Travel, Calendars and Time Zones - 6 Tips

Time zones really are the bane of travellers… and if you don’t get it right, you might not wake up or reach an appointment in time and so on. Modern technology and gadgets help – so, this is one place where I use a mix of tools to help stay on top of things. The list below is a compilation of things that work for me.

Google Search

Let’s start with the most obvious one – Google Search. Google handles a lot of questions very well and time zone queries are handled surprisingly well. Just head on over to Google and enter a query like this "time in berlin now" and it will immediately help you with that. Google also handles queries like "time difference singapore berlin" – and it will promptly tell you that Singapore is six hours ahead.

So, this gives us the basic information we need. Our basic time difference is 6 hours.

Planning your calendar

I like to plan my claendar in advance. My advice here is to always set your appointments in the destination time zone and be explicit. If you’re using Google Calendar (or their business offerings), the calendar has fantastic time zone support. You can create an event in any time zone. Just click on the Time Zone link on the page.

What I really like about Google Calendar is that you can have start and end times in different time zones. So, when you get your flight details with all times local – just enter it as you have it and Google will correctly set the duration and also fix it correctly in your calendar.

Using this, you can transform the flight details into the calendar entries as below.

Once this is done, this is how it will show you up in your calendar (assuming that the calendar is set in the Singapore time zone, as mine is).

So, this works well in Google Calendar. Unfortunately, Office 365 Online Calendar doesn’t handle time zones (yet). So, you’ll have to do the math yourself when planning the appointments in the destination time zone. But if you are using Outlook with your Office 365 subscription, then just use the Time Zone feature there to get the same ability as Google Calendar.

The effort is well worth it – when you get to the destination, the smoothness with which everything comes together on your mobile phone is really helpful as your jet lag starts to kick in.

Being explicit

The other thing that I like to do when arranging things in my calendar is to also add the local time for the appointment just to be sure. I know that my phone will be set to the correct time zone when I reach the destination. Adding the local time for an appointment into the description just provides an extra confirmation in case I messed up the entry of the time zone. For example, in the case of the second flight, I add the local time for the flight in the description so that I make sure I get it right.

Mobile – auto update time zones

While I set my wristwatch to the destination time zone on the flight, phones do this automatically when you roam. Just make sure that the phone is set to do this automatically. There are guides online for updating time zones automatically on your iPhone (see Apple’s Guide for details) or your Android phone, as below.

For Android phones, just go to settings, then down to System and select Time & Date – finally, ensure that the settings for automatically updating the time and the time zone are enabled.

I like to make sure that this is always set to automatically update as soon as it connects to a network in a foreign land.

Mobile – Home Time Zone

On Android, it’s common to have a widget showing the time on your home screen. I’m not sure if this is available on every Android device (since the software is different on different phones), but using Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) on my Blackberry Priv, there are a few things that can help your travel.

When you travel, the clock will automatically set to show the correct time in your destination time zone when you get there. In addition, the clock application has settings for the widget that allow you to automatically add a clock for your home time zone when you’re travelling – enable the setting and make sure that your home time zone is correctly set.

Now, when you’re overseas, the clock widget on the home screen will also show you the time at home. It’s handy to know what time it is so that you don’t call people at midnight!

One Last Thing

In the days leading up to the trip, I often refer to my calendar to see what has been planned. One additional thing I do is enter a small 15 minute event at 7:00am in the destination time zone each day (that I’m there) with the title “7am – Local”. This helps me get a feeling of the start of the day while I’m planning in advance.

All in all, this keeps me organized and productive while travelling. Hope that some of this helps you. Leave a comment below if you have other things that work for you.

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