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apr 29 2011

Test Lab: Using Plnnr to plan a trip

Have a complicated trip you need help planning? Figuring out which museums can be conveniently seen within the same day? Curious about how long it will take to walk from between two shopping districts?

Plnnr.com can answer all of these questions. It's a virtual travel planner that punches out itineraries according to a person's interests and (optionally) their Facebook profile. The free service works for 18 cities, such as Paris and San Francisco, so far.

Pick a relevant city, enter your travel dates, and select a theme ("The Best Of," "with kids," "outdoor," and "Culture"). Then pick your desired level of intensity, such as light, easygoing, moderate, vigorous, or extreme. Need a hotel suggestion, too? Tell Plnnr what star-level of hotel you're interested in considering, from one to five stars. The site then provides some hotel recommendations.

I recently used the service to try to plan a mid-May trip to London, looking for "Best Of" sightseeing picks, with a "moderate" intensity pace of touring around. Plnnr fetched a custom itinerary for each day, with landmarks plotted out on a map and a schedule of how long to spend at each spot.

Rate your list of suggested attractions by level of interest (such as "definitely!" or "no way!"), and the site will generate itineraries using Google's estimates for average walking or taxi time, spread out over the number of days of your trip.

I liked the site's results for London. As someone who's lived here for nine months and hosted several guests, I found that Plnnr's picks were relevant and useful the time it takes to learn how to use the site. I deleted a couple of items I didn't like by using a drop-down menu of attractions in various categories. Curious to learn more about some individual spots, I clicked for more information from sources like Yahoo Travel and Frommers.com.

Pluses: Trip suggestions are centered around your hotel location and interests. The site is also intuitive to use.

Minuses: No restaurant information, which means you may get stranded in a part of town at lunchtime with no place decent to eat. Also, the site didn't offer any real surprise suggestions or insights into what's currently hot. Plus, 18 destinations aren't nearly enough, though the site will presumably add more over time.

After also checking out a few other city itinerary, I would say this site is ideal for first-time and short-weekend visitors to use when planning trips to popular urban areas.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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