travel agencies, though you’ll find different experiences whether you’re using public OTAs — such as Kayak — or private ones like those offered by your card issuer, such as the Chase Ultimate Rewards® travel portal .
✅ It may be cheaper
When searching for flights online, you may see different prices for the same routes that vary across websites. Although it may be a result of fare type — for example, some search results may not clarify that a fare is basic economy rather than main cabin or economy — other times, the difference comes down to competition for your business.
Online travel services will often offer slightly lower prices on flights in an effort to entice you as a customer. This is true for both hotels and airlines.
» Learn more: Best credit cards for online travel-booking websites
✅ It can earn you more rewards
Have you ever heard of shopping portals ? By logging into a shopping portal, you can earn rewards for purchases made with many online merchants. Some hotel chains, such as Hilton , Marriott and IHG , can be accessed through shopping portals while still booking directly on the hotel website. In this way, you can earn rewards with the hotel directly as well as with the shopping portal.
The same isn’t true for shopping portals and most airline sites. However, many public online travel agencies are accessible through shopping portals, which can then earn you rewards for airfare bookings. By opting to book in this way, you’ll be able to earn points or cash-back rewards through the shopping portal that you’d otherwise miss.
Some card issuers will also reward you heavily when using their online travel services. Clear examples of this can be seen with Capital One and Chase. With the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card , for example, you’ll get 10 miles per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel .
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is similar. With this card, you can get 10 Ultimate Rewards® points per dollar spent on hotels and rental cars on the Chase travel portal.
While these numbers are high, it’s important to remember that there are trade-offs when booking through an OTA rather than directly with a hotel or airline. We’ll get into that a little later.
Online travel agencies offered by your card issuer may not feature the same prices as booking directly; you’ll want to compare these before committing to a purchase.
Some card issuers will go so far as to give your points more value when redeeming through their online travel agencies.
This is true with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card . When redeeming points on the Chase travel portal, you’ll get 1.25 cents in value per point rather than 1 cent elsewhere.
» Learn more: How much are your airline miles and hotel points worth this year?
Cons of booking through online travel agencies
There are several downsides when it comes to using online travel services for booking travel. It mainly comes down to the fact that travel providers prefer that you book directly with them — and offer more perks to woo your business.
❌ It can be harder to change a booking
Ever needed to change a flight after it's booked? No matter the reason, attempting to alter or otherwise cancel a flight can be a hassle — especially if you’ve booked through a third party.
Generally speaking, rather than offering you direct assistance, both hotels and airlines will recommend you contact the online travel agency you’ve booked with in order to make any changes.
While you may be able to make changes or get refunds with the travel agency, airlines and hotels can — and will — offer much more flexibility when you’ve booked with them directly. You may also be subject to additional fees charged by the online travel agency, which can erase any savings you’ve received.
❌ You may not receive elite benefits
This is the real kicker for anyone wanting elite status. Although airlines will almost always recognize your elite status and allow you to earn miles even for bookings made through an online travel agency, hotels and rental car companies will not.
This is especially important for hotel chains. Earning elite status with hotels generally relies on elite night credits. Although these can be earned in a variety of ways — including having complimentary status by holding certain credit cards — the main method of acquiring elite night credits is by spending nights in hotels. Rooms booked through an online travel agency do not count toward elite status as elite night credits.
Additionally, you will not receive any of the benefits of your existing elite status if your booking is through a third party. This can mean the loss of perks such as room upgrades, complimentary breakfast and even free Wi-Fi.
» Learn more: The best airline and hotel rewards loyalty programs this year
❌ It may be more expensive
Did you know that many hotel chains have best price guarantees? Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott and IHG all have a guarantee that’ll give you either points or a discount if you find a better rate elsewhere.
These guarantees are generous; Hilton, for example, will match the rate and then discount it by a further 25%.
Although you’ll need to file claims for these guarantees and they face limitations — such as a 24-hour window from when you made the booking — you can save a lot of money on your stay if your request is approved.
Online travel agencies can be hit or miss
There are two sides to every coin and this is no different, as there are several benefits and limitations of online travel services. Depending on your needs and loyalty program status, you’ll want to choose whether to book directly with a travel provider or rely on OTAs to do the job for you.
Booking travel through credit card portals from issuers like Chase and Capital One can earn you big rewards. But if you anticipate altering your travel plans or aim to earn elite status instead, booking directly is the way to go.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023 , including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
on Chase's website
1x-5x Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
60,000 Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
1.5%-5% Enjoy 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, our premier rewards program that lets you redeem rewards for cash back, travel, gift cards and more; and 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
Matched Cash Back Unlimited Matched Cash Back. Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year! There is no limit to how much cash back you can earn.
on Capital One's website
2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.
75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.
10 virtual travel apps for oculus/meta quest 2.
VR gives people the chance to travel the world from the comfort of their own house, and these ten apps are the best for the Oculus/Meta Quest 2.
Travel is a major goal for many people, but it can be inaccessible even in the best of times because of financial and mobility-related barriers. As unfortunate as it is, some people may never have the chance to visit all the places they want to. But VR allows its users to not only explore virtual worlds but also get a better understanding of their own.
Between 360-degree breakdowns of the world, guided tour videos, and documentaries, VR allows people to get closer to the places of their dreams than was previously possible. Many travel apps even include interactive features, so the users can feel like they're actually able to connect with different cultures and topography. As systems like the Oculus/ Meta Quest 2 become more widely available, and as programmers and cinematographers put more effort into advancing the technologies, travel will truly be possible without having to leave home.
Traveling While Black
Traveling While Black is an Emmy-nominated VR experience that talks about the process of traveling, specifically focusing on the barriers that have been put in place for Black populations, in history and in the present. The experience takes advantage of every benefit VR offers, which helps its message connect with the audience.
While this is not a documentary that focuses on the freedom of VR, it does try to get its users to think outside their own bodies and life experiences to see how other people can be limited in their own freedom. It tells an incredibly important story, which deserves to be heard by those who have now gained a deeper level of freedom through the digital realm.
For those looking for a way to walk around the world, Wander is the app to download. The app's primary function is to allow users to navigate the world similarly to Google Maps' StreetView, allowing them to enter an address and be transported to that spot. This can be a great way to explore new areas or look back on places you used to live.
In addition to immersive imagery, users can use the historical jumping feature to see what different areas looked like over the years. Many famous landmarks even have the ability to be explored from the inside, giving users the feeling that they're really there.
BRINK Traveler gives users the ability to see some of the most amazing places on Earth from the comfort of their own homes. While there are currently only 17 locations for users to visit, the additional features make each one a true travel experience that may push them to travel in real life as well .
Virtual guides can explain the features and history of each spot, and an in-app camera allows users to take all the pictures they would want if they were to visit in person. Another great feature is the ability to travel in multiplayer mode, which lets users meet up with friends from anywhere while getting a remarkable view at the same time.
OtherSight is one of the most interactive travel apps out there because it specifically focused on including usable objects in every location. Currently, users only have the option of going to four different locations, but there's a lot that they can do at each one.
Users can visit churches, streets, and museums and really get a sense of how it feels to be there. The scale, texture, and movement qualities of interactive features are especially well done. While this is a fairly limited app at the moment, the developers are working on new locations, which can provide future explorations.
The Ocean might not be the first place people think of when they try to imagine their travel plans, but it is one of the great untapped resources on Earth. There is far more to be seen and discovered in the Ocean than there is on land, and Ocean Rift gives users the chance to explore that realm.
There are 14 different habitats to explore, which can be used as an educational program or one for relaxation, depending on the settings. The sea creatures are extremely detailed, and users can actually interact with many of them, giving the perspective of a true underwater safari. However, those with a fear of the ocean and its creatures may find some modes a little too realistic for their comfort level.
Blueplanet VR Explore
Blueplanet VR Explore is one of the most expensive travel apps, but that's in part because it is so extensive. The app allows its users to travel to 40 different cultural sites, with some offering the ability to interact with the landscape or even hang glide over it.
One of the best qualities of this app is the spacial breakdown, where users can truly explore the location. It is a physically navigable terrain, which creates a greater level of immersion than standard point-and-click systems. The one downside to the app, beyond its price, is that it takes up a lot of space, requiring a lot of memory and a strong internet signal while downloading.
Alcove is not technically a travel app, but it does offer a number of virtual tour experiences for free. The app itself is a virtual home, where users can download different in-app features depending on their interests. The travel features do include a number of tours on the ground, under the sea, and even in the sky, narrated by some of the most thorough guides available in VR.
The limitation of the app is that each experience is entirely pre-determined. There are no interactive features that would make it more immersive. However, given that it is free and has such incredible visual quality, that might be a sacrifice worth making.
National Geographic Explore VR
National Geographic Explore VR is a highly-interactive app that allows users to take on the role of a National Geographic photographer. They have the ability to travel to Machu Pichu or Antarctica, where they can navigate the landscape and take pictures of the many sights to see.
Users feel the strain of rowing boats and climbing cliffs, which makes for a more immersive experience . However, the quest is fairly pre-programmed, which means that individual decision-making is only possible in the pictures a user takes rather than in the experience as a whole. Coupled with another, more interactive app, this could be a great way to feel the travel in a way that images themselves cannot achieve.
Nature Treks VR
Nature Treks VR isn't overly concerned with realism, instead focusing on making a relaxing experience. Users have the ability to go on a walk on a variety of virtual paths, with exotic animals meandering by and control of the weather allowing the user to fit the experience to their preferences.
Because it isn't definitively located in any real-world locations , users have the ability to mold the world as they see fit, interacting with the trees to summon animals and controlling the sound levels to be more immersive or more relaxing. The detail work and spontaneity make it an engaging experience, though users should be aware that it is not intended to be a completely realistic one.
ecosphere is a photo-realistic breakdown of the Earth's most beautiful locations and the people that are working to protect them. Intended as a way to help the average person connect with the environmental crises of our time , these immersive documentaries show the importance of caring for the Earth before the damage is irreversible.
This is distinct from other user-directed travel apps but also provides a sense of depth and significance far beyond what other apps can offer. There are only a handful of experiences, but they go beyond visuals to explain what really matters about the different locations they portray. As an added bonus, the app is free, making these videos some of the most accessible ways for Oculus users to travel in VR.
NEXT: The 10 Coolest Games To Play On Oculus Quest 2
Best Online Travel Agencies
Booking.com is our top choice for making your trip arrangements
Ligaya Malones is an editor, blogger, and freelance writer specializing in food and travel. Ligaya's work has appeared in publications including Lonely Planet and BRIDES.
We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more .
Planning a trip can be easier through an online travel agency than if you handle each aspect of the planning separately. You can book hotels, air travel, rental cars, and more through a single site, and booking everything together sometimes results in discounts. By inputting a destination, a range of dates, and other preferences, you will see a list of options for each aspect of travel.
The best online travel agencies offer options from the largest number of airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, and more. Look for sites that offer discounts for combining reservations for different aspects of your trip. For example, the best sites will have lower rates if you book both plane tickets and a hotel through their services. The best sites also provide reviews from customers who actually have booked through the service. These are our top picks.
Best Online Travel Agencies for 2023
- Best Overall: Booking.com
- Best Budget: Skyscanner
- Best Price Predictor: Hopper
- Most Innovative: Kiwi.com
- Best for Eco-Conscious: Kind Traveler
- Best for Social Impact: I Like Local
- Best for Design-Forward Homestays: Plum Guide
- Our Top Picks
I Like Local
- See More (4)
Frequently asked questions, methodology, best overall : booking.com.
This industry leader offers one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms on the Internet.
Lots of options to choose from
Interface is easy to use
Numerous filters to customize your search
Tricky to tell whether changes/cancellations can be made with Booking.com or the vendor directly
Booking.com was founded in 1996 and has grown into an industry leader that stands out for being one of the most comprehensive trip planning platforms out there. From one website, you can compare and book accommodations, flights (including one-way and multi-city flights), sightseeing activities, and even airport taxis. The website lists more than 28 million accommodation options, from hotels, hostels, and B&Bs to vacation homes and luxury resorts—you can browse more choices per destination on Booking.com than other online travel agencies. The website also performs well on cost and typically returns lower-than-average prices for flights and hotels.
Booking.com's interface is also easy to use. On the home page, search for a hotel by entering your chosen destination and dates. Then, use the extensive list of filters—such as price range and distance from the city center—to narrow the results down and find the best fit. You can also search for a specific hotel, or seek inspiration by clicking through options grouped by destination or property type or by topic such as the country’s best Michelin-starred hotel restaurants or the top cities for vegan travelers. The flights, car rental, and other tabs are just as intuitive.
Best Budget : Skyscanner
You can compare prices across airlines, hotels, and car rentals.
Option to toggle searches between specific dates or by monthly calendars
Search Everywhere button is great for spontaneous planners
Extra clicks are required to make a final purchase
Must read fine print for changes/cancellations—may need to deal directly with the vendor
Ads on the sidebar can be distracting
Find deals on airfare, hotels, and car rentals with an aggregator site like Skyscanner , which uses a metasearch engine to compare prices from all online travel agencies and the airline, hotel, or car rental company in question. Run searches with fixed dates, opt to compare airfare prices month to month, or click “Cheapest Month.” Searches also include options for nearby airports or non-stop flights only. With hotel searches, you can choose to select only from properties with free cancellation, a cleanliness rating of 4.5/5 or higher, or 3- or 4-starred hotels only. Car rental searches include an option to select “return car to different location.”
Once you’ve found the best rate, click on the link to be redirected to the third-party site to make your booking. Feeling spontaneous? The Search Everywhere button on the homepage offers a list of the cheapest flight deals for destinations both locally and across the world—just plug in your departure airport first.
Best Price Predictor : Hopper
The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting when flights and hotel rates will be cheapest.
Color-coded system makes it easy to determine cheapest days to buy
App is easy to use
Option to track flights and receive alerts when the best time to buy arises
Some have mentioned the app functions better as a research tool than a booking tool
Unclear whether Hopper will price match if you find a cheaper flight elsewhere
Hopper is a travel app available on iOS and Android that aims to help travelers save on airfare by usng historical data and their own algorithm to predict when flights will be cheapest. Just type in where and when you’d like to fly and Hopper will present you with a color-coded pricing calendar indicating how much tickets are likely to cost. (Green is the least expensive, then yellow, orange, and red for most expensive.) Hopper will also recommend you either buy now or wait, or you can choose to watch a trip and receive notifications on the best time to buy. In addition, the app has expanded to offer hotel and car rental price predictions, too.
Some newer features since the app’s inception in 2009 include an option to freeze a price for a limited time—for an extra fee—as well as exclusive app-only discounts. Hopper is free to download, and you can choose to book directly through the app, though some users mentioned they use Hopper as more of a research tool before booking directly with the airline or hotel. The company claims a 95 percent accuracy rate at predicting flight rates up to a year ahead.
Most Innovative : Kiwi.com
This metasearch engine scours the web to piece together the ideal itinerary using planes, trains, buses, and more.
Creative itineraries get you where you need to go, especially if you’ve got a multi-stop trip
Kiwi Guarantee offers rebooking or cancellation protections
Nomad option appeals to travelers with a lot of flexibility
Creative itineraries mean you may not fly out of the same airport you flew into
Kiwi Guarantee has an additional fee
Charges all-in-one fee for booking flights, trains, buses (though you can always purchase a la carte)
Travelers planning multi-city destinations and seeking a bargain, as well as those looking to take planes, trains, and automobiles to get there, might consider Kiwi . Kiwi is a metasearch engine that scours and pieces together itineraries from various airlines (even if they don’t have a codeshare agreement), considers multiple airports (even if your arrival airport is different from departure), and offers booking options, whether you’re looking at very specific dates or more general ones (up to 60 nights).
Some will find the ability to make multiple bookings for a particular trip more convenient than going at it manually several different times, though note that you must opt into the Kiwi Guarantee program to access rebooking and refund protections should your reservation change or be canceled. Kiwi’s Nomad option allows you to plug in a bunch of destinations you’d like to visit and the length of your intended stay, and the website will churn out the most affordable itineraries for review.
Best for Eco-Conscious : Kind Traveler
A give-and-get business model means booking accommodations with exclusive perks, a donation to environmental organizations, and more.
All participating hotels include a local give-back component
Exclusive savings and perks
Participating hotels are located in some of the most beautiful places in the world
Inventory is much smaller compared to other booking platforms
Some of the amenities mentioned are based on availability only
In 2022, Kind Traveler (an online trave agency focused on hotel bookings) announced an increase in environmentally and socially conscious hotels, charity donations, voluntourism opportunities, and additional perks like waived resort fees or a welcome amenity.
Unlock exclusive hotel rates and perks from participating Kind Traveler hotels with a minimum $10/night minimum donation to a local charity. For example, stay at the Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and receive up to $33 off the nightly rate and perks such as a food and beverage credit and an Earth Lab or Alchemy Bar workshop when you make a donation to Manta Trust. The organization funds coastal research to protect the island nation’s large yet fragile population of reef mantas.
Select from more than 140 participating hotels from the Hawaiian Islands to Bozeman, Montana, and the Maldives. Charities include wildlife, human rights, arts, education, and environmental preservation organizations.
Best for Social Impact : I Like Local
Choose from a host of travel experiences with the peace of mind that 100 percent of the cost goes directly to local partners.
Social impact mission woven into organization’s business model
Immersive experiences led by local guides
Range of experiences offered
May not be best fit for those seeking upscale, luxury experiences and stays
Can’t sort experiences by a list of countries (though an interactive map is available)
No experiences outside of Africa and Asia
For an online travel agency with a booking platform designed to route dollars spent directly to the communities travelers intend to visit, consider I Like Local . Visit the website to browse a host of travel experiences in countries including Indonesia, Kenya, and Cambodia. Experiences include homestays and farmstays as well as wellness and culturally oriented experiences—from cooking and cycling tours to weaving classes.
To search for an experience, select from drop-down items like travel dates and experience categories, or view a global map and click on a country to view experiences that way.
The platform got its start in 2014 and has grown to 4,000 local hosts across nearly 20 countries. As a social impact organization, 100 percent of each booking fee goes to local hosts. To date, 16,000 travelers have booked with I Like Local.
Best for Design-Forward Homestays : Plum Guide
Browse and book seriously vetted, design-forward vacation homes.
Highly curated inventory of vacation rentals across the world
Thorough vetting process
Does not publish guest reviews
Other platforms have homes available across more destinations
When it comes to booking a vacation home, serviced apartment, or condo, travelers are spoiled for choice. Plum Guide is an online travel agency that specializes in accommodations—though not just any home makes its directory. The company claims that each potential home listed on its site must jump through 150 hoops to be included, from internet speed and mattress and pillow quality to the showers’ water pressure and the home’s proximity to dining, shopping, and attractions.
Search by a featured collection on the website such as “ pet-friendly homes ” or “one-of-a-kind homes in Palm Springs.” Scroll to the bottom of its homepage to view its top destinations, as well as a list of all destinations where Plum Guide homes are available, including Barbados, Mexico, Portugal, Switzerland, the U.S., and Turkey. Note: From the top right-hand corner of the site, use the dropdown menu to select currency of choice.
As long as you know what you value most out of your travel experience—such as affordability, social impact, or luxe accommodations—there’s an online travel agency to help plan your next trip. Be sure to read the fine print, as some agencies are third-party websites and not direct vendors. If you're not sure where to start, Booking.com is your best bet for a smooth user experience and hard-to-beat offers on flights, hotels, and other travel arrangements.
What Is the Biggest Travel Agency?
Our choice for best overall, Booking.com, is known as an industry leader with listings for all major hotels, airlines, car rental companies, and more. It boasts more choices for accommodations per destination than any other site, and we found its interface to be user-friendly.
Are Online Travel Agencies Worth It?
This depends on your needs and priorities. The best online travel agencies certainly can save time by booking everything all at once. However, if you're someone who is good at haggling and enjoys the details of planning a trip, you might be able to find better deals by reaching out to hotels or other destinations and speaking to someone personally.
Is It Cheaper to Book Online Than With a Travel Agent?
Not always. A travel agent you know and trust should have the experience and connections to find deals that can match or surpass what you'll find online. Additionally, if something goes wrong, travel agents provide you with an actual person you can use as an advocate to correct the problem . But if you don't have access to a good travel agent, online sites still provide plenty of ways to streamline planning and save money .
We considered dozens of online travel agencies and narrowed down the options based on user experience, volume and quality of inventory, unique offerings and specials, and customer reviews. We also assessed travel companies’ environmentally and socially conscious policies.
Catherine Falls Commercial / Getty Images
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OpenAI launches API that lets developers build ‘assistants’ into their apps
At its developer conference, OpenAI announced a new API, the Assistants API, that it characterizes as a step toward helping developers build “agent-like experiences” within their apps.
Using the Assistants API, OpenAI customers can build an “assistant” that has specific instructions, leverages outside knowledge and can call OpenAI generative AI models and tools to perform tasks. Use cases range from a natural language-based data analysis app to a coding assistant or even an AI-powered vacation planner.
Powering the new Assistants API is Code Interpreter, OpenAI’s tool that writes and runs Python code in a sandboxed execution environment. Launched in March for ChatGPT , Code Interpreter can generate graphs and charts and process files, letting assistants created with the Assistants API run code iteratively to solve code and math problems.
The Assistants API can also tap a retrieval component that augments dev-created assistants with knowledge from outside OpenAI’s models, like product information or documents provided by a company’s employees. And it supports function calling, which enables assistants to invoke programming functions that a developer defines and incorporate the responses in their messages.
The Assistants API is in beta and available to all developers starting today. The tokens used for the API will be billed at the chosen model’s per-token rates, OpenAI says, with “tokens,” here, referring to parts of raw text (for example, the word “fantastic” split into “fan,” “tas” and “tic”).
In the future, OpenAI says that it plans to allow customers to provide their own assistant-driving tools to complement Code Interpreter, retrieval component and function calling on its platform.