AI is a pretty amazing tool. You can use it for all sorts of stuff. I put it to a rather unusual use – using AI to plan a trip for myself and my husband. I found it surprisingly helpful.
We were originally planning to travel to Canada last summer. We wanted to explore around the BC area, and do a combination train trip and road trip, but with all the crazy fires going on in the region, we decided to shift our trip to Ireland and Scotland instead.
How we did the Request to ChatGPT
So, I opened up my handy free AI tool – I use Chat – Open AI. I put in some basic details:
- Where we wanted to go – Ireland and Scotland
- How many days – I originally wanted 7-8 days, but soon realized that 10 days was the minimum to see what we wanted to see.
- How we wanted to travel – We were nervous to rent a car, so we wanted to do strictly buses and trains, although we ended up with a ferry ride as well, which was delightful.
- What types of things we enjoyed doing – we’re a bit older and not in great shape, so we weren’t interested in hiking, or activities that would require a ton of walking.
- How much we wanted to spend/the level of accommodations we were looking for – we didn’t really have a set budget, but we are generally fine with basic accommodations. We are very busy travelers, so for us a hotel is a place to just sleep and shower.
- When we wanted to go – I did a quick Google search on the best time of year for comfortable weather, and reasonable prices. We’re retired, so we could go mid-week, and we didn’t have to wait for vacation schedules or anything. So we set a general range from July to September.
ChatGPT came back with 3 basic itinerary types
Classic highlights – from Dublin to Galway and Connemara National Park to Edinburgh.
Scenic beauty – Shannon, Ireland to the Cliffs of Moher, then Limerick to Cork and the Blarney Stone, then onto Galway and a visit to the Scottish Highlands. We live in Salt Lake City, so we have a pretty good selection of lakes and mountains. This option was the least appealing to us. We like to be where the people and things are.
Cultural exploration – Dublin to Belfast, Giants Causeway to Inverness and Culloden, then Inverness and Loch Ness.
That gave us a good base to be able to start planning our trip. We ended up doing a bit of a combo of the different choices.
We chose Dublin to see Trinity College and the famous Long Room – their historic library, which is pretty amazing, and the Book of Kells, plus some of the whiskey making tours. Then we went onto Belfast to see the Titantic museum, and take the famous Black Taxi tour. Then we took the ferry across to Scotland and up to Glasgow, then took a side trip to Falkirk because my husband was enamored of the Falkirk Wheel, but we both loved it! Then we took the train up to Edinburgh, which was our favorite city of all.
Picking the Flights and Excursions
Next thing to do was to figure out the flights and excursions, as that was a major part of the expense. My son Matt is a big help with stuff like that. We sat for an hour on Google Flights. You can pick the itinerary, the layovers, the days of the week, and try different combinations until you get to the lowest price. It was so helpful to be able to see which options worked best, and even see which airports and airlines to avoid.
I was pretty nervous with all the flight delays that have been going on in the travel industry, particularly after our trip to Spain last Fall. We had a plane conk out right on the runway, and got the last two seats from Atlanta to Barcelona. Plus the stolen passport and various other disasters.
For the excursions, I again turned to the Internet. I found a wonderful site called The Irish Road Trip that had tons of helpful tips on different things to do all around Ireland, plus public transit and accommodations. Side note: I LOVED the trains and the ferry. You really get a chance to see the countryside in detail including the different styles of homes, and the ferry was much more luxurious than we’d expected.
I also spent a lot of time on the Viator and Fun Bus sites. I’ve used Viator many times in Hawaii, Alaska, and on our trip to Europe. It’s not cheap, but there’s a ton of activities available and many of them will pick you up right at your hotel.
This was our first experience with the Fun Bus lines, but they’re pretty awesome. We used them in 3 different cities, and it’s a great way to learn the layout of a city and get around to all the major attractions without resorting to Ubers or taxis. Plus you usually have a live guide, to give you some of the local history and flavor. It’s about $30ish bucks, pounds, or Euros for an all-day ticket.
But for Trinity College, and Edinburgh castle, we saved a ton of money by just booking directly. The Viator price was like $100+ per person, but we paid like $16-$20 pounds on their site. We didn’t get the special guided tours, but we thoroughly enjoyed them anyway.
Picking the Hotels
Back to AI again for hotels. I found it rather challenging and a bit frustrating to pick our accommodations. We were visiting 5 cities in 8 days, so it was a big complicated job to figure out accommodations, especially since we didn’t have a car and didn’t want to use taxi’s or Ubers very much.
Side note: We got ripped off by a shady taxi driver about 10 minutes after we set foot in Ireland, but it was our own fault and everyone we spoke to said it wasn’t very common. Now we know not to pick a driver who was asking for cash and didn’t want to get in line with the regular drivers.
AI was brilliant. We told it what type of place we wanted – small, cheap hotels or a B&B that was close to the train station, and it would list several choices in each city.
Apparently, queen-sized beds are incredibly rare in Europe, so we had to find hotels with twin beds – another rarity. Double beds are apparently the standard. But that’s a bit squashy for two full-sized people like us. We did manage to find some twins though with help from AI.
Edinburgh was the only snag. They were coming up on their busy season with their annual Military Tattoo and Festival, so we were really struggling to find reasonable accommodations in our price range even booking a month early.
We normally steer clear of any hostel situations, but we decided to take a chance with a college dorm arrangement. There are numerous universities there and in the summer when the students all leave, they rent out the dorm rooms for cheap.
We had to get two rooms next to each other because of the student-sized beds, but it wasn’t bad for 80 pounds a night per room. Private bath and a bit more space – buuuuuut NO TV, which did not make the Mister happy! Communal kitchen for each group of 6 rooms, and there was a couch and TV, but the remote was long gone, so we were stuck with one channel.
It was OK, but I was very glad that they housed the families with noisy kids, and the young adult party crowd off into other wings. I don’t think I would do it again, but it wasn’t bad for the time we were there.
Was it a Success Using AI to Plan a Trip?
Yes, I think it was a complete success. It was probably our most fun trip, and while I had to spend a lot of time on my own researching maps and excursions on the Internet, ChatGPT definitely paved the way and made it much easier for us. And it just gave us some confidence that booking a complicated trip like this was do-able.
A lot of our friends have taken those pre-booked bus tours and we definitely thought of doing that, but about fainted when we saw the prices for even a basic tour. Plus you have to go along with the group’s scheduling, and put up with any not-that-great personalities in the group, although you usually meet some super NICE folks as well. We did a tour like this in Alaska at the tail end of Covid because cruises weren’t available, and it was pretty decent.
But by booking it ourselves with the help of our free AI tool, we were able to pick and choose our favorite locations, set our own schedule, and have the freedom to take a break when we needed it. We’re no Spring chickens and travel like this is EXHAUSTING.
But we were able to do the whole enchilada for about $5,000. That’s 10 days in Europe, 2 people, nice meals, decent hotels (except for the dorms), and the airfare was about half of that price. So only about $2,500 to see 5 historic and wonderful cities in 8 days. If you’d like to learn more about the trip, click over to my post on the actual trip where I share more pictures and detail about the places we visited.
Now we are working on using AI to plan a trip for our son and daughter-in-law. They want to visit Australia for their 10th Anniversary next year and I think we can help them make it happen for about the same price.