2017-01-19T04:00:38+00:00 August 1st, 2016/Travel/By /

Travel: Traveling is Stressful: Use These 8 Apps to Make Your Life Easier

One of the best perks of being in this industry is the travel!

You:Uhhh I gotta travel again to a conference” 
Significant Other: “Where to?” 
You:Uhhh…well I’m going to Bangkok in December…and then I’m going to Las Vegas in January”
Significant Other: Why does your industry seem like a non-stop bachelor party.

And I know every affiliate marketer needs to do their Southeast Asia pilgrimage.

As much as I love travel, it can be stressful.

line2

I swear to God this used to happen EVERY time I traveled before I got Global Entry.

I hate stress and I hate inefficiency. I’ve been traveling quite a bit the past 8 years, and I’ve streamlined the process.

6248623318237184

Why I try to make travel easier…

I curated a list of my travel apps, services, and ninja techniques to make your traveling life easier.

My Favorite Travel Apps & Services

TripIt.com

tripit-1

By the way, those travel stats above are pulled from this app

Price: $5 per month (free version available)

TripIt take care of EVERYTHING to do with your itinerary. When you book a hotel, flight, taxi, event or whatever, just forward the confirmation emails to their website (if you’re on Gmail or Hotmail it does this automatically for you).

Their software builds your itinerary for you and compiles it all into one master document to so you’re never wondering what’s happening next.

It also adds everything to your calendar, sends push notifications when delays or changes happen, keeps all your travel points in one place and a whole lot more.

This is essential if you do a lot of travel, plus they have a free version if you don’t need all the extras.

Other reasons why I love it:

* Easily manage your team’s travel and see where everyone is.
* The pro version will send you a message if the gate changes. Have you ever seen your ticket say A15, and find out NO ONE’s at the gate? The app will notify you if a gate changes.

Global Entry

GElogo

Price: $100
Protip: Some credit cards will reimburse this fee for you – check to see if your card offers this. I know the AMEX Platnium does. 

This service lets you skip the big lines for border patrol and customs in US airports. From the Global Entry website: “Global Entry allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States”.

I hate waiting and US airports are notorious for huge lines, so this is an essential service for me.

Application process:

You have to apply online and pay a fee ($100 when I did it), then go to an airport near you that offers Global Entry for an interview. They do a background check on you after the interview, then you get notified if you’re accepted.

The interview took me about 5 minutes. They took my fingerprints. There wasn’t an “interview.”

This has saved me so much time.

How it works:

When you get off a flight you go straight to the Global Entry kiosk (which never really has a line), put your passport into a machine, then put your fingerprint on a scanner and fill out a small form. It takes about 30 seconds and then you’re off to baggage claim.

Note: Although they’re called “Global Entry”, they are not available in EVERY country. Click here for a list of the countries that Global Entry status is recognized.

TSA Pre Check

tsa_precheck

Price: $85
The point of TSA Pre is to push low-risk travellers through security faster. Big time saver when you combine it with the other airport services here.

Application process:
You apply online and pay the fee, then schedule a 10-minute, in-person interview at an airport that offers TSA Pre (similar to Global Entry interview).

How it works:
This service allows you to go through a special security line at the airport where you don’t have to remove your shoes, belt, coat etc, and you don’t have to pull everything out of your bag before it goes through the x-ray machine.

Protip:
When you apply for GlobalEntry, you also get access to TSA Pre-check. It’s a 2 in 1 combo deal. So grabbed Global entry first.

Clear

dk_100812-538-Edit

Price: $179 per year
This gets you boosted up to the front of the security line for check-in, but you still have to take off your shoes, belt, get your computer out of your bag etc if you don’t have TSA Pre Check.

There aren’t many airports that have Clear, but it’s still worth it for me.

If you’re confused about these three…

  1. Clear is for getting you up to the front of the line for security on DEPARTING flights
  2. Global Entry speeds you through security and border patrol for ARRIVING flights.
  3. TSA Pre means you don’t have to waste time getting things out of your pockets, taking off jacket, emptying out your baggage etc.

My advice: Get all three of them if you travel often as they work well together.

Seat Guru

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 3.08.19 PM

It’s helpful to read what other people say about the aircraft, the seat, and their service. If you hate being stuck beside the bathroom or galley you can check out SeatGuru before you book.

YouTube Reviews

I’ll always have a 30 second YouTube to see what the seats / aircraft look like before I book. Some carriers / aircraft are definitely better than others. Check out this guy’s review of American Airlines London-Chicago as an example.

It costs a lot extra to book business class, so I want to make sure it’s worth it. Some carriers will give you a free beer and call it “business regular economy” or something. Beware of cheap ass airlines.

Sometimes business class is incredible, sometimes you feel scammed, so do some research before you confirm your booking.

Online Check-In

Okay this isn’t an app, but it saves a lot of time. Even with computerized check-in machines at the airport, it still takes time and there can be massive lines depending on the carrier you fly with. I check in online before I get a car to the airport just to make things smooth.

Award Booking Service

Price: $25 research fee then $125 if you book those flights

When you use a credit card for business expenses, you rack up a lot of points. It’s a massive time suck trying to calculate how many points you need to book certain flights, and some flights only allow certain points to be used etc.

Points are great but trying to use them can be a nightmare.

I use Award Booking Service and they research and book the best flights with layovers where I want (or if I don’t want any they make them as short as possible).

Not only can they research the flights, but you can give them your information and they’ll book everything for you.

Virtual Assistant for Bookings

Price: from $5 an hour – I find assistants on Upwork.

You can save $100 if you shop around for flights, but it’s not something I enjoy doing. There are specialists in this job on Upwork you can hire for super cheap that will do all of the heavy lifting for you.

Miscellaneous Apps and Services

Offline Data Storage
Some countries have miserably slow wifi speeds so it can help to download content before you go. Maps are a good start if you are making your own way around. Maps.me is one I’ve heard good things about. Tip: This is heavy on storage so delete old maps when you are finished with them/

International calls
Paying for international phone calls is kinda 1990. As long as you’ve got wifi you can call any cellphone in the world as long as they have WhatsApp. They also have a messenger so you don’t have to pay for text messages.

Researching itinerary
Kayak.com helps for researching your itinerary as they have reviews of airports etc, not just hotels. You can also search multiple flight aggregators

Emergency accommodation
HotelTonight.com is good if your Airbnb host pulls a no-show or you’re feeling adventurous.

When you’re lost or looking
AroundMe.com tells you where everything is. Gas stations, restaurants, public restrooms, ATM etc.

Reviews
I normally use Tripadvisor or Yelp when I’m in a new city and looking for a restaurant or something fun to do. I find people are pretty honest about their experiences on these apps.

My Standard Operating Procedures

Here’s an example of part of our flight SOP we give to an assistant when they are booking flights:

  1. Establish flight travel locations.
  2. Establish flight dates.
  3. Research flights using various flight aggregators.
  4. Once flight is selected, see if booking direct with the airline is cheaper.
  5. Book flight along with specific preferences:
  6. Double check to see if checked luggage is necessary.
  7. Document all flight details within Google Sheet using our template.
  8. After all details are confirmed and documented, upload details into Tripit.

As well as this I have another part of the SOP that has my requirements (and other employees requirements) such as aisle seat, only fly between 11am-4pm departures and no later than 8pm arrivals, special dietary requirements etc.

I also specify to only land at large airports that are reputable.

The SOP for booking flights is about two pages long and outlines the EXACT process I want the assistant to take. This is worth setting up if you travel a lot and want to remove some of the stress.

Note: I also made an SOP for booking hotels, another for Airbnb, another for flights.

…I’ve also got an SOP for creating SOPs.

“Is he joking?”

Here’s an example of how I first traveled vs how I do it now:

Low Level Traveler vs High Level Traveler

Low level traveler:

Backup-Plan

    1. Decides he wants to go to an affiliate conference that is coming up.
    2. Spends 4 hours on cheapoair.com trying to hunt down the cheapest flights.
    3. Books the cheapest one and “saves” $400
    4. Gets up on the day at 3:30am tired and groggy because the cheap flight leaves at 7:00am.
    5. Gets to airport and spends two hours checking in and going through security, then another two hours waiting in the main terminal before boarding.
    6. Gets halfway to his destination and then has a 12 hour layover that he spends in the airport curled up in the fetal position sleeping on a pew of chairs.
    7. Wakes up in some airport terminal with no English speakers to get onto the next flight, hasn’t had a shower, smells, looks like crap.
    8. Gets to Bangkok and discovers 99% of taxi drivers don’t speak or read English in Thailand.
    9. Guy has to find someone to translate “Best Western Hotels” to Thai so a driver can take him there.
    10. Guy gets to his hotel and collapses on the bed exhausted regretting being such a cheapskate.
    11. Guy woken up multiple times in the night due to staying in a shady neighborhood as he just looked at price when booking and not the reviews.
    12. Guy decides that travel sucks and never wants to do it again.

Repeat again for the return trip.

Although saving money is good, it’s often a bit of a fallacy. If your wage is $10 per hour then it might be worth it to spend a couple of days traveling and sleeping in airports to get where you’re going.

But if you earn good money in your job/business, you should place more value on your time.

Here’s how a high-level traveler would do it.

High level traveler

Screen-Shot-2016-07-27-at-3.29.26-PMScreen-Shot-2016-07-27-at-3.29.26-PM

  1. Decides on his destination and what he’d like to do/see while there
  2. Documents the dates he wants to depart and return
  3. Sends those dates to his assistant who does everything for him including booking flights with points / credit cards, booking hotels, cars, laundering services, meals etc.
  4. Wakes up at 7am and has a light jog, a breakfast, and then gets into a car that has been arranged to pick him up at EXACTLY 9:30am from his house.
  5. Gets to airport, skips to the front of lines, goes straight through security, then chills in one of the lounges to get away from the madness of the main terminals.
  6. Meets a few people in the airport lounge to talk shop with over a drink before the flight.
  7. Boards flight, and either flies direct or has a very short stopover and connecting flight, and arrives at destination.
  8. Enjoys time on the flight watching a couple of movies then takes a sleeping pill and wakes up at his destination.
  9. Driver is waiting at airport with a sign that has the traveler’s name on it.
  10. Gets to accommodation and everything is prepared such as food, wifi passwords, extra keys etc.
  11. High-level guy loves traveling to new places as he uses other people/software to help him make it enjoyable and stress free.

If you can spare the extra cost, it’s worth it to spend more on traveling.

If you’re on a tight budget I recommend taking sleeping aids, good headphones and one of those travel pillows. This will help you a ton.

You don’t want to arrive at your destination feeling like crap and just wanting to sleep.

Extra NGO-Approved Travel Tips

Lounges
Airline lounges make traveling a luxury. Some are more affordable than others, and there are services like Priority Pass that give you access to hundreds of lounges worldwide for a low price. At the moment it’s $249 for a year that gets you 10 visits to their network of 900 lounges. This article gives a good overview of airport lounges and alternative ways to get in besides their expensive yearly fee.

Fill hard drive with movies/tv
This is a no brainer. I don’t like to allocate time on the airline to work, I just watch a few movies or TV series. I also pack a PlayStation Vita for a bit of gaming time. Check out some of my favorite movies and tv shows here.

Noise cancelling headphones
These will save you from crying babies and constant announcements from the flight deck. Good headphones will also help you get to sleep if you’ve got the right music.

Aisle seat
This saves you from having to wake people up and get past them when you need to use the bathroom. I drink a lot of water to stay hydrated when I travel so this is something I make sure my assistant always does for me.

Melatonin/sleeping pills
These can help keep your circadian rhythm in sync while you’re flying. There’s no way to completely get rid of jet lag, but this sure helps.

11am-4pm travel time
This is my preferred time to travel so I don’t have to wake up super early or stay up late waiting at the airport. Yours might differ to mine.

Checklists
I have a checklist for what to pack, what I’ll need to do when I get there, contact details for all parties (driver, accommodation, events, other people traveling with me) etc. My checklist for what to pack is a spreadsheet for my toiletries (razor, shaving cream etc), plus electronics, clothing, work equipment, entertainment etc. This sounds like a lot of work, but you only have to make the list once.

Extra gear
You can check out some of my travel/work gear that I use here.

Conclusion

I’m not saying that you have to spend a ton of money on travel to make it enjoyable, just to approach it in a more systematic way.

Some of these ideas cost money, but you’ve got to approach it from an investment perspective.

If you only fly once per year then there’s not much point in buying Clear, TSE Pre and a membership to AA lounges.

Think of it this way:

The more often you fly, the more of these tips you should implement if you value your time and energy.

If you’ve got any flying/travel tips I’d love to hear them!