It has been a long year for us overe here at Travelindicator.
It's a strange contradiction when your job includes running a website about the most fantastic travel destinations in the world, yet on the daily you spend most of your time sitting at your desk coding away - wishing you were there.
Don't get us wrong, that is in no way a complaint as we love doing what we do and discovering all these new destinations, and what's more we love the fact that Travelindicator actually helps us make our holiday planning that much more efficient.
But just to change the tone here for a moment, let us today share with you a bit about our very own and very personal holiday plans for summer 2015.
One part of Travelindicator (that's me!) is actually a European who resides in Singapore. A funny anecdote is that in one of my first days here some years back I enthusiastically told a local friend about my plans for the upcoming summer holiday, only to find him laughing in my face.
"Summer, what do you mean? Every day is summer in tropical Singapore!" OK, lesson learned, but we can't quite shake that European habit of spreading our wings come June-August.
Making it even more difficult is the fact that on the one hand I am surrounded by fantastic South East Asian destinations, but on the other hand long for traveling in Europe. This year my wife and I decided to go for the best of both worlds and spend a short week here in the region, and another two back in Europe.
Leg 1: South East Asia - Koh Samui
The first part of our holiday (traveling with wife and kid, by the way) brings us to lovely Koh Samui. The Gulf of Thailand rather than the Andaman Sea is where it's at at this time of year if you want to avoid the rain, so that's where we shall be.
We are staying in a resort on the northern side of the island, roughly between Bophut Beach and Fisherman's Village. I will be the first one to admit that we booked our holiday relatively late, and so finding a place to stay proved difficult as most were fully booked or outlandishly expensive.
We ended up with a four star resort that offers us what we think we need: a good beach, near to places to drink and eat but not in the midst of it, and close to the airport. We can't wait.
Leg 2: Europe - Amsterdam and The Netherlands
OK, so I am one of those people that calls The Netherlands "home home". As in, my real and current home is somewhere else, but that is where my roots are.
There won't be much sightseeing in places like Amsterdam involved here I'm afraid, as rather than that we will drive all the way to the eastern province of Overijssel and stay with relatives there.
Come to think of it, we have not written a single piece about that part of the country (to come I'm sure), but rest assured that it is green and lovely. See accompanying photo.
Leg 3: Europe - Tuscany, Italy
After spending a few days in the Netherlands we head over to what is actually the main stay of our entire holiday: Tuscany! Here we will spend 2 weeks in utter peace in an AirBnb property that stands on top of a hill and is 500 meters away from its closest neighbour.
The funny thing is that this place cost us less money for nearly 2 weeks as we pay for a short week in the Koh Samui resort. From here we will explore places like Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre and Lucca.
We then end our trip by heading over to Genoa and Milan for a night or two, and from there we fly back to Singapore. Sounds like it's going to be a magnificent summer!
Enjoy yours too.
Somewhere early on in 2013, I found myself packing up my belongings and preparing for a move from somewhere in Northern Europe to a large city in Southeast Asia. I had been asked to join a financial firm there and was excited about the move from a career perspective, but not only that. What people soon started telling me was "where you are going is a great place to explore the region from, you can do weekend trips to tropical beach island so-and-so and city trips to bustling Asian metropolis this-and-that!"
I was excited indeed. I mean, I knew that I would be working long hours, but my weekends were going to be filled with fun and exploration. And I would be to earn a very smart salary that would definitely allow me to enjoy things to the fullest!
The first weeks went as expected, I was working 60-70 hours a week and in the weekends we were exploring the city we had just moved to. But after a month or so the travel bugs started to itch: where would we travel to? We could now afford to go anywhere, but time was limited. We couldn't choose. We liked beaches, we liked big cities, we liked mountains, culture and history. And although there were easily thousands of locations that would have fit the bill for this description, we simply could not choose. Meticulously investigating every single location became a drag. And some of the larger traveling websites were not of much help. One travel website in particular, which shall remain unnamed, was especially unhelpful in recommending the "Escape Hunt amusement park" as Bangkok's top attraction and "Bali Jet Set Dive and Marine Sports" as Bali's top attraction!
The sections on travel destination suggestions of the same websites also had very little to offer. I am in Asia and want a beach holiday, and the suggestions are Bali, Phuket, Koh Samui and Boracay. Really? I could have worked those out myself...
It was at this stage that I decided there had to be a better way to go about this. Combining my lust for travel with the technical skills that I had been gradually picking up as part of my work, I decided to get started on a website that essentially offered the following:
- Travel suggestions based on YOUR highly specific desired holiday mix. You might want to go to a beach island that is remote, or you might want to go to a city with great beaches in front of it. You might want to visit small historical towns next to a river, or you might want to go to big cities with great nightlife. Travel Indicator will help you identify these places.
- To give you the bare basics about that location, i.e. only what matters. I don't believe that when exploring potential holiday destinations, seeing that "Bali Jet Set Dive and Marine Sports" is the top attraction is particularly helpful. Hence this website goes about it differently and keeps it short. Pick your locations here, and investigate elsewhere.
These are the main drivers behind Travel Indicator. After contemplating further, I added two more things to the mix:
- Distance. If you are located in Europe, the beaches of Micronesia might be appealing, but those in the south of France are probably easier to be reached. Travel Indicator allows you to filter on distance to only give you the most relevant locations. We leave it up to you whether you want to scan the globe, or you want to scan in a circle of 500 miles or kilometers around you.
- Weather. Have you ever considered taking a beach holiday in Tioman Island, Malaysia? In that case it might have been of interest to know that rainfall there in December is 6 times as high as in June. You might therefore want to plan your trip in the middle of the year if you want to avoid sitting next to the beach during intensive downpours. Similarly, if you are feeling adventurous and travelling to Tatarstan in Russia, it might be of interest to know that the summer months are pleasant at an average maximum temperature of 21 degrees Celsius (70 degrees Fahrenheit), while the winter months are extremely cold at average maximum temperatures of -17 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit!).
That's Travelindicator in a nutshell. Your feedback is very much appreciated, so please reach out to us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
So how does this website actually work?
We thought you'd never ask. It's fairly simple really. We review hundreds of travel destinations, put them online and then wait for our users to vote on the 23 attributes that each destination is scored on. This in turn helps you to browse, sort and filter destinations to find ones that may suit your wishes. On the home page you can start by selecting your prefered weather and distance, as well as one or more themes that you wish to check out. Next, click Show to view your results. From there you can filter with more precision, read up on destinations or store them to your must/might/should-see lists.
What are you really trying to achieve, who pays for this?
Sure enough, servers are expensive so if we can get you guys to make a hotel booking or two that will be sweet. But the commercial aspects of this are not what is driving us. We want to be your go-to website when you need to look up a new travel spot, we want to be for travel what IMDB is for movies.
Can you give us an idea of the type of data that drives Travelindicator?
Every destination is linked to a hierarchy based on a country > region > city waterfall and is linked to its geographic coordinates (longitude, latitude). Monthly average temperature and precipitation is stored, as well as the nearest airport, population, information about languages spoken, and another bunch of dummy variables (whether a destination for instance is a suitable entry point to a country).
This is combined with 23 user-defined ratings, tags, itineraries a place is stored in, users that have saved a destination, public holidays in a country, and so on. For every user that stores destinations and creates itineraries, we also save a travel profile (budget vs. luxury, introvert vs. extrovert, etc.), which can be linked to any of our covered destinations.
We combine all of this with external data from Rome2Rio, Openweathermap and Foursquare.
So yeah, there's a fair bit of data involved. (Just to give you an idea, at time of writing we have covered about 760 destinations. On themes alone that means 760*23 = 17,840 data points!
What are your rating attributes (i.e. %beaches, %romance) for every location based on?
We have intensively traveled ourselves and wherever possible these ratings are our assessment of the place in combination with extensive research on every location. After we put them live, users can influence the ratings by voting on them!
How is the similarity of destinations determined?
We sample from the rich information we store for every location (including themes, weather, altitude, tags and so on) to compare places and caculate a degree of difference between every destination. Suffice it to say that if place A scores 40 on adventure and place B scores 60, the difference is going to be exponentially smaller than when A scores 0 and B 100.
What is meant by the versatility score?
This statistic is derived from the scores on the various themes. We employ a weighting on those themes to determine whether every single person who goes here will actually find something to do (in the most extreme of cases, that will happen when the score on every theme is 100% - a place like Bali in Indonesia comes pretty close!), or whether a destination should really only be visited for a particular reason (e.g. to go mountain climbing). In general, cities are going to be more versatile than small towns.
What do the hotel prices mean?
Several times a day we source nightly rates popular hotels for every location. What you see is the average of our sourced nightly rates, an indicator which should be read as: "you will be able to find hotels ABOVE and BELOW this price". The intention of the prices you see is to be able to understand which places are comparatively more expensive to travel to than others.
Where do you get your flight ticket prices from?
The ticket prices are not real or actual! In fact they are based on a very simple formula that was shared with us and is commonly used in the travel industry. This formula was derived of historical ticket prices and was shown to be a reasonable estimate of what you can expect to pay in the future. Naturally there are discounts, deals, fare hikes and all the unpredictability of airline pricing that we cannot foresee. But it's clear that the relation between distance and price exists, and we believe that on average, our numbers will give you a reasonable idea of what you will be charged to go somewhere!
Why don't I see any places that have snow or cold temperatures?
The temperature and rainfall filters work together with the period that you travel in. So if you set the month to July and you're looking for places in Europe, most temperatures will not be too low as that is in the summer. If you change the month to December or January on the other hand, you should find plenty. We have set it up like this because it is more "accurate": you will not find any snow in western Europe in the summer!
Can I work for you?
We can always use an extra pair of hands! Just send us an email and we can discuss how we can best work together!
Who are you?
We are two 30-something entrepreneurs. One of us is Dutch, currently living and working in Singapore. The other is Australian, currently living and working in Germany. You could say we are an international bunch, both being so far away from home. And yes, we also have our day jobs as well (one of us is in IT and the other is in - sigh - high finance). Please get in touch if you'd like to know more.
What does the future hold for Travelindicator?
Increased focus on our product and building a user community, with most commercial aspects as an after-thought (servers are expensive!) rather than a real business objective. We intend to significantly enlarge our content, improve our algorithm and enhance user experience so that we can further grow in prominence in the travel industry.
Probably the coolest travel tool on the planet
At least that is what we are determined to build! Travelindicator is a travel website that likes to put you in total control of discovering new travel destinations, but at the same time make the process as effortless as possible.
We recognise that in today's high-pressure world, holidays are valuable and need to be spent in the best possible way. But we also know that you may not always have access to in-the-know friends or acquaintances that are able to give them the low-down on the latest travel discoveries and must-see places. And those that don't probably won't want to spend weeks flipping through pages of thick travel guides to be able to figure out what destinations might actually suit their holiday plans. Enter the room: Travelindicator.
Interactive and data-driven: a travel agency-light
We take an interactive and data-driven approach to generating travel ideas. While the rest of the travel world is still writing extensive travel guides that go into minute detail of travel destinations you had already chosen to travel to anyway, our travel idea generator is all about letting you discover new ones and giving you just a quick yet information-rich review of what each has to offer.
We classify travel destinations according to 23 themes which range from the natural (beaches, mountains or desert) to atmosphere (exciting, romantic, adventure, and so on). Our users rate destinations based on these themes, so you can find places more easily and see how the stack up on the attributes that you care about. Want a romantic getaway but don't want to be bored, just want to get away from the busy world and chill out with some nature and paradise or maybe this trip you just want adventure - chuck it in the criteria and off you go!
By bringing all of these puzzle pieces together, our algorithm is able to build a precise destination profile which in turn allows users to discover it by filtering through our database.
Combined with other bits of information like location (and distance to you), altitude, temperature and rainfall we can give you a set of highly specific travel destinations that may match the kind of holiday you are looking for.
Always honest and to the point
Perhaps this can be attributed to the founders of Travelindicator being Australian and Dutch, but we honestly don't like to mince our words.
We are not really in the business of pushing travel destinations at our users, and if we don't like a destination we will tell you so loudly and clearly. At the same time, we like to keep it short and sweet as well. If you want intricate details of which restaurants in what streets to check out, you are probably better off elsewhere (we link to other travel resources to help you a bit at the end of each review). We are just here to give you the basics.
Lovers of hashtags
Also we kinda love tags #hashtag-this & #hashtag-that: this makes it super easy for you to find what you're looking for - so you can always take a look at say, every #Beach we have ever covered or every must see #UNESCO site or as above, I just want #Adventure. Then as you can do with any list we propagate for you, filter it down, shift higher on more important items and lower on lesser ones - leaving you with a nice selection of places that might be worth you checking out on your next trip.
We know of no other place you can get all this along with an honest overview of a destination in one place anywhere else on the web and it's all there for you to use as you wish - for free, forever, enjoy!
An ever-growing database of destinations
None of what we are trying to do here would work if we weren't able to offer you a wide variety of travel destinations across continents, countries, regions, themes and tags. We are hard at work to add additional ones on nearly a daily basis.
Cheers from the team at Travelindicator.com!