For many travelers, planning a journey is a simple matter of point and click—but there are some amazing tools you may not know about that belong in your travel arsenal. These eight websites can change the way you find, book, and experience travel.
1. ITA Matrix
When booking air travel, there are lots of websites that scour the interwebs to find the lowest fares. Many, however, have extremely limited search results. Some sites do not have the capability to ticket complex multi-airline reservations, which is why the comprehensive ITA Matrix airfare search comes in handy. It pairs a wide variety of airlines, classes of service, and even neighboring airports together to produce the lowest fares. Similar to a Kayak.com search, you cannot book travel directly from the site. Now, through a new add-on website called Book with Matrix, you can cut and paste the itinerary to recreate it on another booking site.
There is also a mobile phone app that comes in handy when checking airfare on the spot when a flight is delayed or canceled. It lists more flight options than Google Flights (funnily enough, Google now owns ITA Matrix) and is as comprehensive (if not more so) as Kayak.
2. Lounge Buddy
Lounge Buddy and its corresponding mobile app help find lounges that are available in an airport. When first logging in, it allows you to adjust the settings to remember your specific airline elite status and lounge memberships. The site has a full listing of lounges, how to access them, where they are located, and their operating hours. You can even see photos of some lounges. The best part of the app is that it is fully functional even when your phone is in airplane mode, giving you lounge options to choose from before you land. If you don’t have any status or lounge membership, don’t fret: The app lets you purchase access to select lounges directly or lets you know which of them sell day passes.
3. Where to Credit
Many domestic airlines have altered frequent flier programs to award miles based upon ticket cost rather than distance flown. If you are not interested in elite status and the free upgrades and fee waivers that come with it, consider crediting your miles to another airline’s program (especially overseas alliance partners). Where to Credit allows you to maximize your miles by crediting a partner rewards program rather than the airline that you’re flying. It does this by comparing how many award miles you’ll get with each airline rewards program in the alliance. For example, if you fly United, consider crediting flights to Singapore Airlines’ program to earn the most miles, since Singapore still awards miles based upon distance flown. When flying American, credit your flights to Etihad or Finnair programs. It’s important to review the other airline’s redemption chart to make sure it does not impose too many surcharges when making a reservation, but crediting to a foreign program could be the ticket to faster free flights in a world of less-generous North American programs.
4. Expert Flyer
A treasure trove of information, Expert Flyer is a huge resource for frequent fliers, but is not for novice users. For those schooled in fare codes, this is a great way to see which flights have award availability for free flights or upgrades. Fancy that exit row window? The site, which charges a fee but offers a free trial, shows full seat map availability and allows you to set alerts for specific seats or even award space so that you’re the first to know when it becomes available. Not all airlines are included, but this one site can take the sting out of booking award tickets.
If you’re a smart online shopper who likes to earn miles and points, Evreward is your new best friend. Buyers type in the name of the online store they are interested in, and the site shows you all of the airline, hotel, credit card, and cash back portals that participate and how much they will award you when you shop. This will help beef up your mileage balances so that when it comes time to book your next award flight, you will have enough miles to do so.
6. Award Maximizer from Travel Codex
With a simple interface, this search engine pulls up award prices from 14 different airlines for any city pair you choose. It also tells you if there are any booking or fuel surcharges so that you can choose the cheapest option that works best for you. Essentially, you are searching multiple award charts at once.
7. Flight Aware
Among the many flight tracking websites out there, Flight Aware does a great job of allowing you to search city pairs, airports, or even specific aircraft registrations. This is particularly valuable if you want to see where your aircraft is coming from or learn about an anticipated delay.
8. The Flight Deal
Want to find the greatest airfare deals, and sometimes even mistake fares, before everyone else? Try The Flight Deal, which posts multiple deals daily and details on how to book them. The site will also tell you how many miles you would earn in the airline’s mileage program, sample dates of travel, and any restrictions that come with the fare deal.
© 2016 AFAR Media