Three years ago, a group of travel junkies got together with a very ambitious dream. It was to make online travel better. I call it ambitious because it seems like, that’s the way the world saw it. Last year, when we were in Ocean Drive Hollywood, Florida for the Phocuswright Conference, that was the reaction we got. “You mean to say you are actually trying to solve the whole problem?” was the common question thrown at us. It’s been a while since then. Our endeavour is called mygola.
Over eight months of sleepless nights, drawing at the white boards, building, breaking, and building again, we are closer to that dream. The new mygola launched yesterday late into the night (surreal, almost like the space shuttle launches).
What’s mygola anyway?
When we first got together, the simplest thing we could think of to help fellow travelers was to answer their travel queries. In the process, we helped close to two million users plan their trips to about 100 countries. We got featured on NY Times, TechCruch, etc. While at it, we also realised that there was still something intrinsic missing in the experience.
I started conversing with both world renowned bloggers and unsung travel inspirations from across the globe. In short, the experiences and stories we have heard and subsequently talked about, are nothing short of amazing. There was the story of 54 countries and travel addiction – a conversation with Theodora Sutcliffe and a travel, food and wine revelation in Jefferson’s, Virginia. I spoke to travellers elsewhere too.
The Pain of Travel Planning
There are hundreds of travel planning or related websites out there. Some more popular than the others. And then there is travel everywhere else – personal blogs, on photo-sharing apps or websites, your facebook albums, pinterest boards, even those ugly spreadsheets on your computers contain your travel plans. But all this is distributed. There is no single unified place that “just does it”.
Now many of us do not like to go for pre-packaged tours. Where everything from the breakfast to which train I take and which hotel room I get, and what I see or do during the day is already decided. Buy it if you like, or move on! But what if I love everything but hate the room view? Or I am just not into museums or churches while I am in Rome?
Some of us love to talk to the locals. To go beyond the layers of World Heritage Sites and dine in an authentic home. Some love shopping, the others, food. The hotels need to be close to the metro. Or maybe I don’t like hotels at all. I prefer couchsurfing. I am a vegan or I love streetside cafes. At the moment, we probably have 5 different sites we can name which will tell us at least some of these things. After this, google is our friend. But that’s the point. 5 different websites, a lot of googling and possibly, an ugly looking spreadsheet.
What we realized was that there was no one place which answered all these questions in a single and simple way. When we planned our trips, we found ourselves asking friends, scouring through forums, fiddling with google maps and local transport websites. It really did not help where English was not the first language. There were cool events that were missed out because no one ever posts about them on travel forms or because we did not know a local with the details. And we never figured that the fifth step on the side staircase of the tower gave panoramic views of the entire valley below. We love travel. And we wanted to make something that did all this.
What is it exactly that we are doing different
Long story short, itineraries are at the center of the new mygola. This will solve 2 big problems for travelers (a) Discovering itineraries that are spread all across the web (b) Making these itineraries actionable.
It’s one big fish:
For solving discovery, we created the single biggest collection of itineraries on the web. Not only did we hand curate this collection, we also made the experience of consuming the itinerary much better. Instead of reading through pages of text, you can now flip through it, a lot like a magazine with captivating design, pictures, videos, 360 degree panoramic views and more.
Itineraries that are actionable
While we read through and analysed thousands of itineraries that were floating around the web, we came across the next level of problem – these itineraries were not at all actionable. A traveler often spoke of beautiful experiences – watching the sunrise from on top of a mountain, or eating in a hidden bistro. Staying at this quaint cave hotel. These were written across paragraphs, often with no actionable details around them.
Action speaks louder than inspiration:
We solved this by dividing the itineraries into smaller points of interests. We enriched each of these experiences with local tips, reviews, data like opening and closing hours, prices, videos and much more. You don’t have to follow an entire itinerary any more. Collect what you like. Across as many itineraries as you like. And then, make an inspiring trip plan of your own.
Your favourite things have a special place for themselves. You do not need to have a spreadsheet open while you browse through tens of websites, blogs and articles to jot down the things you like.
As you flip through these itineraries and find something interest, tag it as a “definitely” or a “maybe”, or just move on. Your choices and interests are stored in your “favourites” list. Come back a few hours or months later. When you are ready to further work on that perfect trip, what you researched and found earlier are there waiting to be plotted into a plan. No longer interested in some of the things you picked? Just cross them out of your list.
After itineraries, the smart planner is our apple’s eye. We love saying “all the smartness of spreadsheets and none of the ugliness.” The planner is a smart tool that automatically takes your likes and favourites and creates a custom plan for you within a few seconds.
State the number of days and the planner will intelligently space out the attractions between them. Easily specify how much time you want to spend a particular place and watch the rest of the plan realign itself automatically.
The nifty tool remembers to check for opening and closing hours, distance between each places and when best to visit a location. Finally plotting them all on a map for your reference.
Have 5 days but you chose too few points of interest? The planner will take into account the distance of the attractions you have chosen and recommend things you should see for the free slots in your day. Add or remove whole days or individual items. All this and we promise you will have the first cut of your trip plan done in 15 minutes.
Soon, we plan to integrate your flight plans, your accommodation plans (we’ll even recommend the best ones based on your daily plan), inter-city transport and everything else under the sun. The mygola planner is the only tool you will ever need.
Expert and local help
Our thousands of travel guides from across the world:
The goodness of our travel guide pool is not gone. Stuck anywhere or need express help? Our expert guides are spread across the world and they have the bragging rights of helping plan over a million trips. If you have a question, they have the answer.
Travel experts and locals:
At the same time, we are partnering with some of the most respected travel experts in the world. Soon you will have their verifications and expertise to rely upon. And we are also pooling in the locals. We all know how we love the insider tips. And they are going to be more than happy to share it with you.
A travel profile on our new mygola:
It’s called the mygola profile – the first step towards our vision of a unified travel-intent space. it connects you with potentially millions of travelers, readers, other bloggers and even businesses, publishers, etc.