ATAB reports that 53% of people now book their travel (holiday and work trips) directly with the service providers, or through a booking website, and this is going up year-on-year. What this means is that travellers need to manage their online bookings through various companies (booking.com, AirBnb, British Airways etc.), and because of the rise in popularity of broker websites such as FlightScanner, Trivago, and Google Flights, travellers are becoming more and more price sensitive and less brand loyal.
As a frequent traveller I’ve always organised my itinerary by printing my boarding passes, accommodation, parking, excursion confirmations etc. and organising them into a folder in order of when I’ll need them. Now I’ve started to embrace travel company apps instead wherever possible, but your trip can still be split across multiple apps.
In a recent two-week trip across Australia I needed confirmation details from the following companies:
- Australian Government (travel visa)
- Nationwide (travel insurance)
- Holiday Extras (airport parking)
- British Airways
It was this trip that made me think, “wouldn’t it be so much better if there was a single app that had all of my trip confirmations?”. I spoke to a number of friends and colleagues to see how they travelled, and if they had similar problems. I even found that a lot of travellers weren’t as organised as I was, which made this even more of a problem, and the bigger the trip, the more of a problem this became.
The Team and Our Tools
I worked with a full-stack developer to build the app. The app was built to be cross-platform with Xamarin in C#.
The Discovery Phase
I looked into ways of grouping all of these confirmations, and one common factor they all had was that they all send a confirmation email. I’ve been grouping my trip confirmation emails within Gmail too, which helps, but there is a lot of extra fluff apart from just the details I need, which can make searching difficult.
Another issue is that even if you do use Gmail labels, it requires data to access them, which isn’t always immediately available when you want it when travelling, and it can use quite a lot of (roaming) data when having to access the images and attachments.
Looking deeper into the problem, yet another issue that I encountered is that when travelling in a group we will split the bookings, and therefore split the payments between us, but that means that we all each only have some of the emails for the trip. Whilst we will forward them to each other, and I’ll still use the groups in Gmail, it doesn’t make it easy to navigate – it throws out the real sender, the date etc.
Overcoming the Problem
I came up with an app that keeps all of your essential trip information, for all of your bookings, in one place – with absolutely no printing necessary.
There are some travel apps now that have a useful calendar list view of your itinerary, which is great, but obviously they only show you your itinerary with them, which doesn’t solve the issue. So the solution was to use the best parts of all of these travel apps, but with a combined itinerary showing your entire trip.
Trip App syncs with your Google account to access and group bookings from your Gmail inbox. Simply forward any relevant emails to the Trip App, any missing or incorrect data can be manually added or updated. You can even share a trip with your travel companion using just their email address.
The Final Outcome
Unfortunately, Google Trips came out in September 2016 and Trip App was discontinued. Although it’s frustrating that Google brought out such a similar app, it certainly does validate the idea. I’d like to think that they got a lot of their inspiration from Trip App.
It certainly wasn’t a complete waste of time, Guy and I learned a lot about building an app ourselves and everything involved in getting it launched on the App Store and on Google Play. Being a just for fun project we were working on this in our spare time, but we learned the hard way how important it is to act quickly when you have an idea.