The days of planning your vacation through faceless, text-only travel reviews are over. No more sifting through countless guides for desired cities; no more scrolling through generic tips on travel websites that may or may not have been planted by PR.
Travel is an exciting, interactive and visual experience — and planning a trip should be, too.
SEE ALSO: 7 Essential Tools for Business Travel
You’ve already successfully incorporated social and digital media into your life, using networks such as Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook for real-life suggestions. Now it’s time to use those same connections to get the most out of your dream vacation.
We’ve rounded up eight websites that help you plan your next trip through crowdsourcing — tools that you and your fellow world travelers can use to upload pictures and information from your trips, as well as browse through real-time recommendations to get a feel for a prospective destination.
Did we miss a similar site that you love to use? Share it with us in the comments below.
One of Triptease’s goals is to have users “rethink travel,” and its refreshing and responsive social interface helps you do just that. Keeping in mind that digital design is moving in an increasingly visual direction, and that the best part of returning from a trip is sharing those photos your friends will inevitably drool over, Triptease allows you to write, share and browse reviews with a focus on stunning imagery. It also operates on a real-name basis, highlighting the humanity behind travel recommendations.
The platform emphasizes quality; you won’t find dull lists or negativity — only the best experiences that will turn into necessities on your itinerary. Triptease also invites hotels and businesses already established in the travel industry to set up special accounts to engage customers.
2. Find My Itin
Image: Find My Itin
Choosing a destination is the fun part, but once you purchase a plane ticket and book your stay at a hotel, you’ll need to plan out the details of your trip. Even if you’re a spontaneous, wayward traveler, a general itinerary can help ensure that you make the most of your time without getting overwhelmed.
Find My Itin lets you tap into crowdsourced itineraries from people around the word to help inspire your trip, whether you’re spending five days in Kyoto, relaxing for three days in Phuket or scrambling to explore Angkor Wat in two days. The site is currently in closed beta, but is taking requests for invites and will send you updates.
AFAR is a multi-platform travel media brand, best known for its award-winning magazine of the same name. AFAR.com is essentially a travel guide that hones in on individual experiences you’ll love, from places to eat to shopping destinations, landmarks and activities.
You can find valuable articles from local experts with high-quality images, specific directions and relevant suggestions for other things to do. Perhaps the coolest part is that for each region of the world listed on AFAR.com, there’s a section for questions and answers, so you aren’t left guessing in a foreign place.
Image: The Age
Stackla is slightly different from the other choices on this list. It’s actually a curated social media hub, somewhat reminiscent of RebelMouse, allowing you to collect, view and share content from your social media networks and RSS feeds. It can be used for anything — events, campaigns, etc. — but it’s especially useful if you and a group of your friends are planning a trip and want to collaborate on ideas. It’s simple to aggregate content based on hashtags and other social metrics.
To understand just how useful Stackla can be for crowdsourced tourism, check out#SpottedByLocals, a campaign that Tourism Victoria (Australia) launched in May 2013. Understanding that many tourists want to know what locals — not other tourists — like to do in the area, Tourism Victoria tapped into the the value of user-generated content and had local celebrities post visual content with the hashtag #SpottedByLocals. Soon, members of the general public began posting their own content, and it continues to be updated.
Based on recommendations from friends and insider tips from travelers around the world, you can use Gogobot to plan the perfect trip. The mobile app, available for free on iOS andAndroid, makes it easy to share where you’ve visited and explored with the tap of your smartphone screen. You can even send digital postcards to friends while you’re there.
The site itself helps you find hotels based on trusted reviews, and you can ask for travel advice by posting in the extended Gogobot network.
Trippy describes itself in its tagline as “a community of travelers helping each other travel better,” and it does so by allowing you to collect and share travel ideas with friends by connecting your existing social accounts. Browsing friends’ suggestions, the team behind Trippy posits, solves the problem of receiving untrustworthy and irrelevant travel content.
In early 2012, Trippy underwent a Pinterest-esque redesign — that is, boards of photos to which you can pin images from around the web. Now, Trippy has returned to an invite-only stage, “opening its doors” soon, but you can get in line now by signing up via Facebook or email.
Crowdsourced tourism doesn’t only have to entail getting inspiration from others’ images. If you’re putting your travel ideas in the hands of strangers, why not take it a step further and actually travel with them?
Under30Experiences offers trips that expose ambitious young adults to various parts of the world. Anyone under the age of 35 can apply for once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and 30 people are chosen for each trip. Under30Experiences makes it clear on its landing page that it’s not a travel company, but rather an experience company.
Trips include Costa Rica, where you can explore jungles, volcanos and mountains while learning about organic food production, and Nicaragua, where you can learn how to surf and play soccer with local children.
Similar to Under30Experiences, Geeks on a Plane provides invite-only “tours” around the world — all you need to do is fill out an application. Organized by accelerator 500 Startups, Geeks on a Plane combines travel and technology by bringing together entrepreneurs, investors and executives to learn about burgeoning global tech markets. Each trip is part travel experience, part networking event.
Program attendees can expect to meet startup teams, geeks and investors while learning about the latest tech trends in several cities, traveling via plane, train or automobile. Past trips have included India (Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi), the Middle East (Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Amman, Dubai) and Eastern Europe (Moscow, Tallinn, Zagreb, Berlin