Stay.com is an online trip-planning service that allows users to discover new places and create customised travel guides. The application is useful for exploring, planning and navigating in a new city.
The app has several collaborative features that utilise social networking extensively.
The company, based out of Oslo, Norway, was founded in 2009 by internet entrepreneur Joachim Paasche and was honoured as one of Time Magazine’s 50 best websites for 2010 and featured in its 50 Best websites list.
Stay can either be accessed at http://stay.com or downloaded as an app from the Apple App Store and Google Play. With its map facility, the app helps you find interesting sites in a new city. The mobile variant is more useful as it uses GPS technology to track tourist attractions close by.
Joachim Paasche, founder and CEO of Stay.com, said:
We are thrilled to offer users a better way to plan trips and travel on both web and mobile.
The USP of the mobile app are the downloadable offline maps. This way, users don’t incur internet roaming charges.
As mentioned on PR Newswire:
Just in time for summer travel, Stay.com’s new collaborative travel app allows users to effectively create a ‘city in their pocket’ by downloading their own guides and enjoying them offline, saving on international data charges.
Users can download guides and maps for 116 cities on their smartphones. The vector-based maps take up less than 5 mb, giving users a smooth panning and zooming experience without long load lags.
Explaining how these maps are better, Joachim pointed out:
We use OpenStreetMap, which is an open source alternative to Google Maps. It’s like the Wikipedia of maps. Foursquare uses it too.
Even though the idea of downloadable travel guides isn’t new (NileGuide’s Guide to Go provides offline access), Stay gives a complete interactive experience as the maps offer suggestions.
User TLWinSF loves the offline maps feature:
Love this new app! Very user-friendly and really appreciate the ability to download guides and maps so I don’t have to pay roaming charges. I’m planning to use Stay.com for an upcoming trip to New York. Can’t wait!
To explore a new place, travellers can either click on a city or search for it. These include major metros such as New York, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Melbourne and Mumbai.
Clicking on a city takes the user to the ‘Highlights’ page that features an extensive list of attractions, including museums, shopping, health and beauty, entertainment, night clubs, restaurants and hotels with ratings and prices attached.
Users can also book rooms directly, instead of moving to another platform.
Each category can be filtered by location, popularity, price and rating. Users can browse through guides created by other users too.
Experts’ and Facebook friends’ suggestions can also aide the discovery process.
Stay experts have travelled the world to provide insights into the best restaurants, sights and attractions. Users can send links to their Facebook friends for suggestions too.
In short, users can plan their entire vacation through ‘guides’.
Dan Fletcher of TIME loved this element of the Stay experience :
What really sets Stay.com apart is the ability to make your trip your own.
The app is a huge hit for avid travellers like Jamie Walker :
I love love love this app. I just discovered it and can’t get over how easy it is to use and how well it works. You can download city guides and use them OFFLINE. So next time I travel to mexico, I won’t get roaming charges when I’m searching for a restaurant or a good surf rental shop. I also created a few guides of my own city to show people where to go and where to eat. I’m traveling to New York in a few weeks and can’t wait to browse guides and then create one of my own to share with my friends.
Like most new social networks or apps, Stay too tries to leverage the popularity of Facebook. Stay realises that users are more likely to have confidence in friends’ recommendations, than in paid PR driven reviews.
Users can also collaborate with friends they are travelling with, by crafting personalised itineraries.
As mentioned by Joel Mathis in his article on Macworld :
You can do this informally, by soliciting your Facebook friends’ recommendations on places to stay, see, and eat in town—they don’t have to be Stay.com users to offer their highlights.
The Facebook integration assists users by showing a list of friends who have already visited a place, through check-ins. Joe Svetlick on Electric Pig said :
If you log in to Facebook, it’ll collate all your friends’ check-ins as well, so you can see what people thought of a place even if they’re not coming with you.
CEO Joachim explained the rationale behind the social integration:
By providing travellers with a truly social experience, they can create a city guide that’s completely personal combining recommendations from experts and their friends.
Stay has also integrated with established travel content providers like TripAdvisor and Timeout for trusted and accurate information. On offer is the latest on local restaurants, hotels and entertainment venues.
TripAdvisor also has a Facebook app with more than 36 million users, on which travellers can map the cities they have visited with images and extra information.
Google Places, on the other hand, allows users to map millions of local venues.
One of the drawbacks is the limited number of places it covers. Most travellers don’t face too many problems while visiting big cities as there is loads of information available. Travellers and trekkers find it difficult to explore lesser-known places like the English countryside, a village in South America or a peak in the Himalayas due to lack of information and language barriers.
This is where an app would be of great assistance.
As mentioned on Macworld
If you’re going even a little bit off the beaten path, this app may not be so useful: There’s no way to craft an itinerary or get an advance view of the sights in, say, Wichita. Stick to the world’s biggest cities, however, and there’s plenty here to use and add to.
Besides the fact that Stay only has data for 116 cities, it is undoubtedly a faster, cheaper and a more exciting alternative to other travel guides/apps.
With Stay, users can plan their trips within hours, and on the move.
I’ve played with the app and above all, I was impressed by the speed. It took less than a minute to download the San Francisco guide, then I could open it, zoom in on a location, and scroll around without any noticeable lag — a nice change from the constant load times of the iPhone Maps application.
Stay is also cheaper than travel agents, who often try to push deals of their partners.
Apple user Fab.U.Lous said on the iTunes website:
No need for big fat guidebooks. Stay.com’s guide building app is great to plan trips with friends and with the help of Stay’s expert recommendations.
While Stay might not replace travel agents soon, an increasing number of apps/services will gradually eliminate their need.
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