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Gogobot Vacation Planner Turns Your Social Network Into Your Travel Guide

The Huffington Post    
First Posted: 05/03/11 07:42 PM ET Updated: 07/03/11 06:12 AM ET

This post is part of a new series from HuffPostTech, Socialized, that will profile a different social startup--from apps to services to websites--every day. Want to be featured on the site? Email us about your startup, which should have a social media component and be less than two years old, at socialized@huffingtonpost.com.

People like to travel to places they've never been. The downside: they don't know where to stay, what to do, where to eat, or much of anything at all about what it's like to navigate the foreign terrain.

While guide books and sites like Yelp offer some guidance, separating the reliable advice from the inappropriate, or even the fraudulent, can be tough. Worse, the wrong choice can end up spoiling what should have been an idyllic getaway. That's where Gogobot comes in. By bringing together your social network with your travel plans, you can get advice from people you actually know and trust on how best to spend those precious vacation days.

What it is: Gogobot is a trip planner that uses your social network to ensure that the recommendations you get from the web are trustworthy and removes the stress of a blind online hunt.

"We basically started the company because I felt that travel on the Internet was totally broken," said Travis Katz, CEO and Co-Founder of Gogobot. "We want to make it so that nobody has a bad vacation again."

The inspiration came from his own poor experiences trying to travel with his wife around Europe when he was working in London.

"We’d get into the same patterns every time we tried to plan a trip," he said. "Every time, 8 hours later, we’d still be sitting in front of the computer completely confused and this was happening again and again."

The solution wasn't immediately clear.

"Gosh, if we could just find one person we know who’s actually been there we’d probably be okay," he remembers thinking. "How is it possible in 2011 that I can’t plan a vacation on the Internet? Something is badly wrong. That’s where the lightbulb went on. The more we dug into it, the more we found how many problems there were with travel planning on the Internet."

And so, Gogobot was born.

How it works: After signing up for a Gogobot account, the site links to Twitter and Facebook to find fellow Gogobot users, who can be followed. When looking for advice -- say you're going on a trip to Vienna and want to know where to get the best linzer torte -- the site posts the question to Facebook, Twitter, and within Gogobot itself.

Users can then respond to the question with their reviews and comments, and the site's database matches suggestions to provide an address, website, phone number, and additional reviews.

Gogobot also saves the places you've been in its Passports feature, so that your personal travel history, complete with your preferred restaurants, hotels and more, are saved for later reference.

"It's a guidebook curated by my friends, personalized to my trip," said Katz.

A new feature lets Facebook and FourSquare check-ins feed into the site, to be incorporated into the Passport feature.

"It's about making check-ins more useful--the problem with it has always been that it's actually kind of fun, kind of addictive, but feels a little pointless," said Katz. "It appears in your Facebook stream, then gets sort of washed away. What we wanted to do was create meaning around these check-ins, so I have a lasting memory of where I’ve gone and can help my friends next time they're planning trips."

Why you’d use it: Not only is Gogobot a more efficient way to find advice about the trips you're planning, but it creates a kind of digital scrapbook of everywhere you've been, and what you felt about it.

"Most people are starting at Google. Google is in my opinion completely failing on travel search, filled with link farms and spam," said Katz, who also criticized anonymous review sites.

"The problem with those is that they're aggregating up everybody’s opinions whether or not you have anything in common with them," he said. "It aggregates the old lady from Des Moines, with a bunch of kids who just came back from spring break, with young families--You don’t know, looking at those scores, who reviewed and it’s rife with fraud."

Katz sees Gogobot as attempting to do no less than remaking online travel.

"We see this as being very big. This is a not a niche play," he said. "There's this wave of disruption sweeping the internet. Travel has been relatively protected from this, but it inevitably is coming."

How to get it: Just visit Gogobot's website to get started.

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