in Blog

The Traindomiser: a train adventure

We were having a family chat over breakfast one Sunday morning about the kind of holidays we enjoy:

“Somewhere interesting & exciting”
“Somewhere not too bleak”
“Go interrailing”
“Go somewhere on a beach”

As it’s a truth commonly acknowledged that a chap in possession of a weekend must be in need of a coding project, my son Arthur and I set to work to come up with something that might tick these boxes. We were aiming for something that might help us go on a train adventure this half term through the UK, exploring (non-bleak, possibly seaside) places we’ve not been to before and staying wherever Airbnb or Booking.com might find for us that night.

The result is: The Traindomiser. We found a list of UK towns and cities, and explored the excellent Transport API which provides free access to all kinds of things, from bus routes to train fares, and – most useful for our purposes – helps map a place to a nearby station. We coded up a randomising algorithm that will take a maximum distance you want to travel, and suggest a place to suit, along with the train route to get there from a nearby station. We learned how mobile devices can request your location and pass it to a form, fiddled around with the search results URLs for Airbnb and Booking.com, and added a bit of suspense with some animation of the results. We learned to curse Javascript until a StackOverflow answer emerged, an important skill for any coder.

We’ve been preparing for our inaugural Traindomiser trip this week. We’ve got our Family & Friends railcard and a vintage map of the rail network (sadly out of print now). We’re travelling light, and seeing how things go. The goal: get to where the Traindomiser picks for us each evening of the trip, assuming we can find a place to stay while on our way. We’ll stop off at the interesting points on the journey, recognising that exciting adventures can come from unexpected places when you’re small. (Hopefully nowhere too bleak.)

We’ve built a little travel blog to track our first adventure with the app, and we’ll post updates there from our trip. And hope the Traindomiser can get us back home before school starts on Monday…

UPDATE: We made it home. 4 random destinations in 4 days. Lots of pics and a few reflections on the trip over here.