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Susan Kistler on Travel Planning for Evaluation 2010

My name is Susan Kistler, and I am the Executive Director for the American Evaluation Association. I contribute each Saturday’s aea365 alert. Summer is winding down and I know that over 2500 of you are finalizing your plans for attending AEA’s annual conference this November in San Antonio. Even if you won’t be able to join us in Texas, evaluators are a traveling bunch – from visiting clients to conducting site visits to providing capacity building and training, evaluators are out and about. So, this week I’m sharing three resources that I have found to be invaluable in preparing for travel.

Hot Tip – SeatGuru: SeatGuru provides airlines seating charts for almost all flights on major airlines. You enter an airline and a flight and it shows you the type of plane and then a seat map indicating which seats are good, get mixed reviews, or are bad, including providing information about such things as ending up beside lines to the lavatories or non-reclining seats. I never choose seats on a long flight without a quick check on SeatGuru first. A few years ago, thanks to SeatGuru, my husband and I shared the only pair of seats that had extra legroom and were two-across in coach from the United States to South Korea! These seats didn’t even appear on the airline’s own online seat charts.

Hot Tip – CompareAirlineFees: This site does exactly what you would expect. It provides a chart comparing airline fees (baggage fees, change fees, unaccompanied minor fees) for US-based airlines. While many sites have such charts, and none are always accurate given the rapidly changing landscape of fees, I find the ones here to be most regularly updated and formatted for easy reading.

Hot Tip – TripAdvisor: TripAdvisor is a group-sourced travel website with reviews of hotels and destination activities as well as ideas for what to do (check out the traveler lists). The key to TripAdvisor is to be a smart consumer of the reviews – look for recommendations that have been reviewed by multiple travelers and give more weight to reviews from people who have provided lots of reviews across different places (click on a contributor’s name to see all of her or his reviews).

The above opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the American Evaluation Association. See you in San Antonio!

This contribution is from the aea365 Tip-a-Day Alerts, by and for evaluators, from the American Evaluation Association. Please consider contributing – send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org.

3 thoughts on “Susan Kistler on Travel Planning for Evaluation 2010”

  1. Thanks Marcus and Jay,
    I’ve used TripIt and really liked it. I warn people though to be careful about showing one’s trip status. It has its benefits (I got to visit a cousin in San Francisco because she saw my TripIt status on my LinkedIn profile), but I do worry about sharing with the world the dates that my house is unattended. I no longer add full family holidays until after completion as a form form of recordkeeping.

    Jay, to use the SeatGuru seats, we called customer service and asked for those specific seats (in part out of curiosity to see if they existed). Customer service on Korean Air reserved the seats and we were good to go. It took an extra 15 minutes, but meant for 20+ hours of extra space in flight.

    I use kayak to check prices, check Southwest directly, but usually book through expedia because I book over 60 flights a year and expedia has some nice tracking options (except for Southwest which doesn’t book through aggregaters but has many flights out of my nearest airport, Providence, RI).

  2. Susan, Thanks for the tips. Two questions.
    1. How did you use the seats that you found on SeatGuru if they weren’t on the airline’s own seat maps?
    2. Which online booking site do you think is best?
    See you at the conference.

  3. Susan, great tips! I’d also like to add that two of my personal favorites are TripIt and FlightTrack. After booking your flight and receiving your online itinerary, you can forward it directly to TripIt. With TripIt, you could more easily organize your itinerary (including adding non-airline info, such as rental car, hotel, etc.), share it with colleagues, etc. FlightTrack is an iPhone application that integrates seamlessly with TripIt. It will fully monitor all information of your flight and will send you notifications of gate changes, delays, where the flight is en-route, etc.

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