Searching, Thinking, Speaking Travel Apps No Match For Human Brain, Maybe

Under the premise that searching for a flight online is a time-consuming and annoying task, travel buyers have been presented with a number of solutions. As new technology moves from the lab to the street, we see it being applied in helpful ways that do indeed make life easier and save us time.

Searching for flights online, buyers commonly visit multiple websites, see something they like on one, look for it on another, cross-check with the airline site and so on. When the time comes to pull the trigger and buy, those flights are often unavailable or priced differently. It can be a frustrating task but one that has to be done to find a flight that works with our travel plans – until now.

Say hello to Pintrips, a new online tool that allows business and leisure travelers to “pin” and see flights they’ve found across the web in one spot. Find something you like on a Pintrips-enabled website? Pin it with a click on the pin button next to each flight and Pintrips saves the find, constantly tracks price changes and enables easy comparison.

Stop right there and Pintrips is a win, consolidating all the good stuff we see while searching and putting it in one place. But going a step further, Pintrips pulls in the results of similar searches done by others in a crowd-sourcing sort of way that might eventually be worth considering.

Called “Public Pinning Boards,” this new feature provides “a fast track to pinning by providing the latest pins from the community as well as latest deals,” said Pintrips in a Wall Street Journal statement.

Pintrips does have its limits; capability is currently available only on American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air and Virgin America airline sites and search sites Google, Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz. But new sites are being added every month and users can request sites too.

Easier yet, Cheapair has a new voice-activated flight search travel app.

Basically, we don’t have to lift a finger with this one to find an abundance of flight information. Using the new CheapAir app available for iPhone and iPad, say a request like, “Orlando to Los Angeles, May 5th to the 10th” or “L.A. to Vegas tomorrow coming back Sunday” and up pop the results – no form to fill out.

Still, finding the right flight can be much like looking for a needle in a haystack; there are just so many different options. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use our brains to narrow down the results, find the perfect flight, priced right, and be done with it?

Applying the flavor of recent research at University of California, Berkeley, that day may come. Scientists have discovered that when we embark on a targeted search, like looking for a contact lens on a bathroom floor or a car key in a bed of gravel, that various visual and non-visual regions of the brain mobilize to track them down.

“Our results show that our brains are much more dynamic than previously thought, rapidly reallocating resources based on behavioral demands, and optimizing our performance by increasing the precision with which we can perform relevant tasks,” said Tolga Cukur, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UC Berkeley in a RDMag article.

We look forward to more results from that research but know that the world of travel apps is constantly changing, as we see in this promotional video for the Travel Channel To Go app from 2008.

[Photo credit – Flickr user TZA]

Travel Inspiration, One Step At A Time

It’s not so much where we travel, but what we do when we get there that matters. For those who run in real life, there is nothing better than doing so at a remote location.
Like to hike? Getting away from the normal routine to engage a totally different terrain can bring new life to your passion for the sport.

But we don’t need to be into skiing, surfing, biking, climbing or backpacking either.

Many travelers find the first step towards the adventure of a lifetime starts with something simple. A photo posted by one friend on the road, a tweet full of fun from another at some festival or an old-fashioned phone call filled with unbridled joy can be just the inspiration we need to start planning.

Check out this video, pack your bags and hit the road; it can be just that easy to make some meaningful travel happen in your life right now.

[Photo credit – Chris Owen]

Meet In The Middle: Plan Group Travel With TripCommon

Have a friend in Austria while you are in Austin and want to take a trip together this summer? How do you figure out where to meet? Do you choose a destination in the middle, or one with regular cheap flights from both of your destinations? A new website just launched in beta, designed to make planning group travel an easier process. TripCommon is a flight search engine that computes the cheapest common destinations, giving you the option to filter by region (maybe you’ve both always wanted to explore South America), activity (make it a beach trip), and where you have local friends (if you link up to Facebook).

What makes TripCommon genius is that it doesn’t just find random points on the map that are midway between you and your friends (you can enter up to six cities for big group travel planning), it finds destinations that have the lowest average price. Maybe you are in grad school and have a fixed budget; you can find places with the lowest cost from your city. If you have frequent flier miles to burn and your friends are the ones looking for the cheapest seats, you can sort by lowest price from one of their home cities. You may discover destinations you never thought about (Canary Islands sound nice for summer!), and make the trip planning process a lot more equitable.

Start planning your group trip at

[Photo credit: Trip Common]

Travel Planning Made Easier With 3 Tools We May Already Have

Travel planning commonly starts with a destination. It may be a required business trip to visit a client. Our periodic vacation time might be coming up and we want to explore options that will fit our budget. We might just be daydreaming of a bucket-list destination and want to keep track of what it costs to get there. A variety of smartphone apps are available to help. Those with a stake in any given destination will want us to come visit their place of interest. But at the end of the day, the numbers and information we gather can be difficult to manage. Some tools we might already have available can help.

Spreadsheets are great things for compiling the data we accumulate when researching travel. Take an airline ticket for example. We may start with a price comparison site like Kayak, providing variables like the “From” and “To” destination points, the dates to “depart” and “return” and others.

Very quickly those few initial choice can turn into an unruly mass of choices that may be otherwise difficult to manage as Kayak invites us to check Orbitz, Priceline, Hotwire and others. A spreadsheet via whatever program we may be familiar with can make order of that chaos.

Friends who have been there and done that can beat just about any visitor-generated website reviews. If uncle Bob, who we trust personally and know to give good advice, says destination x is best done a certain way, we take that to the bank and book it.
Uncle Bob may also have contacts at our destination and know the rules and regulations about getting there. On international travel, it’s always a good idea to double-check, but knowing that we don’t need any visas (or that we do and need to apply for them in a timely manner) when planning a cruise in the Mediterranean, for example, is good information to have up front.

Travel sources that have proven themselves to us can gain nearly as much trust too. By consistently following an expert on a certain topic, be that anything from adventure to business or cruise travel, we get to “know” and trust their words of wisdom. Those sources are putting their reputation on the line whenever they make a recommendation and we do well paying attention.

If I were going to Hawaii, for example, my first stop would be Gadling’s Maui-based freelance writer Kyle Ellison who lives there and knows the ins and outs of the destination.

Just considering these three tools can help make sense of travel options, giving us a baseline of reliable information that can serve us well. When it comes to planning hotels, airlines, car rentals and other elements of a trip, having our personal sources of information and our “go to” way of keeping track for all things related can help us get the most from our travel. Nothing beats having a good system in place up front.

The point is to use sources you know and trust. For example, PC users might use One Note, Bing Local Scout, Windows Phone and SkyDrive as we see in this video:

[Photo credit- Flickr user Dr Aek Muldoon]

Not Sure Where To Go On Vacation? Ask Mr. Arlo

When we’re not sure where to go on vacation, we often look to travel guides, websites and other sources of inspiration for guidance. The mental process may go something like this: pick a place, look at hotels, check out what there is to do there then make plans. We would like to get an idea of what that trip might cost and when the best time to go is too. Gathering all our sources, we pull the trigger on planning a trip and hope for no big bad surprises along the way.

That’s one way to do it. Another way would be to ask Mr. Arlo, an online travel companion that listens to us and makes travel planning less of a challenge and a lot more fun.

Mr. Arlo starts by asking users a few simple questions, just to get the ball rolling. “Where would you like to go?”, “Are you a big spender or on a budget” and other qualifying questions, eerily similar to what a human travel agent might ask, combined with a peek at their Facebook profile, friends and activities brings some solid recommendations.”By getting to know you, your friends and your preferences, Mr. Arlo recommends trips, restaurants, and activities that fit your personality,” says Travel Daily News, adding, “His knowledge and expert connections give consumers confidence to make the right decisions.”

Mr. Arlo taps 150,000 three star and above hotels, 25,000 Open Table restaurants and thousands of activities worldwide to come up with customized, detailed plans that allow users to save and share trips.

Launched just last week, Mr. Arlo is already getting a lot of attention. Nominated for Start-Up of the Year and People’s Choice awards at the Travel Innovation Summit, happening right now in Phoenix, Arizona, Mr. Arlo is worth a look and may very well fit into your travel planning arsenal very nicely.

[Photo Credit: Flickr User mkosut]