Trippy launches, aims to transform travel planning into a social experience

When it comes to travel planning, your friends are the best source of information. Such is the motto of just-launched social networking site for travel planning, Trippy.

Using a simple integration with Facebook, members can create trip planning templates with the click of a button. Fill in just a few details and the site will auto-populate suggestions for hotels, activities, and restaurants, plus provide a comprehensive list of your Facebook friends who are from, live or lived in, have visited or went to school in the destination. Then, using a personalized trip link, you can privately message friends to ask for suggestions about your upcoming trip.

As you piece together parts of your vacation, Trippy helps organize the information into an itinerary that can be sent via iPhone app or email. While you’re traveling, you can easily snap a photo with your smartphone and send pictures to the friends who helped you plan. The itinerary is also easily saved, so other friends who use the site can copy your travel plans at a later date.If you don’t have friends in a certain spot, the site’s handy auto-complete feature pulls in data from, Google Places and the site’s own internal database. More features will be added soon.

Entrepreneur J.R. Johnson is behind the site. Once the brains behind VirtualTourist and (sold in 2008 to Expedia), Johnson aims to develop a new kind of traveling model. “There’s too much user generated content out there now,” Johnson said. Trippy is based on the principle that the best information is “friendsourced” rather than “crowdsourced.”

It’s becoming more and more difficult to rely on sites that don’t vet reviews, Johnson said. One never knows if the reviews are posted by paid travelers or the properties themselves. With Trippy, travelers will know that the information they’re getting is from a trustworthy source – their friends.

Trips can be planned for real, upcoming stays, or for a “dream” vacation. This process, Johnson says, helps travelers make the leap from dream to reality – the site soon showcase easy booking integration with sites like Expedia, where users can check rates and book right within Trippy.

We played with the site for an upcoming visit to Chicago and found it easy to use. We were able to reach out to several friends we didn’t even know were in or from the area and added a few great suggestions to our upcoming itinerary. A few kinks are still being worked out, as in any beta version, and integration with sites like Twitter and Foursquare is soon coming. We look forward to testing the iPhone integration in a few weeks, but the free app is available for download now.

Gadling readers get early access to the beta site with code GADLING.