- I’m the mom of two sets of twins who are 5 and 7.
- Traveling with kids is tough and requires lots of planning and preparation.
- I asked ChatGPT to plan a kid-friendly trip to Kuala Lumpur. It was a good start but lacked context.
Our young family of six, including two sets of twins, is spending a year exploring the world. After the isolation of COVID-19, we want to show our children different cultures, perspectives, and people.
But traveling with two 5-year-olds and two 7-year-olds is tough, and it takes all our patience, creativity, and adaptability.
We spend an immense amount of time researching age-appropriate activities, connecting with the culture, and dealing with the logistics of traveling with young kids.
To save time and stress, we put ChatGPT to the test. We told the AI: “Please plan a one day itinerary in Kuala Lumpur for a family with four young kids ages 5-8. Include destinations to learn about Malaysian culture and history.”
I wanted to see whether it could understand what it takes to travel with kids to a new city and whether it could perform better than locals who’ve been helping families like mine make the most out of their trips.
Within seconds we had a six-point itinerary that covered several neighborhoods, cultural sites, and dining options. For a family who’s been on the road for a few months, we got plenty of information to get started. The itinerary was so complete that it could have been pulled from a guidebook — and it probably was.
We also asked the Westin hotel concierge whether we were headed in the right direction. His advice took longer than ChatGPT’s, but it was priceless.
A human was more helpful than AI
The first stop ChatGPT suggested was the iconic Petronas Towers to see the panorama of the city.
ChatGPT has already overestimated our abilities and our budget. For nearly $100 we could spend the morning encouraging four children to appreciate a city view from the 86th floor.
Instead, we took the concierge’s sage advice: Check out the towers outside and head inside for the kids to enjoy the science center, go to a free art gallery, and taste an icy cendol.
As the day progressed, we discovered that the ChatGPT itinerary was generalized and packed. We corralled our kids through Central Market, hurried to Chinatown, and hailed a taxi for a drive-by sighting of a temple in Little India.
It was a struggle to convince our 7-year-old twins to see another landmark or enjoy a leisurely walk down a busy street — they wanted to run around in the botanical gardens recommended to us by the Westin.
The AI recommendations lacked human connection
The further we got down the itinerary, the more we realized our AI hot spots were sorely out of touch. ChatGPT didn’t, or couldn’t, factor in the human connections that have made our year abroad impactful.
We were directed to a list of destinations to view but very little to experience. ChatGPT put together an itinerary for us to witness a city rather than experience a culture.
On the other hand, our hotel concierge didn’t need clear instructions to understand that sightseeing is not always fun for kids. He could see that our four children would not sit still. He knew we’d get worn out in the heat. And he could predict that dinner at a fancy restaurant would end in a meltdown. He knew this because he has kids.
He knew where to send us to eat, which sights we should skip, and which hawker stalls we should pop into for a taste of Malaysia. He shared the richness of Nyonya cuisine, guided us to the world’s best banana-leaf restaurant, and advised us to avoid the rush-hour jam.
AI gave us a starting place to plan
ChatGPT gave us a starting place, but it’s not a panacea. The recommendations were fast but bland and lacking in specifics that would’ve given us insight into Malaysia’s history and rich culture. While an AI-generated email might fool the recipient, an AI-generated travel plan can’t fool you into enjoying your holiday.
Unless you’re a big fan of checking items off a list, as perhaps a robot might travel, humans need the interpersonal experiences that bring us closer together.
The highlight of our trip was not the temple we sped past but the banana-leaf restaurant where my children asked why they don’t serve beef and why some patrons were eating with their hands. This didn’t come from a computer’s suggestion but from the living, breathing concierge who knew exactly how to inspire a hot, travel-worn family on the go.
Marissa Goldstein is a globe-trotting entrepreneur and content creator cfocused on family travel. You can follow her on YouTube and Instagram.