You might notice a motif in my next few columns and reviews. The reason behind this unintentional theme is also connected with my unexpected absence from AppAdvice which, when I disappeared, was still called AppleiPhoneApps.com. (My, how things change on the Internet when one blinks!) So what happened to me? Why the sudden silence? Where did I disappear to?
You could say I went there and back again.
Earlier in the year I was invited to New Zealand to give a series of talks and host a couple of workshops in Social Media. This was an incredible opportunity for me as I was about to debut as an international
speaker on blogging, podcasting, and Twitter. I wanted to make sure I had my I’s dotted and my T’s crossed in my seminars. I wanted to make sure my facts were straight and up to date.
I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my flight.
Thank goodness I found on a search through the iPhone App Store TravelTracker with TripIt from Silverware Software
($7.99USD for the Standard version). This app stepped up and introduced itself as my “personal travel assistant.” If anything was going to get me to Middle Earth and keep me on schedule, TravelTracker was committed to keeping my itinerary straight and on schedule.
Sync with TripIt.com
As insinuated from the name, TravelTracker works seamlessly with TripIt. If you are not familiar (as I once was) with this website, TripIt.com
is a social network site for globetrotters. Much like Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter, you request to track friends, family, and business associates on TripIt and then follow them on their travels much in the same way you follow Indiana Jones when he boards a Pan Am to adventures elsewhere.
After signing up with TripIt (a free subscription), you then email from Expedia, Orbitz, or whichever online travel broker you work with your travel itinerary. TripIt will automatically enter the basics into your account. You then hop over to TravelTracker and tell your app to sync up with TripIt. Once TravelTraker has your itinerary from TripIt, you can then set it up to inform you at various intervals if or when your flight status changes. You can do this with hotel reservations and car rentals as well.
Keeping Yourself Organized
When traveling, particularly if you have a busy schedule ahead of you, it is a good idea to have your itinerary on hand while on the road. Once you spend some quality time at TripIt entering in your details — appointments, special plans, desired stops — you can then sync up your details (just as you did with flight and hotel plans) with TravelTracker. Everything you need for a perfectly organized, perfectly planned trip, is now kept in one app for your convenience.
Along with To Do items, TravelTracker also offers you the option to track your spending from location to location by tapping on the Expenses tab. If traveling overseas, you can select and set currency exchange rates from itinerary to itinerary. For example, my expenses for a Baltimore trip (Balticon
, the week before New Zealand) were measured in U.S. Dollars while my New Zealand expenses were measured in their currency. Keeping track of receipts is made even easier as you can take a photo of your expense with your iPhone and categorize that receipt with a particular itinerary.
When you have a trip ahead of you, be it for business or for pleasure, it’s nice to be able to pull up your schedule in one handy application instead of juggling it between iCal, TakeaNote, and Flight Status. Along with checking flights, you have various To Do’s of your business trip or your trek across country to Wally World (Griswold-style) all within reach, in one location on your iPhone. Management of receipts and expenses are also a delight as you can simply photograph the expense and then transfer the (now digital) receipt to your computer via SyncDocs. Finally, TravelTracker can not only keep you organized in your journey between Points A and B, it can also track how many points you accrue with hotels, car rentals and flights if you are a Preferred Member. I felt most fortunate to have discovered this application before my May travels, and it was always nice to be able to pull everything up in one place.
Unless you spend some quality time with TripIt, TravelTracker will keep only the basics of your trip. Once your itinerary email arrives, the barest of essentials from the email are transferred. You will then need to go and fill in details, such as flight number, baggage claim, seat, and so on. All this must be manually
entered into TripIt. Some of the stuff I was keying in like details of a small airport (no kidding — Dunedin had one runway, in a cornfield) made sense. When I had to plug in details for Air New Zealand
, the country’s major carrier of travelers internationally to and from the Land of the Long White Cloud, I was a bit stunned.
Concerning your travel details, you can enter data into TravelTracker independent of TripIt, but the sync I discovered is not two-way. Any syncs with TripIt will overwrite what you have manually entered directly into TravelTracker. Thus you must return to TripIt, enter in details, and then hop back over on the iPhone to TravelTracker, tap on the TripIt option, and then all is synced and set. This kind of co-dependency slows down the productivity of what this app is capable of.
Another gripe I have with TravelTracker is that many of its terrific features, in particular the Expenses and digitally recording receipts, are buried in the interface. The website has a few tutorials, but a lot more support is needed for this application. While you can “simply photograph the expense and then transfer the receipt to your computer via SyncDocs” the process itself was not so simple. For one thing, I had to figure out what “SyncDocs” was, look for it on my Mac, discover I didn’t have it, and hop through several searches before finally finding a link to the Open Source software on another app’s support site.
So not only was this feature of bringing receipts out from your app and onto your desktop not mentioned anywhere on the App Store page, it is not covered on the software’s homesite. This is a solid tool for people doing a lot of travel, and it deserves better support than this.
TravelTracker with TripIt is a must-have application for people on-the-go and who are taking advantage of TripIt.com. However, if you are not one for sharing your vacation plans (which is no big deal — you can make all your travel plans private), learning a new website, dealing with one-way information sync, or having to hunt through an application to discover all of its features, you might not enjoy the TravelTracker experience. Two weeks after I had purchased this Standard version, Silverware released the Pro Verison of TravelTracker ($12.99USD) that offers many more automated features and updates including a two-way sync between it and TripIt. An email exchange with Silverware informs me that there will be an upgrade rate for Standard users who want to jump up to Pro. Keep an eye out in a few months for a review of TravelTracker Pro when I pack my bags again for Fall and Winter destinations; but I can say that provided you are willing to go through the learning curve and time investment of TripIt, then TravelTracker is the all-in-one organizer for your one-the-road needs.