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There’s a fun little email trick I use all the time, especially when it comes to signing up for new loyalty accounts, making reservations and other travel-related tasks. Essentially, I use a long-standing Gmail feature to create an instant alias — a vanity email address that funnels messages into one main account.

But as essential as it’s become in my own life, I constantly encounter friends, family members and colleagues who seem flabbergasted when I explain it, as someone once did for me nearly a decade ago.

Now that I’ve sufficiently built this up, it’s dead-simple to put into practice — simply add a “+” followed by whatever you like, between your Gmail username and @gmail.com. So zach+textgoeshere@gmail.com directs emails to the exact same box as zach@gmail.com. On any site you’re registering for an account, though, zach+textgoeshere@gmail.com registers as an entirely different address — you aren’t flagged as a duplicate and don’t have to manage multiple totally separate email accounts.

There are countless occasions that travelers may benefit from an alternate email address, but I’ll name a few:

  • Registering children for loyalty programs, Global Entry and TSA PreCheck (zach+john@gmail.com)
  • Booking tours for a certain trip (zach+italy@gmail.com)
  • Signing into Wi-Fi (or use a fake address, like abc@123.com)
(Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography)
Register your little ones without having to create a new email account. Photo by Andrea Bacle Photography.

I’ve also used this trick to create loyalty program accounts for reluctant family members, if I can tell they won’t do it on their own. A frequent United flyer taking a rare American flight, for example — zach+dad@gmail.com, and voila, dad has his own account, and I’m getting his program-related emails.

But wait — there’s more! You can easily create filters based on these addresses. zach+john goes into a folder for little John’s emails, while emails sent to zach+italy get a special flag during the weeks leading up to my trip. Then, when I get back, I can change the settings to immediately mark those emails as read, or to keep them out of my main feed, so any post-trip promos and follow-ups don’t clog up my inbox.

You can also “create” different addresses by adding and removing dots. zach@gmail.com, za.ch@gmail.com and z.a.c.h@gmail.com may appear unique when you’re required to register with an email address, but messages to any of the above all go to the same place — while Gmail essentially ignores the “+” and anything that comes after it, you’ll get similar treatment when you add or remove a dot.

Featured image of TPG Family’s Summer Hull by Andrea Bacle Photography.

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