App of the Week – Tripit

 

 

By Jeff Richardson of iPhone J.D.

 

Review: TripIt Pro — notification of travel delays and cancellations, and other travel assistance

 

I’ve been using the free TripIt service for many years. I reviewed TripIt back in 2013, and while the service and the app have improved since then, the basic idea is the same. When you make a travel reservation and receive the email from the airline, hotel, rental car agency, train, etc., you simply forward that email to TripIt. The service recognizes you from your email address, reads and understands the content of those emails, and prepares an online itinerary for your trip. With the free TripIt app on your iPhone (or iPad), all of your travel info is in one place. Thus, if you are in the middle of your trip and need to find the name or address of your hotel, or a reservation number, everything is in one place in the TripIt iPhone app. It is a like a virtual travel agent which provides all of the core basic features. I love the service and recommend it to everyone.

 

TripIt Pro costs $49 a year, and it adds premium services to look out for you before and during your travel, much like a more sophisticated travel agent might do. The company gave me a free demonstration account earlier this year so that I could try it out, and I’ve used the service in connection with several trips over the Summer, Fall and Winter of 2016. I enjoyed the service, and I think that it is worth it for any frequent traveler. Here are the key features of the service.

Alerts

 

TripIt Pro constantly monitors your travel reservations, and if anything changes, you are notified immediately. The value of this service to you will of course depend upon whether anything goes wrong during your travel. If something does go wrong, TripIt Pro is incredibly valuable and the service can pay for itself with just one alert.
In June of 2016, this feature was incredibly valuable for me. I was traveling to Miami along with many other attorneys at my law firm, and I was on an early morning flight. When I woke up, I saw an email from TripIt Pro alerting me that my direct flight had been cancelled.

The email gave me a link to get a list of alternative flights, and included phone numbers for the airline to make changes.  Even though the airline itself never sent me a notification of the cancellation, TripIt Pro gave me the information that I needed to call and book an alternative flight.  The alternative flight was inconvenient — to go from New Orleans to Miami, I had to first fly to Dallas — but at least I was able to (barely) make my meeting in South Florida later on that day.  Many of my partners didn’t find out about the cancellation until they got to the airport, at which time many of the alternative flights were already taken, and some of them missed the meeting entirely.

TripIt Pro gives you other flight alerts as well.  It tells you when it is time to check in — something that most airlines tell you too, but the TripIt Pro email usually arrived before the airline one did, if that makes a difference to you. 

 

Flight delays and cancellations happen far more often than any of us would like. But with immediate notification of any problems, at least you can be one of the first in line to make alternative arrangements.

Connection Summary

Because I don’t live in a city with a major hub airport, a large number of my flights involve connections through cities like Atlanta. When I land, I want to know information such as the time of my next flight, the gate at which I will be landing, and the gate out of which my next flight will leave. Of course virtually every airline has its own app or website that you can manually access to load all of this information, but sometimes those apps are slow to use. TripIt Pro sends you an email immediately upon landing on your first flight with all of the information that you need to make your connection, including gate information and whether the next flight is on time.

 

I found it very convenient to have this connection information pushed directly to me so that I didn’t’t have to do any extra work to find the key information that I needed.

Seat Tracker

I’ve been lucky enough for the past few months to get a good seat at the time that I booked my flight. If you are not as lucky, TripIt Pro includes a Seat Tracker service. Tell the service what kind of seat you are looking for (exit row, aisle, window, specific cabin, front of the plane, etc.) and TripIt Pro will notify you when that seat becomes available. You’ll have to contact your airline to make the change, but at least you will know when it is the right time to do so.

Etc.

TripIt Pro offers other features that didn’t appeal to me, but maybe they would appeal to you. A Point Tracker service lets you track your travel points in one spot. (I find it more useful to just manage this through each specific airline, hotel, train, etc. service.) A flight refund service alerts you if a cheaper flight becomes available and you are ever eligible for a refund. (Does this ever really happen for anyone?) A sharing feature let’s you share travel information with others. (Even with the free TripIt service, I just use the TripIt website “print” my travel itinerary to a PDF file and then I share that PDF file with others, without using the Pro sharing features.) And there are some discounts for other travel services if you use TripIt Pro.

Conclusion

It is nice that TripIt Pro offers additional features, but I think for most people the question is whether it is worth $50 a year to you to get immediate notification of delays or cancellation in your travel plans. If you travel often, and mentally divide up that $50 price among each of your different flights, then I suspect many frequent fliers would consider this a bargain. Even just one cancellation can cause a lot of distress for you, and with an immediate alert at least you can start working on a solution to the problem ASAP. The other TripIt Pro features are not in themselves worth $50 to me, but they are nice bonuses that increase the overall value.

Everyone who travels should check out the free TripIt app. If you are a frequent traveler, I encourage you to consider adding the TripIt Pro service.

Click here to get TripIt (free) – iOS
Click here to get Tripit (free) – Android

Do you have a favorite travel app? Tell us about it in the comments about it in the comments below!

App of the Week: Apple Maps – All the features that’ll make you not hate it

Apple Maps is close to rivaling Google Maps with these features

 

By Molly Sequin of Mashable

Apple Maps isn’t the first app most people are clamoring for when they’re lost on a road trip. It’s actually one of the first apps I deleted when iOS finally let you get rid of native iPhone apps. 

But since the iOS 10 update, there are some features that can make Apple Maps an app you’d want to use. Here’s why you might want to consider keeping it around. 

Travel notifications for events

 

 

Apple cross checks its native apps to be as helpful as possible. This means that any events you have saved in your calendar will trigger a traffic notification via Apple Maps. It’ll give you the event time and location while telling you when to leave based on current traffic patterns. This feature could help you avoid showing up late for your next important event. 

Highlighted locations are color coded

 

 

Apple Maps pinpoints landmarks and highlighted locations for users. And these are color-coded so you know exactly what you’re seeing right away. 

For example, restaurants show a fork and knife icon in an orange circle and medical facilities appear as a white-on-red cross. This way, even if a location has a wonky name, you know exactly what it is just by using the color coding. 

Traffic updates

When you’re in a hurry, there’s nothing worse than hitting unexpected traffic. Apple Maps wants to give you a heads up, and even give you time to change your route. Just go to Settings > Maps and tap the slide for traffic.

3D View

Apple Maps currently has options for a 2D and 3D view. Using 3D view gives you a general idea of the neighborhood you’re going to. Although it’s not a 3D view of the actual street, that’s probably going to be here soon. At least that’s what’s expected after seeing a horde of Apple Maps cars zipping around the world. 

Flyover Tour

As if 3D view isn’t enough, Apple Maps also offers a flyover view. Just type in your destination and hit “Flyover Tour.” As the name suggests, it’s a 3D look from up above, as if you’re in a plane flying over the area. It can give you some more insight into a large area that you might not get in 3D mode. But it’s also just super cool to play with. 

Make a reservation

Who calls to make a reservation these days? Even for the people who don’t mind picking up the phone, a lot of restaurants only accept online reservations now. Apple Maps includes a link to Open Table so you don’t have to look it up in a separate search. Although you’re still redirected to the Open Table app, it’s still a time saver. 

Save a home location

 

A nifty trick to make things go a little faster is adding your home location to Apple Maps. To do this, you’ll need to update your home address in your iPhone’s contacts card for yourself. After that’s done, “To Home” will always appear when you open up the app before you search for a location. This way, you don’t have to waste your time constantly typing in your home address.

Wikipedia information

 

If you don’t know a lot about a museum you’re visiting with friends and don’t want to look like a dingus, let Apple Maps lend a hand. After you type in a location, scroll down and you’ll see a Wikipedia summary of what you should know. This can really help out in a pickle. But remember, not everything on Wikipedia is true. 

Route Card

Using the Route Card on Apple Maps can save you a ton of hassle. It’s around to help you find nearby places, like gas stations and coffee shops. You can even add these locations to your route as detours. 

To do this, swipe up from the bottom of the screen and choose which option you need to see nearby locations. Once you choose one, Apple Maps will account for time added on to your trip. When you’ve reached your detour, just hit “End” and resume on your original route. 

Weather

Even though I’m currently in New York City, Apple Maps will tell me weather of any place I look up. In the screenshot above, you’ll see a little box on the right side of the screen that shows it was 83 degrees and cloudy at Camp Randall Stadium when I did this search. And this works for any location. 

It’s super neat, but if you’re planning a long trip be sure to actually look up the extended forecast — we all know weather can change in the blink of an eye.

Yelp reviews

 

If you’ve never been to a place before, there’s always some doubt as to if it’ll live up to your expectations. Apple Maps doesn’t want to see you disappointed upon arrival, so it includes Yelp reviews in the app. Just scroll down after typing in your destination and all the reviews will be there waiting for you. You can even initiate your own review from here. 

Apple Pay

A lot more companies are accepting Apple Pay these days. And it’s a huge convenience for those who use it. So you’d probably want to know if the burger joint your heading to accepts Apple Pay before you show up. 

Apple Maps does just that. After you’ve searched for the place, scroll down below the general business information. You’ll see a section called “Useful to Know” and if it lists Apple Pay there, you’re good to go. This section will also give you details like if you can put in a reservation or order out for delivery. 

Lane guidance

 

While this is currently on the app, Apple Maps will introduce lane guidance with the upcoming iOS 11 that is set to go live this fall. This could be the final differentiator between Apple Maps and Google Maps. So give it when the new iOS rolls out, and then you can make your final decision.

Now that you know all that Apple Maps has to offer, go re-download and give it a fair shot. It’s finally giving Google Maps a run for its money. 

What’s your favorite feature of Apple Maps? Tell us in the comments below!

App Of The Week: Path Guide

Microsoft’s new app guides you through indoor spaces without GPS

 

By Abhimanyu Ghoshal of The Next Web

GPS is great for finding your way around, except for when you’re indoors, where walls and ceilings make it difficult for satellite signals to accurately pinpoint your location. Thankfully, Microsoft has been thinking about a better way to help you navigate large malls, hospitals, office buildings and parking lots effectively.

Over the past two years, a group of specialists at Microsoft Research Asia have developed Path Guide, an indoor navigation app that doesn’t rely on GPS or Wi-Fi and radio signals to help you get around. Instead, it works by having a human ‘leader’ record paths through the indoor space to various destinations simply by walking with their phones in hand, and allowing other users to follow those paths with on-screen directions.

To achieve this, the app uses the sensors in your phone to trace your paths accurate down to the number of steps needed to get someplace. Path creators can also add text, audio and image annotations for things like getting past locks and entering room key codes. Once you’ve traced a path, you can share it publicly and make it available to others, who can look it up using Path Guide’s search tool. It’s a clever idea that works well enough for the most part, though the path tracing process could be simplified a bit.

The same goes for discovering paths around you; it’d be nice to see the app pop up a notification if you’re nearing a large building that has paths already charted out.

And in order to gain traction, Microsoft would have to work hard to drum up interest among users across the world to adopt Path Guide and use it. It’s not impossible, and it’s been done before: plenty of the data on businesses and public spaces on Google Maps is crowdsourced and fairly accurate. Naturally, the company will want to wait and see if this is something that people actually find useful on a global scale before embarking on such a mission.

Path Guide is currently available only for Android; you can give it a try by grabbing it from Google Play.

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