Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tools For Travelers

There are a number of tools for travelers but there are three that I use all the time that I find very good and are ones that I think are totally worth telling others about. The three that I want to tell you about are Tripit, Tablet Hotels and Expensify. Each one of these is either a website, or a combination of website and application that make my life easier each week.

Tripit. I don't entirely recall why, but when Tripit initially launched on Linkedin, I signed up to add a Tripit widget in the mad rush to find apps that are useful on Linkedin. I still honestly haven't found others to use but that isn't that they arenĂ­t out there, it is just that I am not a Linkedin power user, and in general use Linkedin as a business card collector. After designating where I was going for a trip or two, I quit using the widget and forgot about it.

One night I was at a dinner with a number of folks from Sony Music, and one of the guys was raving about Tripit. I was shocked. How the hell could it be useful? He explained the big missing piece I hadn't understood. Tripit is like a virtual assistant for keeping all of your travel information in one place. How so? Well, the real use case for Tripit is to email all of your confirmation materials, like flight, hotel reservation, car reservation and dinner reservations to . Once you do this, Tripit parses the various emails and assembles an itinerary that can be viewed on he web, or more importantly on iPhone or Android devices. Once I figured this out, I became a rabid user. So much so that I actually broke down and subscribed to an Tripit Pro account, which lets my wife keep track of me and provides some other added benefits like SMS flight update information for gate changes and flight status as well as a consolidated view of all your loyalty programs. There are some other similar products in the market, most notably Worldmate which also provides this intelligent parsing of emails which I think is an interesting opportunity in a number of application areas.

Tablet Hotels - I have blogged about Tablet a long time ago, but thought it worthwhile to plug it again. While I am primarily focused on booking through SPG as I have loyalty status with them, I often find their choices or locations in Europe either too expensive, inconvenient or frankly a little too old school for my tastes. I originally happened upon Tablet back in 2003 when I was staying at The Standard Hotel in Los Angeles a fair amount and they used Tablet to manage their bookings. From that time, I became a frequent user, especially looking for cheap, hip hotels in places like New York. While Tablet, whose tagline is "Hotels for Global Nomads" tends towards the cheap chic, they also have super high end places as well for the Hollywood or Media crowd.

Three other things worth noting on Tablet. 1. They have a Tablet Plus membership that has guaranteed upgrades. I haven't sprung for this but figure I should break down and do that soon. 2. They have a social networking aspect that might be of interest I suppose, but in general, I am not looking to meet up with the random hotel guest in say Milan. 3. They have some screaming last minute booking deals for "members" that are available each Tuesday.

Expensify - Expensify has a great tagline: "Expense reports that don't suck". What else can you say? It is true. Expensify automates a lot of what you do when filling out expense reports. It has the ability to link a credit card account with your web based account and as transaction enter, they are lined up for you to add to a new expense report. For certain low dollar items, they provide you with an electronic receipt that is IRS approved. For other receipts, like say an airplane booking, you can forward the email confirmation and attach that to the charge. You can do similar things with PDF and web page receipts. For the vast majority of the little piece of paper receipts, you can take a picture with your iPhone or Android device and upload the photo to your account where you can match them to the charges as they appear on your credit card. For cash receipts, you can manually enter the details into the respective smartphone application, take a picture of the receipt and upload them as well.

While there are a number of little items they can and should add over time, I am pretty confident that this is by far one of the fastest ways to process what is otherwise a real pain in the ass. I highly recommend you check this out.

There are obviously a number of others that are great and if any of you want to share them with me, feel free to leave a comment.

No comments: