Wouldn’t it be nice to plan a trip in just 5 minutes? No researching of top attractions, no mapping out all the places you’re going, no need to create a schedule of each day’s activities…I’m betting you’re thinking that will never happen and even a travel agent couldn’t do it. Wrong!
I recently discovered two sites, Home & Abroad and Plnnr. They claim to make it easier to plan a trip. I didn’t believe them. Now I’m eating my words and realizing that computers might be taking over soon because this site does it all. If you take 10 minutes now to find out which site is right for you and 5 minutes later to plan your trip, you still have saved countless hours planning a vacation and it’s all thanks to the internet.
To show you how magic this all is, I’m using the city of London during a 5 day stay in mid-September just to see how the websites compare. I’ve made my own little ideal tourism list based on my London Top 10 post with a little bit of Harry Potter thrown in. I’m kind of a nerd but apparently even these sites can figure that out.
Home & Abroad
Home & Abroad has been around since 2005 and has received many accolades. It is currently sponsored by the Travel Channel. The site has 4 ways to plan a trip: browsing, dream trips, trip themes, and the custom planner. For the purposes of review, I chose the custom planner.
Ease of Use: The planner is basic yet easy to follow. You input information on where and when you want to go, who is going, your travel goals on a 1-4 scale, your preferred attractions, and your interests. From there the site produced a 5-day trip plan with locations to visit, the % match for my inputs, and the cost. What really stood out to me was the ability to plot the locations on the map and that the itinerary provided estimates on how long each attraction would take.
Trip Planning Benefits: When the site produces the inventory for you, it includes links to a subpage just for that attraction. On that page you might find contact info, hours, age recommendations, transportation options, nearby attractions, similar attractions, travel and historical tips, fellow traveler reviews, and nearby hotels or restaurants. Since I like to eat near my attractions and stay on one side of town in a day, this site is perfectly matched for my research needs.
Accuracy: How accurate was the site? It managed to get my top London interest, the Tower of London, on the itinerary but it only matched me at an 87% match. It included several of my top attractions like the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery but it also left out some must see attractions. It did include several lesser-known attractions that do sound interesting and the site does allow me to personalize based on my own choices.
Overall: Overall I’m quite impressed by the site and how it displayed my trip plans. The top value for this site is the subpage details for each attraction and the ability for the itinerary to be viewed as a timeline or as a map. I would prefer the site to have some better visuals but its functionality is superb.
Plnnr bills itself as “Your personal tour guide” and on first glance it’s very user friendly. The site uses infographics, an example trip plan and even a trip planning wizard to guide you through the process. It uses more visuals than words so be prepared for an unusual trip planning method.
Ease of Use: Filling out your trip info is beyond easy. You press the visuals to insert your destination, dates, theme, intensity, and level of luxury. The site produced a plan but before I could even view it they presented me with a quick graphic to show me how to use the page. The itinerary page was unbelievable. It included what method of transportation I should take and how long it would take, each location for me to visit and how long that would take, and a map of the route I would be taking broken down by day.
Trip Planning Benefits: I love the ability to choose intensity since I’ve mentioned before my husband and I have vastly different traveling styles. Unlike Home & Abroad it already included a hotel recommendation in the trip plan but it gave me the chance to compare hotels and offers. If you want to swap attractions, that’s easy enough and you can even change your preferred method of travel which I didn’t even know I wanted in a website. When I made a change in preferred method, it changed my trip to allow for new timing estimates.
Accuracy: The website didn’t ask me about my interests or hobbies and yet on Day 1 it sent me to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Millennium Bridge, Tower of London, and Westminster Abbey among other places. That means in one day it was more accurate than the entirety of the Home & Abroad trip. Day 2 was a little less accurate, Day 3 was off the mark, Day 4 was very close, and Day 5 was once again perfectly on target. I think this trip benefits from strength in numbers, it recommends an overwhelming amount of attractions on the schedule so one is bound to be right.
Overall: The website is still very limited in the number of cities it offers its planning for. Unfortunately, I think the intensity scale is a little off the mark. Home & Abroad suggested 2-4 hours at the Tower of London while Plnnr gives me just 2 hours on a moderate intensity scale. I think this would be a weakness in case of lines or popular attractions. I also wish the location description page rivaled that of Home & Abroad but I do like the ability to vote yay or nay on each attraction from its subpage and the photos provided. Beyond those flaws, the site is remarkably accurate, the visuals are outstanding, and the site is fresh and modern.
Both sites live up to my 5 minute claim. You might want to review the details longer but I promise you that you aren’t in the planning stage for long. As for the better site, when I just visited Home & Abroad, I would have easily chosen it as a perfect trip planning site. I stand by the site as perfect for the kind of person who loves researching on TripAdvisor and other travel sites but wants to take the time out of the equation.
However, after visiting Plnnr, I’m just blown away by all the features I didn’t even realize I wanted in a website. Plnnr is the perfect site for a web 2.0 kind of traveler (if you have to ask, you probably aren’t) or someone who wants to just go to the best places without any fuss in the planning process. If Plnnr adds more destinations and upgrades its attraction pages to the status of Home & Abroad it might be the perfect site for trip planning but until then, Plnnr is the winner in a photo finish.