Online travel Itinerary – making travel simpler!

Have you ever seen (or been?) the traveler in line at the airport or the taxi stand, struggling with a pile of airline itineraries, hotel confirmation emails, rental car reservations, trying to find the right piece of paper? You can save yourself a lot of trouble (and a tree or two!) by using a mobile travel itinerary! It’s as easy as forwarding all your trip confirmation emails to the service, share it with friends & family and have it all conveniently on your phone during your trip! No more hunting around for flight numbers or room confirmations! There are multiple providers of mobile travel itineraries (all free) and we will be looking at Kayak, TripCase, TripIt and WorldMate in this post.

The Basics – Plan, Share ,Travel!

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 1.21.35 PM    Each of the services offers the basics of managing your travel plans online and on your mobile device:
The most important part is to get all your travel information to the service easily! You can forward all your confirmation emails from airlines, hotels and rental car companies from your (registered) email account to the service provider email address. The services will interpret the email and turn it into an itinerary. You can easily edit the trips online and add further details or more itinerary items manually. The four differ significantly in how well they are able to read the confirmation emails.

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 1.14.08 PMTripIt and Worldmate stand out, recognizing the vast majority of travel vendor information, including attached pdf files, little known foreign vendors or even rail trips. They also do it quickly and accurately, sending a confirmation within seconds with lots of details stored in your record. Worldmate does miss some details, for example the traveler information (for itineraries with multiple travelers), vendor phone numbers or seat assignments. It also has problems with flights crossing the dateline, not recognizing time zones and messing up the flight order (hard to forgive for a travel app!).

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 1.17.41 PMTripcase and Kayak both miss some of the key information, for example not recognizing complete confirmation emails (despite confirming receipt) or parts of the information. For example, Tripcase bizarrely missed one segment of a Singapore Airlines itinerary! Kayak provides key information in the app as well as access to the scanned orginal, a neat feature none of the others offer, giving you access to the fine print as well!. TripIt and Kayak are very good at recognizing flights, cars and hotels belonging to one trip, putting them together as default. They also allow to combine trips easily. Tripcase seems to default to recognizing each item as a separate “trip”, but at least makes it easy to combine them. Worldmate combines by default, but when it misses, you have to combine trips item by item, which is rather tedious. On my recent ASEAN Explorer trip, TripIt had trouble reading the (new) AirAsia confirmation email – while Kayak and Worldmate were already updated. It took a few weeks and multiple emails to get the TripIt tech support to solve it, but they were very responsive, which is great for a free app!

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 1.13.02 PMFrom a planning perspective, Tripit comes out on top, scanning information accurately and requiring nary any editing, followed by Worldmate, which recognizes as well, but makes some mistakes, provides less information and is harder to edit. Kayak misses a few items, but at least provides complete information and is easy to edit. Tripcase misses too much information that is sent in – it defeats the purpose of mobile itinerary management if you have to spend so much time manually editing it!

Sharing your travel information with family, friends, your assistant or co-workers is another feature offered by all services. It’s as easy as hitting the “share” button and entering the email information. Some of the providers go beyond that: Worldmate offers to share your trip information with your LinkedIn contacts (or keeping it private) – that might be a group to broad for some. TripIt allows you to identify specific connections and they will see your trips and will be informed where you are. You can also share your trips via facebook, linkedin or twitter. Kayak also allows sharing via email for a specific trip or all your trips and even allows others to edit your trips. Tripcase allows for sharing of trips via email and will send updates as your trip changes.
In my evaluation, TripIt offers the most options to manage and control the sharing of your trip information, followed by Worldmate and Kayak with slightly limited options and Tripcase with the most basic set-up.

Now, that you have all your travel information online and shared with your loved ones, your are ready to travel! All four providers offer mobile apps for iOS and Android. Kayak adds Windows and Kindle, TripIt also offers Windows and Blackberry and Worldmate tops them all by even offering Nokia and Symbian mobile apps to the mix.
All of the apps (I tested on Android and Apple iPad) offer a home screen with access to all your trips and other information, a trip overview with your itinerary items and a detailed view of that specific item. TripIt and Worldmate go for a user interface with continuous drill down, getting you to most of the information quickly and easily. Kayak takes a different approach, giving you barebones information on the first screen, more details on clicking through and finally allowing to pull up the scanned original for all the details. This (recently updated) design is a great way to go from quick glance to full detail! Tripcase has a very simple user interface, but does not give you access to frequently needed information like frequent flyer information or phone numbers, so you better keep those emails handy.
The user interface is often very subjective, so please take my opinion with as many grains of salt as you like:  I think Kayak’s new app is the best design with a great balance between getting to key information quickly, while allowing you to get all the detail from the scanned original.  Worldmate strikes a good balance between ease of use, functionality and appearance. The most important information is presented clearly, you can get to all key information quickly and without too much scrolling. TripIt is very similar, but requires a little more clicking and scrolling to get to information. Tripcase is the most beautiful app, but sacrifices functionality for it.
From a rating perspective, Kayak wins the travel aspect by a hair over Worldmate, with TripIt a close third. Tripcase misses the boat by leaving out too much information, requiring you to keep your emails or scanned copies in online storage after all.

But.. but… there is MORE! Of course, all the providers offer additional features to differentiate themselves. Whether those are “must-have” features or superfluous will depend on who you are and how you travel. I will list them here to allow you to come to your own conclusions and pick your favorite itinerary app:
TripIt offers automatic updates to your calendar or linked social accounts for free, but groups additional features into a pro version (free for 30days, $49 per year after). Among the additional features offered are trip alerts (for example flight delays), information for alternative flights, seat alerts (if you are still waiting for an isle seat), point tracking with 120+ rewards programs, tracking of potential flight refunds and free membership in Regus Businessworld membership. While some of these services are available for free elsewhere, they make it very easy as an “all-in-one” offer and can be a bargain (ie Regus) if you really want it! TripIt also offers a team version, giving you a dashboard for the travel of groups, helpful for travel organizers or assistants.
Worldmate offers calendar integration, weather information, currency conversion and is affiliated for hotel bookings with as part of the free version. It will notify you off nights that you don’t have a hotel booking for and will even alert you to better rates available for a hotel you have already booked! It also has a Gold version ($99 per year) that includes travel alerts, flight schedule and status information, most of which are available for free elsewhere.
Tripcase offers flight alerts, status information and search for alternative versions in the free versions, features you have to pay for with TripIt or Worldmate. It also offers calendar integartion, both as a download or an ongoing synchronization. This is especially helpful, if your company uses calendaring and you need to avoid somebody scheduling you for a conference call during a red-eye flight on the other side of the world!
Kayak now offers free flight updates, which are a paid feature with the others and a great add-on!  It also has booking for flights, cars and hotels, a flight tracker, price alerts, as well as tons of travel information, a currency converter and other stuff. If you already have the Kayak app, you get the “my trips” function as part of the package, truly “all-in-one”!

So, who is the and should get a well-deserved spot on your mobile phone? The award for the best itinerary app goes to … drumroll… well, it’s a tie between TripIt and Kayak! TripIt is the best at the basics, getting all your travel information into the app, easily, reliably and accurately. You can share your information, with a few people or many, and have everything at your finger tips when you are on-the-go. If you are a very frequent traveler, the pro version offers lots of additional features and benefits in one package at a reasonable price! Kayak has improved recently in its ability to import itinerary items and the user interface, bringing it much closer to TripIt. Add the free flight updates and having the full scanned document at your finger tips and this is a close call. For years, TripIt has been my personal go-to. On my recent ASEAN Explorer trip I switched to Kayak, because TripIt couldn’t handle AirAsia – and I’ve grown to like it! TripIt has to step up its game to regain it’s undisputed leader spot.

The runner-up is Worldmate. It has a great user interface, nice integration for hotel bookings and some neat additional features. The limited information, errors with timezones and more cumbersome editing keep it from winning. If your travels are limited to the US with straight forward itineraries, it might very well be a winner for you!
Tripcase fails on multiple fronts: The errors on importing data as well as the lack of information stored in the app are too glaring in comparison to TripIt and Worldmate! It’s too much of a hassle to get the information in and you still need back-up for the details the app doesn’t store! In return, you get free flight alerts and schedule information – but that’s available elsewhere for free and doesn’t make up for the issues. If you need to have a beautiful app, have simple US-only itineraries and never look at TripIt or Worldmate, you might be happy, everybody else should take a pass!

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