As we get into the holiday season and plan trips to grandma's house or make vacation plans (I'm going to Disneyland thanks to the cyber Monday sales Alaska Airlines had) I spent some time last week looking at applications to plan and manage my trips. I previously wrote about the amazing money I saved thanks to TripIt, but also note that TripIt lacks travel planning functionality so wanted to see what else was out there.
TripIt is an amazing service with the Pro version ($49 per year) giving you airfare price monitoring protection, frequent flier points tracking, and much more. I have saved hundreds with TripIt Pro and will continue to subscribe. You can share your itinerary, learn about flight changes prior to even airline direct alerts, and even have your Gmail account monitored so that trips are setup automatically without you having to do any work at all.
Their travel account monitor is excellent with all of the details I see at the airline's website appearing right in TripIt. They also have mobile clients for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone. I personally find the MyTrips app on Windows Phone to be a bit better.
The one thing I wish TripIt could do is help me research and plan trips, but it is more of a trip manager than a planner so you have to look elsewhere for this functionality.
Another service that I tried in the past and just revisited is Kayak. Kayak started out primarily as a trip research and planning tool, but has expanded and now offers itinerary integration and trip management similar to TripIt. You can simple email your confirmation information to your Kayak account to have trips setup.
TripIt allows you to connect with other TripIt members and share trips while comparing trip stats in a sort of competition. You can share specific trips through Kayak, but I don't see support for a Kayak network of friends.
Kayak's trip planning functions are pretty amazing and the information they provide on airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, and more is invaluable. There are mobile apps for iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Android, Symbian, and a mobile optimized web page.
I would probably go all in with Kayak, but the price monitoring service provided by TripIt Pro is way too valuable to me.
Speaking of price tracking and refund alert services, I just discoverd Yapta last week and received a press release for their new iPhone application. Yapta is a service that provides airfare price tracking and refund alerts, similar to what is integrated into TripIt Pro. The cool thing about Yapta is that the service and app are FREE so if you don't mind having a couple of apps to support your travel needs you could use both Kayak and Yapta together as a free full solution. I personally have all three loaded now on my iPhone 4S.
I never gave much thought to fluctuating airfare prices and there is no way humanly possible you could sit and track fares every single day by yourself. Thus, automated tools like Yapta are invaluable. One thing to keep in mind is that these airfare tracking tools generally only work when you purchase your tickets directly from the airlines and not through a travel agent or site like Travelocity. If you do use a 3rd party you will need to work with them on getting refunds. With apps like this and Kayak though you should be able to easily plan and make your trip reservations.
Actually, as you browse around the Yapta website you will notice that the trip planning and search tools are powered by Kayak so you do get both services in one through the web browser interface. This partnership of services is not yet supported on the iPhone application though and I also want to see at an Android application soon.
I am still discovering and figuring out the best travel apps and services for myself so if you have a favorite please do share here with me and the readers.