“Travel Planning with MJ” could mean a lot of things, but what I am really going to focus on is my thought process in putting together a trip and the tools I use to manage my travels. My hope is not to preach to the masses about the righteousness of my ways, but to generate a discussion and share ideas about different ways to handle things so we all learn something.


When I am heading to a new country, the first thing I do is buy a book. Yes, I’m old fashioned. Hey, at least I usually read that book on an iPad. 🙂 I tend to prefer the Frommer’s travel books over all others. Lonely Planet works too. I have personally not been much of a Rick Steves fan, but the little handwritten maps kind of entertain me. Books give me ideas of things I might want to see, that sometimes surprise and delight. Other times, I get ideas on what I don’t care to bother with as well. Frommer’s also has a pretty useful website that can give you a few quick ideas on things to research further as well. Of course, Google is our friend, and a simple search like “Things to do in Malta” might lead you to all the travel information you ever needed. In the end, in preparing for a big trip, you’ll find me doing some combination of all of the above.

Reach Out

While I have not done a scientific study of this, I am fairly certain that I am the only blogger on Boardingarea.com who has a regular travel agent. No, I’m not talking about company travel here, I use a personal travel agent from time to time when the situation calls for it. I would never use a travel agent for booking, let’s say, a flight from Atlanta to New York to see a show. No, I consult with MJ’s favorite travel agent for big trips….i.e. three weeks in Europe including private tours of Tuscany and Rome. My travel agent is…well… well traveled, familiar with most of my likes, and offers good advice when I ask.

Additionally, reaching out to your favorite Boardingarea blogger can often lead to good results. If you see something that interests you online, send an email to the blogger for more scoop if the blog post itself doesn’t give you everything you need. You know MJ on Travel loves to talk about cruising. 🙂


Once you put together a trip, you have to keep up with it, and any changes in plans. So far, I have found TripIt Pro to be my favorite travel management tool. I know almost everyone that reads this blog is likely familiar with it. The free version does a respectable enough job, but I have found the flight alerts somewhat useful that come with the Pro version which costs $49 per year. I’m not convinced it’s worth the price just yet, but here’s a list of what you get for your $49 from the TripIt website.

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Alternatively, I’m currently testing WorldMate. I’m using the Gold version, which is a $9.99 buy up from the App Store (Note: the App Store is advertising a limited time offer of WorldMate Gold for $3.99). You can also get 3 months of Gold for free each time you book a car or hotel reservation through WorldMate.

They both work essentially the same. Forward your itinerary emails to a certain address, and you can track your itineraries via the website or smartphone/tablet app. The premium version of both offers alerts for itinerary and gate changes. TripIt offers an “Inner Circle” option with its pay version that automatically updates certain people of your trips and any changes. MrsMJ is my sole Inner Circle member. So far, I like WorldMate, but not enough to switch from TripIt. One advantage of TripIt over WorldMate for me is that TripIt will actually track cruise itineraries. All this said, the bottom line – I’m not convinced that the pay version of either application is worth the extra price. Other opinions?


Travel planning has three phases for me. Reading, Reaching Out, and Managing. Books, websites, blogs, and yes, even a travel agent are great resources in planning for a trip. Finally, I manage my travels via TripIt. Of course there are a number of ways to do this, and all have their advantages and disadvantages. How do you plan and manage your personal travels? Ever just fly somewhere and see what happens?

-MJ, July 15, 2013