With the introduction of accessible new AI systems like ChatGPT, travel will never be the same.
AI has simplified planning, made it easier to discover new experiences, and streamlined the booking process. Instead of slogging through hours of research, users get similar results with a quick conversation with AI.
AI is great for some travel functions, like generating ideas, spotlighting small businesses, and translating languages—but there are tricks to using it well, especially when it comes to traveling.
Here’s what you need to know about how to best use AI for travel.
What are the best uses for AI for travel?
The best uses of AI for travel currently fall largely into the planning and purchasing phase. “All the excitement around booking a trip can quickly become overwhelming when travelers are faced with lots of options that each require research,” says Rathi Murthy, the CTO of Expedia Group. “This is what AI can solve in travel. ”
Many AI platforms use ChatGPT, which you can use for free, in-browser, or through an iOS app (an app for Android is also coming soon). Up to its knowledge cut-off date of September 2021, ChatGPT generates suggestions based on details in your request. For $20 a month, users can upgrade to GPT-4, which offers additional web plug-ins and searches for current information, like live pricing and weather.
One of the best uses of AI for travel is to coordinate multiple flights and suggest destinations based on certain parameters, including timing and pricing. For example, GPT-4 can find multiple flights for under $1,500 for five people traveling from five different cities in the U.S. and traveling to Amsterdam in August. GPT can save a lot of research by coordinating budgets and itineraries and searching for the best deals on multiple platforms.
You’ll still need to go to booking sites to both book and verify the pricing, which is one reason experts recommend that travelers use AI as a rough outline or starting point—and not rely on it alone.
You can narrow your search once you choose where you want to travel. AI is skilled at responding to specific interests, whether you’re looking for the best speakeasies in an area or designing a five-day itinerary of off-the-beaten-path museums, events, or tours. It can even suggest dining reservations or find out the price of ticketed events.
AI is also useful in finding responses to prompts like “less crowded” or “underrated.” This is because, unlike Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google, the system pools knowledge from all corners of the web and interprets results to fit your query best—then delivers the information in a conversational way.
How do you create a useful travel prompt for AI?
To create a good prompt, it’s crucial to ask questions in your native language, according to Ross Borden from Matador Network, the company behind the travel AI chat called GuideGeek. AI models can speak and understand many languages, and your grammar matters: The more accurate your punctuation, spelling, and grammar, the better the AI will be able to understand you.
You will also need to be as specific as possible about what you want. Include information about your party (any kids, elderly travelers, or pets?), dietary restrictions, interests, and priorities. The more information you can give, the better your output will be.
You can also get better results by giving AI feedback: telling it when it’s wrong or misunderstands your request is important. AI uses large language models (LLMs) to learn, and that back-and-forth exchange can go a long way to getting you accurate and relevant information.
Finally, you’ll need to double-check AI’s answers against other sources.
Where does AI fall short?
AI “can collect general information with 70 to 80% accuracy—that’s still only a C grade,” says Erica Jackowtiz, a luxury travel advisor with Roman & Erica.
The current iteration of AI is only as good as the data it’s pulling in. As mentioned above, the free ChatGPT platform has a knowledge cutoff is September 2021. That means that it won’t be able to tell you if a hotel, restaurant, bar, or museum has closed, gone out of business, changed its name, or shifted focus. You’ll also still need to go directly to booking sites to verify prices and book your travel. The base platform of Chat GPT also can’t search the web at this point or give you live information.
Matthias Keller, chief scientist & senior vice president of technology at Kayak noted that issues also arise if a city has changed names or is known under another name. For example, at Kayak, Bangalore is called Bengaluru, the city’s official name since 2014.
AI can also “hallucinate” or make up false facts when asked about very small cities or towns in remote locations, according to Borden.
“If you say, what’s a great coffee shop in Shoshone, Idaho, you probably want to check the output because it tends to have, in my experience, more hallucinations in small towns when the AI doesn’t have an answer,” he says. “It will just make one up, which is obviously not good for anyone.”
What are the best AI sources for travel?
Most of the travel platforms currently available are built off of OpenAI’s ChatGPT platform. Tripnotes.ai, roamaround.ai, and curioso.com, for example, have a user-friendly web interface laid over ChatGPT that makes browsing for travel plans more interactive through the use of maps, pre-planned road trip routes, and other features. You can also use ChatGPT Plus to get access to plug-ins like Kayak, Expedia, Trip, OpenTable, and others to plan your travel.
Others, like GuideGeek, use messaging platforms like WhatsApp on your smartphone to offer specific suggestions for places to go and things to do based on your input. GuideGeek is a great platform to use once you are at your destination and want more information about things to do and see—but it still has some limitations. You need to be connected to a network to use it, and there may be times ChatGPT is overwhelmed with traffic, delaying your answer.
Every day, AI is rapidly evolving as more start-ups and companies figure out the best ways to leverage this powerful generative engine to deliver information using natural language. As the system gets more access to the web, learns what users want, and becomes more “intelligent,” it will continue to shift travel in new, unexpected, and unique ways.
Because the technology is still so new and changing so fast, it’s difficult to say how it will affect travel long term, but according to Borden, “AI is the technology that’s going to bring travel into this amazing renaissance with regard to how we plan, research and ultimately book travel. And then it will revolutionize what we do even as we travel.”