New York: like a local

Big cities, like New York, are a blast to visit, but it is easy to get stuck in a tourist trap. You can end up visiting the city of your dreams and only seeing the pretend city, the sites a local wouldn’t be caught dead in. To avoid this faux New York, plnnr.com can help you achieve a real sense of the city, leaving the word “tourist” out of your vocabulary!

To begin, you are going to want to define the basics of your trip: when you are going, how long you will be there, etc. If you missed the post on how to do that, you can visit it here. For your Theme, pick “Culture”, and for Intensity, select “Moderate.” When deciding when you will travel to New York, try to avoid major holidays. In general, cities become so overcrowded during the holidays, it is impossible to get a true feel for the city. For my trip, I decided to plan for mid-May. I also decided to go from Wednesday – Saturday. This way I will be able to avoid going out on the weekends and instead, get to be with real New Yorkers. Customizing your trip

After you tell plnnr.com the basics and get your itinerary, select “Trip Profile” to go in and change your preferences. New York is known for many things, but culture and art are a big part of the city. Make sure all art-related categories are weighted heavily in your itinerary, and all other categories are not important for the search. I also made “Off-Beat” an important category so plnnr would know to include unique attractions that aren’t in your basic trip to New York.

To make sure you see everything you desire, click on “Select Attractions” and scroll through the options to make sure plnnr.com knows exactly what you want to see. I wanted to make sure I saw the Chelsea Market, the Art Students League of New York, and the Society of Illustrators museum. By telling plnnr you want to see these sites with a green check mark, they are sure to be in your Itinerary. With these options, you are going to get a pretty unique experience in New York and you will avoid wasting your money on tourist scams.

Travel like a local

And one last point: dinner is the most important meal of the day in New York. So eat light early in the day and have wonderful dinners. You want to make sure you are heading out a little later than other cities in the states. In New York, most restaurants get busy around 8 and 9 o’clock at night, so make reservations!

With these simple steps, you can enjoy the Big Apple like one of its own!

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Planning Our Roadmap

Today we decided to take a good look at our roadmap, and think about our tasks for the upcoming months, focusing on the near tasks.

To do that we started with brainstorming tasks, and writing them on sticky notes. This is the result:

Tasks on sticky notes

Following that, we divided the tasks into groups, where each group signified a business goal.

Tasks, grouped according to business goal


Since our priorities are traction and conversions, we divided the tasks accordingly: we had a task for user retention, for conversion to using the app, conversion to booking and conversion to signing up. We had to focus on “what would encourage a user to use the app/sign up?”. Sometimes the answer is a better product, sometimes it’s a better UI. Sometimes it’s a matter of actually telling the user what the hell you want him to do – because if users don’t understand you – well, they go to someplace that actually understands them.

After grouping came prioritization – what is the most important task to implement for plnnr? This was the hardest part.

Tasks, prioritized

Even after getting to this stage the work is not yet done – we have to estimate costs, and then of course – actually implement our roadmap. We’ve not yet cleared the shores of uncertainty – but today we have a better picture of the next tasks we’re going to do.

The next few weeks and months are going to be awesome.

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A new office


A week or two ago we moved to a new office, and just today we’re waiting for our whiteboard to arrive. The new office is a favor from a friend: he’s got a room he’s not using, and hopefully we are interesting lunch mates :)

In the short time we’ve been here, we’ve seen great productivity improvements, and we hope that this will translate into a better plnnr for you – our users. Just to give you a sneak peak, our offices are located on the 40-something floor of a very tall building. The view here is amazing and if you don’t believe us, see for yourself:

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Help us help you!

Plnnr is trying to change the world of travel planning, and to make it more fun to travel.

Changing the world is a lot of work.

As a result, we have no choice but to demand that you pay us the ultimate payment – the payment of love.

“What have you guys been inhaling lately…” you ask? Read on…

We’ve been working tirelessly on several fronts to enhance and improve what we offer on Plnnr.com.

Additional destination cities are in the works, and excellent feedback from you, our visitors, is being integrated to improve the site.

But we need your help, and we would be happy if you could lend a hand.

Many of our visitors wrote to us (hopefully with tears of joy and awe in their eyes): “Guys, Plnnr.com is great! How can I get involved and help?”

Well, we’re happy that you asked. We need your help, and here are some great ways you can help with less than a minute of your time:

  1. Tell your friends – Plnnr’s algorithm quality depends on having many people use it and helping us improve it. We made it easier to share Plnnr by email, Twitter (),
    Facebook (), Reddit ( submit to reddit), StumbleUpon () and any platform you can think of. If you like what we do, do tell others. We will love you anyway.
  2. Tell us what you think – Make good use of Plnnr, and when you’re done, tell us what you think. We take our community feedback very seriously, so click the “feedback” button if you have something interesting to share. Don’t hold on on the negative stuff – negativity helps us be more positive…
  3. Share a trip – If you designed an interesting trip, or want to help others, make your trip public and share it online using the sharing mechanisms. Your fellow travelers will appreciate your input.
  4. Write about us – Do you write a blog? Are you a journalist, or perhaps your BFF is? Do us a favor and put in a good word about us, in writing. It helps others notice us, and reading how people view us is very helpful.
  5. Volunteer as an editor – Adding destination cities is not hard, but requires some inputs from experienced travelers with knowledge about the specific place. If you would like to contribute, we would be most obliged. Please sign-up here and we will let you know once we are ready to add editors.

You can also buy us a massage chair to let us deal with the fatigue of all nighters, but that’s an issue for a separate post.

Thanks for staying with us and supporting us, and have a great new 2011!

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Holiday Food, Wherever You Are

We’ve been very busy here at Plnnr this last month. We launched our site, and received a lot of heartwarming support and love from our visitors.

We want to give something back, and there’s nothing that entices the mind (and stomach) like some good holiday traditions.

Traditions, beliefs, and customs are different all over the world. If you are traveling this holiday season, it can be nice to share in new culture or try a new tradition. If you are staying home, you might try spicing things up and experience something new or different.

Below you will find the most popular holiday foods from the most popular holiday destinations. Dig in!

Holland: during Christmas in Holland, people have many different food traditions, but the best recognized is the Marzipan. Another Holland tradition is the KerstKrans. This is a holiday loaf in the shape of a wreath served during holiday festivities. Try making your own Kerstkrans this holiday using this recipe.

Carribean: Along with a roast and bread pudding, Pasteles are a staple for any holiday on The Islands. The Pasteles are similar to the tamale and are a wrapped dish, with stuffing inside. These are very labor-intensive to make, so they are best for bigger families –that way you can get everyone working! Try this recipe from trinigourmet.com.

Italy: It is safe to say that Rome was one of the first places that started celebrating Christmas. Because there was a split of Pagan and Christian beliefs at the time, a lot of traditional Christmas foods came from Winter Solstice traditions. One such dish is the Christmas Goose. This tradition was most likely a relic from the traditions of Winter Solstice feasts from long past. Here is a recipe.

Goa, India: One of the unique things about Christmas in India is definitely the food. Holiday vindaloo and curry are a nice change from the normal. The most common dish is the Sorpatel, a spicy pork curry dish. For dessert, Bebinca, another labor-intensive dish, is common during the Christmas holiday. This is a layered pudding cake, and is well loved among all people.

Germany: Like many other places, goose is the main Christmas dish. But what is really important is that we have the Germans to thank for the candy cane (and really, Thank you!!!) These were first made as edible tree decorations and were originally all white. The first candy cane was noted in 1670, and given out to children during nativity services to represent the Shepard’s cane. Try to make your own cane here.

No matter where you are or what you are celebrating, have a wonderful holiday season!!! Farewell to 2010, and welcome 2011.

Wishes of a wonderful year and happy holidays from the team at Plnnr.com!

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Toronto is up!

I’m happy and excited to announce that Toronto is up and Plnnr now supports ten destinations!

We consider this a milestone – our goal is to truly be the best possible tool for trip planning, and part of that is supporting many destinations.

Many people have asked us in the past, “why do you support only 9 [now 10] destinations?”, and I thought this is a good opportunity to answer that question.

The way Plnnr works is that we automatically collect information from the internet, and then use special algorithms to combine these various sources into a single one. In the literature, this process is described as “entity resolution” and it is not a trivial one. For example, Kensington Market is called “Kensington Market” in Frommers, but “Kensington Market and Spadina Avenue” in TripAdvisor. While this may seem easy, consider more obscure cases where the place names are more different, or even cases where the place names are in different languages!

Naturally, any algorithm to solve such a problem can’t be perfect. As a result, before publishing a new city, we let our content editors go over the data and fix errors.

Another algorithm we have is one that automatically assigns tags to places. For example, it determined that St. Michael’s Cathedral is a religious site, or that the Old City Hall should be tagged under “History and Culture”. This algorithm as well is not always correct, and sometimes it adds tags by mistake, and sometimes it omits tags that should be there. Our content editors fix that as well.

To conclude – getting quality content is not easy. While automating most of the process, striving to get our content accurate also requires the eye of a human and not a computer, and sometimes even the eye of an expert.

So check out Toronto and tell us what you think!

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Plnnr’s Adventures on Reddit

Last week in Plnnr we started submitting our website to various blogs & websites for review. We weren’t receiving many replies at the time, and on a whim I decided to do something a little bit different.

I remembered that I have a reddit account that I haven’t used in a long time. Fast forward a few minutes and a password reset, and my first reddit post in a very long while was ready. I decided to post to PyReddit because I knew the community, and felt it had a slightly better chance of success.

To tell the truth, I didn’t expect this post to be very popular. However, I was pleasantly surprised when it got into the PyReddit front page, and got a few upvotes. Not too long later, positive comments started to appear, and I found myself answering them with zeal. More time passed and it got to the top of the page, with significantly more upvotes and comments than other stories.

Plnnr on Reddit

We were pretty excited about this at plnnr – not every day you get such a positive response to something you’ve been pouring your life into for two years. We remain thankful and amazed at the Reddit community.

As a final note, a couple of days later I thought to commemorate the event with a small “rage-comic”, which I submitted to f7u12.

Plnnr on Reddit fffffffuuuuuuuuuuuu

While it didn’t catch on (a fellow friend & redditor told me it just wasn’t cynical enough), the sentiment remains. What a wonderful experience!

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Sharing your trip plan

One of the features we got asked about is Facebook integration, along with trip sharing. Last week that feature finally became a reality, and Plnnr now supports sharing your trip plan on numerous social websites.

A week before that I was on a trip to Barcelona, and I’d like to use my experiences in Barcelona to show how to share your trip.

Our trip was a six day trip, but for the sake of simplicity in this post, I’ll show a three-day trip. My wife and I, being very happy for the opportunity to take a break, opted for a very easygoing trip. Unfortunately, even the easygoing setting in Plnnr is not easygoing enough, and we left the apartment on 11am at the earliest. Happily enough – Plnnr supports changing hotel departure time for each day, which I did.

The attractions we enjoyed most during our trip were the Picasso Museum and the CaixaForum. On the lighter side, we also visited the Zoo and ate a lot of tasty tasty Tapas. So I’ll mark these attractions as “must see”, and set each day to have dinner at a restaurant.

Now that we have our trip – we are ready to share it. First, you need to be signed in.

Once you do that, you can either share your trip in “private mode” or in “public mode”. In private mode, the trip has a secret web address, and only friends that you share it with can see your trip.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Private trip sharing

In public mode, the web address of the trip is not secret, and is also visible to search engines. This is the recommended way to share your trip. If later you switch back from public to private mode, it will render the public web address inaccessible. This way, public mode allows you to control the sharing level of your trip.

Public trip sharing

So I’ll set my trip to public. Once I do that, I can share my trip on Facebook and many other supported websites. If I want I can also copy the link  and use it on any website, for example, this is a link to the trip: a trip to Barcelona.

The shared trip address points to the “shared trip page” – an uneditable version that your friends can easily review and also “Like” on Facebook.

That’s all there is to trip sharing. We strove to make it simple yet powerful, and always with an eye to our users’ privacy. Have fun in your trip, and if you’re in Barcelona, be sure to check out Ciudad Condal, they have wonderful Tapas!

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Top 5 things to do in Barcelona – November

As we come into the last part of the year, family vacations, holidays and getaways become plentiful. Plnnr.com can help you plan all of these trips, but we don’t want you to miss any awesome events this November! Here are some great things happening in Barcelona. Check them out, and make sure to choose a moderate intensity level when planning your trip, so you have time to experience all of these cultural events.

Innovation Festival – Oct 22 – Nov 22

This is the first of its kind, and is designed to show how important art, creativity and design are to the world. After Barcelona, the festival will travel to five other locations including: Milan (Italy), Lisbon (Portugal), Tallinn (Estonia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Kortrijk (Belgium). To see the calendar of events, click here.

Barcelona Jazz Festival 2010 – Nov 3 – Dec 2

This event takes place at different venues all over the city and has been happening for the past 42 years! This year, there are 87 separate concerts taking place at the festival.

Barcelona International Comedy Festival 2010 – Nov 26th – Nov  28th

An international comedy tour with acts in different languages, this show is in its third year running and has received wonderful feedback. Who couldn’t use a good laugh? To learn more, click here.

EUROPES – Festival Barcelona – Oct 21 – Nov 14

This festival is presented by La Fabrica, and is intended to show people the latest trends in culture and art in Europe. It will take place in over 200 venues throughout Barcelona. The goal of EUROPES is to make Barcelona a “gateway” to the rest of Europe. This is the first festival of its kind, and intends to be an annual event.

Primavera Club – Nov 24 – Nov 28

This is the winter version of the popular Primavera Sound. This is a four day music festival with popular musicians like Sophia, The Jims Jones Revue and Yuck.

Maybe you have always been waiting for the perfect time to visit Barcelona…well, now is it! Plnnr.com can help you with a quick, easy, automatically planned trip! Happy November!

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Ghouls and Goblins: Halloween in London

From Jack the Ripper to Sherlock Holmes, London has its fair share of eerie history and fun Halloween adventures. With plnnr.com, you can automatically plan a spooky itinerary around London.

London has a great history, filled with suspense and action. I planned a four day trip to London, beginning on Thursday, October 28th. To learn how to use the basics of plnnr, visit my post here. To learn how to customize your preferences and profile, visit my other post here.

For a Halloween inspired day-by-day itinerary, use your Trip Profile to put emphasis on Religious Sites, Cemeteries, Historic Sites, Offbeat, Specialty and Museums. Make all other categories less important in your search, based on your personal preferences.

Spooky Itinerary

Once you specified these preferences, make sure that a few things are in your itinerary. To do this, go to the “Select Attractions” tab. From here, you can tell plnnr.com which sites you want to see. Madame Tussauds in London is the first of the brand, and is something that embodies the Halloween spirit. The London Dungeon is another important stop for the Halloween weekend. The London Dungeon is a wonderful stop. It is full of live acts, shows, rides, and other horribly horrific sites. I recommend doing this on the Friday before Halloween. The Tower of London, The British Library and The Charles Dickens Museum are also great places to stop!

Exterior of The London Dungeon

For a real scare, who could forget about the infamous Jack the Ripper?

London offers several “Jack the Ripper Tours,” that are especially popular during this holiday season. One of the most popular of these tours is the “Jack the Ripper Walk.” This tour visits several historically accurate stops and has real photographs. You can sign up for this walk on their website, but spots fill up quickly!

While you’re there, conduct your own Sherlock Holmes investigation. Who knows, maybe you’ll solve the age old mystery!

Plnnr.com easily allows you to add an attraction like the Jack the Ripper Walk to your itinerary. Your day-by-day itinerary will tell your exactly when you leave your hotel and when you will return home. You can easily plan additional activities this way!

What spooky plans do you have this Halloween? Happy Haunting!

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