Listed among TIME Magazine’s 50 best websites in 2010, Stay.com is expanding its portfolio from hotels to personalized vacation planning.
This new function allows users to sift through extensive lists of hotels, attractions, restaurants and entertainment options and physically map out every stage of their trip. Users can then publish their itinerary to Facebook, where friends can comment and provide additional suggestions.
The road test: We used Stay.com's personalized itinerary tool to plan pseudo-vacations in cities we know by heart (Los Angeles) and cities we don't (Barcelona). We then published our trips to Facebook to seek out opinions regarding the functionality and relevance of the site.
The highlights: The site is very well organized and user-friendly, with a search tool that allows users to quickly filter through long lists of sights, restaurants, bars and hotels. The suggested itineraries are interesting reference points for niche travellers including adventure seekers, families, sports fans, etc. Our favourite part was the itinerary map. Once selected, Stay.com plots all of your destinations on the city grid, allowing users to visualize location and better plan their routes.
The speedbumps: While the content can be extensive - with some cities like New York or Paris besting others like Buenos Aires or Los Angeles - we have doubts about the quality of information. For example, Rodeo Drive, Grauman's Chinese Theater and Universal Studios were all absent in our LA search. We would also advise against using this tool to make restaurant or nightlife selections as the LA search yielded mediocre suggestions which were far from targeted neighbourhoods.
As much as we liked the map, we'd like it to give users the option to solicit distances, driving directions, or, city permitting, public transportation between destinations. Without these, the map is a lot less useful. Finally, we were disappointed in the selection of available cities, which is small and Euro-centric. It would be great to see cities like Santiago, Cartagena, Jerusalem, Seattle or Philadelphia.
The bottom line: It's definitely a good reference point for those in the beginning stages of planning a vacation and still a very viable option when searching for hotels. But prospective travellers shouldn't and won't be able to use it as their sole research tool.