Websites, apps help friendly travelers hook up on the go
Whether you’re looking for love, seeking a flight buddy or just hope to chat up a local, here are ways to connect on your travels.
The New York Times
A newspaper. Gum. A bottle of water.
These aren’t the only things travelers are picking up at the airport nowadays.
“Share a drink with an attractive stranger in the totally safe environment of a public airport,” reads the home page of the new website Meet at the Airport. While it resembles mainstream-dating sites like Match.com and OkCupid — members create profiles with their photos, age, body type — Meet at the Airport also asks users to include the name of their local airport, the time they’ll be there or the location and time that they’ll be at any other terminal in the world.
It’s among a rash of new apps and sites designed to connect travelers with one another (or with locals) for friendship, love or something in between. A sampling:
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR LOVE
Members of Meetattheairport.com — which enables travelers to find and message one another if they are passing through an airport at the same time — describe themselves in one of several ways: “looking for something serious,” “looking for something casual,” “open to possibilities” (whatever that means), “looking for friends only,” “just looking to talk and pass the time” or “looking for a travel friend.”
Bottom line: Airport dating is an amusing idea, but if you do arrange a rendezvous don’t share your flight information or itinerary with your date — you don’t want a stranger trailing you in a strange city.
A WOMAN GOING SOLO
Women who are traveling alone but don’t necessarily want to eat alone can scour Inviteforabite.com for public invitations from other female travelers. Why only women? Safety. In some neighborhoods visiting a bar at night by yourself is unwise and, as the site contends, “meeting unknown men for dinner far from home is risky.” A recent search on Invite for a Bite brought up invitations for a Rome dinner, coffee in Hamburg and Singapore brunch.
Bottom line: A smart concept, though so far there is not a critical mass of users so there are not as many invitations as one might hope.
FINDING FLIGHT FRIENDS
Banjo, an app for iPhone, uses location technology to facilitate spontaneous meetups while you’re on the go. Its creator, Damien Patton, came up with the idea after learning that while in an airport he missed connecting with a friend he hadn’t seen in years. Both of them had posted their locations on social networks — but not the same ones. Banjo is designed to ensure that sort of thing doesn’t happen; it combines all your social networks into a single stream of real-time updates.
Bottom line: Streamlining social media is always helpful, but to use this app you must have a Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare or Instagram account and allow the app to have access to it.
Planely.com matches you with fellow airline passengers, allowing you to connect with them on the Web before you connect in the air. How to begin? Log on to Planely and enter when and where you’re going. The site then uses its members’ Facebook and LinkedIn accounts to not only show you other travelers you might know on your flight, but also things you might have in common so that you can chat with a wine enthusiast, share a cab with someone staying at your hotel or discuss the conference you’re both attending at the crack of dawn.
Bottom line: Planely is made for those who like to network or schmooze at 30,000 feet. If you’d like to nap, it’s not for you.
About Travel Wise
Travel Wise is aimed at helping people travel smart, especially independent travelers seeking good value. The column covers everything from the best resources to how to tap into the local culture. It runs each Sunday in the Travel section.