Remember when flying was fun?
If you’re under 40 the answer is most likely, “No.”
With the advent of the “hub-and-spoke” system of routing flights through a small number of central hub airports, journeys by air became much more like a bus trip than a jet-set adventure. Then came 9-11, and then the TSA, and baggage fees and… well, here we are.
It’s not fun.
But there are some helpful tools available to organize and monitor your travel agenda. I’ve compiled a list of apps and websites that have helped me survive the stressful rigors of modern travel. Take note road warriors! And feel free to share your favorite travel tools in the comments.
First off, I have a very general recommendation for creating a Google account. If you’re using Gmail then you’ve already got one. But even if you don’t use Gmail, the benefits a Google account offers for organizing your travel and itinerary are pretty awesome. More on that later…
Tripit • Flight Aware • Expedia • Google
Organizing your itinerary is the primary purpose of Tripit-no matter where, how or what your travel plans include. Free plans allow you to add flights, hotel bookings, excursions or rental cars to an easy-to-use portfolio. You can opt for automatic inbox monitoring, or manually forward the confirmations you choose.
For only $49 a year the Pro Plan adds more functionality and real-time updates of flight status, gate changes and baggage pickup.
This app is helpful even if you aren’t traveling! The Nearby Flights can provide hours of entertainment. Contrails were never so much fun. From the comfort of you own backyard you can scan nearby air traffic and answer the burning question, Where might that jet might be going?
FlightAware is good at monitoring your flights too. You can easily check the status of an inbound flight. You can even check the status of the connecting flight. Very helpful if you’re delayed. Need to pick someone up at the airport? Check their flight before you leave the house. And the Misery Map feature shows delays at major airports around the US. The name is painfully accurate.
There are plenty of Online Travel Agencies (OTA) competing for your business. But I have found Expedia to be reliable and competitively priced. Their loyalty rewards program is also a great benefit. Businesses can organize their travel plans using the travel administration feature.
Expedia’s system can also keep track of your TSA or passport numbers. Add your airline or hotel loyalty account numbers to take advantage of your existing airline miles and rewards. No need to book directly!
Using the tools available to you through a free Google account can make your travel less stressful and more rewarding.
- Google Maps— Everyone knows you can navigate with Google Maps. But saving your personal destinations, must-see sites or favorite spots is an invaluable feature of Maps. You can even create a custom map of your waypoints or routes, then share it with fellow travelers. And of course this functionality is only available if you have a Google account.
- Google Flights— Finding the best flight (at the best price) was never easier. Search for specific dates and destinations, or use the map and calendar tools to find the bargains. Flexibility pays! Use the Track Prices tool to receive notifications of price drops. Note: like most airfare search tools or OTAs you won’t find Southwest flight listed.
- Google Translate— This app is invaluable for international travel. The live camera translation is especially handy! It’s a good idea to download languages that you plan to use-especially if Internet connectivity will be questionable.
- Google Photos— This app goes far beyond travel, it really is a “killer app” for storing, organizing and sharing your photos. But when traveling it can really get fun. Vacation photos can easily be organized into a shared album, and there’s also an option to allow friends or family members to contribute. After the party’s over you can leverage the location search to easily recall memories (What was the name of that restaurant in Cabo?).
- Google Drive— Ever lost your purse or wallet? It sucks. For years we’ve been told to make copies of our cards and driver’s license in case of such an occurrence. But what good does a photocopy do when it’s a thousand miles away? Consider scanning your important items and saving them to a Drive folder in the cloud. Next, enable two-step authentication, then make sure your phone and laptop have access to your Google account. Now you have a backup that is accessible from anywhere.
As you can see, there are some great tools in the Google toolkit. Businesses and non-profits can take advantage of extended feature with a G Suite account. But the cloud can be intimidating, so here’s a couple of tips on safety and security.
2-Step Verification: Enable it. Now. This is an easy way to protect your account and ensure that any breach will be detected. And this doesn’t just apply to Google.
Log In to Chrome: If you’re not using Chrome, you should. And then you should also log into your account via Chrome. This allows you to sync data across your devices, but there’s a more important aspect. You’re typing in your login credentials much less often! And the fewer times you type your password the less chance a keylogger or snoop catches it.
Enjoy, and stay safe.