Whether you’ve used up your vacation days or not, surely you’ve got holiday adventures on the brain. After all, fares to Europe are some of the cheapest we’ve seen. If that isn’t enough incentive to get you packing, consider the websites gathered here, with help from Matthew Ma, co-founder of The Flight Deal, a travel deals site. Some will help you plan smarter while others turn up cheap flights; all are guaranteed to make your trip smoother.
On Google Flights “you can search quicker than Kayak,” Ma said, and the platform’s ideal “for most general users.” Just enter destinations, fare type and dates, and a number of options will pop up. You can also explore nearby destinations and sign up for fare alerts.
ITA Software’s Matrix
For the true travel hacker, ITA Software’s Matrix, which powers Google Flights, is quite useful, Ma said. The search engine is great for turning up rare K-Up or Y-Up fares, which let fliers upgrade to business class from coach, and it can calculate the price per mile of each fare, useful for those counting their miles. You can also input airport codes to dig up dream fares. One downside: You can’t book fares on the site, so keep a pen and paper handy.
“Most people want to check how much it costs [to stay] in their destination,” Ma said, and Hotels Combined does just that. This meta search engine is “fast and has hundreds of thousands of listings, so you can quickly see what the prices look like.”
Flight Deal’s search team constantly uses this site, which Ma said offers “user-submitted tips for every city in the world.” With the click of a mouse, you can get a “rundown of public transportation, neighborhoods, whether it’s safe, not safe, all those things,” he said. “It gives you a very quick idea of whether it makes sense to visit. It’s basically like Cliff’s Notes for any destination.”
For all things visa- and vaccine-related, this site is a wonderful resource, Ma said. Renew your passport, get safety updates and bone up on whatever else you need as an American traveling abroad.
More Tips for Smart Travel
To save on your next trip, consider using a travel rewards credit card, which entitles you to free baggage checks, seat upgrades and more. And, if you don’t have one yet, it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is solid before you apply — lenders are often wary of applicants who can’t manage their payments or debt responsibly. You can view a free snapshot of your credit report by signing up for an account on Credit.com.