Trip inspiration service Wanderfly, widely praised by the travel media ahead of its launch last year, has unveiled a major upgrade to its services as it attempts to broaden its appeal to travelers.

Wanderfly 2.0, which has launched six months after the first version of the site went live, pushes the US-based recommendation engine much further into social media, allowing users to see which friends have been to a destination and which ones are planning to visit.

The basic functionality which made Wanderfly so popular in the first place is still there, allowing visitors to select a region, date, budget and what they're interested in to get vacation suggestions tailor-made for them.

However, a full integration with Facebook means that "Wanderlists" - collections of places travelers have been and want to go to - can easily be built and shared, and friends can be invited to share tips and advice.

Wanderfly's Christy Lui told Relaxnews the new functionality was made on the basis of user demand for social trip planning.

"Recommendation engines are great to help people make better decisions, but purely computer-generated recommendations can't 100% answer people's questions," she explained.

"We think the combo of algorithms plus friends/family plus expert brands equals the best recommendations. It definitely aligns with the larger trend of more 'human' technologies."

The new version also boasts a great graphical interface with large images and handy booking tools, meaning that it's easy to see the rough price of your stay (including flights and hotels) in a couple of clicks.

Wanderfly faces significantly more competition in the trip planning sphere than it did at its launch - the past months have seen new services offering a similar 'social' trip planning experience from names including GTrot, TripTrotting, TraceMyTrip and even giants such as TripAdvisor, which offers 'trip friends'.

At next week's Connected Traveler Technology Showcase in San Francisco, several other startups are attempting to apply the magic of the social network to travel, including Gogobot, a service more focused on recommendations which now also offers booking through new partners.

What differentiates Wanderfly, says Lui, is the customer experience.

"Pressing those big 'I've Been Here' and 'I Wanna Go Here' buttons is fun," she said.

"Our time on site and page views have doubled, if not tripled already. Many other travel sites make it laborious to start creating 'lists' of things."

Wanderfly 2.0 is a significant improvement on a useful service which had already found itself many fans - but as more and more startups enter the race to become the Facebook of trip planning, it's still far from clear who the winner will be.

http://www.wanderfly.com

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