To someone who travels a lot or books a lot of travel, there are certain aspects of the experience that just become second nature. I help people find travel deals all the time and see the look of amazement on their faces as I explain what I did to find their deal or things they can do to find a deal on their own. So, I will try to back up and explain a little bit more about what I did to arrive at their final travel itinerary. I will try to give you a few of those things today.
1) I always tell people that the primary key to finding great ticket deals is flexibility. For example, if you are looking for a ticket to go to Boston for the Boston Marathon, unless you are booking a long way out, it can be difficult to find tickets at a low award rate or a cheap price that arrive in Boston on Saturday before the race. Many of the runners would probably be flying into Boston that day and that will certainly reduce your availability. So, if you can arrange to arrive on Friday instead, or fly into a nearby airport, your chances of securing a better flight option may increase. I can’t tell you how many times people tell me they can’t find anything, but when I ask them if they can leave or arrive a day earlier/later, it brings up some great options. So, go into your trip search with some flexibility. Kayak gives the ability to search all airlines (except American Airlines and Southwest) and you can search +/- 3 days of your departure and arrival. That should give you a good idea of the money that can be saved. If you are looking for award tickets, you can also use their calendar to search for flexible dates. Be aware – not all award calendars are created equal. I personally like Continental’s award booking process and their calendar. They give you a lot of partner availability and generally have an easy booking process. Delta, on the other hand, has many documented problems when it comes to their award calendar. Literally, I have had availability change by changing the month and then going back to the month that was displayed before. It has terrible partner availability through their calendar as well.
2) Another resource to use is a fantastic app called TripIt. I used to use a different app to keep track of my trip plans but when I heard about TripIt, I had to give it a try. It is fantastic! It runs on iOS, Android, Windows 7 phone OS, and Blackberry. After setting up your account, everytime you get a travel confirmation of any kind, TripIt (if so enabled) will pull it right into your account and send you a confirmation e-mail. You do not have to do anything! It organizes all your trips for you automatically while still allowing you to edit the titles and other aspects of the trip. It is free to use as a travel organizer. However, the real beauty of it kicks in when you upgrade to Pro for $49 a year. You can see what they offer with their Pro subscription here. I have been saved many times from notifications I received from TripIt – before the airline itself knew of the changes! If you travel 2 or 3 times a year, the $49 can be worth it. Especially if you are in a position to take advantage of the Regus Gold membership (see the benefits here).
3) ExpertFlyer – this is yet another resource that I have found to be invaluable. It is basically a service that pulls airline seat and fare data in and makes some sense of it for the rest of us. It shows you actual availability of seats on flights and can be very useful when searching for award reservations on airlines that do not show the best availability on their own websites. They have 3 membership options available. There is a free option that lets you set up a seat alert (which can be useful on a sold-out flight, or a flight that you are already on but with a less than perfect seat). Then there are two paid options $4.99 a month and $9.99 a month. Both of those options can be used for one month and cancelled (which is helpful if you just want to use it to plan a single trip). The paid memberships are the ones that will give you access to search for award ticket availability. You can find out more and sign-up here (please note, if you use my link or any ad on this blog for Expertflyer to signup for their paid services, I get a commission from that).
4) AwardWallet – If you are looking for a one-stop experience for keeping track of all of your loyalty programs, then Award Wallet is it. It is a free service that will track all of your loyalty programs and give you updates as point/mile totals go up or down. They have apps for iOS and Android also. It gives you your membership numbers and ids all in one place. This is perfect for tracking, but it is also good to make sure you never have forgotten accounts again. After I signed-up for it, I found out about a couple of my programs that had miles in them that I had totally forgotten about. Great resource!
I will have another post soon with some more resources. If you have any of your own, feel free to leave below in the comments!