What is a mashup? Consider the trip to Greece that my wife Maria and I put together this past summer. We stayed in 4 different cities, took 5 flights on 4 different airlines, rented cars in multiple cities and took a ferry. We planned everything ourselves with web research, online booking and emails. We had transportation, maps, restaurant bookings, sightseeing and activities information. Lots of related information (e.g., stuff in the same city) and lots of similarities in each piece of information (e.g., confirmation codes, names, times, phone numbers), but nothing completely standardized. So, the spreadsheet organized by dates across the top and function (e.g., transportation, hotel, etc.) down the side. It worked, and we pulled it off! (Although Maria might argue that driving in Santorini was a BIG mistake.)
Well, the travel mashup site called TripIt are entering the fray to make this kind of planning activity much easier. After registering, you just forward all your confirmation emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and they automatically compile your itinerary for you. You can see an example of my upcoming trip to Brussels here. It adds local weather, maps and directions for you. 60 degrees and a good chance of rain – ugh!
(I plan to write several more posts about various mashup sites, and hopefully a more analytical piece that gives some insight into what’s going on here. But for your sake, gentle reader, and mine, I think I’ll start off with a few of these more descriptive posts first.)
My experience was reasonably good. The airline confirmation emails worked fine. I didn’t have an email confirmation from my hotel, and I don’t think that they can automatically process most hotels anyway, so I had to add that information myself. I got some weird mapping results. First, it gave me driving directions from London to Belgium. One click and I deleted that bit of extraneous information, although I wouldn’t have guessed its only four hours to drive! Second, it gave me driving directions fom some airport in France that shares the code ‘BRU’ with brussels. It was a bit of hassle to figure out an alternative airport code that would trick google maps into giving me the directions I really wanted. (Thank you, wikipedia for the answer.) It was also clunky to add the new directions to the itinerary.
There are features that I didn’t use for this trip, but might come in handy. For example, they promote the idea of including web clips. That might have come in handy for my greece trip, if I wanted to add things like ferry schedules, sight seeing info, etc. They also automatically link to SeatGuru that has recommendations about plane seats that could be useful if I had an choice of seat to begin with. (The flights I’m on are oversold.)
In the end though, I think that Expedia doesn’t have too much to worry about. I love the way they keep track of your frequent flier miles and itineraries. And they don’t have to resort to processing emails or “screenscraping” web sites to gather the right information. Perhaps the $5 surcharge isn’t so bad after all.
Next, TripIt has to integrate with TripAdvisor and other sites that have comments by travelers. Perhaps someone would have warned us not to rent the car in Santorini! Now, that would have been helpful.