Make trip planning social with GoGoBot

My wife and I don’t get to travel very often, and when we do, we tend not to do it very well. We’re both much too happy sitting quietly with a book to rationalize spending a thousand dollars just to sit and read someplace new.

With that being said, we also realize that variety is the spice of the life, which is why it’s one of our family goals to become much better travelers. I’m hoping that with the help of GoGoBot (and our friends), we can reach that goal.

Overview

GoGoBot is a social-networking app focused on travel. Members can offer and request travel advice for any location on the planet (including my rural hometown, population: 1,086), browse lodging and restaurant reviews, explore things to do while visiting the location, view photos of the area, and finally, set up a plan for their particular trip.

GoGoBot also tries to turn trip planning into a game by using badges and “passports.” The former allows you to earn a badge for certain tasks, while the latter is like a scoreboard, keeping tally of how many countries, cities, and spots you’ve been to, as well as how many reviews you’ve written.

Of course, because it’s a social-networking app, the value of GoGoBot is entirely dependent upon its members. But thanks to its tight integration with Facebook and Twitter, the app avoids the obstacle that besets every social app: namely, garnering enough contributing members to become practical and useful.

Becoming a Member

Signing up with GoGoBot is as simple as clicking a button to connect with your Facebook or Twitter account. Once you’ve linked the account, you also have the option of connecting to your Foursquare account, which will automatically link your check-ins to your GoGoBot passport (this works with Facebook’s Places too).

To help ease the process of joining, GoGoBot automatically connects you to any members who are already your friends on Facebook or who you follow on Twitter, though you can turn this feature off in your Account Settings, if you like.

Account Settings

Plenty of ways to connect

Planning a Trip

While you can always just be a helpful member of the site, offering reviews of the places you’ve been and suggesting ideas to your friends who are going places, the real point of the application is to use your social network to plan a trip of your own.

As the founder of the site, Travis Katz, said in an interview, “We’re letting you connect to the people that you know and trust, your friends, to get good advice, trusted advice, about where you should go, where you should stay, where you should eat when you’re taking a trip.”

Choosing a destination

Choosing a Destination

Where do you want to go today?

Because I wanted to get the most use out of GoGoBot in as short a time as possible, I decided to plan a trip to Boston, MA, the hometown of many of the people in my network. I figured I’d send out a message saying that I need recommendations for a weekend in Boston, and see what came back.

Once you pick a location, GoGoBot brings you to a homepage for your trip. Because GoGoBot aims to make travel planning “a visual experience of discovery,” your trip’s homepage contains a lot of eye candy, including a map of the area and Flickr-generated photos of your location’s most popular attractions.

My Trip Homepage

Look at all the pretty pictures!

Researching an attraction

If you already know a little bit about an attraction, you can add it to your trip with a simple click, but if you need more information before you make a decision, you can click on the photo of the attraction to read reviews, get a phone number and address, and browse more photos of the place (thanks to Flickr’s creative commons).

Attraction Page

Get detailed information on attractions

If you like what you see, you can just click the buttons at the top of the page to either add it to your current trip or add it to the list of places where you want to go.

The page also gives you links to nearby attractions, including restaurants and lodging, so once you add it to your trip, there’s no reason to go back to your homepage. Just browse through the list of nearby locations, and continue adding to your trip.

Finding a place to stay

If your trip requires an overnight stay, you can use GoGoBot to explore both hotels and vacation rentals. As with the attractions, each lodging possibility has its own page with reviews, photos, and general information, but unlike the attractions, you can use GoGoBot to check availability and prices.

Rather than work to establish its own network of travel reservations, GoGoBot piggybacks onto the major players, such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Hotel.com. You choose the dates of your visit, select which sites you’d like GoGoBot to use when comparing prices, then click the submit button.

I was hoping that GoGoBot would come back with a nicely designed table or chart that showed me the prices that each site had found, but instead, it opened a browser tab for each of the sites I selected, forcing me to click back and forth to compare various prices.

Asking for advice

Of course, the point of GoGoBot is not to tap into the overall network of anyone who has been to your destination, but to collect travel advice from the people you know and trust, your friends and family on Facebook and the people you follow on Twitter.

That’s why, right at top of your trip’s homepage, GoGoBot gives a big, green “Get Advice” button. Clicking on it brings up a basic form field to post your question to GoGoBot, Facebook, and Twitter.

Asking for advice

Tap into your network for advice on what to do

Once you fill it in and select which networks you’d like to tap, GoGoBot spreads your question out to the Internets.

How it looks on Facebook

How it looks on Facebook

How it looks on Twitter

How it looks on Twitter

There’s only one problem with this. It requires your friends and followers to not just respond to your question, but to click on the link and respond on GoGoBot. When I asked my question and sent it to Facebook and Twitter, my network responded right on Facebook and Twitter, either through comments to my status update or direct messages. No one (as of this writing) clicked on the link to comment directly on GoGoBot.

Final Thoughts

GoGoBot believes that “planning your trip should be almost as fun as the trip itself.” And with a visually-rich design, passports, badges, and social networking, they make a decent pass at achieving their goal. It takes the best parts of Yelp and adds a trip-building component.

The only negative is that the applications depends on other websites to do its heavy lifting: to read the complete description of a restaurant, for example, I had to click over to a page on Yahoo; to compare prices for hotels, GoGoBot opened five tabs on my browser; to actually get advice from friends, I had to go back to Facebook and Twitter.

If GoGoBot is to become a one-stop shop for travel planning it needs to do a better of job of bringing all that data back to the site itself. The problem, of course, is that it can’t do it without our help.


Summary

GoGoBot uses your social network to make travel planning fun. Get trusted advice from your friends and family on where to stay, what to eat, and what to do at millions of spots around the world.

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