The Most Useful Travel Websites

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.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I like the list. I also recommend noting which ones of these have apps (and maybe even own opinion on their usability). I find that for travel stuff, especially something like SeatGuru or FlightAware, I use my phone 90% of the time.

  2. Kayak (both web and app) has been helpful for me, even if I don’t usually book through them. On top of the airfare and hotel searches, they also have some reservation/itinerary management features.

  3. Shameless plug but I am building a web app that lets you save flight and award options from Kayak, United, Expedia, etc and instantly share them with anyone else going on your upcoming trip. No more using email or Google Docs to plan a trip.

    Our app is specifically built for frequent flyers and we were one of the FTU SEA LaunchPoint winners.

    For more info, please click on my name above to check us out!

  4. While far from the most useful, I’ve launched a new website recently that I hope will add some value to the mix. It has resources and reviews of services in the sharing economy that help travelers see the world cheaply, from house swapping to ride sharing to global wifi access. http://www.sharetraveler.com

  5. Your list covers most of my favorites. Another site I rely upon frequently would be a metasearch site like hotelscombined which makes the identification process easier for BRG claims.

  6. Does Flight Aware still provide that info? On my way to EWR and am not getting the screen from the linked post. Thanks.

  7. If I may also add my blog, focusing on hotel deals for the not so frequent traveller (for those for which status and points are not so important)

  8. Awardmapper has become my go to tool when looking for a hotel in a specific area. I can set it up to show what properties are there across a broad number of chains. It quickly shows me each location and the points required for it. I can then can research those of interest to me. I would mourn if I lost this tool.

  9. Another site I use faithfully is tripit. I forward all my booking info and it combines it into a trip document. I can then review that document and be sure I’ve booked hotels for the correct dates and for each name; same with cars. I often start putting together a trip a year out. I can look at the summary of all my trips and make sure I haven’t booked overlapping dates. It’s easy to lose track of what hotels I’ve booked. But with tripit, all the information is saved. I can be on one trip and easily remind myself what I’ve booked for a different trip with no need to have a paper file along.

  10. These are all great and pretty much capture what I regularly use. But what you’re missing is some tools for tracking your flights after you’ve taken them. Sites like flightmemory.com or openflights.org are great for doing that. Lately I’ve been also using Jetlovers.com which integrates with foursquare to track your flights automatically whenever you check in at an airport.

  11. Ha! You made me feel better because I still use gc.kls2.com rather than gcmap.com too!

  12. I’ve been using tripit recently as well – Though one thing that I find annoying is that it only tracks award miles, not qualifying miles (or segments or dollars for that matter).

  13. Just to add to the AUTOSLASH recommendation. Yes, since at least a year now they don’t link up directly to make initial reservations, but they DO do a very nice job at taking an existing reservation made anywhere (although, I try not to start with Travelocity – see below) and making it better. Cheaper almost always, and often a higher model or with a better provider.

    What I do use to get to the best options available for my INITIAL booking is to use a site call zalyn.com. they will take any info you give them about accounts, affiliations, etc., and then show you the best rates, and even rates that may not apply based on what you told them, but still could apply. Like another FF account type, or possible affiliation you didn’t list like COSTCO.

    I get great rates there. THEN, I take that booking and plug it in over at Autoslash, and 97/100 times they make it CHEAPER..

    It’s a two step process, but it works well and I have gotten consistently GREAT rates.. Note, the reason I don’t start with a reservation at Travelocity is because TC is the booking agent that Autoslash uses. Their codes push through there, so I just think they MAY not be as incented to CHANGE a reservation already made with their primary booking agent. Just a paranoid thought.

  14. I always download the Ulmon Pro CityMaps2Go for the cities/countries I am visiting for my iPod Touch. They work offline (no data on your iPhone, etc.) and are searchable. Search for a street name / landmark, etc. if you are uncertain where you are. As well, you can have all the associated Wikipedia articles offline as well. Great for when you stumble upon something and want to know more about it! Worked great in the Middle East and the Baltic Countries for me this year – I used it way more than any other app and more than the ePub guidebooks I had stored on the same device.

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