Personal Stories

Why AI Can’t Plan Your (Alaska) Trip

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It’s been almost 18 months since the world was taken by storm – a storm called ChatGPT. Since then, all of the major tech companies have been racing to release their own AI chatbots and technology – and I think we can agree, it’s really been a race to the bottom.

I run my business using technology, so I’m not a tech defeatist, but I think we can agree that AI could do so much more good than it’s currently being used for. Instead of deep fakes and AI photos/videos that make the world look like a fairy tale, AI could help us solve some of the world’s greatest problems, answer the deepest questions, and help us unlock better versions of ourselves.

One of the main applications of “AI” (because I really don’t feel like we’ve actually started to have a true artificial intelligence yet!) has been in travel planning. Almost immediately, people began using ChatGPT and companies began pushing their AI tools to plan trips. Not quite as immediately, people began to realize that AI is a terrible tool for trip planning; even when you aggregate the entirety of the world’s first-hand knowledge about, AI “hallucinates,” providing illogical – or worse, incorrect – travel advice.

It just shows: nothing can replace real-world experience when it comes to travel, and AI can never have real-world experience.

Google recently announced that its own “Search Generative Engine” can help you plan trips, and I felt it was time to finally share my own case for why – even if you don’t use my site beyond reading this article – AI can’t plan your Alaska trip – or your trip anywhere else, for that matter.

Why AI Can’t Plan Your Alaska Trip

AI Can't Plan Your Trip - Exit Glacier Viewpoint

Let me use an example to explain why – please – you can’t use AI to plan your trip to Alaska.

If you’ve read my post about things to know before visiting Alaska, you probably remember #1: “Alaska is Big – Like, Really Big.”

Now AI is going to plan your trip using the data and info available to it on the internet. It’s going to use blogs like mine (stealing* my content!) plus maps – especially Google Maps – to determine travel times and such. Here’s the thing though: blogs like mine disagree with Google Maps about how long it takes to get from place to place (plus, I suggest worthwhile stops and viewpoints and such). AI isn’t going to trust me compared with maps like Google when it comes to travel times which means one thing:

AI is going to be wrong.

AI is going to think you can drive from Anchorage to Seward in 2 hours and 27 minutes. I know – and other Alaskans/past travelers agree – it takes at least a half-hour longer (3+ hours) on average, not including any stops you might want to make.

AI can’t visit Alaska, can’t drive a car, can’t stop and enjoy the scenery… it’s a machine. And it produces machine-like suggestions. A good Alaska itinerary will incorporate real-world human experiences. It doesn’t have to come from me – but it also can’t come from AI.

*Bloggers like me did not opt into letting AI chatbots like Google or OpenAI scrape our sites. They just did it; that’s stealing the content I work hard (and pay a lot of travel expenses) to create!

A Real-World Example of AI’s Lack of Real-World Experience

Back in mid-2023, a reader named Bill sent me an email. He had used ChatGPT to generate an Alaska itinerary and wanted my advice.

I don’t normally provide free itinerary consultations (it’s something I offer as a paid service, because my time and expertise have value), but I couldn’t help but reply to him. To begin, this is what ChatGPT suggested in response to the prompt “Suggest a 7 day vacation itenerary to explore Alaska. Include a flight to Anchorage and rail travel plus accommodations and recommended restaurants:”

Day 1: Arrival in Anchorage
Fly into Anchorage, Alaska's largest city and main transportation hub.
Check into your hotel in downtown Anchorage.
Take a stroll along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, a scenic 11-mile trail offering stunning views of the city skyline, mountains, and coastline.
For dinner, head to Simon & Seaforts, a popular seafood restaurant known for its fresh Alaskan seafood and waterfront views.
Day 2: Explore Anchorage
Start your day with a visit to the Anchorage Museum, showcasing Alaska's rich history, art, and culture.
Take a guided tour of the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about the diverse indigenous cultures of Alaska.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at Snow City Cafe, known for its hearty breakfast and lunch dishes.
In the afternoon, visit the Alaska Zoo to see a variety of native Alaskan wildlife, including bears, moose, and muskoxen.
For dinner, try Orso, a renowned restaurant serving contemporary Alaskan cuisine in a cozy atmosphere.
Day 3: Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park
Take the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Seward, a picturesque coastal town.
Embark on a day cruise to explore Kenai Fjords National Park, known for its stunning glaciers, wildlife, and rugged coastline.
Keep an eye out for whales, sea lions, puffins, and other marine wildlife during the cruise.
Enjoy a fresh seafood dinner at Ray's Waterfront, offering scenic views of Resurrection Bay.
Day 4: Denali National Park
Travel by the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali National Park.
Take a guided bus tour into the heart of Denali National Park, home to North America's tallest peak, Denali (formerly known as Mount McKinley).
Enjoy the breathtaking scenery, spot wildlife such as grizzly bears and caribou, and learn about the park's unique ecosystem.
Stay overnight at one of the lodges near Denali National Park, such as the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge or McKinley Chalet Resort.
Day 5: Fairbanks and Northern Lights
Take the Alaska Railroad from Denali to Fairbanks, known as the "Golden Heart City."
Visit the University of Alaska Museum of the North to explore exhibits on Alaskan art, culture, and natural history.
Enjoy a relaxing soak in the Chena Hot Springs, known for its natural hot mineral waters.
In the evening, embark on a guided tour to see the mesmerizing Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) if conditions are favorable.
For dinner, try the Pump House Restaurant and Saloon, offering a blend of Alaskan and American cuisine.
Day 6: Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier
Fly from Fairbanks to Juneau, Alaska's capital city only accessible by air or sea.
Visit the Mendenhall Glacier, a spectacular glacier located just 12 miles from downtown Juneau.
Take a guided hike to explore the glacier and its surrounding trails.
Enjoy a seafood lunch at Tracy's King Crab Shack, known for its delicious crab legs and scenic waterfront location.
Explore downtown Juneau, visit the Alaska State Capitol, and browse the local shops and galleries.
In the evening, dine at Salt, a popular restaurant offering a diverse menu with locally sourced ingredients.
Day 7: Return to Anchorage
Fly back from Juneau to Anchorage.
Spend your final day exploring Anchorage at your leisure.
Visit the Alaska Aviation Museum to learn about the state's rich aviation history.
Explore the Anchorage Market and Festival, held on weekends during the summer, featuring local vendors, food stalls, and live entertainment.

Now even if you don’t read every detail in that post, there are a few grievous errors I have to point out (and shared with Bill in reply):

  • It doesn’t give you any guidance on getting back from Seward to Anchorage.
  • You can’t take the train from Anchorage to Denali and take a bus tour to Denali on the same day.
  • If you’re visiting during the main season Denali is open, you (more than likely) won’t see the northern lights.
  • It makes literally no sense to fly from Fairbanks to Juneau to Anchorage… is it just to end in Anchorage? Who knows!

And, it managed to pick only the most expensive and oldest restaurants in each city – many I don’t even include in my own restaurant guides because they feel dated, don’t offer as great of food, or are overpriced for what they do offer.

(Sidebar: here are my guides for Anchorage, Seward, Denali, Fairbanks, and Juneau, if you want better suggestions.)

And – come to think of it now – suggesting you can visit 5 Alaskan communities in 7 days is absolutely bonkers, if you’ve ever looked at a map and seen how big Alaska is (see point #1) and how long travel takes – even by plane.

In short, ChatGPT took a bunch of info from blogs like mine, smashed it together, and spit out a bunch of nonsense that will just frustrate you if you try and use it to plan your trip.

It’s Not Just A Problem for Alaska Travel

Obviously, I’m passionate about Alaska travel and ensuring you get good information to plan your itinerary. I believe that – at least currently – that cannot be done with AI tools available.

As you can imagine, this isn’t just a problem for Alaska travel though: AI doesn’t have real-world experience anywhere.

I asked some blogger friends for more specific examples based on the place they know well, and here are some of the stories they shared:

I tested it was about 6 months ago to see what it would come up with for NYC. It was on ChatGPT and it was horrible. It gave the suggestion of walking to one world trade center from green-wood cemetery (which is over a 2hour walk) like it was going to take 20 min.

Megan from Bobo & Chichi

I tested it out with Venice, once it told me to drive I’m out.

Yanlin from My Adventurous Wings

As you can see, the AI chatbots just don’t get it. Even with all the information on the internet, they still provide bad, unhelpful – and sometimes inaccurate – advice.

(If you’re a travel blogger with a similar story, I’d love to hear from you – let me know in the comments!)

In the end, it’s your choice as a traveler: I can’t stop you from using AI to plan your trip, but hopefully, I’ve at least provided you with enough proof that you should take everything you get from AI with a huge grain of sand. I am happy to help fix all of the bad advice you get from planning your Alaska trip with AI as part of my Alaska trip planning services, if you want to reach out.

What do you think: can AI plan your trip? Will you use AI to plan your trip? Do you have a horror story or proof of AI’s inability to plan an Alaska trip? Let me know in the comments below!

Want help planning your Alaska trip?

I grew up in Alaska and it’s my favorite place to visit – let me help you make your trip planning easier!

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.

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