Travel to Live: Dev Blog

Plan, share and collaborate on trips

April Update: TTL comes to Android and much more!

We’ve been working hard on the April Update and are excited to tell you what’s changed with the site. Thanks to the folks at Betabound, we got a lot of good feedback and testing in the last 2 weeks. We actually released a small patch last week, too. Below are some of the major things we’ve changed.

  • login now persists, so no more logging in every time you visit the site!!
  • email (Account Kit) login fixes
  • you can now get your current location on the map
  • info window now shows how far away things are from you!
  • we added an FAQ – let us know via email if something is missing
  • Google POIs are now clickable, which makes it easier to add things to your trip
  • new users now receive a welcome mail!
  • no more trips taking place in the year 1969 (sorry, time travellers)
  • now you can add your travel blog even if you don’t use WordPress
  • all kinds of smaller bug fixes

But that’s not all. We’ve also launched an Android app in the Google Play store!

New in April Update: TTL for Android

Go ahead and try it out. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media. Now that this patch is out of the way, we’re going to concentrate on some big features. Stay tuned and keep travelling!

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ITB Berlin 2017 Report: Our Experiences

We’re back in the office after ITB Berlin 2017. This was our first time to the show and we expected something bigger than Travel Technology Europe but it was even bigger than expected. But was it better? We’re not sure.

ITB Berlin 2017: The good

A big show means a large variety of talks and topics. At TTE, the talks were obviously focused on technology, which was right up our alley. ITB had a lot of things that simply didn’t apply to us but more than enough interesting ones to fill up the schedule. Because the show was bigger, we also had better opportunities to meet with people in the industry and trade ideas. The ITB Networking tool made it easy to look up other show-goers and contact them about working together. We especially enjoyed meeting with what3words‘s Richard Lewis – great guy, awesome product! Check it out.

For a travel startup, you should really make your way to ITB Berlin, if you can. It’s a great place to connect with people in the industry and learn more in general about the market. In the worst case, it’s just another excuse to travel and see an amazing city. We loved our trip to Berlin and are looking forward to our next opportunity to visit Germany’s capital.

  • Large variety of topics
  • Great networking tool
  • Many different people and companies to connect with
  • Awesome city

The bad

Big shows can have big problems. Everybody knows the Germans are stereotypically a very organized and efficient people but what you may not know is that they will often tell you that Berlin is a unique and different place in Germany. I’m not sure if that’s the reason but the organization at ITB Berlin 2017 left us wanting.

Confusing signs and strangely ordered halls left you scrambling to find the right talk. Talks were back-to-back, so it was sometimes impossible to get there on time, if two interesting talks were in two different places. They were also a little too short, usually being only half an hour long. This led to some talks feeling rushed or too summarized. Finally, the app had a lot of information but just couldn’t deliver it with a good interface; it was the source of many headaches last week.

Now while Berlin (and Germany in general) has some great food, don’t expect anything but your usual convention fare. Only decent food at a high price was available at ITB Berlin 2017! We fled each day to the safety of nearby restaurants, where we gorged ourselves on German and international cuisines, including Syrian, Vietnamese, and Japanese food.

  • Organization was in need of improvement
  • Talks too short, with too little (no) time between them
  • Hungry convention goers need better food options!
  • Convention centre is not very central

Berlin

Berlin itself is a really great city. We didn’t get a lot of time to look around but we did have some time to eat. Like any major city, you’ll find a large variety of cuisines, pretty much anything to satisfy your desires. The best thing is that prices are very reasonable, unlike in some other major capitals, like London or Paris.

Königsberger Klopse, a specialty of my grandfather’s homeland

Top: liver and mashed potatoes.
Bottom: Maultaschen with fried onions and salad.

Japanese food at House of Small Wonder in Berlin

We didn’t just eat. On the final day, we celebrated our travel conference victory with a visit to Berlin’s victory column.

Berlin Victory Column

The weather wasn’t great on most days but this was actually one of the sunnier days. The photo was sadly taken during a cloudy moment!

Travel to Live visits Berlin: Brandenburg Gate

The infamous Brandenburg Gate. See if you can spot the mysterious Québec flag in this photo! Our French Canadian friends have got some prime real estate there in Berlin.

Although Berlin is a large city, it doesn’t feel like London, Paris, Rome, or any other major, overcrowded capital. They say Berlin was created out of many smaller cities and maybe that’s why it feels a bit stretched out. We liked it and could imagine living here. A lot of people must agree because Berlin’s population is exploding.

ITB Berlin 2017 was a success story for us

All in all, we really enjoyed taking the trip to Berlin and seeing the show. Most of the problems are problems of many big gatherings of people, so we can’t complain too hard. If you were at the show and didn’t get the chance to meet with us, send me an email and get in touch. Feel free to ask any questions down below!

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what3words support added in latest update!

Maybe you’ve noticed the site has been running a little smoother in the last couple days. Our latest patch brings a bunch of bug and performance fixes to Travel to Live. We’ve also added what3words integration!

what3words breaks up the world into 3m x 3m squares

what3words is a global addressing system, which has assigned 3m x 3m squares to the whole world. Each of these unique squares has 3 words assigned to them, giving a unique set of words for any place on the planet. We thought this was cool, especially in countries where addresses are confusing or absent (ever try to find your way around Tokyo?), so we hooked up the API to our site.

what3words is now available for every map point in Travel to Live

Every point on the map has a what3words address now on the info page, so when you’re on your trip, you’ll also know a unique and easy-to-remember identifier for every place you plan to visit. We’ll be at hood.curtail.stunts next week for ITB Berlin, where we also hope to attend an interesting talk by what3words. Find out more about what they’re up to on their website.

Are you already using what3words? Do you think you’ll give it a try now? What other services would you like to see connected to our site? Let us know what you think in the comments below. In case you missed it, don’t forget to checked out our featured blogger, Globetrotter Post!

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Featured Blogger: Globetrotter Post

We’re starting a new feature here at Travel to Live, where we highlight bloggers from the community. Travel to Live can help you promote your blog by adding it to your user profile. Don’t forget that bloggers can also add a trip widget to their travel blog. Today, we’d like to give a shout out to Globetrotter Post, an early adopter of our new promotion feature. By filling out their user profile, Globetrotter Post and other bloggers can gain exposure via our site, as well as plan and share their own trips.

We selected Globetrotter Post because we think they’ve got an interesting blog. Whether you’re looking for the best beaches of 2017, ideas about sustainable tourism startups or information about exercise while traveling, Globetrotter Post has you covered for all the latest interesting travel news. Their blog is also frequently updated and interesting. Have you ever had a trip where it seemed everything just went wrong? Read How I kept my cool when everything went wrong while travelling.

We’re always on the hunt for interesting travel bloggers to feature. The best way to get noticed is to sign up and start promoting your blog now. While you’re there, why not create a trip and start planning your next adventure! Or you can even recreate your old trips, add them to your blog, or share them on social media. Tag us @traveltoliv or with #traveltolive or #ttl and we’ll be happy to retweet.

Thanks to Globetrotter Post for being our first featured blogger. We look forward to many more!

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Changemaker In Your Community by Actuality Media

We were recently contacted by Actuality Media with an interesting opportunity for student travellers to win a study abroad experience. They’re hosting a documentary competition, called Changemaker In Your Community.

Journalism, film & media students globally are invited to produce a 3-5 minute short film on a local changemaker making a sustainable impact on chronic social or environmental problems. The winning filmmaker receives 100% scholarship (worth up to US$3,350!) valid for a 2017 Actuality Media Documentary Outreach in Peru, Nepal, Nicaragua or Morocco to study the art and practice of filmmaking while telling stories about solutions that improve our world.

Sounds like a pretty cool opportunity for students and aspiring travel bloggers. If you’re interested, read more about the competition on their website. See if you’re eligible by checking the terms and conditions. Final submissions will be accepted no later than March 15th, so get to work! Good luck!

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Travel Technology Europe 2017 Report

If you’ve been following us on Twitter, you’ll know we were at Travel Technology Europe in London last week! It was a great opportunity to see the latest trends in travel and travel technology. Of course, we also got a chance to field test the site, using it as a real traveller would.

Our trip wasn’t the most complex, as you can see. It was almost a surgical strike: fly into one side of London, sweep through TTE, eat some chips, and fly out of Heathrow. But we learned a lot at the show about the state of the industry and what is of interest to companies in the future. AI and VR were major topics, of course. These technologies have the potential to change our lives and travel is no exception. Many companies are looking at how exactly they can take advantage of these technologies to get ahead of the curve and meet the difficult expectations of travellers.

The continuing rise of mobile is another big and ongoing topic. Though the statistics seem to differ by source, around 1/3 of bookings are done on our phones. It makes sense: who among us can stand one minute without their phone? Phones are probably the greatest travel innovation since the airplane. Being able to have a map and translator in the palm of your hand is invaluable. Now with Travel to Live, you can have your travel plans too! It really puts the pressure on to launch our mobile version. Stay tuned.

Personalization was also a central topic at TTE. Especially in the age of the millennial, travel companies are trying to figure out how to serve us exactly what we want, when we want it. We think this is a major strength of Travel to Live, because our site exists specifically to allow travellers to dream, create, plan, share, collaborate, and remember. In the future, we’ll be adding features that help you find all kinds of trip ideas you might be interested in, created by travellers just like you.

Not all work at Travel Technology Europe

But although our schedule was packed with talks and meetings, we managed to fit in some time for fun and food, even though there was a tube strike on the first day!

A person covered in flowers makes their appearance at Travel Technology Europe

It’s not all business at TTE but we have no idea what was going on here.

Breakfast in London

No day in London can begin without a proper breakfast… sorry, no beans or tomatoes for me!

Sadly, it was only two days of travel before we had to get back to the office and back to work. Thankfully, it was only a hop across the channel to get back to Germany! We’re looking forward to our next trip, when Travel to Live hits Berlin for ITB Berlin! If you’ll be attending and want to meet up, let us know in the comments, check out my ITB Networking profile, or shoot me a mail!

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Collaborate on trips with your friends!

Plan, share, and collaborate on trips: that’s our motto! Last time we talked about how to add a trip widget to your blog, so that’s the share but what about collaborate on trips? We’re most excited about collaboration at Travel to Live. In fact, you might even say this feature is our raison d’être. Planning a trip with friends can be a frustrating experience. Where do you write it all down? How do you keep track of everything? It was that struggle that gave us the idea for the site in the first place. Collaboration let’s you plan and dream together.

How to collaborate on trips

You can collaborate on any existing or new trip. If you don’t have any, you’ll need to create a trip first. Once your trip is created, look in the itinerary (on the left-hand side of the screen) for the “invite collaborators” text.

Click to invite collaborators

Click it and get the one-time use code from the following popup.

It's easy to collaborate on trips - just share the URL!

Give the URL to the friend you want to collaborate with. Once they are signed into Travel to Live, they will be added as a collaborator. You need to generate a link for each friend you want to add. Just push the reload button or open the popup again to get a new code.

That’s it! You’re now collaborating. There’s just one last detail: you can always see who you’re collaborating with on the left-hand side of the itinerary.

See your fellow collaborators in the itinerary

You can also click on their pictures to bring up a link to their profile. Give it a try.

Start collaborating!

Now that you know how to collaborate on trips, get planning your next group travel adventure. And if you want to share your experiences on your blog, don’t forget to check out how you can promote your travel blog with Travel to Live!

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Add a trip widget to your travel blog

Writing about your travels is a lot of fun but many of us are visual consumers of information. Who doesn’t like pulling out the map or spinning the globe, to see where that place is in the world? I know when I’m travelling, my parents are always at home with an atlas, trying to get a picture of where I’ve been or where I’m going. Our trip widget helps you do just that on your travel blog!

Our trip to Travel Tech Europe in London.

Adding Your Trip Widget is Easy

You don’t need to be an HTML wiz to use our trip widget. All you need is one little line of HTML – that’s it!

 <iframe src=”https://travelto.live/embedded/trip/AX6pz/”></iframe>

There’s nothing to it. Just replace the trip id above with your own and plug the code into your blog. It’s that simple. Here are some easy steps to follow to get a trip into your blog.

  1. Create a trip on Travel to Live.
  2. Once created, you’ll see your browser’s URL has changed to https://travelto.live/map/trip/xxx/. If you don’t know how to find the URL in your browser, look for the share button in the top right of the page. Click it and you’ll see the current link. Copy that xxx!
  3. Replace AX6pz in the above code with what you copied.
  4. In your blog editor, switch to HTML and paste in the code. Done!

Now you have your very own trip widget embedded in your blog. This trip widget will update as you update the trip on our site. You don’t need to do any more work or ever touch the code again. Easy right?

Advanced Users

There are a couple things you can do to customize the trip widget. Depending on your blog editor, you might be able to change the width and height. Our version of WordPress always sets the width and height of an iframe automatically but if you’ve got more control, you can change the appearance very easily. Just add width=”xxx” or height=”xxx” to the above code, as seen below.

<iframe src=”https://travelto.live/embedded/trip/AX6pz/” width=”300″ height=”300″></iframe>

Go ahead and set it to whatever you want. Switch back to Visual mode or look at a preview to see how it looks.

Another thing you can do is limit your trip to a certain day. Travel to Live allows you to add any number of days to your trip. To show only one of them, add ?day=xxx to the end of the URL in the code.

 <iframe src=”https://travelto.live/embedded/trip/AX6pz/?day=1“></iframe>

The above example would show only events on the first day of your trip. This way, you can show your readers only the stuff related to your latest blog post.

WordPress Plugin

We realize some of you don’t want to muck around with HTML. Although our trip widget is very easy to add to any blog that supports HTML, we also plan to make it even easier. In the future, you’ll be able to add the widget with a WordPress plugin, so stay tuned to this blog for future updates.

Get Started Now

What are you waiting for? Create a trip now or read more about how to promote your travel blog with Travel to Live. Then add a trip widget or two to your blog!

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Planning my trip on Travel to Live

As I look back on the month and 2016, I wanted to take some time to talk about planning my trip on Travel to Live. When we were making our plans for our Vienna trip, my wife and I needed a place to share our ideas with each other: Travel to Live is such a great tool to do that. In the past, we used Google Docs because the most important thing for group travel or couple travel is that you have one place that you can all see. Improving on that experience was a guiding factor when building the site.

Getting Started

Everybody plans differently but, often, you don’t know exactly what you want to do. You have some ideas for some places you definitely want to go. There are some things you want to do. You know what area you’re going to stay in. Don’t you just want to start pinning them on a map, so you can get some idea of what you’re looking at?

Planning my trip on Travel to Live

All our ideas, unsorted

This isn’t quite what we had in the beginning. Originally, there were few connections between the points, with even more points than what you see now. It looks quite daunting, doesn’t it? Well, it has definitely given support to our future plans for sorting and tagging options. But, for now, you can already sort your plans into different Locations and Days. Sometimes you don’t know where or when you’re going, so you just want to list all the ideas. You can do that too.

Save your ideas on Travel to Live

This was actually the main section we used in the beginning. We just kept adding and adding to this list. Then, when we wanted to plan a specific day, we would look into this list or check their locations on the map to figure out what we wanted to do that day. The list can grow to be quite unwieldy but, as I mentioned, we are looking into tagging and sorting options, which will improve the experience.

Sorting your trip

Pin your ideas on Travel to Live

Day 3 of our Vienna trip

We actually kept planning the trip each night, while we were on the trip. Each night, we would sit down on the computer and think about what we wanted to do the next day. We’d drag the ideas into the next day or some future day and come out with something like the above. Sometimes we changed the plan retroactively, so we could share our true journey later. I think you’ll agree the above picture is much easier to read and understand. This picture is focused only on Day 3 and gives a clear overview.

Planning my trip provided many insights

As I mentioned in Eating your own dog food, it’s important that you use your own product. Testing is one thing but really using the product is something else entirely. I quickly found a variety of issues with the site, both in terms of usability and outright bugs. With our week-long trip to Vienna, it wasn’t long before we became overwhelmed by all our ideas. It wasn’t a problem because I know my way around the site and how to use the existing sorting options. Are new users able to use the site in the same way? Do they understand the sorting options? Do they even come to the point where they have so many ideas? These are all important questions that we need to monitor and address.

The site is already very easy to use and straightforward for planning my trip but there will always be improvements that can be made. If you haven’t already, try planning your trip now on Travel to Live. Give us some feedback on what features you’d like to see. Coming soon: the ability to collaborate on one trip with your friends!

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Eating your own dog food

No, this post isn’t about man’s best friend or his favourite dishes. Eating your own dog food refers to a company using its own products. Believed to have originated at Microsoft in the 1980s, it’s a colloquialism I’ve always believed in at every place I’ve worked for. It’s not always easily achievable but you need to find a way to use your own product, if you truly want to understand it as consumers do.

It’s easy to get into a bubble and focus only on what you think your product is or what you hope your product will do. Sometimes programmers are assigned a task and they view it purely as a task to be accomplished. I worked at a company previously who was making a Facebook version of their popular web game. Some fellow coders told me how they had never tried the game yet because they didn’t use Facebook. That’s great but we’re making a Facebook game, so you better start using Facebook now. Often I hear arguments about how a feature ought to work, from people who have never themselves used the product and don’t realize that it doesn’t work as they planned it to. That’s why you’ve got to use your own product; you’ve got to be eating your own dog food.

Thus, I came to the conclusion that the designer of a new system must not only be the implementor and the first large-scale user; the designer should also write the first user manual. The separation of any of these four components would have hurt TeX significantly. If I had not participated fully in all these activities, literally hundreds of improvements would never have been made, because I would never have thought of them or perceived why they were important. – Donald E. Knuth, The Errors Of TeX”

Making a product you believe in

Perhaps we’re very fortunate at Travel to Live because we’re making a product we really believe in. We hatched the whole idea when we were flying back from one of our many travels. This is a product that, by definition, is one we want to and do use. That’s why when I started planning my Vienna trip, I started planning it on Travel to Live.

You can gain a lot of insight by eating your own dog food. Regular bug testing won’t catch everything because you won’t think of every use case. By using the product naturally, you find those corner cases or you find the places your app breaks down and stops being fun. You think of new ideas for the future. Soon, your bug list has exploded, your wish list has created work for the next ten years, and your understanding of the product has deepened immensely.

Staying focused

It sounds like all upsides but it isn’t. It’s easy to become distracted or to lose focus. Every software developer knows that you can’t implement every dream feature or fix every bug. The first thing I learned when I started working at Electronic Arts is that the typical game ships with hundreds or thousands of bugs. Most of these errors are simple: the user will never see them. But it’s a reality every project manager needs to consider when prioritizing tasks and assigning work.

I’m on day 4 of my trip and I’ve already thought of months worth of work, all of which would derail us from our current plans. Right now, we want to focus on user acquisition and the early experience. As a power user of this site, the things that matter to me aren’t the things that matter to our target users. You can’t lose sight of that. You can’t allow bias to cloud your judgement and change your plans. I would absolutely love to implement a tagging feature right now, to make sorting my Ideas much easier, but it’s not a top priority. It’s going to have to wait a little longer.

The most important thing to do is fill out the bug reports and write down the new user stories. Don’t lose all this valuable data. Issues can be closed and rejected or simply scheduled for the future. You lose nothing by recording these valuable insights.

Eating your own dog food is important at all levels of the company

The most difficult thing is keeping all employees engaged. In a small startup, it’s not so difficult, because the company is made up of a tight group of passionate people. They wouldn’t be working on the project if they weren’t interested. It’s a different story in a larger company, meaning startups need to keep their culture as they grow. As companies grow, they hire people to do a task, not always because they are passionate about the product. It’s important to keep a culture of eating your own dog food in the company because employees may not do it without prompting.

Like many millennials, I believe everybody has something to contribute, at all levels. I believe everybody should feel included. You want the people at the lowest level of the company to be able to raise issues that might be important, issues which the highest levels might find important. If everybody is using the product, you maximize the number of different internal viewpoints on the product, which can only be a good thing. You don’t need to implement everything Joe in QA wants; however, he just might be using the product in a way you never imagined.

Time to eat more

I’ve been writing this article from Cafe Tirolerhof in Vienna, Austria. I’m on vacation but an entrepreneur is never truly on vacation. After all, I’m eating my own dog food every day I’m here. Follow my adventures on my personal blog or view my Vienna trip on Travel to Live! Coming soon: blog integration with your personal profile! Stay tuned for more details.

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