Leaf Peeping

The Internet allows us a glimpse at an ever-expanding world, and as Michael Pollan precociously noted in his 2002 Botany of Desire, might actually be a viable industry some day :-). Its pervasiveness into our everyday lives makes a good ol’ fashioned glimpse out the window seem like a whole new revelation.

In my case, that glimpse recently took the form of a mother-daughter trip to Maine–not just the coast and the spectrum of fall leaves, but some of the urban areas worn down by the passing of the mills (both lumber and woolen) and the North Woods of Thoreau and hardiness.

MaineHLB195

The Internet now affords us the chance to collaborate, to collectively plan by sharing documents via software, email, and ‘track changes’ features. I recently installed Microsoft’s Office Live and will be giving that a go as an alternative to file sharing sites. Turning to spreadsheets as a way to create and share a schedule is recognizing their ability categorize data–and a step gingerly taken by those who now have the familiarity of word processing fully integrated to their work at the computer.

To plan a weeklong trip, my mom and I first shared just such a spreadsheet–with dates, times, reservations, weblinks and ideas–trading latest updates via email. In our Web 2.5 world, of course, there’s always a clever tool lurking around the corner. Wanting to update the proposed schedule at odd hours and not knowing if there were any updates from my travel buddy, select activities from a list of choices, and see how far we could journey each day–not to mention the growing file of car, hotel and plane reservations–created a need for something more current than a document emailed back and forth. Information overload began to take hold, just s it does for any business trip or conference. Enter:

A site I’d used before, TripIt, proved immensely valuable in collaborative travel planning. By using TripIt’s online, interactive itenerary planning, the current version was always in play. With both my mom and I signed up as travelers, each could edit the itenerary with suggested activities, weather reports, travel directions, key phone numbers, and our reservations–including links to interactive maps, attractions’ websites and online check-in.

And, in a miracle of modern technology, once you’ve booked reservations, you simply email them to your TripIt account whwere they are posted to your trip’s website; a long list of compatible reservations systems include airlines, Evite, StubHub, HI Hostels, hotels, Expedia, OpenTable, Amtrak, car rentals, SuperShuttle, and AAA as well as specific travel agency and online booking sites. I found it useful to block out driving times, hold hotel reservations and directions, and insert notes about activities such as the days and hours of museums, as well as links to restaurants for later booking dinner reservations. As the trip approached, I was able to all at once print out the maps and directions I’d previously stored online, as well as a copy of the final itenerary.

Using TripIt proved to be a paperless way to manage the number of reservations involved in long-distance travel and to share the details of my travel with others. A friend who travels frequently for work uses TripIt to share her exact flight plans with her spouse. An office where one person makes travel arrangements for others could make clever use of TripIt for holding reservations, receipts, and iteneraries. I can see its usefulness for non-profit travel to meetings and conferences–anyone using this in a business situation who can comment to its effectiveness?

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