One of the many things I love about working in academia is travel, whether it be for professional purposes or for personal reasons, made possible by flexible scheduling. Web 2.0 and beyond has produced some great digital tools for organizing travel plans.
In this post I will talk about TripIt.com, a tool I’ve been using for quite awhile now. TripIt.com is a site that compiles travel itineraries. Sign up is very easy. At the homepage, simply enter in an email address and password you’d like to use.
[NOTE: click on all images in this post to enlarge them.]
You’ll get a verification email and by clicking the verification web address you finish the sign up process. The site will then prompt you to enter in your name as well as other email addresses you might use to organize your travel.
This is what I love most about TripIt: you can enter in details by hand, but far and away the feature that makes it most useful is its ability to parse confirmation emails you receive from airlines, hotels, and other places you make reservations. Once you’ve got your email addresses set up to work with TripIt, simply forward the confirmation emails from your personal account to email@example.com. The system will create itineraries for you based on what it receives in those emails.
There have been only two situations where this has not worked seamlessly for me: confirmation emails from small, non-corporate places (such as bed and breakfasts), and change of itinerary emails, such as those you get from an airline if you change your flight plans. But neither is a huge hassle. For the former, it’s easy to input travel plans by hand. For the latter, the new plans are entered into your account, but the old ones are not removed. But you can do this with a simple delete option by every item in your itinerary.
Once you begin sending TripIt your itineraries, your different trips will show up on your TripIt home screen. You’ll also see a map of the locations you’ve visited in the past (noted with blue dots) and locations to which you will be traveling in the future (noted with red dots.)
In addition to travel plans such as hotel and plan reservations, you can use the site to add in meetings and restaurant plans (including reservation information).
Like all good Web 2.0 applications, TripIt is designed to link with many other sites. You can set it up to link with your Facebook or LinkedIn account and let everyone know where you’re traveling. You can install a TripClipper add-in to your browser and digitally clip information to include with your travel plans. You can subscribe to your own (or share) an RSS feed for your travel plans. The site also features iCal integration, so you can integrate itinerary information into your favorite calendar app. And you can download TripIt apps for your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry device.
I like that the site also serves as a history of your travel plans. Today I noted that since signing up for TripIt in December 2007, I’ve made 19 trips to 35 cities. Another great feature is that you can use it to notify those who need to know of your plans by adding them to your network. There are many other features of TripIt that I’ve yet to make use of, such as a Groups function. The regular, free version of TripIt has served me well, but there is a Pro version for $69 a year which adds functionalities such as itinerary monitoring and travel alerts, a frequent traveler point tracker, and the ability to be notified of and to change to alternate flights in the event of travel disruptions.
There are many more options for tracking your travel digitally. What tools have you found helpful?
[Image by Flickr user hitchster / Creative Commons licensed]