These tools are what the pros use to stretch their miles, find flight deals, and have the best air travel experiences possible.
For many travelers, planning a journey is a simple matter of point and click—but there are some amazing booking sites and online tools you may not know about that belong in your travel arsenal. These eight websites can change the way you find price drops, reserve hotel rooms, and book flights at the lowest fares.
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, which is why the comprehensive ITA Matrix airfare search comes in handy. The software pairs a wide variety of airlines, classes of service, and even neighboring airports together to show you the lowest fares within the date ranges you’ve entered. Similar to a Kayak.com search, you cannot book travel directly from the site. But ITA Matrix 3.0 is now powered entirely by Google technology, so once you’ve determined the best flight deal, the website directs you to Google Flights when it’s time to book.
2. Lounge Buddy
Lounge Buddy and its corresponding mobile app helps travelers find lounges in airports around the world. The app has a full selection of more than 420 airport clubs and lounges. Each listing includes information about the lounge’s amenities, operating hours, and location, plus user photos and reviews. If you don’t have elite status or lounge membership, don’t fret: The app lets you purchase access to select lounges directly through its network on the day of travel or up to two months in advance. 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.
3. Where to Credit
Many domestic airlines have altered frequent flier programs to award miles based on ticket cost rather than distance flown. If you are not interested in elite status (plus the free upgrades and fee waivers that come with it), Where to Credit allows you to maximize your miles through an airline partner’s rewards program rather than with the airline you’re flying. It does this by comparing how many award miles you’ll get with each airline rewards program in an alliance and directing you toward the airline partner with which you’ll maximize the most miles. It’s important to review other airlines’ redemption charts to make sure they don’t 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 it 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 $5 monthly subscription fee to access most of its basic capabilities, 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 also 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 provides names of all the airline, hotel, credit card, and cash back portals that participate in perks and rewards programs—plus how much they will award you when you shop. This website will help beef up your mileage balances so that when it comes time to book your next award flight, you will have more than enough miles to do so.
6. Award Maximizer
With a simple interface, this Travel Codex search engine essentially allows you to search multiple airline award offerings at once. First, you enter the airport codes for the origin and destination of your upcoming journey. The website then pulls up award prices from 14 different airlines to match your trip and shares any booking or fuel surcharges so that you can choose the cheapest flight option. The results page also displays icons next to loyalty programs that represent transfer partners—such as Starwood Preferred Guest, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Amex Membership Rewards—and provides links that help you book a ticket.
7. Flight Aware
Among the many airline websites out there, Flight Aware does a great job of allowing you to track flights around the world in real time by simply inputting information about an operator, airport, or even specific aircraft type. This website, which can also be used via a mobile tracker app, 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 all of the other travelers planning upcoming adventures? Try The Flight Deal, which posts multiple travel deals daily, including details on how to book the cheapest flights within the United States. The site tells you how many miles you would earn in a given airline’s mileage program and includes sample dates of travel, plus any restrictions that come with the fare deal. It also outlines hotel rooms and car rental services and allows you to compare prices so you can save money.
This article originally appeared online in August 2016; it was updated in October 2018 to include current information.