aNewDomain.net — Stay.com is one of the best travel tools on the market. Its nimble, vector-based interface lets you create personalized travel guides for about 200 cities on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. You can use the site or download your guide to avoid connectivity charges abroad. Best of all, the GPS feature also works offline, so you can find your way around even when Wi-Fi isn’t available.
It’s basically the anti-package tour. Rather than being herded around like cattle, Stay.com invites you to adopt an adventurous, do-it-yourself attitude. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the ubiquity of travel guides and pre-packaged sightseeing tours scuttled that approach.
The first package tour took place in 1841, when an English preacher named Thomas Cook led his congregation by train to a temperance rally. Imagine the advertisement for that weekend getaway: “One tour, one price, no alcohol!”
Those tours are still alive and kicking, but they are so 1841. Gone are the days when monuments, mediocre hotels, and bland food made for a fabulous vacation. Travel should be about forging your own path and creating your own adventure. It’s hard to do that when you’re following the advice of a printed travel book, which was likely compiled by a disgruntled travel writer after a marathon inspection of hotels and eateries. Guidebook assignments are notoriously hellish experiences. If the writer isn’t having fun, their advice is likely to be boiler-plate at best.
Stay.com, on the other hand, offers a diverse collection of user contributions. Anyone can sign in through Facebook to make suggestions and encourage friends to do the same. Google Places, TripAdvisor, and TimeOut are also integrated into the app — so you can coordinate your trip with other travelers.
What pulls it all together is Stay.com’s own editorial contribution. Editors often add their own opinions to user comments, and the effect is altogether different from most socially-connected travel sites: it’s not a jumble of ideas. It’s a well-managed, curated travel guide.
For my first adventure on Stay.com, I chose Paris. The site directed me to some amazing discounts on Paris hotel rooms, then it sent me to an interface where I could create my personalized travel guide.
I found curated sections under the City Guides tab. Stay.com editors chose topics like: Kids Activities, Discovering Louvre, A Day in Montmartre, and Photo Tours of Paris. I discovered galleries of restaurants and museums under each section and (this is the fun part) clicked on their icons to add things to my personal guide to Paris.
Then I signed on via smartphone to the integrated Android app, and voila! There was the guide I had just created on Stay.com. I downloaded my creation and disabled Wi-Fi to see if it would work offline as advertised …
And it did! Even without a web connection, I flew across Paris in pursuit of exciting destinations to add to my guide — I felt like Harry Potter in search of the elusive golden snitch. Before long I had compiled a list of attractions in Russ’s Guide to Paris.
As much as I enjoyed using this app, I’d still advise you not to stop at Stay.com. There are countless other travel resources available on the web. Augmented reality apps, for example, let you tap into local Twitter streams to find that perfect Paris garret, or the best fish and chips in England. That sort of research can greatly enhance your travel experience. But if you’re looking for a basic guide of what to see and do, this app is a great place to start. Stay.com is available in IOS– and Android-compatible versions.
Image credits: Russ Johnson