Photo Credit: Lonely Planet
Lonely Planet – well-known for its travel guidebooks – is stepping out into the social realm. Its new app, Trips, wants to help you share your travel experiences with fellow travellers, while being inspired by trips other people take. Essentially, it wants users to create their own guides for each other, and help foster a community in the process.
It's not so much a social network in the traditional sense, but rather a curated way to present your travels. Sure, you could create a Facebook album for all to see, but it'd be buried amongst thousands of other pieces of content. Or like millions of others, you could put your vacation photos up on Instagram, and make use of its album feature for a slightly-more curated feel. The lack of easy navigation still persists with Instagram though, undercutting the experience.
Neither will give you what Trips attempts to offer. The Lonely Planet app creates a chronological feed out of your vacation pictures and videos, replete with headers, captions, text, location tags, and maps. Think of it as Instagram meets Google Photos albums, albeit minus the former's size, and the latter's AI-smarts.
At first start, Trips will recommend you to follow a bunch of fellow travellers, curated by Lonely Planet itself. Later, you can add your friends, or select from other strangers whose holidays appeal to your liking. Your home page will then be populated by trip cards, all of which are a virtual scrapbook in themselves.
Then there's the Discover tab, which lets you pick from a variety of holiday types to browse through. There's Adventure, Wildlife and Nature, Cities, Ruins, Road Trips, Festivals and Events, Art and Culture, and so forth. Each of these contain trips shared by the community or the Lonely Planet team, such as "The Wilds of Namibia", "Crossing the Romanian Mountains", or "A Week Around Iceland".
To create your own trips, you select the blue-coloured plus symbol button in the middle, which takes you to your photo library. If you only use your iPhone to take pictures, this will suit you fine. But if you carry a professional camera with you, and those pictures are on Google Photos, Dropbox, or some other cloud service, you'll need to import them yourself first. It's a restriction baked in by Apple, one that will hopefully be lifted with the introduction of Files in iOS 11.
Once your pictures are in the app, Trips will attempt to sort them on its own, and use embedded geotags to create a map and name. It creates new sections whenever you change location, and then hands it off to you to make further additions, such as changing the title, adding an intro, and putting captions or tips in between your pictures.
The option to collect your pictures in one place is what separates Trips from Instagram, while the ability to add captions is how it adds onto the Google Photos album experience. After you've finalised the look of your curated trip, you can choose it post it publicly, or share it privately with people you know.
This brings us to one shortcoming of Trips that people may not like. Although Trips allows you to view your well, trips, on a desktop, you can't make any changes or create new ones from the browser. In fact, you can't even view someone's profile on a computer. By contrast, Google Photos is a full-fledged experience on both desktop and mobile. Plus, Photos' map widget (below) – which creates two points and a dotted line to signify travel – is a lovely touch that helps visualise your journey.
In itself, Trips is a pretty way to browse through vacation ideas, glean some tips, and offer your own experiences. It's a digital magazine that's continuously updated, but it doesn't do anything more that. You can't edit your images inside the app, and you can't leave comments on trips created by people you know.
There's some work to be done here, and it's definitely worth the effort, considering the size of the travel market. Studies have shown that millennials are more interested in saving up for travel than in buying a house. At the same time, people spend 85 percent of their time with just five of the apps on their phones, so it's going to take some convincing to make people choose Trips over Instagram.
The latter doesn't offer the former's level of curation, but it's where all your friends and family are. And that counts for a lot.
Trips by Lonely Planet is now available on iOS.