Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Making Travel Easier

I've recently made some travel plans on the Delta Airlines website and noticed that I can add my flights to my Google calendar directly from the Delta website.  Here's how:

  • When I'm viewing my reservation, there's a few buttons at the top right - one is to print my intinerary, one creates a PDF, one emails it and one adds it to my calendar.  
  • I clicked on the calendar button and it gave me options for Google, Yahoo, Outlook or Apple iCal.
  • I clicked the button for Google, logged in with my primary Gmail account, and it added a nice little notice to my calendar for my outgoing and return flights.

I also love the online check in and using my phone as a boarding pass.  You simply open the reservation on your phone (I use the Delta app) and show the QR code to security when you arrive at the airport.  Then when you board your flight, you show the QR code to the gate agent, and you're golden.  I love having a truly paperless ticket now (instead of a paperless ticket with a printed boarding pass, like it was in the early days).

I love this kind of integration in tools, they save so much time and hassle.

Here's another thing that I like to do when planning a trip.  If I know I'm going to be doing several different activities, but I'm not sure when or which ones, I start a list in Excel.  As I look up each activity, I save the website link, phone numbers, hours of operation, ticket cost, etc. all in my spreadsheet.  I can easily find all of my information when I need it, and I can use the link to the website to check on anything else that I need.

Then as I start to figure out what I'm doing and on which days of my trip, I put the rows in the order of the dates of my trip.  Some activities have to be booked for a specific day while others don't, so that does allow some flexibility if the weather is bad or whatever.

I also try to book tickets for whatever I can online so that I won't have to stand in line when I arrive at every activity.  This saves a ton of time in line, which is a life saver when my two active kids are with me.

Some cities that have good public transportation options also allow purchase of transportation vouchers or passes online.  We bought Metro passes online when we went to Washington DC last summer and they were super convenient.  We each had one, and simply swiped our cards when we entered the station, and swiped them again when we left.  The system automatically deducted the appropriate fare from our prepaid balance of $30.  Of course my kids are too young to hold onto something like that themselves, so I kept all of them in my wallet.  Even my 9 year old found the subway experience to be fun and easy.

I've done a travel spreadsheet for several of our trips now, including Paris, Washington DC and a Caribbean cruise.  I'm now going to create one for our trip to Alaska later this year, to keep track of our cruise reservations for excursions at each port.

Gmail App for iPhone

Recently I downloaded the Gmail app for my iPhone, in spite of some bad reviews on it.  So far, I've found it to be a really nice alternative to the native email application on  my phone.

I can view my both of my Gmail accounts and I can choose to get notifications for only the ones that I want to see.  I use one as a spam catch all, so I definitely don't want to see notices pop up all day long for a bunch of emails on sales at my favorite store, or whatever.

It works much better with deleting - when I use the built in email tool on my iPhone, it doesn't really "delete" things from my Gmail, so then I have to delete them all again the next time I'm online.  I've always found that to be annoying, since I like to keep my inbox pretty empty.

I can easily flag emails as "important" or "starred" using the Gmail tool on my phone.  I use the "important" flag for personal items and I use the "starred" flag for business items.  It helps me to filter my view when I want to find something, even if I've labeled it and moved it out of my inbox.

Overall, I'd recommend the Gmail app to anyone with an iPhone.  I find it much better to use for Gmail than the native iPhone email app.

If you have the Gmail app on an Android or Windows phone and would like to share your experiences, for the good or bad, please feel free to comment.