Tools for Travel

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, then baggage fees and… well, here we are.

It’s not fun.
But there are some helpful tools available to organize and monitor your flights and 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.

TripitFlight AwareExpediaGoogle

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

Organizing your itinerary is the primary purpose of Tripit-no matter where, how or what your travel plans include. The free plan allows 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.

The end result is a handy itinerary that provides you all the details of your trip in a pleasant format– and you didn’t have to copy/paste from a dozen emails! For only $49 a year the Pro Plan adds more functionality and provides real-time updates of flight status, gate changes, baggage pickup, etc.

FlightAware

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?

But, while the Nearby Flights feature can provide hours of entertainment, this app is also a helpful travel tool. FlightAware is great for monitoring your flights and connections, or researching a possible itinerary before booking.

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 (the name is painfully accurate) shows delays at major airports around the US.

Expedia

There are plenty of Online Travel Agencies (OTA) competing for your business. But I have found Expedia to be comprehensive, reliable and competitively priced. Businesses can organize their travel plans using the travel administration feature, especially helpful for managing flights and/or accommodations for multiple employees.

Expedia’s system can also keep track of your TSA or passport numbers. Worried about losing your airline miles? No worries– simply add your airline or hotel loyalty account numbers to your account and you’ll continue to earn your miles. Plus, their One Key loyalty rewards program earns you extra bucks for Expedia, VRBO, Hotels.com and a number of international travel sites.

The Google

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. From the desktop interface click the menu and choose Saved to start making your own list or special map.
  • 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 (or increases). Note: You won’t find Southwest flights listed, which is common with most airfare search tools or OTAs.
  • Google Translate— This app is invaluable for international travel! The live camera translation is especially handy (and a little creepy). It’s a good idea to download the languages that you plan to use beforehand, especially if Internet connectivity will be questionable.
  • Google Photos— This app goes far beyond the scope of travel because it really is a “killer app” for storing, organizing and sharing your photos. But when traveling it gets really fun! Vacation photos can easily be organized into a shared album, which allows friends or family members to contribute. Or toggle that option off if Uncle Willy gets a little too frisky. 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. Now you have a backup that is accessible from anywhere.
  • Now make sure your phone and laptop have access to your Google account so you can use these great tools wherever you are!

Finally, here’s a couple of tips on safety and security.
2-Step Verification: Enable it. Now. This is an easy way to protect your accounts and ensure that any breach will be detected. And this doesn’t just apply to your Google account!
Log In to Chrome: If you’re using Chrome you should also log into your Google account via Chrome. This allows you to sync data across your devices, but there’s also a security aspect. You’ll be 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.

Hopefully you found something useful here. If you have a favorite travel “hack” feel free to share it in the comments. Enjoy, and stay safe.

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