Tools for automating those tiny tasks that are important when traveling

suitcases. photo by Les Haines.
Suitcases at Dereham Station by Les Haines.

Did I remember to switch on the timer for terrace lights before leaving on a trip? How do I take the time to keep my family and friends updated where I am when I’m constantly on the move in Europe? In addition to managing life on the road, a traveler should remember a zillion little things back home and another zillion updates for friends and social media. That’s where an automation tool like IFTTT can help.

What is IFTTT and how does it automate tasks?

If This Then That (IFTTT)  is a name of an online service and mobile application that lets people automate small tasks. The name is derived from the way computer software works: if this condition is true, do that. If it is false, do something else. For instance, if I post a photograph on my Instagram account, send it to my family members via email.

Now, IFTTT can automate routine processes like the photo sending example above. Often, the decision making is a bit smarter than that. For instance, when I post a photo on my Facebook page with a hashtag #travel, only then send it to my Twitter feed. These rules are defined by users once they have created an IFTTT account and connected the services they want to automate to their account.

New electronic devices that control, monitor and automate small tasks at home, can usually communicate with the home owner even remotely. IFTTT can connect to some of these home gadgets as well, allowing clever ways to automate tasks at home and monitor what is going on.

For a traveler, IFTTT can be an invisible (and unpaid) travel assistant

Setting up IFTTT requires some effort because you have to create the rules for the service to make decisions. That’s easy to do because IFTTT has thousands of rule templates that programmers have created. All you have to do is to connect your personal accounts or home gadgets to your IFTTT account, and tell which rules apply to your services.

For many travel-related tasks, the IFTTT application must be downloaded to the phone. The IFTTT web site is easy to use for creating rules that connect internet services.

Huawei P20 Pro phone with 3 camera lenses

Here are a few samples of ready-to-use tasks for travelers (available here):

  • Send a text message from your phone when you check-in at the airport
  • Save new popular Travel articles to Pocket
  • Send someone a text from your Android device when you enter a specific area
  • Use a hashtag to let your friends know where you are with a photo
  • Notify me on new flight deals out of my city from @TheFlightDeal
  • Tag pics with #vacation to automatically add them to your Day One journal
  • Automatically send vacation pics to family via Gmail and save them to Drive
  • Wake me when i reach train station
  • Send photos to your parents using Gmail, so they don’t need Instagram
  • Remember where you parked your car
  • Get Reddit vacation tips emailed to you daily from a specific location’s subreddit
  • Save your trip maps with AutomaticPro to Google Drive

If you have gadgets that control things at home, here are some tasks that may be automated in IFTTT:

  • Turn your lights on at sunset
  • Automatically create a vacation on your ecobee thermostat when you add a vacation to your calendar
  • Have your Hue lights turn off automatically at sunrise
  • Have Genius Hub automatically adjust your heat when Google Calendar shows a scheduled vacation

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