Vacation's supposed to be a time to relax, unwind, and worry more about finding the perfect margarita than watching the clock. But visiting new and exciting locales doesn't happen by magic: there are flights to catch, hotels to check into, car rentals to pick up and a bevy of other logistical hassles that need to be conquered before you can get around to seriously releasing some stress. WorldMate and TripIt are a pair of free travel management apps vying to be the travel guide in your pocket. Do they actually help? Are they worth your time? Which is better? I recently put both Android apps through the proverbial gauntlet to bring you the answers.
Both apps act similarly at their core: email your travel confirmations to either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com -- depending on which service you're using -- and the information will be added as a trip in your app. Each service supports confirmations from major hotels, airlines and car rental chains, and TripIt also recognizes cruise and rail confirmations. You can also create trips and enter travel details manually by pressing the Options button (three stacked horizontal lines) on your Android phone and tapping the appropriate selection. Trips are organized by location and travel dates by default; you can have more than one trip scheduled at a time, with each being selectable from the main My Trips screen on each app. Selecting a trip reveals its nitty gritty details, as shown in the TripIt screenshot above.
Once you've opened your trip itinerary, tapping a listing -- such as your outgoing flight or your hotel check-in -- brings up more detailed information about the activity, including confirmation numbers, ticket prices, times and more. Both apps can also provide you with turn-by-turn directions to destinations using the GPS navigation apps included in most Android smartphones. Editing task information in WorldMate and TripIt also revolves around the options button, and it's quick and easy. You can also share your itinerary with other people via email; however, while WorldMate's Share function worked like a charm, I couldn't get TripIt's to work after repeated attempts. (Image: WorldMate)
WorldMate and TripIt each offer widgets you can add to your Android homescreen for a quick snapshot of your plans for the day. The topmost widget is WorldMate's; the bottom is TripIt's "Large" widget. TripIt also offers a "Small" widget that looks exactly like the WorldMate Widget, curiously enough.
Up until now, I've talked about things that both WorldMate and TripIt can do. Those core activities make both services strong and very useful tools for travelers -- but WorldMate goes the extra mile with a bevy of value-adding features. To start things off, the "Services" tab on the WorldMate homescreen includes weather listings for your current location as well as any cities you'll be visiting on a trip, along with a handy-dandy currency calculator. Another option offers to notify you of any alterations to your flight schedule, but it's only available to WorldMate Live Gold members (*Est. $100/yr or $12/mo.). TripIt Pro offers a similar service for $50 a year.
Another potentially useful feature is WorldMate's ability to search for hotels, flights and car rentals in-app. Limo services can also be arranged through a third-party provider. There are numerous sorting and filtering options for each category, which is helpful if you're looking for certain price ranges or companies. Booking services in-app probably isn't something that most people will use very often, but it's sure to be very much appreciated when it is needed.
TripIt sends you a few (somewhat harassing) emails in the days leading up to your trip, pleading for you to try out TripIt Pro. WorldMate remains silent until the day before your trip, when it pops up a "Personal Travel Assistant" that runs over your plans for the next day and helpfully displays the weather for your destination. The assistant continues to pop up each morning of your trip, providing details about your travel plans and even displaying non-travel plans using information pulled from your Google Calendar. You'll need a WorldMate Live Gold account to do the opposite and add your WorldMate itinerary to your Google Calendar. It's an incredibly useful feature -- one that helps push WorldMate over TripIt in my eyes. WorldMate's much more polished look only seals the deal. You can't go wrong with either app, but to me, WorldMate is the cream of the travel management crop.