I am flying to the US next Friday for a two-week trip around the East Coast, stopping in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and Myrtle Beach. One of my biggest helpers in planning this trip has been a website called TripIt.
I generally use Google Calendar for planning my schedule, and as long as I stay in Japan, it works just fine. My Windows Mobile phone automatically syncs to Google and displays upcoming Google Calendar events on its Today screen. But there is a serious drawback to Google Calendar: its assumption that the user will always stay in the same time zone.
Let’s take my flight from Narita to JFK, ANA flight 10. It leaves Narita at 11:00 AM JST, and arrives at JFK at 10:45 AM EST on the same day (thanks to the International Date Line). If I stick to local time on my calendar, it’s impossible to input this flight unless I create two separate events for arrival and departure. Even if I do that, my calendar will still assume that I am on Japan time no matter where I go, so it will assume that I have already arrived even when I am hours away from arriving.
Enter TripIt. It was designed as a socially-networked travel tool; you put your upcoming trips online and it tells you who else will be in your destination with you. I find this particular function to be pretty worthless, but the real beauty of TripIt is in calendaring trips that go across multiple time zones. Here’s why:
- The TripIt web page always shows the itinerary in local time. You can specify departure and arrival time zones for each mode of transportation you take. This is perfect for planning each step of the itinerary.
- Each account has an iCal feed which you can use to automatically reflect your travel plans in Google Calendar, iCal or any other modern calendar app.
- The feed shows up in whichever time zone your calendar reader is set to. While I am planning my trip in Tokyo, all the times show up in Google Calendar in Tokyo time, which comes in handy for figuring out when to sleep so I can minimize jet lag. Once I am on the plane to the US, I can switch my phone to Eastern Time and all the events will convert to Eastern Time.
- Automated input keeps this from being a pain in the butt to set up. All you have to do is forward your airline, Amtrak and hotel confirmations to a special e-mail address, and TripIt parses your travel plans into your calendar automatically.
Thanks to the authors of this web site for solving my problems–now I’m ready to enjoy sweltering weather, greasy food and panhandlers again!