Trip It, Trip it Good

As discussed previously, my (relatively) new employer is very interested in allowing and helping each of us stay on top of the latest tech and trends in the software industry. So much so that my manager actually sent out an email, unprovoked, in January of this year which included a list of conferences of particular interest and asked which, if any, we would each like to attend. Not being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I quickly submitted a request to attend “Microsoft Tech-Ed North America 2008 Developers” (that’s a mouth full, I know.)

Since then, permission has been granted; tickets purchased; rooms reserved, and I am on my way in June to spend a week in sunny Orlando, FL. However, as any one who has handled the logistics for booking a week long trip knows, it wasn’t quite that easy.

First there was the tedious process of finding and selecting the cheapest flights whose timing and accommodations fit both personal and business requirements. That has become a lot easier to do in recent years with the abundance of quality online reservation sites (I used a combination of Expedia, Travelocity, Delta, and ultimately booked through Orbitz.)

Finding a hotel wasn’t any less challenging as I needed to select from the list of hotels which had arranged with conference organizers to provide discounts and shuttle services to/from the events. Not only that, but because I stalled into April on booking a room, most of the closest hotels had already filled up. And of course, being a long-time Hilton Honors member, I wanted to make sure I could cash in on my 5-night stay for points! The Hilton family includes all: Hilton, Conrad, DoubleTree, Embassy Suits, Hampton, Homewood Suites, and Waldorf=Astoria hotels; so that’s a pretty wide selection, but it can be surprisingly difficult to find one when I need it. Nonetheless, this time I was not only successful in finding one, but actually a bit excited as I will be staying at the Hilton Garden Inn at SeaWorld! That’s right – me, the dolphins, and the killer whales, snoozing together in perfect harmony.

That doesn’t seem so bad, right? I only have two flights and a hotel stay. Actually, those flights both have lay overs, so it’s actually four flights. Plus each flight and the hotel stay have confirmation numbers of which I need to keep track. I’ve never been very good with memory recall, so clearly I need to keep all of this information somewhere safe and easily accessible. And that is where TripIt enters the picture.

My TripIt Itinerary See it on the left there? That’s the picture.

TripIt is absolutely awesome. Partially because of what it does, but much more so because of how incredibly easy it is to use and how well it works. I love software that just works.

Creating a new trip itinerary was as simple as forwarding the email confirmation I received from Orbitz to a special email address: plans@tripit.com. TripIt knows who I am because I previously registered my email address, and simply parses the information provided in the confirmation email to create a new trip and add in all of my flight information including Dates, Times, Locations, Airlines, Flight Numbers, Seat Assignments, and of course, Confirmation Numbers. I did not manually enter one bit of it!

Unfortunately, in this case (because I had to go through the conference’s reservation system) I didn’t get a typical confirmation email for my hotel booking, so I did have to manually enter my hotel stay details. However, that process was very simple to do via their web site.

TripIt took the liberty of automatically looking up directions from the airport to my hotel (Google Maps) and included that in my itinerary. Had I rented a car I could have also forwarded my confirmation email from Avis (or whatever service used) to get that information into my itinerary as well.

The end result? All of my trip details, at least everything I care to include, recorded and easily accessible in one place. The picture I have above is actually the “Printable Itinerary” which is much more compact than what you see on the normal pages, and is perfect for stuffing in a pocket or carry-on the day before a trip.

If you haven’t used TripIt before, I strongly recommend trying it out when planning your next adventure. Certainly it is optimized for arrangements made through online reservation systems, but the manual web interface will allow you to enter just about any type of travel/stay/activity conceivable.

Oh, and I almost left out one of my favorite features. Not only can you add other people as viewers and/or co-travelers on your trip (giving them access to view all the details), but you can also automatically show your TripIt trips on your Google (or other) Calendar as I’m showing off below:

GCal showing my TripIt itinerary

I wasn’t sure what to think of TripIt the first time I checked it out. After having used it now for several trips I can say with confidence that it is a perfect fit for someone like me who relies heavily on mechanisms to keep organized and, at the same time, can not stand having to enter the same information in multiple places and keep it all updated.

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