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TravelMuse tells you where to go (on vacation)

Fighting with the dear spouse over your vacation plans? Check out this site.

If you can't make up your mind about where to go on vacation and are comfortable buying prepackaged vacation deals, there's a new site for you: TravelMuse. You tell it where you live, what your budget is, and what you like, and it will suggest destinations and hotels.

The idea could be a very positive contributor to domestic harmony. But how's the execution?

While the "Find Inspiration" feature of TravelMuse is smart and very Web 2.0-ish, the rest of the site has a somewhat retro business model. The content on TravelMuse is all professionally created. The site pays editors to write guides to major destinations, and then it encodes and tags them so the Inspiration function can find them.

TravelMuse finds vacation packages for you based on budget, timing, and what you're interested in.

In other words, there's no user-generated content on the site, in stark contrast to other popular travel advice sites like TripAdvisor. That's not a critical stopper, but if you're, say, a long-tail traveler--if you like mushroom hunting, maybe, or traveling to small towns without Marriotts--then TravelMuse can't help you, at least not yet. CEO Kevin Fliess says UGC (user-generated content) may be added in the future.

My other issue with the site is its focus on vacations by air. It is cool that TravelMuse finds trips for you based in part on how much time you're willing to spend in a plane, but if you're up for a road trip vacation (and with the price and indignity of air travel these days, it's a good option), again, TravelMuse isn't for you. And again, Fliess says it may be added later.

The results: air/hotel packages at destination for which TravelMuse has prewritten guides.

On the plus side are several creative features. The site lets you choose from several activities and trip styles when it goes looking for packages for you. You can surf through recommended activities and restaurants in your chosen location and add them to your itinerary. You can also use a bookmarklet to flag things you find on the Web as relevant to trips you're building.

There are also collaboration features, if you're working on a getaway with friends or family members. Another domestic-harmony win.

TravelMuse, at the moment, is really an online travel magazine with some strong customized content features. And it's early for the service--I'm writing this before the public launch. With some more links into contemporary Web 2.0 events sites (Upcoming, maybe, or Fandango), and with the addition of more user content, it could become a very robust vacation planning tool.

See also my two favorite travel planning tools of late: TripIt and Offbeat Guides.