Can You Use an AI Trip Planner for Your Next Vacation?
Maybe you’re dreaming of your next summer trip to Paris or Lisbon. Maybe a family trip to Machu Picchu. Or maybe backpacking across S.E. Asia with a final stop in Bali. All wonderful ideas, which generally require large periods of planning and research. What if this could be automated with AI?
How much time would you save if the research, the booking process, and even updates on airport congestion were handled by AI? Generative AI platforms, like ChatGPT and Bard, showcase how the travel industry can deliver personalized and relevant experiences for travelers who are planning their trips.
Did you know that, according to a Google Travel study from 2019, over 74% of travelers in the US preferred planning their trips on the Internet rather than with an agency? Now imagine the possibility of planning an end-to-end trip with generative AI.
Recent updates on AI use in the travel industry
Given the quick adoption of ChatGPT, it’s not a surprise that companies are looking to leverage this new tech.
Expedia has announced the launch of its ChatGPT-powered chatbot, aiming to enhance your travel planning while providing tips on places to visit and stay. With the ChatGPT plugin, travelers can find all the hotels and accommodations in their “chat” with the AI. This is saved in a separate “Trip” section of the app, where the users can access their recommendations and make bookings once they’re ready.
In an official statement, Peter Kern, Vice-Chairman and CEO, Expedia Group, mentioned that the move to integrate ChatGPT and Expedia app for AI-based shopping capabilities was to provide an intuitive way to build a traveler’s trip. Singapore-based Trip.com released TripGen in February 2023, an experimental generative AI chatbot that provides travelers with live assistance, personalized travel trips and itineraries, and real-time travel booking advice on Trip.com.
As an individual, how should you leverage Generative AI for planning a trip?
Most generative AI platforms, like ChatGPT and Bard, are free to use (for now). All you need to do is create an account and ask for the information you require. Here’s how you might want to optimally use these AI platforms and tools to plan your next vacation:
Itinerary - Simply ask it to make an itinerary for you and it’ll throw one out within minutes. You could possibly reduce hours of Google research and multiple pages, into just a few prompts. These AI tools can provide a day-by-day breakdown of a trip, including travel hours and transport options. You will need to ensure that your prompt includes all your requirements, such as pet-friendly hotels. Try it out and see what might come out.
Personalize your prompts - These AI models learn from the data they’re fed - The more conversations and interactions you have, along with the feedback you provide, the quicker it will learn about you and your preferences. The aim should be to have a constant conversation with the AI models and allow the answers to be refined. The first responses can be generic and unrelated to your requirements. Adding further details and context, possibly in the form of multiple questions, would help you get your ideal itinerary. Be specific and keep filtering your prompts for the desired results.
Virtual assistant - Use generative AI as your virtual travel and shopping assistant through chatbot integrations. You’ll find multiple unrefined versions, but the latest developments in AI are creating more personalized chatbots for individual requirements. There is a possibility for integrations that send you real-time alerts on flight timings, entry requirements, national holidays, restaurant-renovation closures, street blockages, shopping deals, and much more. This can help you create a more adaptive trip and enhance your overall travel experience.
Quick recommendations for delayed or canceled plans - Thinking on your feet might not come easy, especially when you’re relaxing on a much-needed break. But unfortunate circumstances can always arise, such as a flight being canceled or delayed. What do you do then? Generative AI technologies can simplify this process and provide alternatives based on your existing itinerary. AI can potentially check for hotel availability, weather conditions, replacement experiences, transport services, all done within your specified budget. Get varied options to select from and add/subtract to see how it might impact your overall costs and timeline.
Multilingual and multicultural support - This is an understated problem, but language barriers can hinder even the simplest form of communication. Generative AI, which is largely a Natural Language Processing platform, can help you with the diverse languages at play across the globe. The first step is to use these platforms to generate a list of common phrases and terms used in a foreign country. AI-based translation can also be used to understand menus or street signs. Further to this, you can use generative AI to understand cultural practices and avoid any missteps. For example, a tea ceremony in Japan has a process that must be strictly followed.
Risk of using Generative AI in the travel industry
Generative AI could play an important role in creating an experience that matches expectations, with about 74% of travelers having that as their priority rather than focussing on costs. However, this is not without its share of problems:
Wrong information - AI platforms have certain limitations when it comes to sharing factually correct and updated information. A hallucination or fabricated data is always possible - you could be making a plan for a restaurant that does not exist. Incorrect or old data might be generated, such as for flight timings and entry requirements, disrupting your travel plans. It is advisable to check the responses against your own research, which can end up increasing your research time.
No booking support - At the moment, chat-based AI can’t provide support for direct bookings. AI platforms will direct you to third-party websites to make bookings, but those links could be broken and it defeats the point of using AI. You also don’t have any after-sales support and would need to take that up directly with the hotel or company. However, OpenAI plans to build more plug-ins that would allow easy integration with other apps. Certain apps are already in the beta testing phase with ChatGPT.
Financial cost - Since generative AI can hallucinate information, it can possibly lead to additional indirect expenses for you. Wrong accommodation or transport details can play havoc with your budgets, as you might have planned according to inaccurate data. Maybe there were added costs that were not mentioned and required a separate prompt.
Safety concerns - “How safe and reliable are the recommendations by ChatGPT?” - a valid question that must be understood. AI may not necessarily provide you with the safest options, unless you specifically ask for it. AI can recommend a highly-rated bar in an unsafe neighborhood, which could potentially put you at risk. ChatGPT itself has acknowledged that it doesn’t understand whether the data is reliable or not. Always double-check online and offline before going anywhere.
This raises doubt on whether you can trust the use of generative AI for travel planning. And if you’re going to use Google to fact-check or make bookings, does it even make sense to waste time with it?
Moreover, ChatGPT is aware that it can respond with outdated information, as it explains, “While I strive to provide accurate and reliable information, there is always a possibility of errors, outdated information, or conflicting advice.”
Thus to be on the safe side, you should use generative AI only to create a rough itinerary. Fine-tune the details further using search engines and travel sites, before finalizing the itinerary for yourself or for your family and friends.
AI tools that you can use as a Trip Planner
While ChatGPT and Bard are highly developed AI platforms, you’ll find other automation tools that are specifically designed to act like your travel planner. Here are a few:
Roam Around - This is a ChatGPT-powered app that gives you an itinerary based on the location you’ve entered and your travel dates. It is not an advanced version as it only provides an easy-to-read version of the original ChatGPT responses, possibly acting as a good starting point.
iplan.ai - This gives you information beyond destination and travel dates, building an itinerary based on your budget and how you’re traveling (with friends, family, spouse, or solo). The most distinctive feature is the visual representation of the itinerary. It gives you a day-wise plan mapped out on Google Maps, which can be shared with your friends and family for more collaborative planning.
Kayak - This platform has long been the go-to for comparing flights and hotel accommodations, helping you find the cheapest and fastest way to start your trip. In March 2023, it announced a ChatGPT integration that leverages the GPT AI and Kayak’s vast historical data. It will slowly be rolled out to GPTPlus subscribers and could unlock direct bookings with after-sales support.
The travel industry, like any other, is undergoing massive change with the advent of AI. Travel startups and well-established companies are adopting this new technology, with the hope of simplifying the travel experience for the end consumer. It provides an opportunity for human-like interaction, almost akin to a travel agent.
And although it’s still in the nascent stages, the potential for AI integrations is vast. As the data reliability improves, so will the use. Until then, we can plug generative AI into a few steps of our travel planning and see if it makes our life any easier.
Have you used any AI tools for your travels? Let us know how it affected your trip here.
Want to cut the clutter and get information directly in your mailbox?