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The Trip Planner
Practical travel advice
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Lani Teshima, editor

"I Wanna Hold Your Handheld..."

Vacation-Planning in the Palm of Your Hand

If you're not a high-flying professional with a busy schedule, you might think a Palm or Handspring-type of electronic handheld organizer, or PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) is not really for you.

Whether you call them "PDAs" or "handhelds" they are both affordable (priced as low as $150) and convenient enough to organize your entire vacation planning with them.

Do you have...

  • A calendar or appointment book to keep track of travel itineraries (and everyone's birthdays)?
  • An address book listing hotels, airlines and car rental agencies (and friends and relatives)?
  • A notebook to use as a travel journal (and to keep reminders and notes for yourself)?
  • To juggle lots of paperwork when you travel?

If you said "yes" to any of these, you should consider getting a Palm OS* handheld! Today's column is a beginner's introduction to handhelds. A more comprehensive guide can be found at, my Web site for learning how to use a handheld for travel.

Do you already have a handheld? Don't leave yet! I have a special gift for you at the bottom of my column.

Handspring Visor: My personal favorite. Spend a bit more to get the upgraded Deluxe model (which comes in five colors).

Calling Inspector Gadget!

If you don't have a handheld because you don't want to yet another gadget, think of it this way: Unlike cell phones, pagers or GameBoys that just take up more space in your bag, a handheld actually replaces the organizer or address book (and even that GameBoy) you might already be carrying. And the interface on a Palm organizer is so straightforward, it's easier than programming your VCR!

I already have a Franklin / Day Timer. There's nothing wrong with keeping your paper organizer. I fact, I still keep my Franklin at home (I write down addresses there)... but I also keep my Franklin stashed and never use its schedule portion anymore since I got my Handspring.

One problem I had with my Franklin was that I only carried it at work. I never had it with me when I went out on weekends or at night. I was out of luck if I needed a friend's phone number or I needed to look up my upcoming schedule. Not so with my Handspring. It's small enough to keep in my purse so I have it with me everywhere I go. Don't carry a purse? My husband carries his in his shirt pocket, or front pocket of his pants.

I already have a home computer. Why should I get one? Unlike laptops, the handheld is not meant to replace a PC. Instead, your handheld is an extension of your PC. For this reason, a handheld is priced affordably like other external devices for your PC (such as an inkjet printer or a scanner).

Palm m100
: Palm's entry-level model with changeable face plates. Cute, huh? Huh?

But I already travel with a laptop. Do you really want to lug around your laptop case when you travel, especially for a family vacation? Think about what you use your laptop for when you are traveling on business, then consider how you might replace those tasks with a handheld:

  • Checking email / surfing the Web? With a modem attachment, you can do the same on your handheld. Some models, like the Palm VII, come equipped with a built-in modem.
  • Needing to store / access travel itinerary? The handheld does it just as easily, whether it's tracking flight information, hotel reservations, mileage logs, or appointments.
  • Reading news online? Consider installing AvantGo on your handheld, and get updated news and information from your favorite news sites every time you go online.
  • Playing games? While games such as DOOM and Half-Life aren't available for your handheld, there are plenty of games you can download and play for free on your handheld.

Consider what a trip might be like with a handheld instead:

  • Carry your handheld in your pocket. That's it! No cords! No cables!
  • You don't have to boot up your laptop at the security gate of the airport on those times when security decides to ask you.
  • You have one less carry-on you have to lug around with you. That might mean you can use your carry-on allowance to take all of your stuff! What freedom! [Don't know how to travel with just your carry-on? Check out my Travelite FAQ.]
  • Don't worry about making sure you have enough batteries, or that they're all charged up.

Palm IIIxe: Palm's REAL entry-level model priced to compete with the Visor Deluxe.

How does a handheld help me with my travel plans?

Once you organize your vacation plans with your handheld, you might wonder how you got along without one. For starters:

  • Keep track of your flights on the calendar.
  • Have the calendar beep an alarm to remind you of when you need to perform certain tasks (such as when to pack, when to notify the post office about holding mail).
  • Record contact information for airlines, hotels and restaurants in the Address Book.
  • Include a list of all your friends/family for whom you plan to send postcards there as well.
  • Keep a packing list in your To Do List.
  • Do your research and keep notes to yourself in the Note Pad.
  • Write your travel reports in your Note Pad, or use the Notes feature of your calendar to write an ongoing travel journal everyday.

Best of all, although there are a lot of travel-related applications you can install on your handheld, you can easily manage your travel information on a basic handheld without any special programs.

I'm on a budget. How much does this stuff cost? Although most models run from $250 to $500, some are priced as low as $149. [See side bar for some recommended entry-level models.] The differences in price come in the amount of memory you get, as well as processor speed. Other factors include features such as color displays, and built-in modems.

Already have a Palm OS handheld?

Enjoy the following files, the very first of many goodies to be available to you from MousePlanet. The following are condensed, "mouse-sized" versions you can read using iSilo, a free doc reader:

Macintosh files are self-extracting archives. You do not need any uncompressing software. Windows files should be uncompressed using your favorite compression utility.

Note: You must already have iSilo loaded on your handheld in order to read these files.

Next time I see you in the parks, I expect to show off your handheld! Enjoy!

*I do not discuss Pocket PC handhelds here for a reason. Although touted by Microsoft, it does not have market share (held firmly by Palm OS), and the $400+ price tags of most Pocket PC models puts them well out of the focus of this article, which is entry-level handhelds.

Palm Reading
Web Sites

- Pilotlite Guide: My basic site for introducing you to handhelds for travel.

- Visor Central

- Visor Village

- Palm Station

Entry-Level Models

- Handspring Visor: My personal favorite. Spend a bit more to get the upgraded Deluxe model (which comes in five colors).

- Palm m100: Palm's entry-level model with changeable face plates. Cute, huh? Huh?

- Palm IIIxe: Palm's REAL entry-level model priced to compete with the Visor Deluxe.


- How To Do Everything With Your Palm Handheld, by Dave Johnson, Rick Broida, and Jane Brownlow

- How To Do Everything Your Visor, by Dave Johnson and Rick Broida. Get this book instead of the other one if you got a Visor. Lots of Visor-specific information.

- PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide by David Pogue. Word is a new edition is right down the pipe, hopefully releasing this summer.

Titles recommended by others:

- Handspring Visor for Dummies, by Bill Dyszel and Joe Hutsko

- Palm for Dummies, by Bill Dyszel

- Palm Organizers Visual QuickStart Guide by Jeff Carlson

- PalmPilot and Palm Organizers! I Didn't Know You Could Do That... by Neil J. Salkind.

- Mastering Palm Organizers, by Gayle Ehrenman and Michael Zulich.

- The Little Palm Book, by Corbin Collins.

These links take you to MousePlanet is an associate. All links open in new windows so you won't lose your place here.


Contact Lani Teshima if you have any travel tips or questions about trip planning.

A Hawaii ex-patriate, Lani is a technical writer for a San Francisco Bay Area software company.

When Lani is not managing the copy editing tasks here, you can usually find her at the gym, slogging away those slow miles on the treadmill as she trains for the WDW Marathon (held in January). She also maintains her internationally recognized Travelite FAQ.

In the occasional spare moment, Lani and her husband, Alex—our MousePlanet CEO and MouseAdventure event coordinator—attend baseball games, and drive down to Disneyland in their 2003 Honda Civic Hybrid (which gets 50mpg).


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