Keeping track of all those bookings and plans

Even though I, like most of us, have been using the ‘net to make travel arrangements now for years, I’m always just a little surprised when I turn up at an airport or hotel, give my name and passport or other identification, and am provided with the boarding pass for a flight or key to a room. Somehow the system works. There have been very few occasions when I have needed my booking receipt or documents to substantiate my claims.

But with airfares and a hotel or two, and maybe some activities, sightseeing tours and dinner plans in place, keeping track of those travel arrangements soon starts to become trickly. The travel agent used to give us a little pouch with our itinerary, tickets and vouchers all neatly tucked inside. Arrangements made prior to departure can be printed, but how about all the bookings made while on the road, without ready access to a laser printer? It’s good to have them to hand (at least in digital form), and to have them added to an updated itinerary for reference, if for no other reason than to avoid accidentally making bookings on the wrong date, and to make sure I’m at the correct airport at the right time.

Technology companies have provided tools to easily assist us to do just this. I have been using TripIt for more than six years to keep track of all my trips, whether for business or leisure. TripIt tells me that since late 2008 when I first used it, I have travelled 230,566km on 32 trips. That’s a lot of flights, hotels, meetings and activities and a lot of itineraries to keep track of, mostly without the assistance of a travel agent.

Using TripIt is easy. Once an account is set up with an email address and a password, I simply email booking confirmations for hotel bookings, airfares, tours and other travel arrangements, trips@tripit.com and the system starts compiling them into itineraries, based on the dates of travel and the destinations. My work and home emails are registered on my account, so items emailed from either address will be added to my account, and it even scans my inbox for travel-related items and adds them. If it can’t work out how to record a booking, it is held until I log in and I then allocate it to a trip. I can also manually add other arrangements, such as dinner engagements and work meetings.

TripIt screen capture

The itinerary can be printed from the desktop application and carried for reference, and there are apps for smartphones and tablets so the details are always at my fingertips, and additional plans can be added whilst on the road. I use the free, basic version, which I’ve always found to be more than adequate, but a paid premium account offers additional functionality such as live updates on flight alterations and gate changes. TripIt also offers the option to add family members to my account or associates so I can keep track of plans of travel companions– I share my details with a work colleague so we know each others’ travel movements.

It offers a calendar feed which can be added to my appointment calendar to automatically list flights, hotel check-ins, check-outs and other activities on my work and mobile device calendars. Once it’s there, it integrates with my Google Now alerts, sending alerts advising of traffic conditions and suggesting departure times to meet flights and appointments.

Kayak offers a similar function, although I’ve not used it, and friends tell me that Gmail’s native message filtering system places travel bookings into the ‘updates’ folder from where they keep track of their arrangements. But for me, the added benefit of TripIt’s itinerary listing function means it’s the system that I’ll continue to put my trust in.

How do you keep track of your travel bookings while on the road? Leave a reply below and share the knowledge, please.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the gadgets that I travel with, at least on this trip.

Note: Mentions of particular companies, websites and services are simply a report of my preferences and experiences with them; I don’t have any promotional arrangements with them and have received no benefits or incentives from them.

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