New website makes trip planning personal

Going somewhere? Don’t forget to pack your friends and favorite celebrities! No, not literally, but through now you can do so, virtually.

You can even skip slipping the bellman a $20 to whisper the best native lunch spot and ditch the 600-page guidebook that claims to hold the secrets to the “local flavor.”

It’s time to get personal when planning your next vacation. helps you keep track of all those interesting places you've come across on the Web while researching travel destinations and then finds connections in your networks who can help you get there.

Using a simple integration with the social media site Facebook (Randi Zuckerberg, the big sister of Facebook CEO Mark is an investor), the site is something of a Lonely Planet guidebook written by tens of thousands of people. “We thought, ‘what a great opportunity to connect people around the world,’” J.R. Johnson, Founder and CEO of told

Launched late last year, the Manhattan Beach, Calif. -based site has already been nominated for a Webby Award for "Best Travel Website".

The travel website  is designed as a social media sounding board between you and others who have similar interests and travel wishes.

For example, let’s say your friend just got back from New Orleans, and you know she has love for spices, which is great because that appeals to you too. Log on to and see what restaurants she flagged and what she had to say about it. Wouldn’t you rather take her word for it than your travel agent?

Dreaming about an African safari adventure? Check to see if anyone you know has been there. It’s not exclusive to only your Facebook or Twitter friends either; people all around the world have the opportunity to weigh in. doesn’t only serve those who have already gotten their vacation request approved at work – it can serve as a breeding ground for the daydreamers and explorers.

With the option to tag destinations as either “been here,” or “want to go,” the website gives you the opportunity to see what others who have been there before you have to say.

In coming up with the idea for the tool, Johnson found that people are always able to talk travel and are eager to share their experiences. “Travel is the lowest conversational denominator,” he mused.

Inspired by this thought, they created a virtual place for travelers, or would-be travelers, where you can see not only where friends stayed, ate or toured, but also celebrities too. Rachel Zoe, Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain are among frequenters.

The feedback from users has lifted the website to new heights. “What they [the developers] got back was that people wanted more, they wanted to interact with the site beyond just using it as a tool,”  says public relations representative Jaclyn Rutigliano from Sunshine Sachs.

This pushed Johnson and his team to deliver. Users now can get advice and tips not found in published and outdated guidebooks. Now featured on the homepage is the opportunity to see “beautiful pictures and lose yourself a little bit,” he said.

The website is made to make travel planning, “more efficient and more fun,” Johnson said. “Travel planning can be a drag but now you can do it with friends in a social environment,” he said, adding planning can now come without the hassle of emails, phone calls or scheduling conflicts.   

So you can ditch the paperwork, the highlighters and the stress in exchange for your virtual guide, just don’t forget your smart phone charger.

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