I Asked ChatGPT to Plan My Trip With a $3,500 Budget

I Asked ChatGPT to Plan My Trip With a ,500 Budget

There’s been a lot of hype about artificial-intelligence chatbot ChatGPT and how it can make tasks easier — and I wondered if that usefulness could extend to planning trips.

I went to Switzerland in October, traveling to three different cities on a budget and a time crunch. I hoped ChatGPT would help me skip some time-consuming research on all the logistics.

But I learned that the AI chatbot isn’t quite the personal assistant and travel agent some TikTokers made it out to be.

I asked ChatGPT to plan my Switzerland travel and broke down my request into a few categories

Here’s the prompt I gave ChatGPT:

Plan me a trip to Switzerland, where I will visit Zurich, Sion, and St. Moritz in early October. I am flying there from San Francisco. My budget is $3,500.
Here’s what I need from you:
round-trip flights,
a method of travel between the cities in Switzerland,
places to stay in each city,
things to do,
food to eat,
a packing list

Because ChatGPT can’t check the internet live, I wasn’t expecting it to scrape the current prices of flights or hotels.

OpenAI announced that it added an internet-browsing feature to the chatbot in late September (after I’d already booked my trip). For now, it’s only available to paying subscribers.

Even without access to live internet, I hoped ChatGPT would tell me my airline options, when the cheapest flights might be, or which hotels might combine to fit my budget.

It didn’t.

ChatGPT’s suggestions for my Switzerland trip weren’t super helpful

For flights, ChatGPT was pretty vague and only gave me an estimated budget of $800 to $1,200. I ended up paying more than that for the cheapest direct flights, $1,398.95.

It noted that early October — the only time I said I was considering — might be a nice time of year to visit because of the weather, but didn’t suggest days to book flights to save money.

One good piece of advice the bot gave me was to purchase a Swiss Travel Pass and take the train everywhere I went. I already knew from skimming a couple travel blogs that this was probably my cheapest and most efficient option.

selfie of the author sitting in a train seat smiling and holding up a small cookie tart

The train really was the best way to get around Switzerland.

Morgan McFall-Johnsen

For accommodations, ChatGPT broke my trip down into chunks — three nights in Zurich, two nights in Sion, and four nights in St. Moritz — but didn’t provide a ton of detail for each place.

Many suggestions were simple to the point they weren’t useful, just stating “hotel” or “hostel” as places to stay on a budget.

The AI bot’s suggestions ended with some travel reminders, but many of them were things I already knew, such as packing layers of clothing and getting a travel adapter for Switzerland’s outlets.

The one truly helpful part of the response was the food suggestions.

ChatGPT basically told me the same regional specialties that I learned about from watching a 20-minute YouTube video: Go to Zurich’s Old Town for dinner, try raclette in Sion, and eat barley soup in St. Moritz.

fondue pot full of melted cheese on a restaurant table beside plate of pickles glass of white wine cup of water and basket of bread cubes with a plate holding a cheesy fondue fork

I didn’t need ChatGPT to tell me to get fondue in Switzerland.

Morgan McFall-Johnsen

I also liked that it gave me three different budget levels of lodging for each city.

Ultimately, though, I chose my stays by searching Navan and Airbnb for what was available for the dates I wanted and choosing the cheapest one with a central location in the city where I was staying.

I gave ChatGPT a second chance to act as a personal assistant — but it still flopped

After I returned from my trip, I thought maybe I hadn’t been clear enough about what I wanted. Perhaps I’d needed a more precise prompt.

After all, ChatGPT has never gone on a trip before. It doesn’t really know all the flight-searching and number-crunching and time-scheduling that can entail.

So, I tried to push it to its travel-planning limits. Here’s what I wrote:

This is a nice overview, but I want you to plan out my entire trip for me. You’re my personal assistant. Choose my flight and my hotels based on my budget. Give me a breakdown of the cost of everything — flights, transportation, hotels, food, etc — and make sure it all adds up to $3,500 or less.

That prompted the bot to give me a line-by-line budget breakdown, which was closer to what I was looking for. Still, its lodging recommendations were as basic as “hostel” or “guesthouse.”

It also underestimated the cost of flights (saying the round trip would be about $1,000) and meals.

It suggested just $50 per day for food. That could maybe work if I were grocery shopping and cooking every dinner and most lunches, but when I was in Switzerland, almost every restaurant meal cost about $50 on its own.

I’ve confidently concluded that I’m a better travel planner than ChatGPT. It also didn’t save me any time.

In the future, I think I’ll stick with travel blogs, YouTube videos, and websites like Skyscanner for planning my travels.

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