Knight News Challenge: Seamless Traveler: Helping Travelers Maintain Healthy Lifestyles Abroad

Project Title Ideas:

Seamless Traveler

Team Members:  Leah Daly, Liz Ludwig, Gabriella Ring

Requested Amount:


Expected Amount of time to Complete Project:

2 years

Describe your Project: 500 words

Seamless Traveler is a healthy living mobile app that is designed for travelers. The app syncs with your location and enables you to explore your new city.


It shows you all of the local food joints, when and where the farmers markets pop up, the vegan, and vegetarian restaurants in town. Religious restaurants, like those that keep kosher, will also be included. Places that have dairy-free and gluten-free options will be featured, too. There will be a menu and price function with the ability to post user reviews. Starting with the GPS on one’s device will find the location, can narrow down search for gym, outdoor recreation, or food preferences.


In the “exercise” option, a map of the city the user is in will pin their location and highlight running and biking trails, gyms, yoga studios, rock climbing centers, special unique exercise opportunities that are specific to locations, and local events or exercise classes.

User Reviews

Food: Reviews based on 0-5 stars on how much they enjoyed the restaurant, as well as an area to leave comments and photos. Can be narrowed down to restaurants that are: vegetarian, vegan, dairy and gluten free options, local food focus specify with levels of commitment to option 1. All e.g. Vegan 2. Over 50% e.g. Vegan 3. Under 50% e.g. Vegan. Also users have an option to specify by price $/$$/$$$.

Exercise: Users have the option to specify by activity, e.g. gyms or outdoor. Hiking trails have descriptions, including difficulty and special landmarks (e.g. areas to swim or picnic areas). Users can also give ratings and post comments and pictures.

What unmet need does your product meet? 200 words

There is a lack of information available to travelers in order to help them sustain their healthy living habits while visiting new cities.  There exists no app for travelers to locate all of the healthy food joints and exercise opportunities in a new city.  Travelers have special needs that are different from locals.  They need information about gyms that they can attend for a reasonable price during their short stay, where the best running and biking trails are that are easy to locate and navigate, and information about when and where the farmers markets take place.  In general this lack of information leaves travelers compromising their health goals during business and leisure trips.

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. Do not tell them about your idea. Just explore their need. What did you learn? Include names and contact info for interviewees and a few words describing each — age, gender, occupation, town where of residence. Go for variety. 200 words

Who we interviewed:

1. Mark Meacham, 43, Male, high school chemistry teacher, Berkley, MI,

2. Carolyn Lucsh, 23, Female, Transportation programs assistant, Ann Arbor MI, (313) 421-1700

3. Charles Lenz , 51, Male, Facilities Manager. Los Alamitos, CA,

4. Anya Parfenoff, 21, Female, Student. Ann Arbor, MI,

Questions and Answers:

a. When you travel places, how often do you think about healthy eating?

Most of the time, I think about it every day, I think about it frequently- but I often lower my standards because I am on a trip because I realize my options are limited, Always.

b. How often do you think about healthy eating at home?

All the time, it is usually in the back of my mind, Always.

c. How often do you travel?

About twice a year, a few times per week, once a month, four times a year, a few times per year.

d. Do you make it a priority to exercise when traveling?

Yes. Kind of. Yes and no. If time and gym are available, I take advantage of the opportunity, I want to, but really don’t know where to work out and no one runs outside here in Paris.


How big is the potential market for your idea? Mention sources for any statistics you use. 100 words

Our targeted product market is people of all ages who travel for leisure and business. According to the US Travel Association people under 33 take 8.1 trips per year, 33-58 take 10.4 trips per year, 58-66 take 14.5 trips per year, and people older than 66 take 10.8 trips per year. There is a growing market for our app which stems from the increase in concern for healthy living.  People are becoming more concerned with creating sustainable environmentally friendly healthy eating and exercise habits and they don’t want to compromise them when they travel.

How is your idea innovative – new or different from something already existing? Name your closest competitors – 200 words

Our idea is innovative because the app market currently does not have a place for travelers to synthesize all they want in a trip related to exercise, eating local and recreation. The app is portable and can be used on any iPhone, tablet or Android device. Users can customize the amount of control they want over their trips, and if they feel like they need to find something to do near them, the spontaneity of the trip is there. The app will be able to sync with Google Calendar so that users may print out their itinerary in advance if they choose to.   Our app promotes being environmentally conscious. There are few direct competitors such as food or travel apps, but none that put all this useful information together for travelers.  Food apps include UrbanSpoon and Yelp, which help users find restaurants based on their location and preferences. Unlike food apps, there are few well known apps for fitness. Google Maps can show users biking and walking trails also based on their location, but as far as we can see none have comprehensive options for travelers.

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 150 words

Our app will feature promoted apps at the top of the search function. Companies that give us their business and spend advertising dollars with us will be marked with a “promoted” tag, followed by the top user-rated items. In addition, we will accept donations from users based on their experience, which will be completely voluntary.  There will be a free app that has more ads appear to the bottom of the screen, and a paid version of the app for $3 that will feature no ads but still have promoted businesses at the top of the page.

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  100 words

All of us are invested in being environmentally friendly and healthy. We bike when we can, watch what we eat and like to translate our habits from home to travel. We feel as though health and sustainability resources are too scattered to use effectively and want to combine them so that people like us can have all of their useful information in one place. We all have done a significant amount of traveling and have an interest in traveling more in the future. Throughout our travels we have experienced frustration in finding healthy food, exercise facilities, and parks.  These difficulties navigating a new city have lead to some compromises in our choices that would be avoided with this new app.


About Gabriella

Gabriella Ring is a recent graduate at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.

7 Responses to “Knight News Challenge: Seamless Traveler: Helping Travelers Maintain Healthy Lifestyles Abroad”

  1. First of all, I think this is a great idea. While I spend my vacation relaxing and eating junk I know many people who would use this (my dad would download this in a second)! I particularly like the ability to find trails and exercise facilities.

    I’m wondering what the reach of this app would be. Would you be able to use this when traveling abroad? While that would make it more difficult to develop I think it would really open up your market to college kids.

    It also might be interesting to have a personal log so you can save where you ate, track calories, and track exercise/burned calories on the app as well. That way people would be able to keep track of what they are doing and see exactly how healthy they are being on the same app that they found the information.

    Again, I think you guys have a great idea here. I really like the idea of all of this being available in one location. Great job!

  2. This is such a cool idea! Being a vegetarian, I had to dig around on the internet to find the restaurants with vegetarian/vegan options when I moved to Ann Arbor. An app like this would have made that so much easier.

    I agree that the world is moving towards healthier lifestyles and more environmentally friendly ways of eating/exercising. In the coffee shop that I work at, we have had to begin baking and selling dairy-free/gluten-free baked goods because they are in such high demand. Also, whenever we mention that our soy milk is organic or the honey for our tea is from a local beehive, people show interest and excitement.

    This is an app that I think could get a lot of attention and use, even for those not travelling. One addition that you might consider is an option for users to view menus at specific restaurants if they are available. There are some restaurants that claim to have vegetarian/vegan options, yet when you see the menu, none of them are appealing in the slightest. I like the idea of user reviews that you included in your description.

    Perhaps, also, you could add a rating system that tells you the relative safety of an area? For instance, if you are biking or running on a trail, it might be helpful and comforting to know that this foreign area is a safe one. This would involve getting crime rate statistics which may be a hassle, but I know that I would be one to avoid unknown trails and areas if I do not know what to expect in terms of my safety.

    Just have to say one more time how awesome this idea is. You should definitely try to find a way to make it happen because I would use this all of the time. 🙂

  3. I really like this idea! It will definitely be a very helpful app for people traveling and even for those who want to explore their local options. The comments above bring some new points that you guys should consider if you plan on really applying to the Knight Challenge.
    One thing that kind of caught my attention was the fact that you will have promoted ads on your app. From a consumer perspective, I would suspect that if a company is paying money to be advertised, the app wouldn’t be biased free if people gave a negative feedback on that company. For example: if a restaurant chain is helping fund this app and people start giving a low rate to this place services, how would you deal with the interest conflict?

  4. I really like the idea and ability to find local restaurants, exercise options and hot spots that only the locals know about! Most of the time, when I travel, I end up going to familiar places just as a precaution, so there is definitely a need to have insider information!

    I would also second the idea of incorporating a safety feature since this app is specifically for traveling. What are the known dangers for a particular area or engaging in a certain exercise behavior in the city? Similarly related, what are the cultural aspects of the particular region that affect the type of exercise activities/facilities available (for example, as mentioned, that Parisians don’t typically run outside), or the cultural norms regarding food options?

    Also, another component you could consider includes incorporating social networks for exercise accountability and motivation. I’ve been learning in other environmental behavior classes that social networks are key for influencing others to engage in a specific behavior, so when someone sees how much a friend has exercised while traveling, this can encourage the person to connect with that friend, to also exercise more, and thus, use the app even more!

    These are just areas that I think would make your app even stronger and more applicable, bu t like others mentioned, I think this is extremely practical and very much needed!

  5. This is a really cool idea – it’s very true that while travelling I hardly make time to eat well or exercise, especially because it’s hard to find the right place in a unfamiliar city. Also, I like the focus on vegetarian/vegan eating, which I think would be really useful for destinations abroad since vegetarian restaurants can be few and far between in the majority of foreign countries.

    I think you could also specifically cater to expats abroad if your services were extended that far. There are very localized groups for this kind of thing, but from my experience they aren’t very well organized, and it’s very hard to find a good place to work out, especially for women, in many parts of the developing world.

    Again, great idea!

  6. Very interesting idea! One important topic you don’t address here: How will you gather the info to feed into this app and keep it up-to-date? Will users be able to contribute – social element, see where their friends ate/exercised when they were in the town being visited?

    I think all the comments were helpful – and the advertising issue raised by Andreia is particularly tricky. I’m interested in seeing how you answer it.

    Here are a few more responses to the details of your proposal:
    When you interviewed potential users, I think your questions were leading, a little too directed toward health while traveling. Who doesn’t want to be healthy? Maybe it would be more helpful to talk to potential users like this:
    When you travel, there are changes in your routine. Sometimes this is good and sometimes it’s bad. What are the most important negative changes to your routine when you travel?

    When you’re talking about the size of the market, do the math. How many people in the US are in those age groups? I’m guessing that people who travel generally have higher-than-average incomes. Can you find any data on the income of travelers – something that might indicate that they would have the means to pay for such an app, and/or that advertisers might want to reach these travelers?

    When discussing competitors, don’t say that there are few fitness apps. There are many apps that help you manager your diet, keep track of your exercise, etc. I think you mean that there are few apps that help travelers locate places to exercise, or something like that.

    In the headline over your app description, you say it’s for people traveling abroad. Why not people traveling in their home countries as well?

    Overall, nice job on this! I’m looking forward to seeing how this idea develops.

  7. This is an intriguing idea. Some great and important points have already been raised. I agree 100% about the advertising model and especially the data gathering and updating tissues. Don’t underestimate updating and verifying.

    I also wanted to know more about how this app would differentiate itself and/or compete with established apps like Fitocracy, Yelp. Tripadvisor and other known segment leaders with strong communities and business already attached.

    The question of scope is a very big one too, of course. What would it be like if you targeted domestic travelers first, then had a phase 2 plan to expand internationally? What potential business partners can you imagine? Cruise lines? Airlines? Hotel chains for business travelers? Chains of gyms? National publications (aimed at business travelers, incidentally) like USA today?

    A good idea. Good luck.

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