With summer finally in full swing, we asked our legal technology dream team, “Which apps have saved your … vacation?” They’re telling their best tips for making travel less stressful, whether for work or play, so you can hit the road well prepared! Who couldn’t use a little extra help navigating the unexpected? Of course, our best tip if you’re headed to vacationland is to ditch the devices once you’re there, and roam free. Paradise and free Wi-Fi are not always compatible.
For the most recent tech tips from the pros, click here.
Lee Rosen: TripIt and Smart Traveler
I was in New York walking on the High Line (an elevated, abandoned railroad track converted into a park) and enjoying the scenery when TripIt alerted me of a flight cancellation.
Flight delays are normal. I’m used to those alerts popping up on my phone. But a cancellation, and when the weather was nice. Why was this happening to me?
TripIt to the rescue. TripIt immediately alerted me of alternate flights. It helped me book one from a different airport. Within 20 minutes I was off the High Line and on my way to catch the only other flight available that day.
TripIt does a bunch of additional things. It’ll track your seat assignment and get you out of that center seat when something opens up. It monitors your fare and alerts you when you’re entitled to a refund. It tracks your frequent flyer miles and lets you know when they’re in danger of expiration. And, of course, it keeps all your travel itineraries organized and up to date.
Travel is even more of an adventure if you pick a spot in turmoil. I went to Bangkok during the protests and just before the coup, Tunis right after the burning of the American Embassy and Cairo as the revolution concluded. You get the thrill of danger and as well as discounted hotel rooms and flights.
While I was in Kiev last fall, with the war raging a few hours to the east, I discovered the Smart Traveler app from the U.S. State Department. It’s an awesome assemblage of all the pertinent info made available regarding specific local incidents and alerts. It helps you stay on top of the danger so you can tour a different part of town or even arrange emergency evacuation (at your own expense).
You can use the app to monitor the situation or join STEP (the Smart Traveller Enrollment Program) and the government will immediately email you when danger arises. You’ll also find all sorts of other handy information in the app like visa requirements, etc. Don’t take your vacation in harms way until after you’ve downloaded Smart Traveller. You might even want to keep it on your home screen.
Lee Rosen (@LeeRosen) practices family law in North Carolina. His blog, Divorce Discourse, is a three-time ABA Blawg 100 popular vote winner. He is a recipient of the ABA James Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering.
Jim Calloway: Dropbox at the Podium
Dropbox has saved me many times, because I have every file available from my phone or any computer. I routinely store most of my work files in Dropbox. My work files are different from most lawyers’ files, as I don’t represent clients. But I have many dozens of PowerPoints, CLE papers I have written, duplicate copies of travel arrangements and even things like the prescription for my glasses.
I recall once being the opening speaker at a state bar’s first solo and small firm conference. It was a big room but it wasn’t set up correctly — the projector and laptop powering it were in the middle of the room. From the speaker’s podium, the laptop screen looked like a postage stamp. Of course, this would be the time I had failed to print off a copy of my slides. My laptop was up in my hotel room and the program was minutes from starting. I had never opened a PowerPoint on my iPhone with the Dropbox app, but I tried it and it worked very well. I gave the presentation with my iPhone in one hand and my clicker in the other, scrolling to the next slide on the phone every time I clicked the clicker.
As for vacation time, my best suggestion is to set the out-of-office message telling clients you will not be responding to email until a certain date, but I know that is challenging for a lot of lawyers.
Jim Calloway (@JimCalloway) is Director of the Management Assistance Program for the Oklahoma Bar Association and author of several ABA books. He blogs at Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips and co-produces the podcast The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology.
Heidi Alexander: Four for the Road
1. I have to give credit to Jeff Richardson of iPhoneJD for turning me on to this app: Dark Sky. Dark Sky predicts, to the minute, rain or snow in your location. This is a must for travel. Plan your days accordingly and you’ll never get caught without the right gear with this app.
2. Wunderlist is an excellent task management app. I like it so much that I’ve written about it previously, here and here. For purposes of vacation planning, it comes in real handy. I use it to share a packing list with my spouse. We each add items to the list and check them off once they are packed. What’s best is no one is to blame if you forget something!
3. You’re never really on vacation, right? That’s how most attorneys I know operate. Use Instapaper to tackle some of that reading you have piled up. Instapaper allows you to save web pages and emails into the app for reading at a later date. You can also use Instapaper to share and send content to other services.
4. Don’t leave home without your passwords! Inevitably, you’ll need to access work documents remotely, and maybe an online bank account, or some other service on your vacation. Use 1Password to store and manage all your passwords. When you need to access a service, use a master password to open 1Password on your mobile device to find the password you need.
Bonus: All the above now work with the Apple Watch.
Heidi S. Alexander (@HeidiAlexander) is a law practice management advisor at the Massachusetts Law Office Management Assistance Program (MassLOMAP), where she advises lawyers on practice management matters and in implementing new technologies. She frequently makes presentations to the legal community and contributes to publications on law practice management and technology.
Catherine Sanders Reach: Best Travel Advice
I find that at work or play there are some travel apps that make my trips better and also help in a pinch. But first, a cautionary tale. Do not rely on your technology so much that you don’t do a reality check. Before the days of the most wonderful travel app in existence, TripIt, I used to put all travel information into my Outlook calendar. The calendar synced with my BlackBerry (yes, this was a long time ago). My calendar told me where to be and what to do. So, I showed up at the airport one fine morning and tried to check in for my flight. The self-help terminal informed me that I had no reservation. Instead of confirming my travel dates or anything else, I panicked, booked a one-way ticket to my destination and then called my host to let him know I would be there, but a little late. My host (who may read this and laugh) told me that I would be there in plenty of time, since the conference didn’t actually start until the next day. Fortunately, the one-way ticket was fully refundable and I went home to get my act together.
Now, why TripIt is the best travel app ever. In essence, the app lets you forward all confirmation emails (rail, air, hotel, car, etc.) to email@example.com and then creates your itinerary in a timeline format, with confirmation numbers, driving instructions, essential phone numbers, and everything you might need. You can add other information to your itinerary for items without a confirmation, and share the app with your spouse or assistant. TripIt Pro ($49 per year) adds real-time flight alerts, locates alternate flights, tracks reward points and more. These are useful features if you tend to fly on any airline that gets you to your destination at the right time at the right price instead of maintaining loyalty to one airline so you don’t have to download each airline’s app.
Also, keep a weather app on your phone. If you can see a huge storm heading toward you or your final destination, you might be able to get an earlier flight. Or you can see what the weather holds if you are driving so you can route accordingly. I use 1Weather for hourly conditions, plus radar and National Weather Service alerts and analysis, though I also like Accuweather for national forecasts.
Speaking of airline apps — without status on any airline I have found it sufficient to simply sign up for text alerts for departure, arrival, gate change and delay notifications for each airline I travel with. I also have most airlines’ frequent flyer numbers programmed into my phone if I need to rebook or deal with a cancelled flight. The app I use to get information about airport delays, and to learn where my flight is coming from (vital for telling if your flight will really be leaving on time) is Flightstats. It only does a few things, but those things are quite handy if you see that the airport or airline is falling apart because of weather or computer malfunctions.
GateGuru has some redundancy with FlightStats, but it also keeps up with your (possibly ever-changing) boarding gate, gives wait times at TSA, and has a handy terminal map with reviewed restaurant listings.
Once I’m at my destination, two apps are all I need (since I usually do some homework before I go). One is Google Maps, which is the best real-time traffic GPS I can get, with spoken turn-by-turn driving directions, transit maps and walking directions. The other is the Yelp app. The Yelp app is obviously great for finding restaurants, bars, entertainment, etc. and reading reviews, but it also has a super handy feature I’ve used when the restaurant that I chose (you know, the one that doesn’t take reservations) has a two-hour wait. Fire up Yelp and choose “Monocle.” Then turn around slowly as Yelp shows you, based on your GPS coordinates, restaurants right around you in any direction you turn, with distance and star rating.
In addition, forethought and some planning help mitigate travel disasters:
- Carry on your luggage or bring essentials with you if you must make a connection.
- Keep your airline on speed dial as well as all phone numbers of contacts, car rental, etc., handy.
- Carry portable power such as the Halo Pocket Power 5,500 for charging any device.
- Know your travel rights when flying (see flyersrights.com) so you can gently but firmly request that you be treated fairly.
Remember to stay calm, that a gate agent has all the control so be nice, and enjoy yourself!
Catherine Sanders Reach (@CatherineReach) is Director, Law Practice Management and Technology, for the Chicago Bar Association. She was Director of the American Bar Association’s Legal Technology Resource Center for over 10 years. Catherine is one of the inaugural Fastcase 50 and a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management, and she currently serves on the board of ABA TECHSHOW.
Dan Pinnington: Small Mesh Bags Keep Your Stuff Safe and Sorted
When traveling, most of us need to bring our various gadgets and their related hardware. There will be a smartphone and its earplugs, power adapter and cable. Your laptop will have a power brick and cord. Your smartwatch fitness band will need its charging cable. You may want to bring a few thumb drives to back up your data. And it gets even more complicated if you bring your camera or GoPro – they can have dozens of extra lenses, attachments and adapters.
Keeping track of all these gadgets can be a challenge, especially if you just dump them into your suitcase. So here’s a tip: Use small mesh bags to keep track of your stuff when you travel.
Mesh bags come in assorted sizes and colors, and they have a zipper. Get a variety of sizes and colors to make it easy to remember and find what’s in different pouches. Consider whether you want mesh sides (makes it easier to see what’s inside) or solid sides (keeps things private and free of dust or dirt). Multi-pocket pouches are handy when you want to keep some things together, but separated. Some come with small clips, too.
You can pay an arm and a leg for these bags at specialty shops and camera stores, but I have found reasonably priced pouches at one of our national sporting and outdoor co-op store. Expect to pay $5-$20.
Mesh pouches aren’t just for your flight, either. I’ve found them handy for stowing camera gear when I am going on a side-trip or hike and don’t want to take my full camera bag. It’s nice to be able to pop a small pouch with select items into my hiking knapsack.
Dan Pinnington (@DanPinnington) is Vice President, Claims Prevention & Stakeholder Relations at LAWPRO (Lawyers’ Professional Indemnity Company). He is a Fellow in the College of Law Practice Management and co-author of the ABA’s Busy Lawyer’s Guide to Success: Essential Tips to Power Your Practice. Dan blogs at Avoid a Claim and Lawyer Success Tips.
For more tech tips from the pros, click here.