Planning is an integral part of most trips. But unlike the old days of poring over a map and working out complicated bus timetables in another language, there are plenty of gadgets, gismos and websites out there to help you with the task. We were recently asked to review a new site that helps travellers and holidaymakers find fun things to do, and this is our verdict…
Trip planning – inspiration or irritation?
Surely you do?
After all, the planning stage of a journey is the time when an idea becomes a route and a dream becomes a reality.
It’s the appetiser in the restaurant. The team talk before the match.
Ok, I have a confession.
This particular delight is not for me.
It always goes like this.
- We decide on a country to visit.
- We buy a map and spread it out on the table.
- I panic. Countries are too big, too confusing and they all look the same to me when laid out topographically.
- We download a Rough Guide or a Lonely Planet. I rifle through a few chapters. I panic. There are too many attractions and villages crying out ‘pick me.’ It’s like walking into an orphanage.
I’m always grateful for anyone or anything that can help with this. Over the years, Stuart has developed his own strategies to circumvent my phobia. He does the planning. He gives me micro jobs like sorting out campsites and hotels. He drip feeds me information and important decisions. Or we try seeing cities another way. We follow the latest ‘app’ tour, or series of geocaches.
At this time of year planning always becomes a priority for us. Right now our annual two month cycling expedition is hurtling towards us. We haven’t actually decided which parts of Iceland we are going to focus on, let alone which particular gravel roads to nowhere will appeal. So it’s interesting that I’m asked to review a website that can help inject the fun into a trip. I’m hoping it will do the work while I have a coffee.
What is travergence.com?
Travergence.com is a clear and easily navigable site that helps you make the best of your destination by offering up hundreds of activities and adventures in dozens of places around the world. Unfortunately, Iceland isn’t on it. Neither is much of Europe; just Italy at the moment. The site is growing so this will probably change but it’s a bit of a stumbling block for my Iceland needs. However there is good coverage of North America so, for the purpose of this review I decide to plan an imaginary trip revisiting a couple of my favourite US cities. Who knows, if the wind changes, it might even come true.
Trip planning is all about the detail
On the site some cities are better fleshed out than others. But a quick browse shows good coverage of some of the major destinations. The copy is well written and engaging but it’s in the detail that site excels. It doesn’t hard-sell an activity and leave you to sort out the nitty gritty yourself. You are briefed about what to expect, where to meet, what to bring, what you’ll be provided with, and who will enjoy it. You can search by price, and if you change your mind and decide you have over-budgeted, you can adjust the price range slider and focus in on those activities within your budget. You can also search by destination, and by activity and the site remembers where you have been and reminds you (in case like me you forget as you go switching back and forward unable to make up your mind.)
Can travergence.com offer something new?
I decide to find out if there are new and exciting things for me to do on my imaginary tour. I begin by looking for things to do in San Francisco; a city I know quite well. When I was last there, I was young and single and happily explored both cable car and bar. Now I have a family, my priorities are slightly different; I need to cater for the interests of the under 11’s.
Travergence.com delivers the ideas. For a fistful of dollars we can charter our own yacht, and sail to a secluded beach, with ‘Captain Bob’ on hand in case of difficulties. Or for much less, we can take a guided walking tour of Chinatown. As a family that enjoys the outdoors, we can go on an excursion that lets us follow a nature trail amongst the redwoods in Muir Woods and check out the houseboats of Sausalito. New York’s menu catches my eye too. Stuart, the pianist of the family, can ditch the kids for a music tour around the jazz clubs of Harlem, while I take the children on a Gospel Music tour. I’m starting to get excited about this trip.
It seems rude to go all that way and not stop by and see Canada. I start in Victoria BC where I decide to take a seaplane tour of Saanich Inlet and Esquimalt Harbour, before watching the evening illuminations at The Butchart Gardens and spooking myself out on a city ghost tour. Then I head over to Whistler where (depending on the imaginary weather) we will have a sleigh ride, paddle the River of Golden Dreams, and take an aboriginal tour. And probably sneak in an ATV tour where the kids get to drive!
Looking and booking
Travergence does what it says on the tin; it delivers fun ideas. The home page is simple and uncluttered and the site is easy to navigate. Destination pages are straightforward to find and strong images throughout make it easy on the eye and give a taste of the place and activities.
It’s hard to assess ease of booking as this is an imaginary trip, but a little investigation shows it’s not possible to make a booking with a single click. Instead you have to fill in an e-mail. This either makes the process more personal or less efficient, depending on how you feel about it. But you do end up dealing directly with the activity provider which is often a good thing.
So does travergence.com help with trip planning? It certainly gives me some ideas, and fires me up for going away, which all the best travel websites do. As a family travel writer and a mum, I appreciate the amount of suggestions that include young children. It’s easy to find out which age groups are welcome on each trip. And there are some cheap and simple activities that I know the kids would love.
If it’s to appeal to readers outside The States, the site needs to roll out its destinations; there’s currently little in Europe, Australia or Africa and some of its destinations are still thin in content. But it does make trip planning an easier business, and maybe, just maybe it might stop people like me from hitting themselves over the head with a guide book.
Do you enjoy trip planning? Which sites help make it easier for you?