Road Warrior: tips we have learned along the way

An image of travel tools on Laurie's iPhone

What's on your iPhone? Some helpful travel tools

I’m starting this post as I begin yet another travel request process, this time returning to where I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland Ohio. I’m excited about this trip and the continued prospect of working with the VA, but thought I’d also take the opportunity to share some thoughts/tricks I’ve learned while flying. Hopefully, my colleagues will add to this thread with their insights, as well.

  1. Begin your search with an aggregator, like Kayak.com or Bing.com. My travel agent sister tells me that when you do a lot of searching for flights on an airline site directly (like delta.com), each search actually takes seats temporarily out of inventory. If you’ve ever notice a sudden fare jump while researching, this could be why. It could take, she says, up to 30 minutes for those seats to return to inventory. Something about they kayak/Bing systems allow you to have a more accurate result.
  2. I got tired of having to sift through all of the travel-related emails I was receiving in my work inbox, so I set up a google account that I use strictly for travel. It’s been helpful in weeding out my inbox.
  3. Microsoft bought the old Farecast.com engine, which was a neat tool that allowed you to track future fares. For me, the predictions have been quite accurate.
  4. Book through the airline site. Last year, looking to save a few dollars, I booked through Expedia. When I ended up having to change my plans, it was a total nightmare, because I had to manage not just Delta’s change/refund department but Expedia’s as well.
  5. Flightstats.com is an immensely helpful site for tracking flight data in real time. Last year, stranded in Minneapolis, it provided excellent value by helping me to locate flights that might actually be returning to Atlanta.
  6. Speaking of sites/tools, some other goodies:
  • tripit.com is great. I sprung for the Pro version last year and I think it’s been worth it. All you need to do is forward all of your various confirmations to the system, and it creates an itinerary for you. It automatically monitors your flight and sends you updates and reminders, allows you to research other flight options, and provides maps and other local details. It can be a little clunky sometimes, particularly if you are flying late and checking in at your hotel late, but it’s well worth the effort of consolidating it. Besides, there is an app for it on my iPhone. (See image).
  • I don’t know how I could travel anywhere without Yelp, also on my iPhone. It’s been unbelievably useful for tracking down nearby restaurants, points of interest, and transportation.
  • If you’re road tripping it, iExit is similar to Yelp but provides information filtered by upcoming freeway exits.
  • The PerDiem Calc app is a little clunky, but is useful for calculating PerDiem values for each of the days of your trip.
  • Bedbug registry is a website that contains reports of bedbug infestations. I have been known to shy away from properties that appear on the list.

What tools do you find helpful? What tips have you discovered (the hard way)? Post comments below.

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