Our team members love to travel! We are all independent travelers across Europe and China, and use many different apps. However, the choices can be overwhelming and finding the optimal place to visit and route to get there can be time consuming. We wanted to combine all great travel resources on one spot. Given our team members travel experiences, we created TravelFriends to connect experienced travel guides across the world to tech-savvy travelers.

What it does

TravelFriends provides on-demand real-time travel planning and vacation help with expert assistants via text/voice/video chat to guide you. The TravelFriends platform allows any kind of Travel Agent or Guide to support his customers on-demand and in real-time. It targets Corporate Businesses with many employees on business trips, independent Travel Agents as well as traveling Friends who want to support each other. As a platform user you can communicate with your customer via voice, video as well as text. At the same time you can search for the perfect travel destination, points of interests and the optimal route to get there.

How we built it

We took the Ruby on Rails twitter-example with bootstrap and started to implement the basic logic. On a static landing page we explain the basic project idea. With the support of the Rails framework we built the basic business logic and integrated the first APIs. We spent the first few hours mapping concrete user stories so that we could identify our consumer base and their specific needs. We followed scrum methodology, combining pair programming with closely coordinated sessions of parallel work.

Challenges we ran into

We were lacking strong frontend engineers and therefore focused on the business plan and the visual design instead of completing our goal to connect many APIs in one location. After the first day we lost one of our team members, but we adapted quickly and created a great Duolingo style UI.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We are very proud of the general idea and the working prototype we elaborated together. The basic management for platform users (Travel Agents), Customers (active travelers) and Travel Plans (itinerary) are working. A new Travel Agent can register and create a new Travel Plan for his Customers. Using icons and bootstrap UI elements to create the site's theme.

What we learned

Using all-javascript MEAN stack web development would have been best for us since we did a lot of data marshalling between Ruby and Javascript. Working out how to communicate with APIs is extremely important.

What's next for TravelFriends

Developing the Text, Voice, and Video features for the virtual travel guides to fully assist travelers. We want to integrate more travel/tourism APIs, such as to provide accurate weather forecasts. On the business side, we want to see if a contractor-based business model will suit us best for finding new, motivated, friendly travel agents.

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