Travel apps for planning: pros and cons of six travel planning apps
Smartphones and technology have changed the way we travel. I will not pretend to be an expert in those ways, but I certainly enjoy many of the conveniences technology offers while I am on the road. Below are a review of six travel apps for planning. I tested these out while on a month-long trip to Australia. Some were great and I still use them to this day. Others have since been deleted since they were not useful or usable. If you have suggestions on good travel apps, please pass them my way.
Travel apps for planning
During a month-long trip to Australia, I tried out a couple of new travel apps for planning. I have been using various travel apps for years (e.g. Delta, Airbnb, XE), but I found myself wondering what else I could add to my phone to make my life a little easier—especially in regards to planning and itineraries.
I generally like to create/design a one-page itinerary. It is fun and gets me excited about an upcoming trip. However, a one-page itinerary limits the amount of information I can display. Moreover, my time in Australia would be my longest trip to date. I needed to keep track of eight flights, 13 accommodations, three car rentals, two tours, one bus and one train reservation as well as research on things like transportation, shopping and restaurants. It was a lot of information to keep track of and I did not want to have to carry around paper documentation for all of it. So I turned to my app store and started researching travel apps. Below are the pros and cons of the various travel apps for planning I found and put to the test while on my trip Down Under.
Note: I do not enjoy paying for an app unless I know its value. Therefore, I tend to try out a free app first and then pay for the upgrade later on.
Travel apps for planning: Trip It
Trip It is a winner when it comes to convenience. I have used this travel app in the past and I continued to use it on this trip for comparison’s sake. The convenience part comes into play while setting up your itinerary. You just email a reservation to email@example.com and it automatically gets added to your itinerary in the app. Simple and convenient. You can also manually add notes to any of your reservations and it works offline without any hitches.
Trip It does not recognize a reservation you did not make. For example, when R booked the van rental and I emailed the reservation to Trip It, it did not recognize it as part of my travel plans and therefore did not add it my itinerary. I had to enter the information manually. Also, if your plans or a reservation change (think flight updates), unless you have Trip It Pro, email the new reservation or change it manually, you will not have the latest information available at your fingertips.
Update on Trip It:
I continue to use Trip It. I do not rely on it entirely, but it is the preferred travel app for my company so I imagine I will continue to use it for work trips.
Travel apps for planning: TravlMangr
TravlMangr was probably my favorite in terms of layout. I really like how a trip is divided into segments and colors. Instead of scrolling through an entire itinerary to find a piece of information, I just clicked on the appropriate section.
There is no option for an automatic upload—no email to send reservations to. You have to manually enter everything. For a smaller trip, this would not be a big deal. But for my trip to Australia, this was a very big deal. I am still on the fence as to whether I will use this app again do to the inconvenience.
Update on TravlMangr:
One year later and I have not used this travel app again. I have concluded that having to manually enter your travel information makes this travel app just a little too inconvenient, especially compared to Trip It and Google Trips.
Travel apps for planning: Sygic Travel
Sygic Travel had some good features. For example, I liked the day-by-day layout and the ability to add things like “places to see” and example itineraries (e.g. 9 hours in Sydney, 11 places). There was a lot of information to choose from, which is good for planning what you want to see and do in a city. The app also allows you to book accommodation and tours. However…
The app felt more like a booking and planning site rather than a useful tool for keeping track of one’s itinerary. There was no way to email reservations and in fact, manually entering them was cumbersome. I was probably using the app all wrong. In the future, I may use it to help plan my outings, but I will not be using it to keep track of reservations.
Update on Sygic Travel:
I have not used this travel app once over the past year. I may still use it in the future if I am looking for advice on what to do. But for now, it is not one of my more useful travel apps.
Travel apps for planning: Google Trips
Oh Google. How are you so darn good at so many things? Google Trips is no exception. You will need a gmail account to use this app. (Does anyone not have one of those these days?) Reservations are easy to add. They either happen automatically (if you used your gmail account to make them), or you can email them to your gmail account. Additional bonus: if R makes the reservation and I forward it to my gmail account, Google Trips recognizes it and adds it—most of the time. If it doesn’t, you can manually add reservations or note. The layout is nice and there are a lot of good tips, suggestions and information. Really, there is more information provided than you could probably every read with this app.
I find combining cities a challenge. Sometimes Google does this automatically. But sometimes it lists cities as different trips when in reality, it is one trip with multiple cities. I am not sure how to combine them or if it is even possible. For Australia, I did not want everything combined—it would have been too much information. But in the future, I may want to. Also, you have to remember to download your trip in order to view everything offline.
Update on Google Trips:
I still love Google Trips and use it frequently…for almost every trip in fact.
Travel apps for planning: CheckMyTrip
In theory, the pro for this app would be similar to Trip It. CheckMyTrip claims that all you have to do is email your reservations to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be added to your itinerary.
Of the half dozen reservations I emailed, only one showed up in my app. I also received a lot of emails telling me they were still processing my emails and would send me another email when the processing was done. Basically, I received a lot emails and no updates. This particular app gets a big thumbs down from me.
Update on CheckMyTrip:
I never bothered using this app again and unless things have radically changed, I would not recommend it.
Travel apps for planning: Split
When you travel with friends, keeping track of who paid for what almost becomes a part-time job. It gets even more complicated when C travels with us and we need to split things three ways. I keep track of all the receipts (or write notes to myself) and then try to sort it all out when I get home. But if I did not take good notes or write down who paid for a particular receipt, then I am in trouble. Even after I get it all sorted out, there is the adding, subtracting and dividing—and math is not my strength. I finally created an Excel spreadsheet to help me out. However, I can say goodbye to that spreadsheet because I now have Split. I absolutely love this app. It is a real gem and worked like a champ on my Australia trip. I liked it so much, I paid for the upgrade.
Split keeps track of expenses and does all of the necessary math automatically. Entering expenses is quick and easy. I usually do it while we are at the restaurant, gas station, etc. so I do not have to worry about keeping track of the receipt. Best of all, you can enter expenses in different currencies. I began tracking our Australia costs in U.S. dollars since that is what we made our initial reservations in. But once in Australia, I entered expenses in Australian dollars. The app converted those expenses for me. Hooray! One of the less-fun-aspects of travel is now a breeze. I cannot recommend this app enough. It would also be good a good app if you just wanted to track expenses. But its real value is in splitting up those expenses.
There really are no cons. The only thing I can think of is if you just have the free version, you can only track one trip at a time. 99 cents takes care of that and was a purchase I happily made so that we can track the expenses of all of our upcoming trips.
Update on Split:
Love it! We use Split regularly and highly recommend it.
Conclusion to travel apps for planning:
By the time you read this, I am sure many of the travel apps for planning that I used will have already changed. That is the world we live in. But if you are looking for a travel app to make your next vacation a little easier, you can take what I said into consideration while doing your research. And if you find a really good travel app, let me know. I would love to try it out on my next trip.