TripSay and the world of “travel 2.0” (score a beta invite from Gadling)

The web has already created all sorts of great ways for travelers to connect and share information. Sites like Dopplr let you share details on where you’re going with your friends, while Wikitravel has brought us the next generation of collaboratively-created travel guides.

But these types of interactive travel sites are only the beginning. A new generation of user-driven travel portals promises to combine travel opinions with searchable maps, images, tagging capabilities and intuitive recommendation systems. One of the more interesting of this new crop of sites is TripSay. TripSay, which is still in private beta mode, promises to let users create their own personalized travel profiles, as well as to rank and create recommendations from their travels. As you begin to add friends to your travel network and further define your preferred traveling style, TripSay customizes its content to your interests. Think of it like Trip Advisor on steroids. Recently, Gadling was lucky enough to snag an invite to the private beta testing and take the site for a spin.

On first glance, TripSay offers a relatively easy-to-use interface. When you first sign-up, you’re asked to rate some of the places you’ve visited, assigning them a ranking on a five point scale from “smiley” down to my favorite, “butt.” You’re also able to further tweak your profile on the basis of travel style, including identifiers like whether you lean towards budget or luxury travel, your language abilities and previous travel experience.

Since I’m headed to Japan in a few weeks, I decided to see what the site had to say about Tokyo. TripSay loaded up a map of the city, already dotted with markers indicating sites of interest. I clicked on the marker for the Tokyo Tower, which brought up an overview of the building, along with a random photo of it pulled from Flickr. Since the site hasn’t yet launched, there are only a few markers, but I can see the potential. Any user can add their own tips to the map, categorizing them into such topics as “eat, drink and party,” “culture,” “nature” and “amusement” among others. As you add more travel friends, the markers that appear on your map are tailored to reflect the suggestions of your friends and your particular preferences.

Any great travel experience is ultimately a product of both spontaneous epiphany and reliable information. That information can come from any number of sources – a guidebook, the web or even word of mouth. TripSay looks to be an interesting hybrid of all three. However, its success will ultimately depend on its community of users, who will provide the site’s appeal and content. Want to help them get things started? Leave us a comment below and we’ll randomly select five winners early next week to get invites.

[Note: comments have now been turned off. Thanks to everyone for expressing their interest!]