Track Your Trips With Travel Timeline

Late last year TripAdvisor introduced “Travel Timelines“. They sounded pretty cool from the press release so I decided to try it out. Admittedly, my attention span is quite short and so I turned the feature on but then I completely forgot about it. That is, I forgot about it until I realized a few weeks later that my battery usage was decreasing significantly quicker than usual. When I checked my settings to see what was causing this sharp decline, I was surprised to see TripAdvisor at the top of the list.

Over the three week period that I used my Travel Timeline, TripAdvisor collected tons of data about me. How did they collect this data? 

Well, here is a picture from this past Monday when I had timeline turned on. IMG_8889.PNG

Timeline knows that I went to work downtown, it knows I took a coffee break at Starbucks, after going to Taiwan Cafe for a late lunch. That seems pretty detailed to me.

Normally when I think of social media sites collecting data I picture Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Other sites/apps like TripAdvisor and Yelp rarely pop into my mind. I think it’s because I see them as a service rather than a social platform. Yet, this entire timeline feature is meant for users to be able to share personal information with friends and users more easily. The timeline makes it easier to remember what you did, where you ate, how you traveled and it puts your entire day in one place. Even if you don’t remember the name of that random restaurant, your timeline will.

What assumptions does it make? The app does try to guess when it is uncertain. It will add the location it thinks you went to on your timeline and ask ” Were you here?” You can then answer yes if that is correct or no if it is not. If you answer no, the app will then prompt you with possible locations you could have confused with it. Sometimes the app also makes some assumptions based on the time you spend doing something. IMG_8890.PNG

You can see on the right that when I selected no for visiting the McMullen Museum the app gave me an entire new list of suggestions. So up until this point I’ve made the app seem pretty heavy on data collection and much like a creepy tracker. However, I will also argue that the app has great use for when you are traveling. I am someone who can’t remember what I ate for dinner last night, let alone the random restaurant I stopped in while visiting another country. IMG_8888.PNG



For example, one time the app thought that I flew from Zurich to Geneva. In reality, I took the train, but the app didn’t have any outside information to use. Is this a pro or con? Still unsure. On the one hand, I think it would be nice to have all the travel information in one place. However, I also don’t want one app to have so much data on my personal life.

It’s nice to look back 6 months and remember the random diner that a friend and I went to for brunch one morning. As someone who travels frequently, I think this could be a helpful tool to use on vacations so I can document experiences. It is an easy way to track what I did and concisely provide someone with an itinerary. I like the functionality and how it is easy to post a review or rate any of the places you’ve visited within your timeline.
What about when you aren’t traveling? This was especially interesting. It was fun to look at for a few minutes and remember the mundane details of my day, but then I realized I didn’t care. So yes, it is nice to have the option to turn on the timeline – but I also want the option to easily turn it off. IMG_8884.PNG

Welcome to the random details of my life. I’m not interested and you probably aren’t either. The detail the app has is down to the street number sometimes. It maps the route I use to drive to places and realizes when I go to places frequently that it’s more likely that I went to eat at that location. I think all of these features are cool, but if they get any more specific I might be uncomfortable.

I will say that I think the majority of social media sites and maps are capable of this level of tracking. If any apps joined together they could also collectively have so much data about me and you. While this one timeline feature isn’t the end of the world, I do see how spreading this type of platform and technology would be scary for other sites to implement. Companies like Facebook already own multiple other sites, including some that I use frequently, such as WhatsApp. Many people already feel threatened by social media, but most of the time they don’t even consider these other social platforms. If they added in this detailed location tracking, they would essentially know every aspect of my life.


  1. kdphilippi18 · ·

    I was not familiar with this timeline feature until reading your blog. This is a pretty smart move on Tripadvisor’s behalf, but I think you point out a number of creepy or uncomfortable things about the app. I feel similarly whenever apple maps tells me the traffic to a specific destination when I don’t prompt it because it knows my schedule. While I find it helpful sometimes – others I think it is too much! Collecting information about your travel habits definitely seems beneficial to tripadvisor, but it sounds like it would be even better (or worse I guess – depends how you think about it!) if it could partner with other apps like airlines or hotels so it can better understand the details of your trip instead of guessing. It is appealing to have all of your travel information all in one place, especially when the app can make tailored recommendations, but it also seems like a big security risk. I wonder how other users are feeling about this new feature – convenient or too much? Great post!

    1. The traffic thing really freaked me out the first time I got in my car at work and was told how long it was going to take me to get home. Made me realize how much my movements are tracked.

      I will add thought that the feature that reminds me where my car is parked is excellent and would be even better if it was more precise… trade offs.

  2. rohansuwarna · ·

    I think feature is certainly very innovative and I can see many more tech platforms using this to track users during their days and trips. However, I feel like this again moves towards the idea of “Big Brother.” Even though this new tracking by Trip Advisor seems useful, I don’t exactly see the use for it. This could be an aspect of technology doing too much and maybe harming users rather than helping them. If this information can enter the wrong hands there could be real danger. As a result, I hope as more and more companies utilize this tracking idea, I hope their are many safety features associated with this concept.

  3. michaelahoff · ·

    Very informative post. This is a great way for Trip Advisor to stay relevant during someone’s trip. My guess is that Trip Advisor is most popular before someone goes somewhere to see where they should go, and then after when people leave reviews. This is a great way for travelers to stay engaged. Not so mention, of course, it’s great data for Trip Advisor to sell to advertisers in tourist-heavy cities.

  4. What a great post. I’m not sure I want TripAdvisor having that level of detail, but it’s still pretty cool.

  5. vicmoriartybc · ·

    When I was studying abroad, I used an interactive map feature on that put pins on all the places I had been. However, I had to manually place the pins; because it was a website, not an app, it didn’t detect my motion. When I clicked on your post, that’s what I thought it would be about, so reading this was surprising. I see what TripAdvisor is trying to do here, but I’m not sure if I see it as meeting an unmet demand for its users. Personally, I’ve never wished “wow, I wish I could go back and see every place I went today.” While I do occasionally forget the name of a store or restaurant, it doesn’t happen enough for me to want an app that tracks my every move. I’m interested to see if this becomes popular or perhaps its own form of social network in the future. Great post!

  6. daniellep2153 · ·

    Great Post! Like some of the others, I had no idea this app existed. Personally, I’m not great at remembering little details like restaurant names, so this would be very helpful. I am definitely a foodie so I go to many restaurants and get frustrated when I can’t remember the name. This app is also extremely useful for TripAdvisor in terms of data they’re collecting from users. If you think about it, this feature provides them with which destinations are most popular in different cities. They can then use the data to make recommendations later on for other customers planning trips.

  7. I barely use TripAdvisor so needless to say, I had no idea Travel Timelines was a thing. However, for someone like me who has extremely short-term memory, I think it’d be pretty useful to know where I’ve gone about throughout the day. Usually, people are against the idea of apps tracking their location, but I’m pretty comfortable with TripAdvisor using my location data to figure out destination recommendations for its users (since it’s being used for a non-malicious greater purpose). However, I may be hypocritical in saying that, because I’m extremely unnerved by the “Find My Friends” app on the iPhone that allows people I know to track my whereabouts without me having to tell them.

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