Traditional online travel planning and flight-booking sites like Expedia or Orbitz are still strong although their traffic is slowly lowering in relative terms compared to web based applications with a touch of Web 2.0. User generated content, social networking features, blogs, use of Google maps, collaborative planning, tagging, RSS feeds and similar innovations changed the way we travel. So what are the best travel web sites ?
WAYN (Where Are You Now?) is a social networking web site with 4 million members where you can log your trips, see who’s where or make new friends. Users are able to create a profile and upload photos, search for others and link them to their profiles as friends. Since this service is designed for travelers, members are able to search for contacts based on a particular location. Using a world map, it enables a user to visually locate where his/her contacts are situated around the world.
Wikipedia buzz has influenced also travel industry. Wikitravel is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date, and reliable world-wide travel guide. It uses wiki model to create the guide and is built collaborative by travelers from around the world. Articles cover any level of geographic specificity, from continents to districts of a city, and wikitravel has become useful resource for travelers. Similar service is World66, which is an open content travel guide, where people from all over the planet can write about the places they love, the hotels they stayed in, or the restaurants in which they have eaten. Every part of the travel guide can be edited directly, and you can change the info you find, do a write up, add a complete city or just a bar or a restaurant. Service also generates a map of the world showing which countries you’ve traveled to in your life.
If you are looking for innovative travel search engine, you should check Kayak. It is a travel search engine and is considered as a meta-search engine which searches hundreds of other websites in real time for the best travel deals available. Kayak lets you look at a full range of airlines, hotels and car rental agencies quickly and efficiently based on the criteria you select. Kayak does not sell tickets or book hotels but is looking for best rates and provides you with links to travel agents where you can book a flight or an accommodation.
One of my favorite start ups is farecaster, which is the first airfare prediction website. They help online travel shoppers save money by answering the question; should you buy now or wait? In beta version, they offer airfare predictions from over 55 U.S. departure cities to top domestic destinations. They use data-mining algorithms to search for patterns, in the accumulated airfare data, which are associated with significant price changes. These patterns are represented and stored in models, and the models are then rigorously trained. Once created and trained, they use these models to predict the future. Then, current airfares can be scored by the model to answer the question, “is the price going up or down in the future?”
I also like next service although it probably won’t be widely accepted, but I can see that this can be very useful. Website enables a traveler to stick digital pins on a world map. Friends and family can then follow the progress. They do this by accepting a simple SMS from a traveler containing the nearest town to you and this is then plotted on a Google map. We all have mobile phones when we are traveling and rarely we sure don’t have 24/7 Internet connection.
There are many other niche services like Travel Buddy which is a social networking and travel community website offering an interactive system for sharing photos, blogs, groups, and ability to automatically generate personal travel maps based on user blogging activity. Collaborative travel planning services like Triporama provide a web service designed to make travel planning easier. Similar service to triporama is TripHub, which makes it easy to create a central “hub” for all trip information and discussions, you can invite people to join your trip and track who is coming, research and discuss travel plans and activities, collaborate on decisions and keep people informed and create a shared schedule of events. Relatively popular website is also 43 places where you can share stories about places in your city, and around the world. Website is using tagging and nearly 60.000 places are featured.
Services I mentioned can be useful additions to traditional services when we plan a trip. TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet with search engines mentioned in the beginning of this article are still the best travel related resources, but you can really expand your experience by using some websites with web 2.0 related features. Specially when you plan a trip. You can also ignore everything and go on a pure adrenaline I don’t know what will happen or where I will end up trip which can be entertaining sometimes but this is not the best approach for every life period.