Nov. 20, 2012 at 11:30 AM ET
No offense to Frommer’s, Fodor’s and AAA but when it comes to planning a road trip, nobody knows what you’re interested in as well as you do.
That’s the premise behind Roadtrippers, a new iPhone app designed to provide a more personalized approach to travel planning.
“We used to do a lot of road trips,” said James Fisher, who created the app with his wife Tatiana. “Sometimes it seemed like there was only McDonald’s and Arby’s but if you asked people, you were always five miles from something more interesting.”
That dilemma led them to launch Roadtrippers.com in August. The site lets users plan and save trips that combine maps, estimated time and fuel consumption information and personalized points of interest in more than 80 categories. Once you create a (free account) and save a trip, it’s automatically synced with your Apple device for use on the road.
“The idea is that different people will be interested in different things,” Fisher told NBC News. “If you’re a skateboarder, you can find all the best skateparks along the way; if you’re into battlefields, you can go to the military category.”
Consider, for example, a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. According to Roadtrippers, the 266-mile trip will take 4:28 and cost you $47 in fuel. (You can calculate fuel costs more precisely if you input your car’s gas mileage under Settings.)
Things get more interesting, though, when you start populating your itinerary with personal preferences. Like history? Check various history categories and the site will add the Route 66 Museum in Barstow and Calico Ghost Town in Yermo to your trip. Prefer more offbeat attractions? If so, the site will add the World’s Largest Thermometer in Baker and Bonnie and Clyde’s “death car” in Primm.
Perhaps the site’s most unique feature is what Fisher refers to as “the worm,” a shaded region around your chosen route that you can expand or contract by using a slider tab. Slide it out and you’ll find points of interest that may be further away but still work the trip. Add them to your trip and the site will automatically recalculate your mileage, driving time and fuel consumption.
Ultimately, says Fisher, the goal is to provide a one-stop site that eliminates the need to use multiple maps, guidebook and websites. The site currently provides mapping tools, turn-by-turn directions and many points of interest; in the future, they hope to add direct booking for hotels and crowd-sourced reviews and other user-generated content.
As such, it’s a fun tool but also a work in progress. The interface is not immediately intuitive as several icons only appear when you click on others. And since you have to build your itineraries on the website before you can access them on your phone, on-the-go adjustments aren’t an option.
Still, Roadtrippers clearly provides an alternative to traditional travel-planning sites.
“Sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor are more about how good or bad the service is or how clean the sheets are,” said Fisher. “Our goal is that whatever your thing is, we want to empower you to find it.”
Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.