Travel Planning Part 3: Where to?

I’m starting a little series documenting my travel to Osaka this May, sharing about how my Windows Phone has helped in the planning.

A little about myself, I’m budget-conscious (but not a serious backpacker) and prefer having at least a unique twist in my travel experience, so it’s quite important that I plan out at least some part of the trip in advance. The first question I ask is “where to”, or which country / city am I headed to?

For this particular trip, as a group we already had a few candidate countries/cities in mind: Japan (not Tokyo), Africa, New Zealand and Cambodia. In choosing between them, there were two main criteria: flight cost and weather.

Some American airlines have their own apps, but here in Asia the major airlines seem to prefer mobile websites, and letting meta-search players do the work for them. One of my favourites (even on other platforms) is Skyscanner – which coincidentally has a Singapore office, and a really great Windows Phone app. They also have a slick Windows 8 app.

Like most meta-search services, Skyscanner skims a host of airlines for their pricing information…

Where ye be heading to, cap’n?

Flight prices displayed with a variety of filters and sorting options

… But there are two rather standout features about Skyscanner on Windows Phone that I really like. One is the requisite Live Tile – the regular app displays (in the latest update) available low-priced tickets, but you can also pin particular searches (e.g. Singapore – Osaka, 24 May – 2 June, 4 people) to the start screen. The tile updates with the lowest-priced flight, which could help you save some cash. Monitor your battery though, the last I tried pinning all three countries, the impact on battery life was noticeable, though this may have been resolved in the latest update.

Lovely Live Tiles with updates on the lowest prices

The other is pretty unique to Skyscanner (I haven’t seen it on other meta-searches) – a chart view, where travellers with a bit of flexibility can save money by choosing a cheaper flight on a different date:

Charts – A standout feature allowing travellers to save more money

Once you select the flight, it’s easy to view the details, as well as share the information via email. You can make a booking through the mobile web too:

Booking is done through mobile web, in-app

Email the information

You can do other stuff like voice search on the app, but I find this has limited usefulness. If you check out their website, Skyscanner can also send email alerts on price changes for specific flights – rather useful as well.

Weather is less easy to obtain on mobile – apps I had (Weather Channel and Weather Flow) seem to go only up to 5 – 10 days in the future, so I searched on the web for that information. Once I had obtained all the flight information, next up was creating a shared Excel-document in my Skydrive for comparing the details of different countries (later we would use the same file for planning as well).

Comparing all the different countries

Turned out Cambodia had a high probability for thunderstorms, while Johannesburg and Cape Town had rather restrictive flight timings (reminded me of District 9). For the price of New Zealand we’d rather head to Africa – so we settled on Osaka.

More exciting times ahead! Leave a comment if you’d like to ask more about my trip planning process, or if you have an app or service to share!

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: Overview

Part 2: Start Screen Conveniences

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