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How To Make Your Life on the Road (Marginally) Easier Using Google Apps, TripIt, and More

For a quarter there, or maybe it was two, it almost seemed like travel would be scaled back permanently. With travel budgets frozen and conference attendance very much in question, the volume of events that we at RedMonk needed to attend first slowed to a trickle and then essentially stopped. But sadly those halcyon days went the way of all good things, and travel is spiking once again. Given that travel is my least favorite part of this job, I’m less than thrilled by this. I don’t mind being at the conferences, mind you: it’s always good to see old friends and put faces to names. It’s the getting there that I hate, as I rarely travel without incident.

Until and unless someone gets around to inventing human teleportation, that problem will remain. But what we can do is mitigate a few of the hassles. Here’s how I use a few Web 2.0 services to make my travel life simpler, easier or just plain better.

Booking

I’ll typically use one of three services to book my hotels or flights: Hotels.com (every 10th night you get a free $399/night hotel room), Orbitz (for non-JetBlue flights and car rentals), or JetBlue.com. Oh, and for trains, it’s Amtrak.com.

Auto-Forwarding

When I get an incoming mail from one of those services – addressed from [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected] – I have filters set up in Google Apps that simply forward the entire message automatically to [email protected]

gmail-filter

Travel Parsing

TripIt has by far the best travel service parsing that I’ve seen. It automatically reads the incoming car rental confirmation or hotel reservation, extracts the details and populates it into a trip database for me.

tripit

Social Travel Networking

While I greatly prefer TripIt’s ability to process incoming email confirmations, I am connected with far more people on the competing travel service, Dopplr (who James once shared an office with and was recently acquired by Nokia). Dopplr also has some nice features like Facebook integration (search for Dopplr: Where Next? and add the application). But with the chances of me manually updating a second site at less than zero, I need a way to feed TripIt into Dopplr automatically. Enter iCal. Once I’m logged into TripIt, I can grab an iCal of my trip like so:

tripit-ical

With that, I head over to Dopplr and select Your Account: Calendars and Events and add my TripIt iCal file for import.

dopplr-travel

Because I also like to have my travel details available in my work calendar, I pop over to Google Apps and add that same TripIt iCal entry there (Add: Add by URL).

google-apps-calendar

Mobile

At the airport, I want quick and easy access to my flight information. TripIt does have their own free iPhone application, pictured here:

tripit iPhone app

But the $9.99 FlightTrack Pro goes further, extracting your flight information from TripIt and then adding in flight maps, FAA airport warnings and a wealth of other data. It’s been worth the investment, for me.

FlightTrack Pro

The Net?

With exceptions like FlightTrack Pro, most of the above is available to you at no cost. It does take a few minutes to wire everything together, but once you’ve done that you’ll have your travel data available to you and those you choose to share it with legitimately zero effort required beyond the set up. Everything is pretty much automatic. Better, the value of the data can be extended by applying related information: weather, flight times and so on.

None of this will take the sting out of leaving your loved ones at home, but it certainly makes life easier once you hit the airport. Hope this has helped, and by all means, if you have suggested improvements or tips I’d love to hear them: anything to make my life and yours easier.

Categories: How To's and More, Travel.

  • http://www.peopleoverprocess.com Coté

    I rigged up a similar chain and it’s fantastic. The auto-email and iCal thing is the key: I love that automation!

  • http://www.webmink.net Simon Phipps

    Spooky. My set-up is identical.

  • http://stormyscorner.com Stormy

    I didn’t think of the autoforward to tripit – that’s a good idea.

    Kayak.com is by far the best website for booking air travel.