Travel|My First Trip to Norway, With A.I. as a Guide

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/26/travel/norway-artficial-intelligence-planners.html

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Can artificial intelligence devise a bucket-list vacation that checks all the boxes: culture, nature, hotels and transportation? Our reporter put three virtual assistants to the test.

A train rolls past a small, quaint red wooden building with a quiet road in front of it. In the distance are trees and snow-capped mountains.
The train between Flam and Myrdal, Norway, goes through some of the most scenic spots in the country. The ride was recommended by the author’s virtual assistants.Credit…norwaysbest.com/Sverre Hjørnevik

The assignment was clear: Test how well artificial intelligence could plan a trip to Norway, a place I’d never been. So I did none of my usual obsessive online research and instead asked three A.I. planners to create a four-day itinerary. None of them, alas, mentioned the saunas or the salmon.

Two assistants were, however, eager to learn more about me in order to tailor their initially generic recommendations, which they had spewed out within seconds. Vacay, a personalized travel planning tool, presented me with a list of questions, while Mindtrip, a new A.I. travel assistant, invited me to take a quiz. (ChatGPT, the third assistant, asked nothing.)

Vacay’s and Mindtrip’s questions were similar: Are you traveling solo? What’s your budget? Do you prefer hotels or Airbnbs? Would you rather explore the great outdoors or pursue a cultural experience?

Eventually, my chat sessions yielded what seemed like well-rounded itineraries, starting with one day in Oslo and moving on to the fjord region. Eventually, I locked down a trip that would combine the assistants’ information and go beyond a predictable list of sites.

This time around, my virtual planners were far more sophisticated than the simple ChatGPT interface I used last year on a trip to Milan. Though it offered more detailed suggestions for Norway, I ended up ditching ChatGPT in the travel-planning stage after it repeatedly crashed.

Vacay’s premium service, which starts at $9.99 per month, included in-depth suggestions and booking links, while Mindtrip, which is currently free, provided photos, Google reviews and maps. During the trip itself, each delivered instantaneous information by text and always asked if more specific details were needed. Sadly, only ChatGPT offered a phone app, whose information I found to be outdated (the $20-per-month premium version is more current).


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