What Exactly Is AI Travel Planning?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is changing everything these days, even the way we travel. AI has been a huge topic of discussion since its release in the form of ChatGPT (which is probably more accurately described as a Language Learning Model, but we'll stick with the shorthand of AI here). This powerful technology has been dominating headlines around the world, and its capabilities are impacting nearly every industry that requires human brain power. This includes the travel industry, too.

But how are everyday travelers meant to use AI and is it any good? AI travel planning is becoming the new way for travelers to craft a bespoke itinerary in minutes that may take even a knowledgeable travel writer 20 to 30 minutes to create. As for how it all works exactly, what better way to find out than to go straight to the source? When we asked ChatGPT how it generates travel itineraries, this is what it told us ...

"ChatGPT generates travel itineraries by utilizing its knowledge base and considering factors such as trip duration, traveler interests, and location. It suggests activities, attractions, and dining options based on its understanding of popular tourist sites, neighborhoods, and restaurants. The model aims to create a balanced itinerary that covers important sites, allows for exploration of local neighborhoods, and includes food recommendations."

Color us impressed! That's a pretty neat way for travelers to explore new places without spending so many hours trawling the internet for resources. If that sounds a little too good to be true, though, you might be on to something. There are a few caveats to using AI travel planning.

Even the magic of AI has its limits

When we asked ChatGPT how it generates travel itineraries, it also wrote this stipulation, "However, it's important to note that the suggestions are based on learned patterns and may not reflect real-time information or personal experiences. It's advisable to cross-reference the recommendations with up-to-date resources and individual preferences."

Travel agents everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. There may come a day when chatbots like ChatGPT are able to call up recent primary source information. However, as it is today, you need to exercise a little caution about taking their answers at face (er, bot?) value.

While the technology is still in its infancy, it is learning. So to get the best answers out of chatbots like ChatGPT, you need to be a little crafty and pretty specific if you have particular preferences. To create your own travel itinerary start out by using the 5 Ws (and 1 H) method.

Who is going on this trip? What do you want to do or what are you most interested in? When are you going and for how long? Why do you want to see certain places (e.g., you love history, you're big foodies)? And your how could be other things like ... how you're getting around if you've got elderly or disabled travelers with you; how you're traveling if you don't have a car in a place like Los Angeles; how you want to travel if you prefer slow travel, for example.

Create a bespoke travel itinerary using AI

After some trial and error, here's an example prompt that generated a great itinerary: First, we establish what we want (a travel itinerary), how long we're staying, and the all-important destination, "Write me a travel itinerary for a weekend (From Friday to Monday) in New York City."

Then, in the same prompt, we told it a little more about who's going, what our previous experience is like with NYC, and what we're into, "We're a couple who are visiting NYC for the first time but we don't like activities and locations that are too touristy. We do want to see the most important sites like the Empire State Building but we also love natural history and classical art museums."

We also want ChatGPT to know a little bit more about what we like and where our accommodation is so it doesn't suggest we hike across Manhattan in the first hour after our arrival, "We're also major foodies but not interested in going to fancy restaurants. Our Airbnb is located near the One World Trade Center and we arrive around 1 p.m."

Finally, we give ChatGPT something fun to chew on to see what it does, "We want to see the real side of New York City." This produced an itinerary with broad suggestions that align with exactly the kinds of things this traveler is looking for — both popular attractions for first-time visitors and off-the-beaten-path experiences. Enter this prompt to see what we got!