Each one of us has our ways. Travel tools come very handy not only in decision making but also help us navigate the finer details of all things loyalty. I am forever grateful that smarter folks than I have invested their time, money and career building tools that help us make sound travel decisions. Here are my favorites;

Finding cheap flights:

  • ITA Matrix and Google Flights

Totally my first go-to sites. If you haven’t heard about ITA Matrix yet, you have got to check it out. This ultra-powerful tool, developed by MIT geeks, is the brains behind Kayak and Google flight searches. Google Flights uses ITA Matrix software but is a more refined version, visually appealing, easier to use and allows you to book the tickets. I search both, and often find some price variations. Note that ITA Matrix itself does not allow you to book flights, it simply searches the best price/routing and allows you to email the results. HOWEVER, ITA-Matrix-PowerTools (google this and read all about it before trying it) is a plugin that can be installed and allows you to book via ITA Matrix. If you are looking to learn the system inside out, there are several “how to” guides out there, simply google “How to use ITA Matrix” and wow yourself.

  • SkyScanner

SkyScanner is a better tool if you were looking for super-low discount airline fares within South East Asia, intra-europe, or domestic flights in specific countries. If you don’t have a specific itinerary or want to search flexible options, you can select a country for origin and “everywhere” for destination and have fun dreaming the possibilities 🙂
skyscanner             skyscanner-2

  • Momondo and Kayak
    These are my secondary sources for searching and buying cash tickets. Momondo again does a good job searching low budget regional carriers that other search tools often overlook. Kayak is another big player in this realm and I often use them to compare prices (powered by ITA Matrix). Definitely worth your time.

These folks are the superstars of finding cheap flight deals and error fares. While Next Departure is Canadian deals specific, Secret Flying does a great job of segmenting the world deals based on regions. I have sourced many of my travel deals from these guys. If you do not follow them (and me 😉 @blingSINGH) on twitter or other social media platforms, you are seriously missing out!

Which airline program would give me the most miles for this cash ticket:

  • Where to Credit

I LOVE this tool. Depending on the booking class, airline issuing the tkt and loyalty program, miles earned can differ significantly. Example: Air Canada business tkt, booking class P, should earn the most miles with Aeroplan right? Wrong.

wheretocredit


If you are looking to maximize the miles you earn for cash tkts, be sure to use this tool.

Time to redeem those miles. Which program offers the best redemption value?:

The Key to using tools in this segment is that you have miles and points that are transferable to multiple programs (like Amex MR or SPG) . If all your points are banked in Aeroplan , then you are restricted to Aeroplan redemption only.

  • Milez Biz
    Developed in Toronto, this web tool compares award charts of ~79 programs and spits out a grid of options with the cheapest on top. Make sure you scroll past the cheapest option to compare other key parameters like fuel surcharges, routing restrictions etc. Example: Cheapest award tkt from Canada to Hawaii is on…..drum roll please….Korean Skypass!!

milesbiz

 

  • FlyerMiler
    Another very strong tool for searching award tkts and routes. This one in particular gives a lot more award detail (routing restrictions, fuel surcharges, seasonal discounts and transfer partners for the program)
    flyermiler-1
              flyermiler-2

Redeeming hotel points:

  • Hotel Hustle
    My absolute favorite tool by ‘Wandering Aramean‘. It not only searches for award hotel availability across various programs, but provides really cool information like redemption value, hot award/cash rates in the region. You can also create an alert for your specific hotel searches and the tool emails you the results once an award space becomes available. Very nifty! There are a few other tools in this spectrum but none come close to proving the handy details and follow up as Hotel Hustle. A must in your travel tool catalog. 
    hotel hustle

Other travel management tools:

  • Tripit
    This is my go-to travel organizer app. Simply add (or email booking confirmations) your flights, hotels, meetings, activities and keep it handy even when you don’t have wifi! Pro version allows many more tracking and notifying features. I intend to cover this app in greater detail in the coming weeks.
  • Lounge Buddy
    Does exactly what it says , app-buddy that tells you all about airport lounges and criteria to access them. Very handy in locating pay lounges in case you are on a long layover and light on airline status.
  • Award Wallet
    The more loyalty programs you sign into, harder it gets to keep track of all the points and miles in one location. Award Wallet is the answer to manage it all in one simple place.
  • Seat Guru
    Hate being assigned the middle seat at check-in? An aisle seat right in front of the lavatory door? Or when you get auto-assigned a seat and don’t know how good or bad it is? Seat Guru helps you look at the layout of the flight and details the pros and cons of each seat. Hint: Middle seats have no pros.

Travel tool market is flush with options. My obvious omissions were the airline travel booking tools – some good, some yuck! If you don’t already use these tools, look’em up and bookmark them all. Remember, its 99% planning and 1% execution! What are your favorite travel tools?