I have been busy in the past weeks - in preparation for taking a while off as I am about to become a father! - and have added 3 new features to Travelindicator that I believe will be very useful to our users going forward. They are: weather forecast, altitude and percentage price changes. Let me explain how they work and what their use is.
Weather forecast - Right from the start we have incorporated historical average temperatures and precipitation for every month of the year and every location. That gives a pretty solid idea of what the weather should be like when booking a long-term holiday, however for the shorter term it does not really suffice. Using data from openweathermap.org we now source expected maximum temperatures for the coming 14 days for every location. We take the lowest and highest (maximum) temperatures in the range and show you that in the results overview. You can also sort any page with results by forecast 14 day temperatures from low to high and vice versa.
Altitude - Not entirely sure how useful this will be, but it completed our static information for each location. In the results overview we now show you the altitude for every location, and needless to say you can filter on altitudes low to high or high to low. Apparently the highest places we currently incorporate are Mont Blanc, La Paz and Uyuni.
% price changes - As you know we source average hotel rates from Expedia on daily basis. As we store these prices, we thought it might be useful to give you an indication of how far above or below average a currently stated rate is. You can see these on the location pages below the nightly hotel rate. This for instance tells us that - as of writing - Madrid is 16% above its historical average rate. Do note that the averages are calculated from the moment we start incorporating them in the database. For most of the locations this will be about half a year to a few months.
We have recently updated the frontpage of Travelindicator a bit to make it more clear to you what we stand for. You will likely have come across the following, which is what we like to call our "Five Pillars".
Whereas other travel websites may at most give you travel ideas based 2 dimensions or so (Beaches in Asia? Culture in Europe? There you go.), Travelindicator works along the 5 dimensions of distance, weather, cost, surroundings and themes:
Let's give you an example of how you can maximise the 5 dimensions above to your benefit. Essentially each search starts with deciding whether you want to look for travel destination in a radius around your current location (or nearest city), or whether you have already roughly determined the region or country you want to travel to and just want to see what's on offer there.
Step 1 (distance): Let's assume you will be traveling to Berlin and are looking to make a European trip that goes anywhere in a 2,750km radius around that.
Step 2 (weather): You want decent weather, let's say temperatures above 10ºC and rainfall below 130mm. Note how the weather filter applies to temperature and rainfall in April, as that is the basic setting and the period in which we are searching.
Step 3 (cost): Your budget is not minimal, but you can do without staying in hotels in places likes Monaco which will probably cost you an arm and a leg. So you select an average nightly hotel rate (measured across all available hotels with 2 stars and up) of $275.
Step 4 (surroundings): You may land at Berlin, but you care nothing for Europe's big cities. What you are after are smaller towns that have at least some form of greenery around them. So you set "urban" at a max. of 30% and "forests" at a minimum of 30%.
Step 5 (themes): Having selected all this, you still have a few more criteria you want your holiday destinations to meet. They should offer some history, architecture, culture or art and be family oriented. So no Spanish party islands into the mix, please.
Your preferences will look like this:
With this search you have just generated a list of 19 towns that meet your requirements. Ordered by distance (ascending), the top 10 includes Quedlinburg, Rothenburg, Český Krumlov, Bavaria, Dürnstein, Hallstatt, Bratislava, Maastricht, Füssen and Alsace.
Alright, we know we should be focussing on getting many more places into Travelindicator rather than doing small technical enhancements instead. And honestly, we are doing both as hard as we can. The latest addition is something we think will grow out to be a useful one: tags.
It's fairly simple really, as we add new locations we will be giving them specific tags like "vineyards", "rocks", "medieval castles" or "world war 2". You can click through on these tags and get other locations that have this tag assigned to them.
Looking for a relaxing trip to European vineyards, looking for great spots to go hiking, or are you simply out to visit some historical sites relevant to one of the wars? Travelindicator has you covered.
Click on one of the tags you see listed with a location, or simply on "Tags" on top of the website to reach an overview with currently available tags.
If you click the Budget menu option above, you get to see something like the following:
The "hotel only" option is straightforward: it shows all cities where average nightly hotel rates (2 to 5 stars) fall within a price range. Filter down on those between $0 and $100 and you will be shown locations like Dubrovnik, Taichung and Berlin. Filter down on those above $350 and it's Tokyo or Bora Bora. This looks a bit like the following:
This states the hotel price (€118), and an estimated flight price (€142). While at some stage we would love to incorporate real average ticket prices into Travelindicator, for the time being that is not technically feasible. We could have chosen to omit it altogether and function solely as a hotel price aggregator, but that is no fun is it?
So we scoured the web and came across an article at the Rome2Rio Blog. They found that air fares could be linearly approximated by the formula ticket price = $50 + 0.11 * mile. We have slightly tweaked it, but essentially we do something similar. And we find it to provide a very reasonable approximation. Its accuracy will fluctuate, but Beijing to New York is never going to cost $200.
The "Hotels (2 night) + Flight" is based on all of the above. It uses the estimation of the costs for a round trip flight, and adds to that two times the average rate for a hotel. This gives you something like this:
Note how the hotel price (€118) is unchanged, but we now also show an estimated total trip cost (€434). With this you will be perfectly able to work out the difference in cost of a city trip to Berlin or to London.
Some things to clarify: If you are staying for more than two nights, we are sorry, but you will have to do your own calculation! Using the regular search you can do just that. Also, all of this is based on your location. If you load the site from different countries, you will get different results! Of course, you can manually adjust. The city you stay in impacts results and you will have to select it by yourself.
As we have stated before, Travelindicator started out of a conviction that something was missing in the land of travel websites. On the one hand, the internet is filled with many great travel blogs giving general traveling tips or zooming in on very specific locations that they have discovered, inspiring us all. On the other hand there are the Trip Advisors and Lonely Planets of this world. Their role is to give you all the miniscule details once you have picked the destination. Where to stay, what sights to see, what to eat, that sort of stuff.
All of that definitely serves its purpose and it would not be an understatement to say the supply of such sites is somewhat saturated. But what website do you go if:
1. You want to travel and know what you want out of a holiday but have no idea where to go? (example: you want to make a city trip to a desination that scores high in the areas of culture and architecture)
2. You have no idea which destination you will be able to afford? (example: you have a budget of $500, both for getting there and staying the night in a hotel)
3. You have no idea which destinations are nearest to you? (example: you want to go somewhere which is in driving distance, 500km or 250 miles)
4. You have no idea what the weather will be like? (example: you want to go on a beach holiday but prefer not to get soaking wet from rain while chilling out on the beach)
That's where Travelindicator now comes in and why we exist. We categorise locations by (monthly) temperature and rainfall, by exact location, by price (live average hotel prices per city and estimated flight prices) and by attributes.
What we mean by attributes are the qualities of each location (as voted for by you, the users), of which there are quite a few, for instance: Adventure, Culture, Beaches, Mountains, Deserts, Eating and Going Out, Shopping... Mix and match as you like, take away your results and make a choice! Or go ahead and book that hotel on Travelindicator instantly :-)