Lauren Goode

Can Travel Reviews Be Sexy? Triptease Thinks So.

If you’ve ever written a review on a travel website like TripAdvisor or Orbitz, you know it’s not exactly a thrilling experience.

Maybe you’ve just come back from the best vacation of your life, or maybe it was a horrible experience and you want to warn others never to book that hotel. In either case, you fill out a standard review form, press “submit” and send it out to the Internet without a second thought.

A new app called Triptease wants to change this whole process by making it easy to write concise reviews with large, eye-catching images that look like they’re straight out of Travel + Leisure, or National Geographic Traveler. In doing so, this London-based startup company hopes to become a destination where people not only write reviews but also spend significant time researching and booking travel plans.

Triptease, which is free to use, is available on the Web and also as an iPad-only mobile app. The company says an Android app is also in the works.

I’ve been using Triptease for the past week, writing and sharing about half a dozen travel reviews. I’ve accessed it from both the iPad app and the website. There weren’t any notable differences between the website and mobile app, except that I prefer to type on a laptop over an iPad.

Triptease does what it promises to do: It makes travel writing fun, and the results are slick. I really liked composing reviews, whether it was for Central Park or a hotel in Tokyo, and channeling my inner travel photographer to find the right photo or photos to illustrate my reviews. Triptease requires that you get at least three “likes” on each review before you can write another one, so the app really encourages social sharing in order to get eyeballs on your write-ups.

Triptease 1

The problem is that Triptease doesn’t offer much more than that — at least not right now. It’s okay for browsing, and there are around 3,000 reviews currently on Triptease. But the reviews don’t go very deep: Each one is just one person’s opinion of that spot or location, and is limited to 1,200 characters, which results in a short write-up that doesn’t include much detail.

And one of Triptease’s biggest drawbacks is that it doesn’t include very many negative reviews. About 95 percent of the reviews on the site have a rating over five (out of 10). Call me a cynical traveler, but when I look up travel reviews, I tend to go to the one-star write-ups first. I want to know about the deal-breakers — reports of bed bugs, cold-water-only, terrible service, icky stains on the carpet and hotels featuring photos that are far off from reality, like a bad online dating profile.

Occasionally, I saw a critical comment attached to an overwhelmingly-positive Triptease review. For example, in a review of Balthazar in London, one commenter said, “I think Brasserie Chavot is the better place to eat. Not sure this warrants such a high mark.”

TripteasePic2

But that brings me to my other gripe about Triptease: Currently, the only way you can add upon an existing review is by leaving remarks in the comments. You can’t contribute to the overall rating of the place. In this way, it’s more like an online magazine than it is a reviews site that values each contribution equally. The most visible opinion of any reviewed location is that of whoever wrote about it first.

Let’s say you’re not dissuaded by this, though, and you still want to dive into Triptease.

When you download Triptease on the iPad, you’ll be prompted to sign up or log in by either connecting through Facebook or creating a new Triptease account. The main page has three options: Editor’s Pick, Following and Popular, a good way to filter out some of the thousands of reviews. Following shows you the reviews of the other “teasers” you are following (fortunately, they’re not called “trippers”).

In the upper right-hand corner of the screen, you’ll see three, smaller bits of text: Explore, Add Review and You. Explore is Triptease’s search function. Here you can search for a hotel, the zoo, that Italian restaurant you heard was good, or a landmark. The reviews are generally attractive, often featuring one large photo and an elegant block of text right next to it.

Triptease 3

I liked that they included personal touches and first-hand experiences. “It was a bumpy ride, and we were very glad we had the GPS in the car” is much more helpful to me than, “This hotel is located approximately two hours from the airport.”

Creating my own travel review was easy and addictive. First I identified where I traveled, and when. Then I was prompted to upload a photo, either from the iPad’s camera roll or from my computer (most photos are supplied by the reviewer, although Triptease does offer a database of photos to choose from for popular locations). Using the iPad’s touchscreen, I could edit and move my photo. I then added my sub-1,200-character text component.

You can choose from six “themes,” which give the write-up some visual pizzazz. Five of these themes allow for just one photo, but a theme called Tripfive lets you upload four small additional photos, which I used for my review of a hotel in Costa Rica.

Finally, I assigned a rating to my reviews, ranging from 0 to 10, with 10 being the highest possible rating. I gave mostly high ratings. The one exception was a sushi restaurant here in New York that I feel is, well, overrated.

TripteasePic4

From there, I shared my reviews via Facebook and email. I received enough “likes” to continue writing reviews, and fielded some comments from other members in the Triptease community.

Triptease isn’t the first app that aims to make travel reviews “pretty” on the iPad. Earlier this year, I wrote about a new iPad app called Desti that not only encourages crowdsourced reviews, but promises better search results when you use natural language, such as, “Where can I find a restaurant near here that’s dog-friendly?”

Last year, I reviewed another travel app for iPad, called Stuck on Earth, which contains beautiful, user-captured photos to offer a travel guide around the world. It bases these recommendations on your personality type. But it’s more inspirational than actionable.

True jet-setters should be aware that none of these apps, including Triptease, allow you to search for or book flights. Triptease says, however, that it wants to position itself more toward the booking end of travel. It currently has a limited number of pages for hotels that allow you to book rooms directly from the app.

Triptease is a fun app for creating good-looking travel reviews. It has potential. But right now it’s still luring consumers to the app, and is mostly a travel app you go to after the fact, rather than the main squeeze you rely on for all your travel needs.


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