AI Trip Planning Guide for Southwest Michigan | Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council

AI Trip Planning Guide for Southwest Michigan

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Planning a trip to Southwest Michigan has never been easier, thanks to the power of AI. Whether you are a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler looking for a fresh experience, AI tools like ChatGPT or Google Gemini can help you create a personalized and unforgettable adventure. Here’s a step-by-step guide to plan your next trip to this beautiful region.

Choose Your AI Travel Assistant

Start by selecting an AI travel tool that suits your needs. Here are some popular options:

  • ChatGPT: Prompt it to narrow down a list of destinations based on your preferences; find things to do at each location; research flights, where to stay, what to eat, and where to dine; list customs and protocols at each destination; and put together a multi-day itinerary.

  • Google Gemini: Use it to check the weather, plan packing, find flights for your preferred dates, get a list of hotels, their rates and amenities, activity suggestions, dining options, currency exchange, and YouTube videos about your destination.

  • Generate a tailor-made itinerary that you can access wherever you go, edit,  make changes, and share with the people you are traveling with or with those back home. 

  • TripIt: No more copying and pasting your travel information or digging through your inbox for key traveling details. Use TripIt to organize travel plans in one place, with a comprehensive itinerary and real-time alerts and updates.

Each of these assistants has unique features that can enhance your travel planning experience. Many offer a paid and unpaid version, with more features available with the paid version (if you’re serious about planning!).

Input Your Travel Preferences

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Source: Instagram User

Once you've chosen your preferred AI tool, it’s important to prompt it with as much information as you can to craft the best possible itinerary. Here are some tips on how to prompt AI tools:

1. Establish Your Destination

Even though you may not know exactly where you want to visit in Southwest Michigan, you probably know what type of experiences you want. Start with a general prompt, asking your AI tool: Give me destination ideas for a Southwest Michigan summer vacation.

2. List Dates & Duration

Provide all the details you can about when you will visit. If you’re looking to travel during a specific season but don’t have preferred dates, you will want to let AI know when you’re looking to travel:

  • Summer: Enjoy the sun and sand on the region's stunning beaches.

  • Fall: Experience the breathtaking fall foliage, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, and craft beverages along the Makers Trail.

  • Winter: Discover winter adventures like cross-country skiing, snow biking, and cozying up by the fire.

  • Spring: Explore the blossoms of Southwest Michigan while driving through the countryside. 

Ask about typical weather conditions when you will be here and what you should pack to stay comfortable. 

3. Match Your Budget Range for Hotels

Southwest Michigan caters to various budgets. Let the AI tool know the budget range you want to allocate to your trip. The more specific you can be, the better:

  • Luxury: Stay at high-end resorts and dine at gourmet restaurants.

  • Moderate: Enjoy mid-range hotels with exceptional amenities.

  • Budget-Friendly: Opt for affordable hotels during less busy time frames (think weekday travel or during the off-season).

4. Tailor to Your Interests

Next, let the AI tool know what kind of vacation you’re looking to have so it can customize your trip based on your interests:

  • Wine, Beer, Cider, and Whiskey Tasting: Explore the Makers Trail and indicate how many craft beverage destinations you want to try samples at.

  • Historical Sites: Visit museums, lighthouses, and cultural attractions in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph to learn about our region’s centuries of history. 

  • Outdoor Adventures: Relax on pristine Lake Michigan beaches, hike dunes and scenic wooded trails, paddle rivers, go charter fishing, or play golf on championship courses.

  • Kid-Friendly Activities: If you’re traveling with small kids, it’s helpful to let AI know what age children you’ll be traveling with so you can find the best playgrounds, beaches, splash pads, children’s museums, restaurants, and family-fun stops along the way. 

  • Dining Preferences: Let your AI tool know what you like to eat, whether you want al fresco suggestions, waterfront views, wheelchair accessibility, farm-to-table cuisine, shareable plates, vegetarian or vegan options, or ethnic culinary choices. 

  • Arts, Theater, and Music: Inform AI whether you want to attend free concerts, watch plays, take culinary or glass-blowing classes, visit galleries, or go to art fairs.

  • Shopping: Ask AI to direct you to stores and boutiques with the latest fashions, books, jewelry, toys, handmade decor, ice cream, house-made bakery items, locally roasted coffee beans, farm markets, cannabis dispensaries, and so much more. 

  • Hidden Gems and Quirky Places: Request suggestions for least-crowded beaches, where to taste craft cider while bowling, visit Lower Michigan’s only cave, or play on an 18-hole course inspired by the famous Himalayan putting green in St. Andrews, Scotland.

  • Events: Ask your AI tool what is happening in Southwest Michigan on the dates you are here. Learn about festivals, fairs, performances, game nights, special exhibits, and more.

5. Specify Age Group

Specify the ages of your travel group to receive tailored recommendations for family-friendly activities, romantic getaways, or solo adventures.

6. Meet Transportation Needs

Let your AI tool know how you plan to travel to Southwest Michigan — by car, train, boat, or airplane — and where you are coming from. Ask for flights to nearby airports and transportation to Southwest Michigan hotels. Check train schedules to Southwest Michigan stations. Learn where you can moor your boat. Find where to park your car and parking fees. 

Customize Your Itinerary

Your AI assistant will suggest an itinerary based on your preferences. You can further personalize this itinerary by adding or removing activities, adjusting timelines, and exploring additional options that AI presents.

Provide additional input into what you like and dislike for better information. The best way to do this is to read through blogs and itineraries on Find the ones that most appeal to you, then in the AI tool, write this prompt: “This type of vacation appeals to me: {link to the blog or itinerary}. Please provide similar suggestions in the Benton Harbor and St. Joseph, Michigan area.” 

Travel Prompts to Use 

Here are some ideas for prompting the AI tool to get the best information possible. Remember, you can continue to refine the output by providing suggestions and feedback when you like or dislike certain outputs from the AI tool. 

  1. Suggest a 5-day itinerary in Southwest Michigan, within 15 miles of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. 

  2. I am looking to plan a family-friendly vacation in July in Southwest Michigan. Please provide me with activities for a 5 and 7-year-old within 15 miles of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. 

  3. I am looking to plan a trip for my family in June. Please use this blog as inspiration to help me plan a 3-day trip to Stevensville, Michigan:

  4. Suggest ideas for a romantic getaway with my spouse in Southwest Michigan. We prefer to dine at local restaurants with a farm-to-table approach, and we like to go fruit picking. Give me 10 suggestions for what we should do. 

  5. Craft a personalized itinerary for a [season] vacation in [Southwest Michigan city] for [number of travelers] ages [age range]. We're interested in activities that cater to [interests] and have a budget of [dollar range].

Beyond the Itinerary


AI travel assistants offer more than just itinerary planning:

  • Travel Maps: Get detailed maps for easy navigation.

  • Hotel Recommendations: Find the best accommodations based on your rate and amenities preferences.

  • Activity Suggestions: Discover both popular attractions and hidden gems.

  • YouTube Suggestions: Watch videos filmed at the places you want to visit.

Confirm the Accuracy of Your AI Plan

Using AI to plan your trip to Southwest Michigan can save you time, provide personalized recommendations, and enhance your overall travel experience. Remember, AI travel planning tools constantly evolve and comb through new and old data, but they don’t always pull the latest or most accurate information. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip, verify all details gleaned from AI suggestions with official website sources or by phone. This includes double-checking:

  • Activity schedules and availability: Confirm directly with the destination hours, tour times, and any seasonal variations.

  • Restaurant information: Verify hours and days of the week, restaurant menus, pricing, and reservation requirements.

  • Accommodation details: Check directly with the hotel or booking site for room rates, amenities, and any additional fees.

By taking these extra steps, you can be confident your AI-powered itinerary is up-to-date and will meet your expectations.

For more resources and inspiration, visit Or, reach out to us at the Southwestern Michigan Tourist Council and our staff will happily give recommendations. Happy travels!

Share with Us

Please send us photos and videos of your Southwest Michigan getaway. Use our hashtag #swmichigan or upload your photos to our CrowdRiff Collector below. This is an opportunity for your photos to appear on our social media, website or marketing materials. Thanks for sharing your memories!

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