Because of my public speaking, I spend a lot of time traveling. In just the past four weeks I have been to Charlotte, San Diego, Richmond, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Mobile, Dallas, Tulsa, and Denver.
In some ways traveling has never been more stressful—more delays, more canceled flights, and more crowded flights. But technology eases the burden and makes it manageable.
Here are my favorite travel apps and how I use them:
TripIt. This is “command central” for my travel details. My assistants and I use it to maintain all my transportation and accommodation information. When they book a flight or a hotel, they forward the information to TripIt.
The program parses the email and creates neat records with all the details. It tells me when flights are delayed, the travel time, my seat assignments, confirmation numbers, and whether or not the flight provides wireless Internet service. It gives me similar information about hotels.
Basecamp. I have lots of paperwork surrounding every speaking engagement: contracts, “Event Detail Forms,” slide presentations, speaking notes, background research, etc. We used to store all this in Evernote. However, recently, we moved to Basecamp for this kind of information.
While I still use Evernote for nearly everything else, I prefer Basecamp for travel. I think of each trip as a “project.” It has its own set of to-dos, discussions, files, milestone dates, and team members. Basecamp is perfect for this. When the project is over, we archive it. When we book a new engagement, we begin with a project template.
Expensify. I used to hate doing expense reports. Over the last 30 years, I think I have tried every system known to man. But I love Expensify. It is simple to understand and easy to use.
I start by creating a report with the beginning date of the trip and then the name of the engagement. When I incur an expense, I take a photo of the receipt, add the metadata (or use SmartScan to parse the receipt), and then discard the receipt.
When the trip is over, I submit the report to my booking agent, so he can request reimbursement from the event sponsor. I also submit it to my accountant, so she can make sure I get paid. Once I hit “Submit,” I am done.
Google Maps. I have used GPS since it first became available for cars. It eliminates the stress of having to figure out how to get to where I need to go. For years, I used Hertz NeverLost. It served me well.
But then I discovered I could use an iPhone app, and save myself some money over the long haul. I bought the TomTom app and it worked great. My only complaint was that it was slow to load.
However, I switched to Google Maps a few months ago and haven’t looked back. The app is easy to use, beautiful, and accurate. Best of all, it’s free. I have also begun experimenting with a social mapping program called Waze that looks very promising.
Uber. This is a special-purpose app that does one thing: it allows you to book limousine (black car) service from your iPhone. Before you dismiss this as “too expensive,” check it out. I find it is often much cheaper than a rental car.
I land in a city, and before getting off the plane, I load the app and book a car. From my phone’s GPS, it knows where I am. It also knows where the closest drivers are and who is available.
Once I book the car, I get an almost instant notification back with the name, photo, and phone number of the driver who has been assigned to pick me up. It also has his five-star rating. Literally, by the time I get to the curb, the driver is there.
Unfortunately, Uber isn’t available in every city. It’s also strictly on-demand; you can’t schedule a car. But it is a clever solution to a common problem—getting a ride. I’m sure we will see more of these kinds of networking solutions in the future.
If you have followed my blog for even a few months, you know I go through apps faster than an eight-year-old through Halloween candy. So if you have discovered something I should consider, I’d love to hear from you.