TripShare App: A Great Idea that Doesn’t Pan Out

September 13, 2013

in App Reviews

  • SumoMe

A year ago in “The Holy Grail: Online Trip Planning,” I defined it as:

“A trip planning Website that suggests where to go, where to stay, where to eat, what to do, how to get there, and then books everything for me while consuming just a few minutes of my time.”

Holy Grail

(twm1340 Flickr Photo)

Back then I “road tested” the Georama Website and concluded the story by saying that

“…Georama seems a poorly thought out, poorly designed, still-in-Beta Website that should not be available to the public yet because it simply doesn’t work well.

So, I haven’t found the Holy Grail of Trip Planning Websites yet. I’m still searching for it.”

TripShare iconThe latest tool that I’ve tried out in my quest for “The Holy Grail” of online trip planning is a free iPad app called “TripShare.

Here’s what I discovered when I used it to plan an upcoming trip that I’d just put together in a more conventional way using a printed guidebook, visitor bureau Websites, and booking online directly with an airline, car rental company, and lodging providers.

“Free Trial”

TripShare wants you to set up an account with it, but will let you take the iPad app for a free tryout before you sign up. So I decided to do the “free trial” first.

“Sorry, We Can’t Take You There”

During my fall trip to Colorado Rockies I’ll be staying three nights in three different places: Denver, Estes Park, and Grand Lake.

The first problem I ran into was that TripShare wouldn’t let me add Grand Lake to my itinerary, even though it could find the town on a map built into the app. Presumably this is because TripShare—which appears to be nothing more than a “booking engine” that gets a commission when you book flights or hotels through it—doesn’t have any lodging choices for that town.

Dating Game

It seemed like every time I tried to dig deeper into TripShare’s listings, the app would change the dates of my trip back to a two-week default period it selected. And there didn’t seem to be a way for me to enter the dates of my trip first and lock them in, before searching for flights and lodging.

“That Hotel Doesn’t Exist (Or Does It)”

Oh well, let’s see if TripShare can find my hotel in Denver.

The app did have 85 hotel listings which it let me sort alphabetically, by price (low to high), star rating, or what it calls “Smart Sort.” I could filter the results by rating, and price range ($0-$500) or amenities (such as fitness center, pets allowed, or restaurants).

Instead of using a little balloon icon (as in Google Maps), the TripShare app employs relatively large pop-up boxes with hotel, museum, and restaurant names that clutter up the area map and make it difficult to read.

Trip Share map

TripShare changed the list of available hotels based on what section of the map around the Denver area was being displayed. But the app wouldn’t let me easily narrow down the selection of hotels to “LoDo” and “Central Downtown,” the two places within the city where I was interested in staying.

To find the hotel I’d already booked, and my section choice in the downtown area, I had to tediously zoom in and out on the map and move it around using the iPad “Two Finger Tango.” What the app should have done is allowed me to specific what part of the Denver area I wanted to stay in, and then displayed all lodging in that area.

Hotel Price Wars

Okay, in TripShare I finally found the Denver hotel where I planned to stay.

But guess what? The app wouldn’t let me get a room at AAA or AARP discounted rates even though they were available, and it didn’t show the room type I had booked. It merely gave the same non-refundable rate for a different room type that I could have gotten by booking directly through the hotel’s Website.

In Estes Park, TripShare found the Stanley Hotel (where a deranged Jack Nicholson stalked the halls in the movie based on Stephen King’s novel, The Shining”), but once again, the app wouldn’t have allowed me to a book a room using AAA/AARP discounts. In fact, the first time I used the app, it only listed one room type out of seven available at a non-refundable discounted rate. (The second time I tried the app it showed me four.)

My guess is that TripShare may only be given the non-refundable pricing option for the hotel rooms listed. Since the same rates will probably be available directly from the hotel, why bother booking a room using TripShare? And since TripShare uses Expedia to book rooms, why not just use that site?

Vacation Rental Option

The TripShare app has a “Rentals” option for finding lodging. Since I’d booked a condo in Estes Park, I wanted to see if the app listed that place.

While the app did display a rather impressive number of vacation rental properties for the town, mine wasn’t one of them nor was my second choice.

The Fly Zone

Next I looked to see if TripShare could find the flights I’d already booked between San Francisco and Denver.

Denver Airport TripShare

The app’s flight search function lets you pick the cabin class and sort the search results by departure time, number of stops, flight duration, and price (low to high). You can also filter the results by number of stops (0-2+), price range ($242-$1,406, at least for my trip), and departure time (12 AM – 11 PM).

But I couldn’t simultaneously search for flights from other San Francisco Bay Area airports, nor limit my search to specific airlines.

Although it wasn’t easy, I finally located the outbound flight matched with the return flight I had booked. But United would have sold that pair of flights to me for less than I would have paid via TripShare which, of course, doesn’t let you book using frequent flier miles as I did.

TripShare apparently won’t save those selected flights to your trip unless you book them, so if you close the app and open it later to finish planning your trip, you’ll have to search for the flights again.

The No Drive Zone

Third party travel booking sites typically provide “one stop shopping” for flights, hotels and rental cars as do at least some airline Websites.

But the TripShare app has no rental car listings or booking function, making it a “two stop (or more) shopping” site.

Activities

One feature that the TripShare app offers that Expedia doesn’t is the ability to add tours and outdoor and cultural activities to your trip.

But the listings for Denver—the largest venue on my three-stop Colorado itinerary—were meager. And as is the case with hotels, you must have the correct spot on the map displayed in order for those activities to show up in the app’s listings.

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts was one such place. But the app didn’t provide information on any of the three performances scheduled during my visit, or even a link to the center’s Website where I could have learned about the shows and purchased tickets.

Food and Nightlife

The Food section of the TripShare app includes restaurant and nightclub listings. But as with hotels and activities, what is listed depends on what part of the area map is displayed. To find a club where you can do the tango, you first must do the “Two Finger Tango.”

TripShare Food

Tapping on a restaurant box shows you a photo of the place, but no menus, no information on hours of operation, and provides no way to book a table online.

Price it and Book It

Once you’ve made your flight and hotel reservations, the TripShare app will give you a price quote for each and the combined total cost of your trip. But it won’t include amount for the restaurants, tours or attractions that you added to your trip.

Sharing Your Trip

As the name would imply, TripShare is supposed to allow you to share your planned trip and get input from other people. Perhaps this is possible if you become a registered user, but since I only did the “free trial” without registering, the app didn’t allow me to try out that feature.

Crash and Burn

The TripShare app would intermittently crash when I tried to add a place to my trip.

No Inspiration

While the TripShare app tried to help me find and book hotels, flights, restaurants and activities, it provided nothing that would have inspired me to visit Colorado, or to stay in any particular hotel, visit specific tourist attractions, or eat in one restaurant versus another.

Single Platform

TripShare doesn’t have a Website that you can use to create, view, or modify a trip. You’ve got to do all of that on an iPad. And since there is no iPhone app, you can’t access your TripShare trip information while you’re out and about touring your destination, unless you want to lug your iPad around.

The Bottom Line

TripShare is what I call a “Great Idea That Doesn’t Work” bit of technology.

Being able to put together a complete trip plan with flights, hotels, ground transportation, sightseeing, dining, and other activities using a single search and booking tool would indeed be “The Holy Grail of Online Trip Planning.”

But TripShare is not user-friendly, has incomplete and inconsistent listings, and lacks the ability to “one stop shop” for the three major travel products most of us need for most trips: Flights, hotels, and rental cars. And it doesn’t let you get the same discounts on travel that might be available by booking directly with a hotel or airline.

The best thing about the TripShare app is its price: Free. In fact, it’s the only good thing about this app.

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