Vacation travel can feel magical, especially when finding an off-the-beaten-track spot. Travel apps are great to find places to go, but often algorithms miss hidden treasures.
Utrip is a free travel planning service that unites artificial intelligence and human experience, making it easier for travelers to create their perfect trip.
Founder and CEO, Gilad Berenstein, spoke to RewardExpert about getting custom itineraries to fit different tastes and personalities.
“Most travel sites are focused on transactions — buy, rent, book. Travel is about dreaming, discovery and doing things. Where you stay, what you see and where you eat is what matters,” says Berenstein.
Utrip creates itineraries based on travel preferences such as budget, interests, and whether children are coming along.
The app immerses travelers in experience is allowing them to learn what local authorities. Chefs, artists, musicians and shop owners are happy to divulge the secrets of their city. These experts curate lists of their favorite places and recommendations.
“We’ve found experts in our 104 destinations. We have a James Beard award-winning chef, historians and other experts. Users can quickly become insiders rather than tourists.
Berenstein notes none of the experts are paid to curate their favorite local haunts for users. “They have passion for the places where the live in and are passionate about a topic such as dance, music, history or art.”
“Who doesn’t want to get a recommendation from a chef about a restaurant,” he adds.
Founding of Utrip
Berenstein grew up in Israel and his father worked in artificial intelligence. He held different positions in business, including an unsatisfying finance career, before founding Utrip.
While in graduate school at University of Washington, Berenstein became fascinated by predictive technology.
“I wondered how could we make predictions to help people in their regular lives.”
A trip to Europe after graduation ignited the spark that became Utrip. While traveling, Berenstein was continually reminded that travel tools could be better. He thought he had planned his trip perfectly based on apps and books, but he found hassles. He found a great hotel via Expedia, but the hotel was located in the outskirts of Paris.
As a rabid soccer fan, he was sorely disappointed he missed a match in Barcelona. Berenstein says, “I could have made the game if I switched my itinerary, but I didn’t have a tool.”
In Rome, he has an incredible moment, which is something every traveler loves. He met an Italian man who was retired chef. The man divulged the best restaurants to each the best Italian cuisine. Berenstein noted that none of those restaurants were on TripAdvisor. That chat planted the seed for Utrip’s model of engaging experts.
While technology can go far, word of mouth is still key to having an authentic local experience, according to Berenstein.
“People have such an affinity for travel, so they make the most of it,” says Berenstein. He offers lots of tips for travelers:
1. Plan ahead.
Utrip is best used as a desktop application for planning. Then, the Android or iPhone apps serve as companion on the trip. The app has maps and itineraries. Plans can be changed on-to-go with the app.
2. For long trips, mix up lodging options.
Berenstein suggests staying in lower cost lodging such as hostels. With the money saved, splurge on something special.
“I backpacked China for a month and it was amazing. In the middle, by accident, we booked a luxury hotel. Taking the time out and soak in a Jacuzzi rejuvenated us for the rest of the trip,” says Berenstein.
3. Make the most of miles.
Save frequent flyer miles and use them on vacation, advises Berenstein. But instead of booking top airlines, look at lower tier airlines, which may cost 50% less. Trying a new airline can be a “fun, elevated experience,” according to Berenstein. He says lesser-known airlines may feel riskier, but said it’s not hard to check the safety and reliability of the airline.
4. Enjoy local cuisine at an affordable price.
Foodies should rejoice because travelers can eat very well on a small budget, says Berenstein. Utrip is curating food experiences such as street food in Asia and food trucks in the U.S.
“Portland, Oregon has a food truck pod and best food in the city. It’s true, local cuisine. That’s where the locals are eating,” he says.
5. Want to meet people? Go to the hair salon.
Berenstein advises on a great way to meet local people. Visit a salon and get a haircut. “It’s an unbelievable local experience. You have a 20, 30 or 40 minute conversation with a hairdresser or barber.”
To develop your own personal itinerary or learn more, visit the website.