I am the travel planner in my family, so I get to do a lot of planning. I’ll share a great free tool that I don’t do without when booking a flight.
Obviously, one of the first things I consider before booking a flight is whether I could make use of frequent flier miles. After all, that’s what they are for, though I try to maximize value and use them for long-haul flights. In some cases — and especially when there is a fare sale — it simply makes more sense to pay for the tickets outright.
There are plenty of tools out there, from booking engines such as expedia or kayak. I might just be a bit of an IT geek, but my go-to tool?
Google’s ITA Matrix
Google’s ITA Matrix tool is not a booking engine, but it gets you results. It’s not as visually colorful as other booking sites or the new Google Flights, but I love its simplicity. One of the features I like most is the ability to “See calendar of lowest fares”
In this case, let’s say I want to look for the lowest round-trip fares from JFK to Amsterdam for the month of May 2018:
I get my results in a calendar view, and the tool even highlights the cheapest fare for you. It looks like the cheapest round-trip fare is $486 USD from JFK to AMS towards the end of May.
Clicking into one of the dates takes you into the detailed view, where I can now see the carrier offering the cheapest fare: Icelandair (one stopover required). If I want to take a non-stop flight, I can easily see Delta or KLM are my options. Albeit at a higher fare, of course.
You can then go to the respective airline sites to buy the tickets, or you can visit a booking engine to see if there are any bundled deals (airfare + hotel).
There we have it. If you didn’t know about this tool, definitely check it out. It’s a simple yet incredibly powerful tool to get a baseline of the airfare for your destination, so you can can more realistically plan against your budget or make changes to your travel plans.
Best of all, the tool is available free for use. It doesn’t get any better than that.
What is your go-to tool for booking flights? Sound off in the comments below!