January 01, 2015

Technology tips for travel

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

The following tips all relate to travel and useful apps to make your travels less stressful and more organized. We are skipping the obvious Orbitz, Expedia, etc., apps, as we figure everyone knows about them already. We think more of you will find these tips useful, as you likely do not know about them. If, by some chance, you do not know that most of the travel aggregators now have their own apps, consider that Tip One. If you do not know that most major airlines and hotel chains also have their own apps, then be advised that they do and you should add them to your mobile device before traveling on them. Should you find that information surprising, then consider it Tips Two and Three, respectively, and raise the numbers on each of the following tips:

Tip One: Get Tripit!

Tripit works like a personal assistant to organize your travel information. You can access it almost anywhere as it connects to computers through your browser (www.tripit.com), or through most mobile devices. I have tried out the Android and iOS apps. With Tripit, you can e-mail your flight, hotel, etc. confirmations to Tripit, and they will appear in your travel calendar (which you can publish to your primary calendar and share with others). You can build itineraries, including maps and directions as well. You have your choice of three versions, a free version, Tripit Pro, and Tripit for Teams. We have not looked at Tripit for Teams as it is too expensive in our opinion ($29/mo.) and does not have as many features as Tripit Pro. The free version gives you all the basics, but we particularly like the Pro version ($48/year). The Pro version adds several features to the basic package, including automatic sharing, alternate flight location, mobile alerts about flight changes, and flight refunds. The refund feature is worth the price of admission all by itself. Just to give you an idea, I purchased tickets for my wife and myself on a major carrier. Then I signed up for Tripit Pro and sent the flight information into my account. About three months later, I get a notice from Tripit that the fare was reduced $200/person. Tripit recommended that I return the tickets and get new ones at the reduced price. Not a bad strategy, but for the fact that the airline would have charged a fee that would have wiped out much of the savings. I talked to the airline and we agreed that they would issue a $200 travel credit to each of us for use in a future ticket purchase. Although I did not exactly follow Tripit’s advice, without Tripit Pro, I may not have learned of the reduction.

Tip Two: Buy smart!

We did some research into the time-worn question about what days are the cheapest to fly on and when you are best advised to book a flight. This is what we found out. Best days to fly (least expensive) generally are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Worst (most expensive) are Friday and Sunday. The best buys in airfares will generally occur between one and three months prior to departure for domestic fights and five to six months before departure for international flights. Avoid buying a ticket within a week of departure, if at all possible, as that is when business travelers get hit with premium prices for last-minute travels. The absolute best time to buy a ticket is on Tuesdays after 3 p.m. The airlines generally make many fare reductions at 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons. We know you do not always have the flexibility to buy in these time frames; but when you do, the savings can be substantial.

Tip Three: Go with GOES!

The Global Entry Travel System (GOES) allows you to clear customs on international travel much more quickly as you are a “known traveler,” and they have vetted you sufficiently that they will give you the benefit of the doubt and presume that you are honest and safe, unless you give them reason to question that. The process of getting a GOES card is relatively simple: you go online (https://goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov/main/goes), fill out an application, and wait for them to tell you that you got preliminary approval or not. If you did, they will want you to have a personal interview, so that they can see you are who you said you are. You will also have to pay a $100 fee to apply. If you are a known terrorist, you probably should not apply. A fringe benefit of the process is that after you are approved, if you provide your GOES Known Traveler number to many airlines when you purchase tickets, you will get TSA preapproval on your tickets. TSA preapproval saves a fair amount of time and inconvenience as when you check in you don’t have to get undressed, take your computer out of the brief case, remove your toiletries from your suitcase, and then repack everything on the other side of the X-ray machine. You get to leave everything in place, go through, pick it up, and leave. The only exceptions are that if you have metal in your pockets it has to come out, if you have too much metal in your belt buckle or watch, or metal in your shoes, you may have to remove them, and if you are wearing a heavy coat, you will have to send it through the machine separately. It takes us about 25 percent of the time to get through the process with TSA preapproval by comparison to the regular procedures (measured from arrival at the table next to the conveyor belt that carries bags through the X-ray machine).

Tip Four: GateGuru!

We all spend more time than we would like sitting in airport waiting rooms. Often we wonder what facilities will be near our gate? Would it work better to buy something to eat or a cup of coffee before we get to the gate or wait until we are there? If we do not know the airport well, we take potluck, guessing at what we find when we get to the gate. With Gate Guru, we get inside information. Gate Guru (available for iOS devices at the iTunes App Store) tells you where in the airport you will find what facilities. It will tell you where to get magazines, coffee, hamburgers, or hard liquor in the airport. In larger airports, it will give you the option of selecting by gate, by terminal, and by vendor. In addition, the app will provide you with maps of the airport, and now it also offers information as to departing and arriving flights. All of this functionality ought to cost something, but it is a free download from the App Store. Although we trust our own judgment more than CNN’s, CNN rated this a “Top 5 Air Travel App.”

This article originally appeared as “TAPAs: Technology and Practice Advice,” by Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene in the November 2014 issue of GPSolo eReport. Reprinted with permission. 2014© by the American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

Jeffrey Allen and Ashley Hallene

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California. He is editor-in-chief of GPSolo magazine and GPSolo Technology eReport. Recently, he coauthored (with Ashley Hallene) Technology Solutions for Today’s Lawyer and iPad for Lawyers: The Tools You Need at Your Fingertips. Ashley Hallene is a petroleum landman at Alta Mesa Holdings, LP, and practices oil and gas law, title examination, due diligence, acquisitions, and oil and gas leasing in Houston. Ashley is the coauthor of Making Technology Work for You (A Guide for Solo and Small Firm Attorneys) along with attorney Jeffrey Allen.