Marie wants a vacation. No, scratch that, Marie NEEDS a vacation. Fortunately, she’s got enough PTO saved up to take a weeklong trip and there’s one place in the world she’s always wanted to go: Aruba. With visions of lounging on the white-sand beaches and staring out at the turquoise ocean, she sits down in front of her computer and begins researching all that the country has to offer. It turns out there’s a lot to do in Aruba. With so many equally-exciting options for food, shopping and adventure, Marie begins to feel something unexpected: anxiety. With so many choices, she just doesn’t know how to even start her itinerary. Being a bit of a techie, Marie turns to artificial intelligence (AI) for help.
AI Travel Planning
There’s no way to overestimate how much of a game-changer AI is becoming in almost every facet of our lives. From self-driving cars to personalized shopping, AI technology is truly revolutionizing the way we live. And now, with the rise of ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligent chatbots, it’s about to forever change the way we make vacation plans. When it comes to travel, AI can make the difference between a good vacation and a great one.
ChatGPT and tools like it, take user queries and attempt to answer them as efficiently as possible. These tools don’t crawl the internet for information. Instead, they give answers based on a type of machine learning called Reinforcement Learning with Human Feedback (RLHF). This means that the tools were trained using certain datasets that could include sites like Wikipedia, journals, and articles. Due to their wealth of information, they can easily generate itineraries for every kind of trip and traveler.
Exploring an AI Travel Itinerary
Before we look at Marie’s AI travel itinerary, we need to know what exactly Marie asked the tool to do. Here is her initial query: Plan out a 4-day itinerary in Aruba.
So, let’s look at the travel itinerary for Day 1. It recommends visiting the capital, hitting specific beaches and then, toward the evening, dining in a specific restaurant. But how do we know if the information listed here is accurate and up to date? As we mentioned, tools like ChatGPT don’t crawl the internet. A byproduct of this is that the wealth of information that the tools pull from isn’t going to be up to date. These chatbots can sometimes be up to two years behind. And a lot can happen in two years. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the itinerary.
Now let’s do some fact-checking! A quick bit of research reveals that none of the information that ChatGPT provided for Marie’s Day 1 itinerary is incorrect. It’s all factually true. This is a good thing. The trouble is, it’s just not that detailed and it may give Marie a false impression. For instance, it doesn’t mention how expensive the restaurant is or the hours the beaches are open. However, this isn’t necessarily a limitation of using AI as travel assistants. It simply means that it is up to the user to get specific instructions about what they’re really looking for.
Tips for Making Your Own ChatGPT Travel Plans
- Be specific. The more specific you are with your questions and prompts, the better these tools can understand and provide relevant responses. Example: If you have a walking disability, ask ChatGPT for an itinerary that takes that into consideration: Plan a 4-day itinerary to Aruba for someone in a wheelchair.
- Use proper grammar. AI chatbots use natural language processing to understand and respond to your prompts, so using proper grammar and syntax will help it better understand your requests.
- Be patient. It may take a few seconds for a response to generate, especially for complex questions or prompts. Be patient and give it some time to process before expecting a response.
- Ask follow-up questions. If you don’t get the answer you were looking for, don’t hesitate to ask a follow-up question to clarify or provide more context. AI tools based on machine learning are only as good as the questions they’re asked. Once you give your instructions or ask your questions, the initial response isn’t the end of the session. Think of it as a conversation. Example: Your initial instructions might be to plan a 4-day itinerary in Aruba. The AI chat bot tool will do exactly that. But then you decide you want to be as eco-friendly as possible. Your follow up could be simply: Now make it eco-friendly. As long as you don’t leave the session, you can continue to fine-tune your itinerary according to your preferences.
- Experiment with different prompts. Some chatbots might generate responses on a wide range of topics, so try experimenting with different prompts and questions to see what kind of responses you get. One of the exciting things about AI chatbots is that unless you’re asking for factual information, their responses change. Changing your prompt phrasing will only improve your travel experience. Example: If your initial prompt is ‘give me an adventurous itinerary for Aruba’, you’ll get an itinerary with a lot of great adventurous activities but if you follow that up with ‘give me an itinerary for Aruba filled with adventurous activities’ you’ll get another itinerary with even more ways to experience adventure in Aruba.
- Provide feedback. Tools like these are constantly learning and improving, so if you find that a response isn’t helpful or accurate, provide feedback so it can learn and improve for next time.
Fine-tuning an AI Travel Itinerary
Let’s put some of these tips into action. As mentioned, Marie’s initial prompt was this: Plan out a 4-day itinerary in Aruba.
ChatGPT proceeded to give her an accurate but general itinerary for a vacation in Aruba. This is a good starting point but if she wants to get an itinerary more customized to her preferences she’ll want to fine-tune her prompt. For example, if she’s on a tight budget, traveling solo and is trying to be more eco-friendly, her next prompt can mention these preferences, and she’ll get better results.
Marie’s new prompt is: Now make this itinerary more budget-friendly, eco-friendly and great for solo travelers.
Here is her revised itinerary. Notice how it’s a lot more specific to her preferences!
If Marie wants more options she can always re-enter the same prompt again. Unless the response is fact-based, these AI assistants won’t generate the same response twice, even for the same user. Similarly, she can try rephrasing her prompts to produce different itineraries that may be up her alley.
The Limitations of Using AI Trip Planners
There’s no denying that AI chatbots can be powerful trip planners. But as with anything, there are some things we can’t expect it to do for us. In addition to the AI-powered chatbots not being able to access the most up-to-date information, there are some other limitations when it comes to trip planning with these AI tools:
- They will only respond to the specific instructions or questions asked. You are dealing with a powerful tool, but it’s still just a tool. It can’t intuit anything about your personal preferences, disabilities, medical conditions, or finances, unless you give them that information in the query. For example, Marie’s itinerary was based off of the following instructions: Plan out a 4-day itinerary in Aruba. It doesn’t know that Marie has a tight budget, or that she’ll be traveling solo, that she has hypertension, and a bad knee. If Marie wants an itinerary that takes those things into account, she has to put the information in her instructions.
- There may be some bias involved. As these tools draw from sites like Wikipedia, which is a community-edited encyclopedia, there’s potential for some biases to creep into the responses.
- It doesn’t have its own opinions. While these tools can tell you what the top-rated places are, it won’t ever tell you the “best’ place to go. Remember, too, that the list of top-rated places it gives you could be two years old and a lot can change in two years. Besides, sometimes you just want someone to reassure you that the hotel you picked or the restaurant you’re thinking about is a great choice.
- Lack of human touch. You can’t teach AI to empathize. Planning a trip of a lifetime, especially when you’re not often able to travel, can be a little nerve wracking. A human travel agent will be able to put your mind at rest. There’s no sense of a partnership or collaboration when it comes to AI. Beyond that, if you’re struggling to put exactly what you’re looking for in a trip into understandable sentences, these tools can’t help you get there. A fellow human could help you find the right words and if not, they should be able to comprehend what you mean.
AI travel planning isn’t an exact science but it’s certainly a time-saver. In a matter of minutes, Marie has her seven-day itinerary, customized to her exact specifications. Not only has technology eased her anxiety but also it’s saved her from spending hours scouring the internet, writing and rewriting her perfect itinerary. She’s well on her way to making her dream vacation a reality.