As someone that travels a lot, it’s always been challenging to keep my family and co-workers up to date on what places I’m visiting, when I’m going, and how long I’ll be staying. With our current travel system at Microsoft, I can specify multiple people as recipients of my itinerary once I’ve purchased travel, which has been an nice convenience. I also get a nice email with everything about my trip recorded for that event, and I store them off in a folder in Outlook for later retrieval. Of course, some come in the form of PDF files, and some come as HTML formatted emails, so depending on where I book travel, I’ll get a different output. Oh – and viewing them from my mobile phone means that I have to add an additional sync folder, or put those mails back in my inbox before I take off on my trip.
Although this has mostly worked in the past ("honey – did you send me your itinerary for the trip to Vegas next month?") there are times when I forget to include the wife on those mails and she gets left out of the loop. I think I’ve found a solution to that problem though: TripIt. TripIt is a service, currently in beta and (at lesat for now) FREE, that allows you to record and store all your travel arrangements in one place by (and here’s the kicker) reading those confirmation emails directly and parsing them into a database for you.
Gone are the days of me copying and pasting information from the confirmation mails into a new Meeting Request in Outlook and inviting the wife – all I need to do is send a copy of the itinerary to firstname.lastname@example.org and BAM! The trip automatically gets added to my profile. And, since TripIt supports an iCalendar feed of my trips, all I had to do was add an Internet Calendar entry into my wife’s Outlook, and she’s automatically kept up-to-date when I make new entries or any changes to my travel schedule. That calendar entry also contains all the relevant details of the flight, hotel or car rental so you can easily retrieve it just by opening the appointment. If I create a custom event (i.e. not from sending TripIt an email) I can include all sorts of additional information that’s accessible from the web or from the calendar entry.
In addition to supplying Calendar entries, the web site also offers additional relevant details about the places you’re traveling to, including weather forecasts and links to maps of the local area.
I’ve only just started using TripIt, but so far I’ve been really impressed with how well the mail parsing works and how easy it is to use. I’m hopeful that it will also solve my challenges in keeping everyone up-to-date on my travel schedule…