After hearing more and more people talking about ChatGPT and what it can do, it got me thinking, what if I used it to plan an itinerary. It can’t be that good.. can it?
I recently returned from a trip to Europe where I decided to use ChatGPT to help me plan a portion of the trip. I wanted to wait until after I got back from the trip to see if the information it told me was actually correct or not. Here’s how it went…
How to use ChatGPT to create a travel itinerary
We’ll start at the beginning – follow along with the steps below to try creating your own itinerary!
Step 1 Go to https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt
I didn’t want to use the iPhone app as it’s so inefficient doing things on the tiny phone screen without a real keyboard. So I created a free login online and used it on my computer. If you use the free online version it gives you 7 free requests per day.
Step 2: Add your request
For travel planning you could get it to create a day trip itinerary (like I did), or build an entire road trip itinerary or even go back a step and just ask it for recommendations of what city or country to visit.
My original request was create a day trip itinerary to Bratislava from Vienna including train transport instructions, costs, admission fees, opening hours, viewpoints, restaurants, a gelato shop for October 2023
This is what is came back with (it took less than 30 seconds!). It even generated it in dot point format which is my preference for doing my itineraries. I did experiment with asking it to put the information into a table and it could do that as well.
Note that it added this disclaimer at the bottom of the response. For some other responses it came back with the caveat that the information it generates was current as of 2021.
Note: The itinerary is based on the assumption that you will spend the entire day in Bratislava. However, if you have limited time, you can prioritize the attractions based on your interests and available time.
Please keep in mind that prices, opening hours, and specific details may change closer to your travel date, so it’s always a good idea to check for updates or consult local sources before your trip.
Step 3: Refine the request
Depending on how specific your initial request was, you may need to ask ChatGPT to add some things to the itinerary and keep refining the output until you’re happy with it.
My next request was reorder the itinerary into the best time to visit each attraction, add suggested visit durations for each attraction. Start the itinerary assuming a 10am arrival into Bratislava and departing Bratislava at 7pm. Generate a list of the best autumn photo spots in Bratislava (including their addresses)
This took just over 30 seconds (I wonder if the response speed is dependent on your internet connection)
I like to add ‘scheduled’ times to visit each attraction so I can check the real time when I’m there, against the times I need to be at each place so I can see what things I might need to shorten and skip, and prioritise the main things I’m interested it. It just helps me make sure I see as many things as possible (which is how I like to travel) so I don’t end up disappointed. I was hoping chatGPT would do that as part of my previous request but my wording may not have been specific enough.
Normally when I kept asking it to do things, it would build on it’s response to my previous request, but when I asked it to add a scheduled time for each attraction, it actually excluded some of the information.
Step 4: Fact check
Once you’re happy with the output you can now start cross checking that what ChatGPT has told you about opening hours, attractions etc. is actually accurate. I found that the admission fees for attractions were usually a few dollars less than current prices when you go directly to that attractions website, which make sense as there’s a disclaimer that ChatGPT’s info is current as of 2021.
Note: when I was on the trip, the price of attractions had actually increased a little bit from when I had checked the priced online, directly at the attractions website a few months before the trip.
My trip was mid October to early November, which coincides with the end of peak season and when the opening hours of attractions start getting a bit shorter. Some of the opening hours advised in ChatGPT were a little off, but this is to be expected.
Another thing to note, is that ChatGPT won’t pick up live changes to transport. I visited Bratislava on a public holiday and there were no trains running, so I had to get a Flixbus (which was super easy).
While I was in Bratislava, I did a search for gelato shops on Google Maps. A lot of the gelato shops that came up in those search results, had actually closed down (even though Google said they were open!) I didn’t end up eating at ChatGPT’s recommendation, but did walk past it and it did still exist and was open.
Lastly, you’ll need to be your own judge on whether the times advised by ChatGPT are enough. I generally found the indicative times provided were fairly accurate. I do think it missed out some attractions that I found myself and added into the schedule e.g. the UFO tower viewpoint. It also didn’t recommend or take into account the time it takes to go up other viewpoints (Michael’s Gate, City Hall).
Interestingly, when I asked it to add food places that have a Google rating of 4 stars or more, ChatGPT’s results met that criteria.
I also like to be super specific. So for big attractions like a castle or something that may have more than one entrance, I like to check it on Google Maps and add the address of the entry I’m aiming for. Chat GPT was unable to provide me a recommendation for the best entry gate into the castle.
I like my itineraries to be super detailed and in a particular order, with particular information. ChatGPT gave me a great starting point, I then spent a few hours refining what it had generated, adding extra info I like to include which involved reading some blog posts etc. Depending on how detailed I’m going, sometimes I could spend half a day just planning a day trip within the itinerary which might seem crazy to some people, but I find it very relaxing and enjoy the process. It also makes it much less stressful when I’m actually on the holiday as I know exactly where / when I need to be, how much things will cost etc.
Step 5: Copy and paste into my itinerary document & refine the itinerary
I shared more about the template I’ve set up in Microsoft Word that I use for itinerary planning in this post. The template is compatible with Google Docs too (ideal if you’re going on the trip with someone else and both want to work on / easily share the itinerary).
If you copy and paste information from ChatGPT into a Word doc, Google Doc etc., just know that it might need a bit of formatting / tidying up.
You can ask ChatGPT to convert the information into a table format (it took just under 30 seconds in this instance). I was skeptical the table formatting wouldn’t work, but when I did a test and copied and paste it into Word and used the table tool to add borders, it worked fine.
I chip away planning my itineraries months in advance. I keep things in yellow highlight which I need to confirm closer to the date (e.g. wake up times and transport timetables).
Here is the finished result in my itinerary template. The plan for this day trip ended up being 3 pages, including the photos I wanted to replicate. Typically I go on an overseas holiday for a month (got to make the cost of the flights and time it takes to go anywhere from Australia worthwhile). My itineraries for a trip of this size typically end up being 100 or more pages (hence why I want to use ChatGPT to speed up the research process!)
Step 6: Photo inspiration
I like to search a destination and see how other people have taken their photos of landmarks – from what angles, where are the best viewpoints etc. I copy and paste some of the photos I’d like to replicate in the itinerary – it’s so helpful for ‘getting the shot’ while I’m on the trip.
I couldn’t see an images option within ChatGPT at the time of researching. However at the time of publishing this post, it looks like it’s in the works!
Step 7: Plot the places on a map
Unfortunately Chat GPT cannot plot the locations on a Google Map for me, so I still have to do this task myself.
See this post for my tutorial for plotting things on a map using Google My Maps.
Some of the things I plot on my maps:
- Places I want to visit (attractions, shops)
- Food options
- Photo spots I’ve found while researching
What I liked about ChatGPT
- Fast! I had answers back in a matter of seconds – it found and consolidated fairly accurate information into the format I wanted in often less than 30 seconds – far quicker than if I had searched multiple websites, blogs, YouTube channels etc. for that information
- If you wanted it to be specific, it actually could get super specific
- I could customise to to suit exactly what I wanted e.g. add a gelato shop rates 4 stars or higher on Google… and ChatGPT included accurate search results. You could ask it for a list of multiple options too
- It can do multi-day itineraries not just for day trips like I used it for in this example
- You could steer it in the direction you wanted by adding specific things into your request, that you want it to include for example, a viewpoint or main attraction at your destination that you know is a must visit for you
- Regenerate response option – if you don’t like the answer it generates, you can just keep clicking this to see more options
- It saves your past requests on the left side of the screen so you can just click on them and continue where you left off, or refer back to it later as needed
- You can include multiple things in your requests. Sometimes I would ask it to do 4 things in the 1 request and it managed to incorporate all of them!
What would I use it for
Preliminary planning – getting an idea of how many days you’ll need in a destination based on how many activities it suggests. You could even use it to help you decide what country or city you want to visit based on parameters like a beach holiday in September with a budget of $5,000 (note, it will automatically assume USD when you enter $ so if you’re in Australia like I am, just keep that in mind)
Day trips – this would have saved me so much time planning day trips for past holidays by listing out the top things at each destination in seconds, instead of trawling through blogs and Google. It can also format the list for me in a table and schedule things into my preferred format of morning, afternoon and evening
I felt like the information it gave me was abut 60% of what I needed, and then I just had to go and refine it a bit. I’m very particular and super detailed when it comes to travel itineraries, when I’ve used ChatGPT for other things, I’d say it’s given me about 80% of what I needed.
What I wouldn’t use it for
There’s a disclaimer when ChatGPT sends back the information that it’s only current as of 2021 so I wouldn’t use it for any transport timetables, open hours of attractions or admission fees. When I asked it to schedule out the day into times at each attraction, some of them seemed a very long duration for a visit, so just check the times against your interests and adjust as needed.
Flights – you need to book this direct via an airline anyway to login to your account to use credits, add your frequent flyer status etc.
Transport costs and times – I sometimes get conflicting information when checking between Google maps directions and the transport company’s direct website, I’m not going to add another resource into the mix, especially when ChatGPT doesn’t state the date the information was last checked
For one of my requests I said Create a 2 day cologne itinerary including schedule. I want to see the top attractions including viewpoints and a river cruise. I am visiting in late October 2023. It was accurate in adding the things I wanted, but not accurate in picking up that some river cruise companies stop operating tours in late October. I was hoping it could search that type of information on the internet and identify a company to recommend to me that would still be operating, but I was asking a little too much of ChatGPT.
Admission fees and opening hours – a lot of the admission fees and opening hours were incorrect when I compared them directly with the attractions website and / or Google, and when I compare the prices against what I actually paid.
Photo inspiration – I’m someone who wants to visit a destination based on photos I’ve seen online. Hence why my No.1 tool for travel planning is travel blogs. Maybe Chat GPT will add an images feature in the future. You could still use it to generate a list of top photo spots then check what these look like against Google images
Visual planning – if you’re someone who wants to see how close things are to each other when planning itineraries, this tool doesn’t have that feature
The entire itinerary – when I experimented with asking it to create a multi-day itinerary, some of the days were a bit sparse with activities or I looked at it and went as someone who likes a packed itinerary, I could see those all things in half a day. So depending on the pace that you travel, you’ll probably want to refine the answer rather than just copy and paste into a Word Document and off you go
If you want an honest opinion – ChatGPT will generate a factual response based on the parameters you give it. So it may recommend an attraction but it won’t really tell you tips like someone who has actually visit it would be able to. It bases it’s recommendations off other people’s reviews but won’t give you an honest opinion like a person’s travel blog, YouTube, Instagram etc. does
Will I use ChatGPT for trip planning going forward?
Yes, but only for the things I’ve mentioned in this post, and mainly for preliminary research (‘top things to see in ___’ type requests).
It’s so satisfying watching the text fly across the screen as it creates what I need in a matter of seconds. I do still enjoy the research process via travel blogs, YouTube etc., so will continue to use those resources for trip planning. At least now it will be faster to start with refining the output from ChatGPT.
More travel planning posts
- Travel Planning: 50 Things to consider when planning an itinerary
- 115 Things to Google before your next vacation
- Travel planning in a bullet journal
My travel itineraries
- Detailed Japan itinerary
- 6 week Europe holiday
- USA itinerary – west coast cities and national parks (3 weeks)
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