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In today’s crazy world, wanderlust-filled folks are on the hunt for unforgettable adventures that scream “me.” Good news: with the power of AI, planning your dream vacation just got a whole lot cooler.
Meet ChatGPT, the ultimate travel itinerary guru. This clever language model taps into its massive brainpower to whip up personalized, jaw-dropping itineraries that fit you like a glove.
And if you’re wondering, yes, the above two paragraphs were written by ChatGPT. Creepy, right?
As ChatGPT says, the advancement of AI has permeated every industry, and travel is no exception. About 36% of travelers said they are likely to use AI to research or plan travel within the next 12 months, according to a Matador Network survey of 1,400 travelers. The immediate inclination is to do away with human travel agents, so we tested out the tool for ourselves. We gave ChatGPT a simple prompt: “Plan a three-hour itinerary for my first time in [New York City, Atlanta, Nashville, Washington, and Honolulu].” Here’s how our cross-country, computer-generated tourist days went.
📍 ChatGPT New York City itinerary review 🍎
In New York, here’s what ChatGPT told me and my travel companion for the day to do:
Visit Times Square, stroll through Central Park, go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and finish with dinner in Hell’s Kitchen. As someone who grew up in the New York metro area, the agenda looked pretty reasonable.
Times Square is typically a place most New Yorkers avoid, but it’s definitely a place visitors are interested in and worth seeing if you’ve never been.
Visitors can enjoy Central Park at their leisure and can plan to spend as little as half an hour or as much as a full day in the park, depending on how much nature they want to take in.
The Met is where AI truly fell short. It only suggested an hour and a half for the museum, not including time walking from Central Park, which can be a schlep. ChatGPT also didn’t factor in the lines. In all, it was about half an hour of waiting from the time we arrived on the museum steps to actually seeing our first exhibit. That left us only an hour to explore the huge facility and make our way back to Hell’s Kitchen.
In fairness to ChatGPT, we were ready to leave when the clock told us to.
When we met other friends who were visiting from Italy for dinner, they said the ChatGPT itinerary sounded too packed for their first visit to the city. They managed a lot of sightseeing in a week in New York but seemed satisfied with their own research and scheduling.
— Zach Wichter
📍 ChatGPT Atlanta itinerary review 🍑
ChatGPT gave me a solid itinerary for my afternoon in Atlanta, but not nearly enough time. Over the course of three hours, I was to explore Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, the Atlanta BeltLine trail and the Georgia Aquarium. I could spend an entire afternoon at any one of those destinations, but I was up for the challenge and brought my 9-year-old along for the adventure.
It was about 12:15 pm when we got started at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. The site is free to visit. Lacking the time to read every plaque on our tight schedule, I tried to soak in moments instead.
I opted for a free tour, which ran about 40 minutes and was a wonderful opportunity for deeper learning. To stay on schedule, I should have headed back to my car as soon as the tour ended, but I popped over to the neighboring King Center, where Dr. King and Coretta Scott King are entombed, and Ebenezer Baptist Church, which Dr. King co-pastored with his father. The extra stops set me back about 15 minutes, but it would’ve been a shame to miss them.
Next stop: the Atlanta BeltLine, a multi-use greenspace along former railroad tracks that spans multiple neighborhoods and miles across the city. It took about 15 minutes to drive over and find parking. ChatGPT suggested I walk the popular Eastside Trail and stop by Ponce City Market for a snack and souvenir shopping.
This is where I really fell behind. My GPS predicted the walk would take 20 minutes each way, which should have given me just enough time for a bite and a bit of window shopping, but it took a lot longer with a 9-year-old in the summer heat. I also sabotaged myself by having lunch instead of snack, but Ponce City Market has one of my favorite food halls in the city. By the time we got back to the car, it was already 3:20 p.m. I should have completed my entire itinerary by then, and I still had one last stop.
It took about 15 minutes to drive over to the Georgia Aquarium and find street parking, which I opted for instead of $20 parking in the adjacent deck. Same-day aquarium tickets cost $47.99 before tax. If I’d paid for both, I would’ve wanted to make the most of my time. Thankfully, we have yearlong Georgia Resident Passes and can come back any time, so all the excursion really cost was time, which we were well over.
Fortunately, since it was later in the day, crowds had thinned out and we were able to navigate most areas at a quick clip. We weren’t able to catch any shows, but we got a taste of the aquarium in what felt like record time, 50 minutes. A guest services employee said most visitors spend about two and a half hours there. By the time we walked back to the car it was 4:45 p.m.
My three-hour ChatGPT itinerary wound up taking four and a half hours. Part of that was my fault, but the itinerary was unrealistic to begin with since it suggested one hour in each place, with no time allotted for travel.
— Eve Chen
📍 ChatGPT Nashville itinerary review 🤠
Just 10 minutes into my itinerary, I was already rushing. ChatGPT told me to go to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville first, but the artificial intelligence computer program only allotted me an hour to tour galleries where the attraction’s website said most visitors spend an average of two hours.
I hadn’t been since I went for a school field trip as a kid, and wanted to soak in as much as my nearly $28 ticket would allow. I read about country music’s origins and got to see Connie Smith’s Gibson Dove guitar, a copy of John Prine’s handwritten lyrics to “Sam Stone” and many of Taylor Swift’s famous looks. But I lingered a little long at Martina McBride: The Power of Her Voice and had to make up time by skipping some other exhibitions.
For lunch, ChatGPT suggested I “indulge in some delicious Southern cuisine.” One of its recommendations, the Loveless Cafe, was a half-hour drive away, so I chose Hattie B’s Hot Chicken, a six-minute walk from the hall of fame. The restaurant was surprisingly busy for a weekday afternoon and I needed every bit of the hour scheduled to order and enjoy my food (I got chicken tenders with collard greens and baked beans for just under $16, including tax and tip).
I ended the day by walking down Broadway, the area’s main strip, where the computer program urged me to pop into various bars and enjoy the “vibrant atmosphere.”
I grew up in Nashville and try to steer clear of the crowds on that street, but I never get tired of how passersby can hear what seem like a dozen different live songs in a four-block span through the open windows of honky-tonks. I browsed in a couple of shops – including one selling cowboy boots, of course – and made it back to my car with minutes to spare.
While ChatGPT’s itinerary left me wanting more of some agenda items and nearly led me far out of my way in the middle of it, the plan was mostly manageable and affordable, and would make a nice outing for both tourists and locals.
— Nathan Diller
📍 ChatGPT Washington, D.C., itinerary review 🇺🇸
You’d have to be an athlete to do ChatGPT’s DC itinerary.
At first glance, the three-hour itinerary ChatGPT put together for an afternoon in the nation’s capital seems doable. After all, every pin it dropped is alongside the National Mall. The problem is that the mall is 2 miles long, and it doesn’t take into account the time a tourist would like to spend at each of the stops.
ChatGPT began my afternoon at the Lincoln Memorial, which is a good point to expeditiously see most of the monuments. However, most affordable hotels in D.C. are East of the Lincoln Memorial, so tourists would need to take transportation to the memorial into consideration.
The Reflecting Pool, WWII Memorial and the George Washington Monument are all about 10 minutes walking distance from each other. Considerations that ChatGPT didn’t take into account were: climate temperature, which can make the walk uncomfortable, and the number of people in the party can also impact the speed at which you move.
Pro tip: If it’s a party of one or two, consider renting a scooter to hit the Lincoln Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, WWII Memorial and the George Washington Monument, and park it before hitting the museums.
The second part of the itinerary is where things get a little off the rails. There’s absolutely no way someone could visit three museums in one hour. Each Smithsonian building is massive. If you only have an hour, I’d suggest only sticking to one. The National Museum of American History would be my choice, or the National Museum of Natural History if you’re going with kids.
Ignore the third suggestion to stroll along the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden and enjoy dinner there. By all means, stroll through the garden, it’s beautiful. But if you walk north two to three streets, you’ll find much better restaurants than the food you can find at the mall.
Overall I think ChatGPT did a good itinerary for someone wanting to do the major D.C. attractions. There’s a lot more to see, even at the mall, but it depends on how much time you want to spend at each location and how much you enjoy learning. Bring comfortable shoes, get ready to sweat, and take your time.
— Josh Rivera
📍 ChatGPT Honolulu itinerary review 🏖️
I knew ChatGPT was going to send me to Waikiki the second I asked the AI how a visitor should spend their first afternoon in Honolulu.
Home to most of the island’s hotels and a walkable strip for many restaurants and shopping, Waikiki is the backbone of tourism on Oahu and where most visitors naturally end up spending their time. I grew up about 10 minutes away from the bustling tourist hub and tend to avoid the crowds and expensive parking if I can.
ChatGPT recommended I kick off the afternoon by exploring the world-famous Waikiki Beach. It can be tough to find a peaceful, empty spot on the sand away from others, you have to navigate between hotel beach chairs and surf rental tents. Since I’m not one to disobey ChatGPT, I sat down and watched some of the surfers. I do admit that for those staying in Waikiki, the beach is so accessible, it’s hard to argue why you shouldn’t enjoy it during your trip.
After an hour, it was time to set out on the Waikiki Historic Trail, according to my itinerary. I’ll admit, I’ve never heard of this free guided walking tour before. Native Hawaiian historian Dr. George Kanahele is the one who came up with the tour, which stops at 21 sites, as a way to connect people with the area’s cultural history.
To properly begin the tour, I had to walk all the way to the eastern end of Waikiki, at Kapiolani Park near Diamond Head. Since it was around 3 p.m., the sun was blazing and it felt like I was on a two-mile-long scavenger hunt through Waikiki, slipping through crowds and looking for small signs that confirmed I was in the right spot. If you do this after 9 a.m, I recommend wearing sun protection. The tour was lengthy, but I learned more than I thought I would. Stopping at statues and other attractions, the tour was in-depth and full of forgotten Hawaiian history that I believe is valuable to anyone, local and tourist alike, to know.
By the time I ended the tour, I was sweating and at the most western end of Waikiki. To my dismay, ChatGPT told me to end my afternoon at the International Market Place, an open-air shopping center that’s always been a landmark in Waikiki. The International Market Place that’s around now is different from what was there when I was growing up – from 1957 until 2016, the marketplace was not a high-end shopping center but a grungy bazaar with small vendors that sold kitschy souvenirs.
The shopping center is also a stop in the middle of the walking tour, so I didn’t love that I had to turn around and walk back to where I had been before. By then I was hungry so I went up to Liliha Bakery on the top floor, a local eatery with multiple locations on the island, and ordered oxtail soup – a local favorite – and sat down to take a breather. I was ready to leave Waikiki.
I personally have mixed feelings about Waikiki but understand why ChatGPT would send a first-time tourist there. I especially like how the AI suggested people take the walking tour so they can learn more about Hawaiian history rather than just shop and hang out at the beach.
While it’s crowded and loud, I do think going to Waikiki is part of the experience of visiting Oahu.
— Kathleen Wong
Final verdict on ChatGPT travel itineraries
Overall, everyone’s experience using ChatGPT as a travel planner was positive. As locals, we were able to spot the tweaks we would have made to each of the itineraries, but as a whole, it does a good job of identifying the classic tourist spots to hit to make anyone feel like they’ve visited each city.
Travelers might find that other AI platforms like GuideGeek or Forgemytrip, which are created as travel tools, can serve them better.
Will ChatGPT or AI, in general, replace travel agents? Too soon to say, but the unique proposition for agents is that travelers can rely on a real person to help them before and during their trips with ease. Those who opt for AI over an agent were likely never going to opt for an agent at all. In that sense, AI can easily provide a starting base for trip planning.
And in ChatGPT’s own words, prompted by us: “As AI technology continues to evolve, we can expect even more sophisticated and intuitive tools that will revolutionize the way we explore the world. So, embrace the future of travel planning.”
What has been your experience using AI tools for travel?
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Can ChatGPT plan travel itineraries? We tested the tool in 5 cities.