Hi all, just wanted to give you a quick development update on two new minor features we have added to the Travelindicator interface.
Standard lists and easy saving
On every destination page you now see the following buttons right under the name of the destination, allowing you to quickly add a place to one of three standard lists.
These standard lists are: Must see places, Might see places or Visited places (we have therefore done away with the Should see list... remember we were going to simplify things?)
Random destination browsing
In addition, we made randomly browsing around (which we like to do in the evenings while sipping on a glass of wine or a cold beer!) easier by adding a Random button to each page. Happy browsing!
Last weekend was quite a momentous one for the Travelindicator crew. It was the first time that the two co-founders (Nik and Jaap) of Travelindicator actually met up in person.
Of course we have had our fair share of Skype sessions in addition to being in almost daily contact as we worked on the project, but we felt the time was right to bring our Singapore-based and Germany-based founders together for a weekend of brainstorming in sunny Singapore.
We concluded that in order to get the message of Travelindicator across better, going forward we will focus on 3 key themes: clarity, simplification and social. Here's what we talked about in more detail.
Recap: what is Travelindicator?
First, we spent a few moments brainstorming about summing up Travelindicator as succinctly as we could:
- Keywords: Travel. Social. Discovery. Explore.
- Tag: Travelindicator: Explore further.
- Story: Travelindicator is a destination discovery tool that helps you discover and explore your world
Nik and I have always felt that there is a very natural location for Travelindicator on the travel services spectrum.
You have your booking websites that you use to arrange your flights and hotels, and you have your Lonely Planets, Rick Steves and Rough Guides for getting in-depth information for destinations. What does not exist however, outside of Travelindicator, are services that let you discover new places.
Sure enough you can find plenty of "top 10" lists once you start Googling, but a service that actually really maps the travel profile (location, themes, weather, cost) of hundreds if not thousands of destinations, and lets you search through them? We have not come across any good ones, and that's why have built one.
What will we do differently? Expect more emphasis on the core idea of Travelindicator ("a destination discovery tool that helps you discover and explore your world") going forward.
As part of clarifying our product and explaining where we sit on the travel spectrum, we also realised we are going to have to get rid of some clutter. Feedback we received from users once they started browsing a destination page was often along the lines of "you should really add more information on X or review more attractions for this city", etc.
But that is not the point of Travelindicator, the point is that we just made you aware of the existence of that city! Now you can save it to your must-see, should-see or might-see list, or even create an itinerary. And then keep browsing.
What will we do differently? We will work on streamlining our interface and simplifying the website, rather than adding more and more complex features as we go along. Less is more.
One area where we will keep innovating and pushing is social. I realise that for many startups social is added as a gimmick, or as a must-have in order to build a user base and so on.
We are convinced that Travelindicator is different. We started adding basic social features this year which allow users to message each other, share and publish itineraries, recommend places to each other and so on.
We envision a future for Travelindicator where entire families or groups of friends are browsing together to discover destinations and build itineraries for their next trips.
What will we do differently? There will be increased focus on the social aspects of Travelindicator. Not as a gimmick, but because it will make planning your trip that much easier.
Just checking in to let you know that we have added a small new feature to the site that we thought might be of use to some of you: price rankings for all destinations per continent. This feature allows you to quickly get a rough idea of a visit to which locations comes at a premium, and which are relatively cheaper than others to visit.
Of course there were ways to get this information out of Travel Indicator before we added this functionality, but we still thought it would be handy to have an overview - that is live updated on daily basis - in one place.
We are not done with adding new features yet. What about the ability to check out a travel destination and get suggestions for similar destinations (nearby) that are cheaper? We are working on that. Till later!
Two new features and better presentation of some existing ones have been added to Travelindicator.
The first new feature is travel cost. We have established a link with Rome2Rio to give you an indicative city-to-city (or practically door to door, if you wish) price next to each location. On the left side you see an example of how this looks for one location (Amsterdam). The left indicator shows the average hotel rate for 2 weeks from now, while the left shows you the return fare to and from your base location (Glasgow, Scotland in this case). Clicking the link gives you a breakdown of the €220 fare, which in this case consists of €14 for trains in Scotland, €200 for a return flight Glasgow-Amsterdam, and €6 for trains in Amsterdam.
Under the return fare indicator we show you some extra info; the fare for a single trip as well a the indicative fare for a return trip and stay of 2 nights based on average hotel rates. Note that flight fare information is not necessarily live but is indicative based on Rome2Rio's algorithms as described here.
In a similar vein, we now show you the duration of travelling from A to B, again calculated by Rome2Rio. The 4.3 hours breaks down to 23 minutes by train in Scotland, 16 minutes in Amsterdam, 1:30 hours by plane and the remainder (roughly 2.5 hours) taken up on both airports.
Pretty useful stuff, we thought. To make the location dashboard complete, we have improved the presentation of whether a location's hotels are currently (i.e. for bookings 2 weeks from now) discounted or at a premium, and what the expected weather (maximum temperature ranges) is like.
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.
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.
Besides rapidly adding more and more locations (nearing 300 now), we are also working hard on adding new features to make Travel Indicator ever more useful for its users. Earlier this month we already described a new feature that includes an estimate of the cost of flight ticket prices. Meanwhile we have also added that feature for easy access to the "Budget" menu tab, so that you can instantly see where you could travel for various price buckets from your starting destination:
Of course we kept working hard, and today we are proud to present the next new feature: itineraries. To access this new feature you will have to register an account, and access your "My TI" page. Here you will first of all find an overview of all places you have previously stored as must/should/might see locations, as well as easy access to all the reviews you have left behind. The new feature allows you to group locations together into an itinerary. So if you're looking for places to go to during your trip to Nepal, or during your next summer holiday, this is it. An overview of one such trip may look like this:
Creating a new itinerary or removing old ones can be done straight from your My IT page. Adding locations to your itinerary is done from the location pages and may look like this:
We would love to hear what you think of all of this, so do give us a shout!
I will be honest with you. This site is a perfect reflection of my own core interests. The first interest is probably our common denominator: I like to travel (my most recent trip in fact was last weekend, to Phuket in Thailand). The second interest is probably more specific to me: I like to puzzle, analyse data and present it to others in a format that can be of use to them.
Travel Indicator already offered you the ability to filter down on places based on distance, weather and features (mountains, shopping, culture, etcetera). It also allowed you to filter based on the average price of an overnight stay in a city, giving you an indication of how expensive a stay in a certain place would be. Today we have made a start with an additional piece of the puzzle: an estimation of the cost to get there by airplane. Imagine if you would have a database showing you up-to-date costs of flying to and staying in a certain place, and then allowing you to filter down on what those places have to offer travellers. That is what Travel Indicator has already become, and it is easy to see how useful and exciting this will be to many people!
Access the feature by showing some results, then filtering down on Total cost.
Now, hold your enthusiasm for a second. The flying costs are an estimate, and a crude estimate at that. We have looked at historical data for flight tickets, set them off against distance and come up with a simple formula that reflects historical price levels. This is far from an absolute truth, as there will be discounts and upswings and downswings in prices. Yet it should be obvious that generally speaking there is some relation between distance flown and tickets prices. This general relationship is what we are trying to incorporate, and on the whole it is expected to work better on long distances. In due time we will try to link up with a major flight ticket site to give you a real actual reflection of ticket prices. Stay tuned!
P.S. Meanwhile we have also silently added support for some additional currencies: EUR, GBP, AUD and CAD.