I’m not sure if I’ve just become curmudgeonly (“they don’t make them like they used to”) but despite an explosion of travel websites I haven’t updated my mental model of those that are actually the most useful in several years.
So I thought I’d list the travel sites and tools that I find the most useful, and hopefully you can chime in with the ones you use. I’d love to be educated, shaken out of my complacency and usual routine, and learn about something new.
- Awardwallet. The free version suffices for most anyone’s needs, it’s a great tool for tracking all of your miles and points in one place, and it lets you have one-click login to your accounts as well. They offer some social and trip organizing features as well, though I don’t use those. It’s just my favorite mileage tracking site. The premium version ($5 every 6 months) tracks expiration of your points as well.
- AwardNexus, Expertflyer, and KVS Tool. These are all paid services, the three most useful tools for searching award availability. Expertflyer is indispensable for American Airlines flyers, it has access to confirmed international upgrade inventory which I don’t get anywhere else. (FlightStats is a free site offering airline inventory detail, but it doesn’t list American Airlines at all.) Expertflyer will email you when seats open up, for airlines that it supports. KVS Tool is a simple, clean, downloadable interface which works with various frequent flyer program websites to search for award seats (you could also just sign up for each mileage program directly and search on those sites free, but KVS makes it easier and quicker). AwardNexus also works with individual program websites, but can powerfully search across large swaths of dates in a single search.
- Autoslash. This is a tool for reducing the cost of your rentals. It’s no longer good for making an initial booking, car rental companies have mostly blocked it from performing that service because they don’t like you reducing your rental prices. But book your rental cars elsewhere, then give AutoSlash the confirmation details and they’ll find you better prices. It’s free.
- Great Circle Mapper. I type in the airport codes of my flight routes, and I see the flight paths on a graphical map. But what actually interests me is that it’s a quick way to see how many miles I’m flying, along with the mileage for each segment. That way I can predict my mileage earning, figuring out how many additional miles I’ll need to re-qualify for elite status. (There’s a newer version of the site but I use the old school version.)
- ITA Software. ITA Software was acquired by Google, and they now offer Google Flights. You can’t book at the ITA Software site but it’s the most powerful airfare search tool I know — specify certain airlines, specify connection cities, specify searches that are required to include a particular flight, search several city combinations at once, and also search weekend trips or specific-length trips across a broad period of time to find the best deals. Once you identify the flights you want, then go to another website and use that site’s multi-city search to specify the segments and book. Their route language page is indispensable for taking advantage of all of the site’s powerful tools. Hipmunk now offers similar functionality and even allows you to book the tickets, so that’s a real advance.
- BoardingArea, the home of this blog and other excellent miles, points, and travel blogs. I tend to follow all the blogs most efficiently through BoardingArea’s twitter feed.
- SeatGuru and SeatExpert. These sites allow me to look up the aircraft I’ll be flying and identify the best seats on the aircraft and the ones to avoid. Indispensible for seat selection.
- FlightAware. I use this site to see where the aircraft I’ll be flying is coming from in order to predict flight delays before they happen, and make contingency plans as-needed.
What are your favorite and most useful travel websites? I’d love to find new tools.