Planning a trip is just as tiresome as it is pleasant and fun. So many things to be done and kept in mind: stuff to pack, flight tickets, hotel and car reservations, time of check-ins and departures, confirmation numbers, addresses… Preparations turn into a total mess when one tries to keep all this information in perfect order.
A travel planning application can take on this messy part of the travel routine. It can be a nice helping tool to have all of the necessary info in just one place always at hand whenever it is needed. And no more printing out tickets and reservations!
In the article, we’re going to talk about how to build a travel planning app, which features it should possess, and what steps you should take to build a viable product.
Tourism is on the rise globally. According to the World Tourism Organization, in 2018, the number of international tourists increased by 6% compared to 2017, and a 3–4% growth is projected for 2019.
At the same time, traditional types of traveling are being left behind to be replaced by newly emerging alternatives. Earlier, group tours and vacation packages were popular among tourists, but now people prefer to travel independently, solo, or slowly (i.e. stay in the chosen destinations for quite a long time). Let’s take a look at the factors that laid the groundwork for this shift in the preferences of modern travelers:
Growing exposure to travel opportunities. With lots of online travel agents, self-service booking platforms, and travel fare aggregators, people don’t need travel agencies as mediators anymore in order to create traveling experiences.
In 2016, Airbnb conducted its Airbnb and The Rise of Millennial Study among the millennials from the US, the UK, and China. The findings suggest that at least 75% of the respondents prefer to plan trips themselves rather than buying a packaged tour. These findings reflect the shift in the modern traveling paradigm toward more adventurous, personalized, and local experiences — something that traditional holiday packages and all-inclusive tours have always missed.
Craving a “local touch”. As we’ve mentioned in the previous point, people don’t want standardized experiences anymore.
The desire to feel like temporary locals is another reason why modern travelers tend to plan their trips themselves. While planning, they prefer to utilize global platforms facilitating personal connections — Couchsurfing, Airbnb, etc. rather than the help of a third party — a travel agency. Independent research and planning allow them to interact with local communities, try local ways of life, and have local experiences that aren’t possible with an all-inclusive group trip.
Strong reliance on travel tech. Smartphones are becoming the number-one assistant supporting travelers on the road. According to the Google/Phocuswright Travel Study conducted globally in 2017, about half of the respondents in most countries feel comfortable using only smartphones when researching and planning upcoming trips (48% in the US, 45% in the UK and Australia, 53% in South Korea, etc.)
Mobile travel products should not necessarily be top-notch. As the Booking.com study suggests, travelers would rather prefer them to be practical and easy-to-use. For example, 57% of the respondents named a single app that would cover all their trip planning needs among their top preferences.
The described tendencies showcase that travelers are in strong need of advanced tech products that would facilitate the process of trip planning and help travelers get in touch with local communities. So you should take these tendencies into account if you decided to make a travel planner app.
Studies and research are the main sources of valuable insights into what users want their ideal travel planning app to be. As a source of additional information, you can also take a look at the best travel planning apps already existing on the market to see what features they have.
Let’s see what basic features you should consider if you decide to build a trip planning app.
1. Maps are an indispensable part of any trip planning app. Its primary functions are to help users locate themselves in an unknown area, search for directions, or see what places are located nearby. But it can also serve other purposes. Here are some ideas.
TripIt, a well-known trip planner, features interactive maps of airports and terminals. Orienting within an unknown airport can be quite a confusing experience. So detailed maps showing how to reach a necessary gate or terminal in real time can be of great help for users:
Maps can also be a source of amusing statistics for users. For example, App in the Air features a map that visualizes all of the users’ departures and arrivals as dots connected by lines (routes), showing how many times a user went on a trip. The map can also be viewed as a video and even as a globe in the AR mode. A nice way to get inspired by your own trips! You can check how many trips you've made anytime and anywhere, like we did right in our office:)
Maps can also be used for marking destination points and places of interest on the route. We implemented this function with the help of Google Places API in our own product, TripLine. We'll cover it in more detail in the coming chapter, and here is a screenshot from TripLine showing places of interest in Slovenia:
2. Itinerary is a detailed visualization of user travel plans, step by step, from getting on and off the plane, to taking a shuttle bus from the airport to the city, to checking in the hotel. Itineraries can also include places of interest, restaurants, museums, and other places the user plans to visit. Check out how this was implemented in TripIt, where you can find all of the necessary details: flight number, confirmation numbers, addresses, etc.:
Itineraries can be created manually or automatically. For example, TripIt asks users to forward all of their reservation confirmations to a special email, then parses all of the necessary data from the emails and creates master itineraries for users. Quite an elegant solution to take note of if you want to create a trip itinerary app.
3. Reminders. When trying to keep in mind tons of travel details, there is a good chance of forgetting something: the gate number, check-in time, etc. Checking with the app once in a while can sometimes be a way out, especially when you travel alone. But what if the trip involves a lot of details, people, and places?
In this case, reminders and push notifications about the upcoming check-ins and planned visits are of great help. They can release users from the burden of constantly checking the phone and grant a feeling that everything is under control and goes as expected. Moreover, notifications can sometimes be a source of additional useful info, which, otherwise, could have been missed or obtained with extra effort from somewhere else. With so many details that you need to keep in mind when travelling, a push message can literally save the day if anything changes:
4. Support of voice and digital assistants. Increasingly more people tend to communicate with the tech in natural language. Oliver Heckmann, Google’s VP of engineering for travel and shopping, says that, according to Google global research, at least one in three respondents would prefer to use digital assistants for trip researching and planning.
In this regard, it would be a good idea to integrate your trip planning app with a smartphone assistant. For example, TripIt allows creating Siri shortcuts that help obtain travel info in a quick manner – when asked about the upcoming flight and gate number, Siri obtains the information from TripIt and presents it to the user:
5. Sharing. The ability to share itineraries with co-travelers — friends or family members — is a must in trip planning. Therefore, users can make sure that everyone won’t miss a thing in the upcoming trip and always be kept up-to-date about the trip details. These are the basic features any trip planning app should possess. Below are some additional ones that are not necessary but would be a nice bonus for travelers:
Once you’ve decided to create a trip planning app, you may find yourself unsure of where to start. Here’s a set of steps that we at Yellow always follow to build a viable product.
Before coming up with product concepts, it is a good idea to find out what products the market lacks. After you’ve done the market research, you can use the acquired data to brainstorm ideas for future app functionality.
Remember that the golden rule for building successful products is “one product — one key feature”. A key feature is a core of the product, something that the entire application is based upon. For example, the key feature of TripIt is creating itineraries, of App In The Air — marking flight destinations, etc. So before jumping in travel planning app development, ask yourself: what would be my app’s key feature?
Prototyping is a nice tool to test product ideas and leverage the power of user feedback at an early stage of product development.
Start with simple black-and-white wireframes — they’re enough for the potential users to evaluate the basic look and feel of your future trip planning app and make sure that the application is well-organized and easy to navigate. Once you’ve tested several ideas and chosen the best one, you can transform a wireframe into an interactive prototype that can be used for further usability tests.
Once the app backbone — a prototype — is created and approved, you can proceed to design a future app interface.
Try to keep your design neat, clean, and intuitive. Remember that sometimes the best interface is not having an interface at all.
The next step is to power your design with code. Start with developing a minimum viable product (MVP) with a key product feature — it’s enough to test the app on your target audience, gather and analyze user feedback, and add new features accordingly.
Finally, the world will see your app! However, the successful launch doesn’t mean that you can rest on your laurels and enjoy your product success. Remember to keep your product up to users’ needs, release timely updates, and fix bugs if there are any.
TripLine is a mobile trip planner application that we created for an LA-based startup. Byron Dumbrill, the CEO of TripLine says: “Planning is a creative process”. This is exactly the mission of TripLine — to make the process of trip planning amusing, creative, and fun.
TripLine allows for creating trip itineraries by marking destination points on the map. To add a place, you simply have to find it by its name through the in-app search bar. If the place is found, it automatically appears on the map as a red dot. When there are several dots on the map, they are connected by the line, visualizing the entire route.
To make your itinerary more informative, you can add photos and text to each destination point. The app is integrated with various social media, such as Instagram, Flickr, Foursquare, etc. so you can import your photos and check-ins from there into your itinerary. And this is what the TripLine itinerary looks like:Once the itinerary is created, you can share it with your co-travelers by simply adding their emails or usernames. In addition, you can register on the TripLine official website, share your itineraries with the community, follow your favorite travelers, comment on their routes, and find fresh ideas for your upcoming trips.
Currently, the product is undergoing beta testing.
Modern travelers prefer planning trips themselves, rather than reaching a third party — a travel agency. They need advanced tools to facilitate the process of trip planning and researching.
Once you’ve decided to develop a vacation planning app, look into travel industry insights and the best examples on the market to find out what basic features your app can include.
Before embarking on a trip planner app development, it’s a good idea to research the market to find out what it lacks. Therefore, you’ll be able to give users a product that they really need.
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