The Social Travel Craze – A Quick Look At 15 Social Travel Websites

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Whether or not you want to invest in social networks, I’m almost certain that you’re spending at least some time on them. And you’re probably even doing some travel planning on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and the rest.

We even gave you some helpful hints on how to use Pinterest to plan a trip a couple months ago. But that’s just dipping your toe into the Social Travel craze –  there are many other tools out there specifically built to make travel a more social experience … even if some of them seem to be forcing the issue like a bad dinner party.

 There are really three pieces to the social travel puzzle:

  • Research and planning engines fueled by social recommendations,
  • Social networks focused on accommodations, and
  • Social networks and apps focused on connecting you to people.

All three have the power to make your trip a lot more interesting (and, yes, that’s a double-edged sword). Here’s a roundup of the websites that can help you fully leverage your social travel network:

 Planning

  • GoGoBot surpassed 1 million registered users last month, is a travel-focused social network where you can interact with other members. So, for example, if you’re struggling finding reasonably priced accommodations, you can pose a question to the community and get an answer from someone who’s boots are already on the ground.
  • Tripbirds, which seems to be struggling and is going dark next week for at least a bit, leverages your geo-check-ins on networks such as Foursquare to make recommendations in cities you’re traveling to.
  • Trippy is one of the granddaddies of this category, launching way back last September. It allows your social network connections to help you collect ideas for your upcoming trip and then automatically converts your friends’ recommendations into an itinerary and plots the trip on the user’s travel map.
  • Uptake  provides recommendations based upon what your friends around the globe(and their friends) tell you, along with an aggregation of existing travel guides. Uptake was just purchased by Groupon for a reported $20 million.
  • Wanderfly works a lot like Pinterest – you make boards for cities you’ve visited or are considering visiting. The search function allows you to set parameters such as interests, travel dates and budget so that what you’re looking at really is a good fit for you.

Accommodations and Getting There

  • Airbnb matches travelers looking for unique and/or cheap places to stay with hosts. So, if you want to spend just a couple Euros and are cool with sleeping in someone’s guestroom in Paris, Airbnb will match you with someone in Paris looking to make a couple extra Euros who doesn’t mind having a stranger sleeping in her guest room.
  • Casahop allows you to swap homes with someone in your social network for a weekend or perhaps longer. I like to think of this as kind of a “social timeshare.”
  • Couchsurfing is like Airbnb, but it’s a non-profit and you’re not paying for your accommodations. Consequently, the intention is not to just to find a place to lay your head at night; it’s to create a social experience with your host and/or guest.
  • Social Flights is a like Groupon for travelers – you team together with people you don’t necessarily know to fly on a private plane to your destination.  Say you want to go to Quebec but don’t feel like flying commercial because, you know, it’s a hassle. But then again you can’t afford to charter a plane, either. But if you join Social Flights’ “Quebec Travel Circle” there’s a good chance you can fly a private jet – with the perks that implies – for about same cost as flying commercial. The service is pretty much-confined to North America right now.
  • Wehostels used to be inbed.me and is targeted to a younger demographic that typically stays in hostels.

People Connections
The concept of these sites is cool – you’re headed to somewhere you’ve never been and where you don’t know anyone. These sites will connect you to friends of friends and “must meets” that can help you get the most out of your visit. The goal is to give you a personalized “insider’s tour” of your destination. This category has exploded over the last 12 months; it’ll be interesting to see if it contracts just as fast. Founders at a couple of these companies say that they’ve had to tweak the model because the majority of folks don’t travel all that often and therefore might only use the site once a year. And as John Biggs wrote at TechCrunch, “maybe it’s the grump in me but I want to show someone around the neighborhood like I want a hole in the head.” 

But here’s a rundown and some of the differences between their services:

  • Ajungo helps you find travel buddies based upon your travel itinerary by sifting through your social media platforms.
  • Globetrooper allows you to create trips and invite others, or join trips being planned by others based upon destination and the type of trip it is – backpacking, a dining tour – whatever.
  • HoozTrippin allows users taking trips with common destinations and dates to connect with each other prior to traveling. After the trip, you can reconnect with your new travel companions by sharing pictures. The founders describe it as “Match.com for travelers.”
  • Tripl “connects people through travel.” You plug in to the Tripl network and recommend cool people to hang out with in places you’ve been. So you connect to locals when you visit new places and they potentially connect with you when they come to your hometown.
  • Triptrotting is like Tripl, but more focused on similar interests (and more established). They created it with the assistance of the people at eHarmony and go in-depth on traits such as personality and professional interests, creating a community in which you can connect with like-minded travelers and locals.
  • Twigmore originated on Facebook as a way to leverage your Facebook network when traveling – by staying on the Facebook platform it seems to eliminate some of the friction that many of these sites have meaning that people signed up for Twigmore are probably more likely to use it more frequently.
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