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Chat GPT is an online chatbot. You can type complex questions into your browser, and it will rapidly scan through exabytes of archived internet data before giving you a response. Many folks are gleefully using this artificial intelligence to plan their upcoming summer road trips. Is that a good idea? Here are some upsides and downsides to enlisting cyber-help in planning your getaway.

Chat GPT is…a chatbot

A photo of a cellphone on Open AI's Chat GPT chatbot page. This AI can help brainstorm travel, such as road trips.
Chat GPT screenshot | Sanket Mishra via Unsplash

First of all, here are some definitions of what Chat GPT is–and isn’t. Chat GPT is technically a form of artificial intelligence that you can message through a website hosted by the company that created it: OpenAI. But it is not what’s called a “general” AI that knows it exists in the same way we do. It is a program designed to work out the best possible answer to your question in much the same way your cellphone keyboard tries to guess what you’ll type next.

The current Chat GPT program has indexed nearly all of the internet–up until fall of 2021. It does not have access to the current internet. So what does this mean? It can generate general answers to questions that might take you days to research. It is a very powerful search engine. But it does not have access to the latest information. I’ll cover how that affects travel planning in a minute.

But first, why is Chat GPT free? The Open AI company says it is collecting chat data to improve its chatbot. So Open AI saves the transcripts of your conversations with ChatGPT, much like Google saves your search history.

What does Chat GPT have to say for itself?

A Jeep Wrangler on a road trip, navigating a two-lane road over a mountain pass, the sunset in the background.
Jeep Wrangler | Georgia De Lotz via Unsplash

Because Chat GPT is a chatbot, I decided to interview it and see if it thinks it would be good at planning your next summer road trip. And I’m here to say, I think it wants the job.

I asked: In one paragraph, should folks use Chat GPT to help them choose a destination and plan their itinerary for their summer road trips?

Here’s Chat GPT’s response:

Yes, using Chat GPT can be a helpful resource for choosing a destination and planning a summer road trip itinerary. It offers access to a wide range of information, provides personalized recommendations based on preferences, saves time in the planning process, and sparks inspiration with creative ideas. While it should be used in conjunction with other travel resources and personal judgment, Chat GPT can enhance the road trip experience by offering valuable insights and suggestions for a more tailored and enjoyable journey.

ChatGPT by OpenAI

I wasn’t sold, but I decided to giv this eager chatbot a chance.

Can Chat GPT really help plan a road trip?

Chat GPT is a strong tool in the early stages of planning a trip. Let’s say your family wants to go camping near a National Park or State Forest. But you are on a budget, hate crowds, and don’t own a 4WD. You can ask Chat GPT for a list of possible destinations ranked by cost, and it may give you options you haven’t considered.

A person sits on the hood of their Jeep Wrangler as the sun sets.
Jeep Wrangler | Karl Fredrickson via Unsplash

For example, I asked Chat GPT the above question, and it suggested the following often-overlooked outdoorsy destinations:

  1. Cooke City, Montana
  2. Blanding, Utah
  3. Townsend, Tennessee
  4. Silverton, Colorado
  5. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
  6. Davis, West Virginia
  7. Red Lodge, Montana
  8. Farmington, New Mexico
  9. Winthrop, Washington
  10. Ely, Nevada

It also gave me a one-paragraph description of each option’s driveability and cost. It even listed the nearest National Park or State Forest, and other local attractions. But this chatbot truly shines with the follow-up questions. I could ask it to rank the above list by the location with the best weather in September. Or I could ask it to create another list of similar towns with bars that feature live music.

Chat GPT is also good at answering even more niche questions. What about beach towns on the Gulf Coast with less than 5,000 people and at least one highly-rated waterfront hotel? Chat GPT has you covered:

  1. Port St. Joe, Florida
  2. Gulf Shores, Alabama
  3. Carrabelle, Florida
  4. Pass Christian, Mississippi
  5. Indian Pass, Florida
  6. Surfside Beach, Texas
  7. Dauphin Island, Alabama
  8. Mexico Beach, Florida
  9. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
  10. Grand Isle, Louisiana

Chat GPT gave me this list, along with each town’s population, the name of the best hotel, and even listed what reviewers say about the beach town and hotel.

What is Chat GPT bad at?

Because Chat GPT does not have access to the current internet, it can get certain things wrong. For example, if I ask for a small town with a highly rated hotel, it may suggest a hotel that has closed down in the past two years. You will need to double-check all the recommendations this chatbot offers you.

A woman stands next to a Jeep Wrangler, watching the sun set from atop a mountain.
Jeep Wrangler | Karl Fredrickson via Unsplash

But you can still use it for much more than lists of possible destinations. Let’s say you choose Silverton, Colorado. You can ask Chat GPT for an itinerary for a two-week road trip from Kansas City to Silverton, including at least seven days camping in Silverton, a stop at a waterpark, and a stop at a casino, but without ever driving more than five hours a day. You can ask for an itinerary of activities while in Silverton, including one day hiking, one day fishing, one bowling trip, and one trip to the movie theater. Then you can sit back, and it will plan a trip for you.

I did precisely that. Here’s Chat GPT’s suggested itinerary for my Silverton road trip:

DayRouteActivitiesOvernight AccommodationRestaurant Suggestions
Day 1Kansas City, MO to Topeka, KS– Drive from Kansas City to Topeka
– Visit the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka
Topeka, KS– Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant
Day 2Topeka, KS to Hays, KS– Drive from Topeka to Hays
– Explore downtown Hays and visit the Fort Hays State Historic Site
Hays, KS– Gella’s Diner & Lb. Brewing Co.
Day 3Hays, KS to Denver, CO– Drive from Hays to Denver
– Visit the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa in Black Hawk
Denver, CO– Buckhorn Exchange (historic steakhouse)
Day 4Denver, CO to Silverton, CO– Drive from Denver to SilvertonSilverton, CO (Camping)– Prepare meals at the campsite
Day 5Silverton, CO– Hiking in the San Juan Mountains, visit Ice Lakes TrailSilverton, CO (Camping)– Handlebars Food & Saloon
Day 6Silverton, CO– Fishing at Molas Lake or Animas River
– Relax and enjoy nature
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Thee Pitts Again (BBQ)
Day 7Silverton, CO– Bowling at Kendall Mountain Recreation Center
– Evening movie at Grand Imperial Hotel’s theater
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Avalanche Brewing Company
Day 8Silverton, CO– Explore the Million Dollar Highway and scenic drives
– Relax and enjoy the campground
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Natalia’s 1912 Restaurant
Day 9Silverton, CO– Visit the San Juan County Historical Society Museum
– Enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking or jeep tours
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Golden Block Brewery
Day 10Silverton, CO– Discover local art at Icehouse Gallery
– Visit the Silverton Museum
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Grumpy’s Saloon & Roadhouse BBQ
Day 11Silverton, CO– Scenic drive to Telluride or Ouray
– Enjoy outdoor adventures such as hiking or hot springs
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Avalanche Pizza
Day 12Silverton, CO– Explore the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour
– Experience the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
Silverton, CO (Camping)– Pickle Barrel Trading Post
Day 13Silverton, CO– Last day in Silverton, relax and enjoy the campgroundSilverton, CO (Camping)– Brown Bear Cafe
Day 14Silverton, CO to Kansas City, MO– Drive from Silverton to Kansas CityKansas City, MO– Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que

Seems pretty thorough, right? Eagle-eyed readers will notice Chat GPT has me covering the 14-hour return trip from Silverton to Kansas City in one day. I might have to call out of work on Monday!

Seriously, this itinerary needs some tweaking with better follow-up questions. But a few more rounds with Chat GPT, and I might have something usable. And again, double-check all Chat GPT’s suggestions. You can also follow up and ask for a general budget for your itinerary–just remember the prices are from 2021.

Some travelers have found it helpful to ask for results as a table so they can screenshot them. Others ask Chat GPT to run up a page of emergency numbers and other contacts for their destination. Make sure you screenshot or copy everything you want to keep because if Chat GPT’s servers get overloaded, you might be unable to access your old conversations.

So what do you think? Could Chat GPT be a helpful search engine while brainstorming locations for your next road trip? Would you use it as a travel agent and ask it for a day-by-day plan? Or do you want to stay away from artificial-intelligence-assisted travel altogether? Let us know in the comments below.

Next, read some potential downsides to self-driving cars or find out more ways to use Chat GPT to research travel in the video below: