Apps that organize your trips

03/19/2014 4:49 PM

03/19/2014 4:50 PM

Tired of printing confirmation emails for every flight, hotel, car and restaurant table you reserve? Or typing the contents of all those emails into your calendar?

Time for a travel organization app. There are several, and they can swiftly transform your emails into a single, easily shareable itinerary with confirmation numbers, addresses, maps and detailed notes. Which is best? That depends on you. All of the apps can help make itinerary creation a breeze, but each is distinguished by different features, be it flight alerts, currency converters, airport spa locaters or customizable lists like “Wines I drank along the way.”

I tested some of the best-known apps — those most likely to appear in app stores and web searches — and split them into four categories to help you find a perfect match.

For the app-averse: The simplest way to combine your various travel emails into an itinerary is with TripIt (free), which has a clean, easy-to-read interface. Register for the service and from then on, whenever you receive a confirmation email — from an airline, hotel, car rental company or booking service like OpenTable, StubHub and Fandango — TripIt will automatically import your plans from your inbox, creating an itinerary with details like confirmation numbers, flight gates and hotel addresses.

If you don’t want to automatically import your plans, just forward your confirmation emails to planstripit.com instead. Either way, you can view your itinerary on your smartphone or tablet (through the app and on your calendar if you enable “calendar sync”) and on the web (so if you still want to print it, you can). And you can share your itinerary with friends, family and social media followers.

For $49 a year, you can upgrade to TripIt Pro, which includes alerts for things like flight delays, gate changes and better seats when they become available. Pro users can also monitor their frequent flier accounts. If you’ve been using TripIt, you know that some airlines have been unavailable, but you can now track your American, Delta, Southwest and United miles too.

For the itinerary obsessed: Like TripIt, TripCase (free) allows you to forward your email reservations to an address (tripstripcase.com) and generate an itinerary. One can also be created manually by filling out tabs like flight, lodging and restaurant (though that could take longer than printing confirmation emails). You can sign up for TripCase on its website or app with either your Facebook account or email address. I did the latter and received an email with a “verify” button that I had to click in order to join. This wasn’t a smooth process; it took a few tries before I was successful.

That said, the TripCase app does have some nice features, like the ability to look at your itinerary in “timeline view” as well as “action view,” which includes a fun heading that shows when you’re going. For instance, I have a coming trip to France, so mine said, “trip starts in 2 months.” There are good maps and, for any hotels on your itinerary, a graphic shaped like a Do Not Disturb sign reminds you of the checkout time. Action view also has handy icons that allow you to check local weather and email your plans to others.

A similar app, TripDeck (free), lets you create an itinerary by filling out tabs including flight, train, cruise and lodging. Alternatively, you can sync the app with TripIt. I tried to do so several times, and each time, the app crashed. . It also crashed when I tried to add a trip manually, even when I made sure all other apps on my phone were closed. I tried on different days too. No luck. Next.

Like TripIt and TripCase, WorldMate (free; a “gold” version is $3.99) can be used on the web and on your mobile device. And it automatically creates an itinerary when you forward your booking confirmations to a designated email (tripsworldmate.com). Designed for business travelers, the bells and whistles here include a currency converter, a tip calculator and the ability to share your trip with your LinkedIn connections. WorldMate allows users to search for hotel, flight or car reservations using travel sites like Kayak and Expedia too, though this is easier done on WorldMate.com than on the app.

For the list-maker with a creative streak: Technically, Awesome Note is a productivity app, not a travel app. Your travel emails are not automatically imported. I included the app ($3.99 for iPhones) because it will appeal to travelers who enjoy taking notes and making to-do lists and who want a visually engaging way to categorize and share them.

There are folders you can customize by choosing colors and icons (an airplane or luggage, for example) as well as the font and background of the notes inside. One pre-existing folder called “travel journal” allows you to document your trip not only in writing but also with photos and art — if you select a drawing tool.

Even better: You can do this on your smartphone, tablet or laptop because Awesome Note syncs with Google Drive and Evernote, so all your notes (one might be an itinerary; another might be a packing list) can be synchronized across devices. And there are various ways to share a note with loved ones, be it through Google Drive, printing it or sending it as an email, even a text, from within the app.

For the airport wonk: Like a trip-planning app, GateGuru allows you to automatically create a flight itinerary by forwarding your travel confirmation emails to plansgateguruapp.com or by linking the app to a TripIt or Kayak account. (If you prefer to manually create an itinerary, you can.) But GateGuru is primarily a library of easy-to-read worldwide airport guides that include restaurants, shops, shoe shiners, ATM’s, spas, lounges and free Wi-Fi (all can be filtered by terminal) plus maps and links to social media sites so you can let the world know you’ve arrived — and compete with other users of the app. A “travel stats” tab aims to gamify your trip: A leader board allows you to compare how much you’re traveling versus others.

Bottom line: GateGuru earns a spot on my phone for its uncluttered, informative airport guides. And my creative, type-A side is attracted to Awesome Note, where it’s easy to make pre-travel checklists and chronicle a trip.

Ultimately, I think TripIt is the most intuitive itinerary app. It’s sophisticated yet simple. No ads, no games, only what I want: a color-coded itinerary (hotel icons are orange, flights are blue) that I can access from multiple devices and easily share.

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