Dreaming up a trip is the easiest part of every journey. All you need is a working imagination. The other bits before you go? Not so easy, or so much fun. You’ve got to book tickets, worry about accommodation, work out budgets, apply for visas…then you’ve got to plan your itinerary. And what about recording memories for sharing during the trip itself? It can be hard to keep track of the many aspects of a holiday via scraps of paper and a jumble of emails.
Here are some websites and apps to help plan, track, record and share your holiday in an easier and more organised fashion. Try them and pick the ones you’re most comfortable using: keep it lean and only use the sites/apps which are truly useful to your travel patterns or risk being caught in a paralysing loop of app agony.
If you’re a fastidious planner and need to religiously track all your itineraries, TripIt (www.tripit.com) is a life saver. Just email your confirmation emails (car hire, hotel bookings, airline tickets, restaurant reservations, etc) to firstname.lastname@example.org and voila, you have an instant itinerary. The basic app is free (with ads) and paying $49/year gives you real-time flight alerts, seat tracking, frequent flier tracking and other goodies. iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone apps available.
Gogobot (www.gogobot.com) is like Tripadvisor in that it has reviews and recommendations (hotels, sights, restaurants). Where it differs is the ability to plan trips, connect with friends who have been to destinations (to get their advice), and find like-minded recommendations by similar ‘tribes’ (ie. interest groups). It’s good for planning, connecting and getting recommendations. iOS and Android apps available.
Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum
Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum is an old-school web way of canvassing the thoughts and opinions of fellow travellers. You’ll find every conceivable topic covered: destinations, language, activities, travel technology, biking, hiking, packing, etc. You’ll find fellow forum users a passionate bunch and quick to respond to any and all sorts of queries you might have.
Planning a road trip through North America? Map it out on Roadtrippers (roadtrippers.com). Punch in your start and end points and the website maps your route and suggests sights, restaurants, and more along the way. Select the points of interest you’d like to see and add them as waypoints on your journey. ‘Guides’ with content contributed by other travel websites add thematic elements and ideas for your trips. Save and share your trip and download the app on iOS to access your itineraries on the run.
Mygola (www.mygola.com) presents slick-looking ‘curated’ list of itineraries which users can use as a base for planning their own trips. Start by typing in a destination. Suggested itineraries pop up. These can be customised, or you can create your own trip from scratch. You can then access and tweak the trip on a calendar page: add or remove elements such as sights or restaurants. Add notes, view the trip on the map and share the itinerary with people (and collaborators). When you’re done, there’s even a ‘book’ function that lets you book accommodation and buy tickets.
Other similar itinerary planning apps include the easy-to-use and ‘does it all for you’ Plnnr (plnnr.com), which has a handy ‘print itinerary' function, and Tripomatic (www.tripomatic.com), which creates a pretty nifty infographic of your trip). The latter has iOS and Android apps that also double as (paid) city guides with offline maps.
This free Android app (play.google.com) was originally developed by Ball State University for students to record field trips but it has since generated some buzz in the travel field. Users can create trips that use Google Maps and a GPS location to track travel paths. Add notes, videos, audio and waypoints and put it all together as a trip journal. You can then review the path in Google Maps and Google Earth. The developers have been adding new features and have been most responsive to user feedback. It takes a bit of experimenting to understand how it works and all its functions, but it’s a great free travel app.
You could also consider using free extended note-taking apps such as Google Keep and Evernote (evernote.com) to keep track of your trip. These apps save data in the cloud so you can sync information across devices.
Making sure you don’t blow your budget is part and parcel of every holiday. Ditch your notebook or Excel spreadsheets and check out the iOS-only Trail Wallet (voyagetravelapps.com/trail-wallet) and Travel Budget App (travelbudgetapp.com) or the iOS/Android Bon Voyage app (itunes.apple.com). These apps track your expenses while you’re on holiday. Standard features such as setting budgets, changing currencies and, of course, checking whether you’ve blown the budget or pinched pennies (shown as a percentage on an infographic) are all there.
Capturing and sharing moments
Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping up with the news from home and staying in touch with friends and family, but when you’re on holiday, you really want to be spending more time recording moments and sharing them instead of hearing about how Man Utd fared over the weekend. For sharing vignettes of your trip, the top choice would be Instagram, which now does short videos too (instagram.com). iOS-only options include Hipstamatic and Oggl (hipstamatic.com/oggl). For photographers who want more editing capabilities in addition to social sharing, try VSCO Cam (vsco.co/vscocam).
All these apps are great at linking with other social networks and blogs. You can kill several birds with one stone and autopost your photos and short videos to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr streams.
Shawn Low has been planning, tracking, recording, and sharing his travels throughout Southeast Asia, China and Australia for Lonely Planet. Follow his tweets at @shawnlow.
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