Sigh. Another one bites the dust.
In what’s starting to feel like the year of virtual bloodshed, the gang over at Google’s gearing up to kill off yet another standout service — this time, the slick and useful travel planning app Trips.
Google Trips made travel management simple as can be by automatically pulling receipts and itineraries from your Gmail inbox and then organizing them into nifty trip-based bundles. You could view all your plans in a single place, share ’em, keep tabs on ’em offline — you name it.
In true Google form, though, the journey’s being cancelled: The G-Team has revealed (though not technically announced) that the Trips app will fly off into the sunset on August 5th.
The move isn’t entirely surprising, as we discussed in my Android Intelligence newsletter recently. Google launched a new travel-planning website with the same Trips name last month and failed to mention the existing Trips app within that announcement, which sure seemed like an ominous sign. As for that new website, it follows the app’s basic model of pulling travel info from Gmail and putting it into bundles for you — but, well, it’s just a website. And that means it isn’t especially pleasant to use from your mobile phone and isn’t readily available offline, either, which is a pretty big flaw for a service you’re bound to rely on while flying the (allegedly) friendly skies.
Not to fear, though: A better answer awaits. All you have to do is venture outside of Google’s own self-made services to find a travel organization app that does everything Trips did — and a whole lot more.
The app’s been around for a while, but if you’ve forgotten about it over time, it’s absolutely worth revisiting. And if you never got around to trying it, it’s high time to give it a whirl.
I’m talking about TripIt. The app made the cut as one of my recommendations for the best Android travel apps — beating out Google Trips, even, back when Trips was still flying strong — and for good reason.
TripIt is a fully featured travel organization solution that really is invaluable if you do a fair amount of flying. Just like Trips, TripIt can watch your inbox for any travel-related confirmation emails and then automatically import and organize them — though being a non-Google service, that does mean you’ll have to grant the service access to your account. If you’d rather not do that (or if your company policy doesn’t allow it), you can instead simply forward all relevant emails to a specific address on your own and let TripIt take it from there.
Either way, you get the same end result: a nicely organized bundle of all your travel-related plans, broken down by trip and easy to share with anyone as you see fit — and easily accessible offline, too. And all of that is completely free. So there’s the Google Trips parity for ya. But that’s just the start of what TripIt has to offer.
TripIt automatically organizes your plans into bundles and makes it easy to view and manage every possible detail of your travel agenda.
The app’s more advanced options are connected to its $49-a-year TripIt Pro service — and if you travel enough, it just might be money worth spending (and/or expensing). First and foremost, with TripIt Pro in place, you’ll get real-time flight updates all throughout your travels. And sure, other apps offer similar updates, including airlines’ own apps and the omnipresent Google app. But lemme tell ya, when I’ve tested them all together (which I do thoroughly whenever I create or update travel app recommendations), TripIt tends to be miles ahead of everyone else in its timeliness. It’s saved my hindquarters more than a few times by giving me a heads-up about a changing gate or delayed departure well before any other app or even the electronic signs in the airport had the same info.
The other part of TripIt Pro that’s proven to be incredibly helpful to me whenever I’ve tested the service is its alternate-flight-finding feature. Its value was illustrated perfectly when I was heading out on a work-related trip and discovered that my first of two flights was delayed, which would’ve made my connecting flight practically impossible to pull off. With a couple quick taps, I had a list of alternate connections — including a real-time map of available seats on each option — and was able to adjust my itinerary long before the gate agents offered any assistance.
TripIt Pro has some other perks, like a seat tracking system that can let you know if a better seat opens up on any flight you’ve booked and a fare tracking system that alerts you if prices drop after you’ve booked, but the real-time notifications and alternate flight-finding features are what really make it worthwhile.
Even if you don’t fly frequently enough to justify the $49 annual cost, TripIt’s free service is a perfect replacement for the soon-to-be-grounded Google Trips service. It’s essentially the same thing, only operated by a company that’s all about travel and consequently seems to see the service as an ongoing priority — not just one of a zillion experimental side projects with only a tangential connection to its core business.
There’s no guarantee anything will last forever, of course, but if you’re using Android and need to organize your travel in an intelligent, time-saving, and user-friendly way, TripIt is without a doubt the app to use right now. After your first trip with it at your side, you won’t so much as even think about Google Trips ever again.
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[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]