Startup claims to take hassle out of DIY vacation planning

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Noken co-founders Emily Brockway and Marc Escapa.

Noken, a company that aims to make trip planning easier for the venturesome do-it-yourself traveler, launched on Thursday. 

Whereas travelers who use online agencies can spend many hours researching and booking a trip, those using Noken have an itinerary created for them, complete with Noken's recommendations for accommodations and activities based on a traveler's trip duration and budget. Noken calls the itineraries "travel blueprints."

The traveler can adjust the itinerary by adding or removing activities and changing the accommodations.

The company has launched with itineraries in Iceland, Portugal and Japan, with plans to expand to other destinations. In-country transportation is included in the travel blueprints, but international air is not. 

To craft an itinerary, Noken starts by researching a country through guidebooks and talking to experts in the field and locals like tourism boards and other travel professionals, said co-founder Marc Escapa. Team members narrow down a list of potential activities and accommodations, then personally visit the country and experience the products to make final selections of what they will offer consumers.

Once the trip is booked, the traveler is given an app guide that includes the itinerary, reservations and a day-by-day guide. Customers have access to Noken's experience team for assistance before or during travel via phone, email or in-app chat.

"You have the guidance you need to feel like you have a plan," Noken co-founder Emily Brockway said.

Noken gets a commission from activities and accommodations sold. It also charges a user fee of $5 per person for each day of the trip.

Brockway said the company will interact with customers before, during and after travel. For instance, it might send trip countdown emails, articles to read, lists of movies filmed in a destination or playlists filled with songs from local artists. 

"We're able to do things for travelers that they've never associated with travel before," she said.

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