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Travel Assistance

March 23, 2009

tripit-thumbAs I have just begun a heavy round of travelling, I started to look around for help with the tracking of all my travel and hotel layovers. As I will be travelling every week for a long period, I really needed something that will both help in the practical forward planning of trips and also in the retrospective tracking of when I was in one country over another.

My initial thoughts turned to using calendar events in my Outlook Calendar but that was a little unwieldy and fairly manual to setup, so I started to think about online services that can assist. I did not look far as I noticed that a service called Tripit.com was integrated into my Linkedin account, noticed because I could see travel notifications coming up for a variety of my contacts, particularly those that are heavy travellers. So I activated it directly from within my Linkedin account, which took me through the Opensocial app configuration and onwards to the Tripit service itself.

Tripit offers two direct ways of registering travel/hotel events – the straightforward (and not very clever one) is to go on and create manual events through direct entry. The better option however is to simply send each email that you receive from the travel services you are using to theplan@tripit.com email address. The service will then simply sieve the email for pertinent information about the flight or hotel booking such as start date/time, end date/time, location from/to and final destination etc, and to then populate your itinerary for the trip automatically. The service sends you back an email once it has processed the information. This service works because in the basic registration, your email is registered by the service and it also allows you to specify a total of four separate email addresses from which you send in travel arrangement emails.

My initial use of the system has been favourable and it seems to do an excellent job of processing the emailed information and certainly setting up the locations and times for all parts of the journey. It does less well at other information such as costs, but that is a minor detail as I use other mechanisms of recording expenses and costs. The service also emails me the summary of my forthcoming trip a few days beforehand – very useful in the preparation for the journey.

As I am using it via the Linkedin account, by default my travel plans are posted to my profile for my contacts to see where I am going and when which has a level of usefulness, particularly when it matches where I am with my contacts. However this may not be liked by all, and the system offers privacy features to reduce the amount of information shared all the way down to none if you wish. The main tripit.com service also offers other services including direct subscription with other contacts, which I have used sparingly at this point but will be continuing to evaluate its usefulness. Additionally the service offers RSS and iCal feeds back out of it which can be integrated into your Calendar to give a clear view of your travel plans alongside your appointments, however I have yet to fully validate how these can be used or how they work.

All in all a useful service for the long distance worker, particularly for those who fly out of the country and have to keep track of where they have been for tax or operational reasons. I have not looked into other services however but for now this works well for me.

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