Profile: Interrail Planner – the web app that brings your interrail adventures to life
There’s nothing like exploring Europe by train, but how do you ensure you get the best out of your trip? Bath University graduates Jack Cowell and Jack MacHugh have come up with a clever solution that will take the stress out of planning and help to bring your travel adventures to life in front of your eyes.
“Interrail Planner was inspired by the struggles we encountered when planning our own trips”
The pair, who were thrown together in their first year of university accommodation, came up with the idea whilst booking an interrailing trip with their friends.
Co-founder Jack Cowell (pictured left) tells us: “Interrail Planner was inspired by the struggles we encountered when planning our own trips, mainly related to working out a route that is both desirable and feasible and then booking multiple hostels and train seat reservations for that itinerary.”
The Interrail Planner web app allows its users to plan their entire interrail trip, including visualising their journeys on a map, making seat reservations and booking hostels – all for free.
“We’ve attracted over 12,000 users now and are generating sustainable revenue”
Developed together in their spare time during and after their university studies, Jack and Jack launched the site last February.
Rail away the time: an example interrail trip mapped out on Interrail Planner
Jack adds: “It was a long time coming, with lots of time spent researching and figuring out what data we had available to us, refining the website brief to the most important elements and, of course, working with the development team to make sure everything functioned.
“But rivalling that achievement is the success of the website since that launch. We’ve attracted over 12,000 registered users now and are generating sustainable revenue. In terms of marketing success, we recently went semi-viral on Reddit with this post on interrailing, which was very exciting and resulted in our two biggest days for website traffic to date.”
Since the launch of the Interrail Planner website, Jack and Jack have also collected and analysed data on travellers interrailing habits, producing some interesting insights.
“The most useful thing to come out of the data is an objective ranking of Interrail destinations and routes”
Jack says: “The most useful thing to come out of the data is an objective ranking of Interrail destinations and routes, which we don’t think has been available previously (at least not publicly). This highlighted an ‘interrail corridor’ of popular destinations: Amsterdam-Berlin-Prague-Vienna
Europe in a new light: using data collected since the site’s launch,
the Interrail Planner team created this heat map of the most
popular destinations to travel to via interrail
So if you’re keen to follow the routes that are most tried and tested, you can see them all for yourself in the Interrail Planner’s full report.
And although Interrail Planner’s data analytics are in the early stages right now, Jack tells us: “We think that it could be powerful in helping users to plan their trips by informing data-driven suggestions.”
Spare time startup
What’s most impressive about the development of this useful tool is that its co-founders built it on limited funds and largely during their university studies.
“The key learning for me is to not be overly ambitious with the first iteration”
Jack explains: “The business has been funded through our own money, some family loans, a grant from University alumni and by providing equity to the owner of the agency who develops and maintains the site. We are now at a stage where we are able to fund further development through revenue.
“The benefits of being based in Bath mainly came from the University of Bath, which supported us through various competitions and mentoring. There’s also a good amount of student entrepreneurs to discuss ideas with and I’ve got to give a shout-out to the local independent coffee shop scene, which has provided me with delicious refreshments and lovely spaces to get work done.”
However, the startup journey has not been without its trials and tribulations and Jack gives this advice: “The key learning for me is to not be overly ambitious with the first iteration. Part of this is knowing what is most important and refining your concept to the most crucial features that still address the problem.
“Another part is researching and figuring out what is most feasible in terms of the data and technologies available, even if you lack technical knowledge. And by ‘available’, I don’t mean that it exists, I mean that you have access to it and your website can actually integrate it – we wasted far too much time thinking that companies would just hand out API access.”
“Jack and I will actually be going Interrailing together this summer, having used the website to plan the trip”
Undeterred, Jack and Jack have some exciting upcoming plans for Interrail Planner. He tells us: Next for Interrail Planner is more web development. We’re doing a big chunk of work in time for next summer and fixing some of the quirks of the application.
“We’ll also be launching Eurail Planner (Interrail for non-Europeans) and are hoping to partner with a few more companies to improve the planner by integrating their data. In addition to that, Jack and I will actually be going Interrailing together this summer, having used the website to plan the trip!”
Thanks to Jack for taking the time to answer our questions. You can find out more and start planning your next trip on the Interrail Planner website and stay up to date with the site’s development by following them on Twitter here: @planinterrail.