Tech Tools: Toward a Paperless Travel Experience
The days of lugging around bulky files full of itineraries, backup records, emergency contact information and the like for your group while on tour are long since over. Today’s group leader has a varied arsenal of tech tools at her disposal to reduce paper clutter, streamline the travel process and assist in numerous other ways.
Here are a few of our favorite tech tools and tips for the student group travel leader:
Although getting there can be half the fun, when you are attempting to coordinate a large group of students, navigating airports, customs and immigration can be more than a little chaotic. To help you streamline the process and reduce the headaches involved in flying internationally with your group, we invite you to check out these three tech tips:
Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Though intended for frequent international travelers, there is no minimum number of trips necessary to qualify for the program.
At airports, your students can proceed to Global Entry kiosks, where they use their machine-readable passport and fingerprint to gain entry and make their customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs them to baggage claim.
It is important to note that your students must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and interview before enrollment, so planning ahead is important. Application fee is $100.
Simply Declare is a wonderful app for keeping track of all your declarable purchases while abroad. You can quickly add new items, attach photos of the receipts and maintain separate lists. The app even automatically applies currency conversion so you can easily see the total value of all your items. Having your students use this app can prevent uncomfortable and time-consuming delays. Never be caught off guard by the question “What do you have to declare?”
Whether you are traveling internationally or domestically, if your group is traveling by airplane, Gate Guru is an essential app. From the Home Screen you can add or manage current and future trips or enter the JourneyCard of a specific trip to see expanded information such as the security checkpoint wait times, departure time delays, gate changes and layover time adjustments.
Unfamiliar with the airport or just looking for a good rally point or quick lunch spot? Under the AirportCard area, you can access information on restaurants, shops, maps and airport tips to provide you and your group everything you need to navigate and enjoy your time in the airport.
Health & Safety
No matter the amount of planning, crises can occur while on tour and in case they do, we recommend having two apps on hand. TravelSafe Pro provides crucial information fast by containing the common emergency numbers (police, fire, medical) for numerous countries as well as consulate and embassy numbers worldwide. iTriage Health will help you diagnose symptoms and find the nearest emergency room, physician or pharmacy. Besides bringing peace of mind, these apps can quite literally be lifesavers.
Virtual Tour Guides
It is likely that your group will not always be under the guidance of a tour guide. The following apps will allow your students to consume and digest valuable information about where they are when exploring solo.
HearPlanet provides a virtual reality audio layer across the entire globe, giving you all the Points-of-View on all the Points-of-Interest. Covering hundreds of thousands of locations, it is like having a tour guide whispering to you from inside your phone. Give it a try and you might be surprised by what you discover. History Here is another useful app for learning about your local surrounding, by providing articles, images and video of nearby historic points of interest within the United States. Last in this category is the UNESCO World Heritage app, which allows you to browse or search World Heritage sites to view information and photos about them.
Chances are you and your students already use Skype, but if not, it is arguably the best way to keep in contact with those back home. Besides being an instant messaging service, the free version allows you to make audio and video calls to other Skype users over any internet connection, which is an excellent way to avoid costly long distance or international calling fees. Also, for a small annual fee, Skype users can purchase a plan that allows them to call non-Skype numbers so your group members can reach those back home even if they aren’t Skype users.
Give Me More!
There are thousands of apps and other tech solutions out there to help you plan and execute a great student group trip, with the above list barely scratching the surface. We will be adding a new tech tip twice a month online, and we would love for you to join the conversation and contribute your own as well. Also, don’t forget that you can sign up for InSite on Student Travel (firstname.lastname@example.org) and get tech tips and much more delivered right to your inbox.
By Lance Harrell