Review: Bucket Is Actually One Essential Trip Planning Tool You’ll Need in the Arsenal

San Francisco based startup Bucket could be a game changer when it comes to travel planning.

Julia Lam and John Sichi, two ex-Facebookers, founded Bucket in 2014. It’s a travel planning tool that actually plans trips the way most users plan trips. Bucket is so named because it allows users to collect ideas and places from anywhere on the web, like TripAdvisor or news articles, and import them into “trip buckets,” or basic itineraries. Users can collaborate with friends, view locals’ suggestions and read Foursquare and Yelp reviews. It’s a simple but comprehensive way to research and review potential destinations.

Updated: March 23, 2016 After three years in the game, Bucket has shuttered its doors. Instead, Galavantier, an Las Vegas online travel company, will be acquiring the technology. Existing users will have to wait and see to see if the tech will still be available in the future.

My modus operandi for trip planning is to procrastinate. In theory this would lead to a free spirited, life changing romp into parts unknown. In practice it gets me stuck overnight in Chicago in the deadest of winter with nothing to do and nowhere to stay. But Bucket is one tool I’d love to see succeed because it makes trip planning and organizing a no brainer—even for me. 

To test it out, I scoured for ideas to fill a hypothetical weekend trip to Seattle.

Consolidation is the name of the game

First, I have to agree to the social media aspects of the site. Signing up requires either linking to Facebook or using an email account. Linking to Facebook isn’t ideal for the paranoid among us, cyber security fanatics or the anti-social media crowd. But think of it as a necessary evil. The whole point of the site is to gather crowd-sourced ideas, which is tough to do without a crowd to source.

The user interface is straightforward and easy to navigate. For every trip I want to plan, I can create a bucket. From there I can search the location on the map on the ‘Discover’ page to see what others have already suggested. There are already a ton of locations where users have already planned trips or locals have suggested places to visit. However, Bucket is still gathering multiple sources for each location.

For example, there are only two lists to browse for the Seattle area: ‘Favorite Places in Seattle’ with 19 suggestions, and ’18 Hidden Bars and Restaurants.’ It’s not a bad start but hardly exhaustive. [Ed’s note: Bucket is still in beta and this many change over time.] The Bay Area has the highest density of users and suggestions. Most other locations have just one or two.

What the social aspect really needs is more participants: more people to add locations, suggestions and reviews to the site. The more users there are, the more complete the picture of the destination becomes. Adding locations to a destination is easy as well. All it takes is a location and a link to the Foursquare, Trip Advisor, Airbnb or a Facebook page.

There is a way around this relative shortage of on-site content, and this is where Bucket truly shines. It comes with an optional Chrome browser extension (further development for other browsers to be released in the future). It allows users to import travel inspiration from anywhere online back in to their trip bucket. A quick test showed that it was able to import a restaurant in Hong Kong. This is its best feature.

Importing from TripAdvisor. (Placeit)
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Importing from TripAdvisor. (Placeit)

Bucket also allows users to add collaborators via Facebook to their trip plan. Luckily, I have some trustworthy friends who have lived in Seattle for the past few years. The social dimension is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the site. It’s the first time I’ve seen a site that accounts for word-of-mouth and social circles as a fundamental source for anyone planning a trip. I know I’m more likely to trust the opinions of those I know over some rando, even if said rando is qualified and knowledgeable.

A world-class ice cream place: yes please! The Seattle Aquarium: who doesn’t love aquariums?! There are cool parks, museums, and neighborhoods to explore, along with tons of bars and restaurant suggestions to add to atrip bucket. And I can even import Airbnb posts. All in all, it required little to no effort on my part to find and add these places into my plan.

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Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of information available for the locations. Detailed descriptions, addresses, reviews, opening hours and price level are all available along with contact info. It even mapped out everything for me and included the option to get directions from Google. This is a big plus. It’s a great way to pin down where to look for a hotel or Airbnb and for planning the most efficient routes.

For the most thorough of us out there—or people who just like to creep a little—users can access others’ profiles to see if their tastes and preferences align. This is a great way to double- and triple-check if a location is a good fit.

Bucket isn’t so much the content it provides. All this information is available elsewhere online. It’s the fact that it’s all accessible in one convenient place. It makes researching and planning that much easier: perfect for anyone who struggles with organizing or who just wants a more concise way to plan.

What about the, like, journey?

Bucket is still getting off the ground in terms of user generated content but it already shows tons of promise. The only criticism I can imagine would come from those who will decry Bucket for aiding in the downfall of spontaneity. “Everything’s all like… planned out, man. What about the, like, journey?”

My response would be that, nine times out of ten, improvisation has led to me sitting on a park bench all night in January, sleeping in my car in a Denny’s parking lot, or just getting good-ol’-fashioned lost. Plus, knowing me, there’s still a huge chance for any number of unforeseeable things to happen. Even if I plan everything out.

Review: Bucket Is Actually One Essential Trip Planning Tool You’ll Need in the Arsenal via @maphappy
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