If you want to become a better traveller, you can skip some of those how-to books penned by armchair road warriors.
Instead, fire up your laptop computer and open Microsoft Outlook. Yes, I’m talking about that ever-present application that handles e-mail, scheduling and some word processing tasks.
Make the Most of Your Laptop
Odds are pretty good that you’ve got a copy of it installed on your laptop, and that you take your portable with you when you travel. (Regarding the latter point, a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that more than one in four laptop PC owners say their machine is one of their “most prized possessions,” and nearly a third said they’ve regretted leaving it at home on trips and have turned around to retrieve it on at least one occasion.)
Outlook is to travellers what a paper clip is to MacGyver. It does a lot more than you think. (My apologies to those who aren’t familiar with television show which had its heyday in the 1980s and ’90s.)
Using Scheduling Features for a Trip
Marielle Barnes, a consultant in Bangalore, India, counts on Outlook’s scheduling features to make her trip fall into place. “I use the task manager to keep my ‘to-do’ list in order,” she says. “I organise the tasks by city, and type of function, so that items get grouped and can be easily completed in a stretch.” An alternative is keeping her itinerary on a calendar or a personal digital assistant. But if the laptop is coming along for the trip anyway, why not use what you’ve got (especially when it has a bigger screen than a PDA)?
Robert Hanson relies on Outlook and a third-party application called Xpressions to access his e-mails from a phone – a nifty feature if you happen to leave your laptop at the hotel. “Outlook saved me from wasting money on a plane ticket by finding out the same day that I booked a non-refundable ticket that the meeting was supposed to attend was cancelled,” says Hanson, from Wilmington, Del. “So I was able to cancel the flight without penalty.”
Outlook has bailed me out a few times, too.
My favourite feature is the contacts manager, which has rescued me more often than I’d care to admit. How’s that? I usually print a full itinerary with phone numbers before I leave on a trip. (Call me old-fashioned, but with a piece of paper you never have to worry about a low battery.) Being hopelessly absent-minded, that schedule has gone missing numerous times. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve the key addresses and phone numbers from Outlook rather than completely unpack my luggage in the middle of the terminal.
A Traveler-Friendly Upgrade
To say that Outlook has been underappreciated by the jet set in the past might be an understatement. But that is changing. Microsoft Outlook 2003 is designed even more with travellers in mind.
Here are a few of its handy features:
Find it faster. Outlook helps you make sense of all the e-mail you receive on the road. Its new Search Folders