Tripplanning Tips Tools
Planning trips as a group can stress everyone out, thanks to chain e-mails and too many opportunities for missed messages and scheduling disasters. Follow these tips and tools to help keep these trip-planning headaches at bay.
Delegate tasks. "Designate each person as an expert," advises Karen Schaler, author of Travel Therapy: Where Do You Need to Go? The foodie can pick the restaurants, the shopper can scout out the best souvenir shops, outlet malls, and boutiques; the organizer can keep tabs on meet-up times and schedules. "It makes everyone a leader and an active participant of the trip."
Choose flights and hotels in real-time. The aggregator site Kayak (www.kayak.com) has a share function that allows multiple users to view the same flight options (and hotels too) simultaneously in real-time. Under the tool box, click on "Share results in real time," enter the e-mail address of each traveler, and voilà: the selected routes or properties appear at the top of the screen for 30 minutes -- enough time to say "yay" or "no way."
Plan itineraries. With the group trip-planning site Kukunu (www.kukunu.com, free), you can browse through hundreds of thousands of hotels, activities, restaurants, and landmarks and add them to a calendar; you can also ask friends for travel advice via Facebook or Twitter. On Voyavo (www.voyavo.com, free), you can collaborate on itineraries inspired by the site's recommendations, check out snapshots of destinations (including weather reports and historical hotel rates), and click on links that direct you to booking sites. The site also tallies up the cost of the elements on your itinerary to help you keep spending in check. Other solid standbys: Triporama (www.triporama.com, free) and TripIt (www.tripit.com, free). You can also upgrade to TripIt Pro for $49 per year.
Share travel info. The recently-launched Bonvoy (www.bonvoy.com) is a Facebook application with a community board for pre-trip discussions. There is also a "Share info tab" to communicate trip details (like transportation bookings). The site is actually an online travel agency powered by Amadeus and will even automatically split the costs for rooms and car rentals reserved by the group (each party billed only her share) -- saving you the hassles of collecting from each person individually. One caveat: not only does everyone have to be a Facebook member, you have to make travel reservations through the site to take advantage of its trip-planning functions.