Roadtrippers is a travel-planning app designed for people who like to spend their vacations hunting for Bigfoot.
Half travel guidebook, half app, Roadtrippers’ goal is turning trips into adventures. The website, which was recently redesigned as a fully responsive web app, gives globetrotters a tool to discover mainstream and offbeat attractions, lodgings, and restaurants from West Virginia to West Hollywood. Launched in late 2012, the site has just passed a quarter million trips planned.
The web app and its iPhone companion only require a starting point, a destination, and a few selections of interests to create a path. Standard hotels and tree-house lodgings are listed side by side, as are guides to scenic mountain ranges and unique microbrews.
“My parents used to run overland safaris in South Africa,” says James Fisher, the mind behind Roadtrippers. “We’d hit the roads, when roads were available, and take nine-month road trips — building bridges and having adventures. I did that more than going to school and it’s given me a different perspective.”
The British ex-pat was working in Berlin selling real estate during his early 20s when he met a fellow traveler, an American named Tatiana Parent, who became his wife and co-founder. Trips back to the U.S. to visit family turned into epic quests to find cool spots with historical or architectural significance. Their car was filled with books, GPS units, leaflets, and other ephemera to help pursue their passions.
“We were spending more time fiddling around with gadgets than exploring the world around us,” says Fisher. “All we wanted to know was if we were heading in the direction of interesting stuff.”
From that frustration a new path was charted. ”We started in 2010 just databasing,” says Fisher. “We did that for a year before we built the app, finding cool stuff, cutting it up into niche topics, architecture, film and tv, and so on.” They applied to a startup incubator in Cincinnati called “The Brandery” and were accepted, which led to investment, and a team of seven.
The site is ad-free, something Fisher would like to preserve. The team supports itself by licensing travel content to websites and magazines, but expects to generate serious revenue by powering websites for state tourism boards that lack the web skills and panache to compete in the competitive world of travel content. Another obvious revenue generating feature is handling bookings for hotels, but the Fisher is holding out until he’s got the right model. “It doesn’t really work if you throw it in, you’ve got to build it right,” he says. “There’s a big difference in pre-planning versus being on a road trip and buying a last minute purchase.”