I've heard the time most people are happiest about their vacations is before they've even left, while they're still reading about their destination and exploring guide books with suggestions for what to see and do. Wait, guide books? Who needs those when armchair travel sites like Tripomatic put the same materials online, and on your iPhone, too?
iPhone app Tripomatic (free) lets you explore historic sites, museums, and other spots worth seeing around the world. Tripomatic's app is very similar in concept to City Guides, Offline Maps (free, 3.5 stars), Stay.com's mobile app, except for two key differences. First, as you may have guessed by the name, Stay.com's app has offline maps, meaning after you build a list of what to see and do in a day, you can save the map of all the locations locally on your iPhone, and thus avoid roaming data charges. Tripomatic doesn't have that. Second, Stay.com doesn't let you schedule your itinerary, as all your must-see spots are saved en masse, whereas Tripomatic? lets you plot out your destinations over multiple days.
Tripomatic doesn't give you finely detailed controls, such as the ability to put time markers on your list of things to do, but it does help you see on a map the various points of interest so you can cluster nearby attractions into one day.
Where Can You Go With Tripomatic?
Tripomatic lets you select a city from its impressive list, or just search by typing. Hundreds of cities populate this ever-scrolling list, which is a bit less user friendly than Stay.com's method, in which you first pick a region and then a more specific destination based on submenus. It's mind-boggling to see rather specific places like Szczecin (Poland), Placentia (California), Agadir (Morocco), alongside destinations as general as France and Thailand.
Selecting a city, region, or country creates a new trip, which are saved to your Tripomatic app. You can build daily itineraries right in the app or on a larger screen with the Tripomatic website, and the data will sync across the two when you log in with a free account.
What's Inside the Tripomatic App?
Choosing dates to travel is self-explanatory in the Web app, but less simple in the iPhone app. When you start a new trip, you can pick the start date in the app, but not the end date. Furthermore, you can't just generally plan a five-day trip without telling Tripomatic on which specific date these first days will start. By default new trips are single-day ventures, and I initially had trouble figuring out how to add more days (you have to choose from among your saved trips, then on the first screen, swipe left to find the option on yet another screen).
I created entries for a trip Jordan, another one to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon, and a third called Norway in the Summer?none of which I'll be taking any time soon, but that's the beauty of armchair travel. Selecting a destination pulls up suggested things to see and do from museums to historic sites to water parks.
As you add stops along your trip, Tripomatic plots them on a map. You can continue adding new points of interest based on what's nearby while exploring the map, or from a list of highlights.?
One major problem I had with the app was I couldn't delete a trip, which you can do easily online. I wish the app had one central editing screen for each trip, where I might adjust the start and end dates of the trip using standard iPhone calendar selection tools, delete the trip, change the name, or assign multiple cities easily to one trip (like Quebec City and Montreal, which are near one another). The current page only has options to rename the trip and change the start date.
Sharing and Other Extras
Tripomatic includes some ability to share your trip plans with others, but none are spectacular because it uses iOS's built-in sharing buttons: email, message, Twitter, Facebook, assign to contact (which doesn't even make sense in this app), save to Camera roll (again, the logic is spotty), print, and copy (which puts on your pasteboard some introductory text and a link to the itinerary). Why there isn't a clear option to "invite" your fellow travel companions and get them to sign up for Tripomatic in the process, I don't know.
When your friends click the link you email or otherwise send to them using the sharing features that are included, they essentially receive a link to sign up for the service, but it's not clear that's what will happen at the point of sharing.
If I could change one thing about Tripomatic, it would be to include access to your customized maps offline. That's the big draw of Stay.com's City Guides, Offline Maps. Anyone who travels internationally knows what a challenge it can be to find apps that provide a decent map experience without running up your phone bill. You can get some offline data through Tripomatic's app but only pre-packaged guides?not your customized itineraries?and for about $1.99 each as an in-app purchase.
Keep Tripomatic on the Couch
While there are some features of Tripomatic I like better than Stay.com's app, I like it more for armchair travel than for actual utility. No offline access to my customized maps is the kicker, but some other areas of the app could stand some improvement, too. Tripomatic does get one thing right that Stay.com misses, and that's the ability to plan points of interest across several dates. But that alone isn't quite enough. But there's potential to be sure. Keep an eye on this app for significant future updates, and for the time being, just use it from your living room to daydream.
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