With the holidays rapidly approaching, it’s hard to suppress those daydreams about booking a one-way trip out of dodge.
But if the thought of braving long lines and cramped cabins makes your stomach turn, we’ve found plenty of sites that do the hard work for you. Here are nine travel sites to bookmark this weekend:
1. ITA’s Software Matrix As we’ve written before, there’s plenty to love about Matrix. While the interface takes some getting used to, it is incredibly helpful for pinning down elusive K-UP business fares and customizing all legs of your trip, from departure to layover to return.
Memorize some of its routing codes and you’ll have a field day finding fares that fall within your criteria for layover stops, airports and seats. For example, specifying which airport you’d been keen to fly out of is as easy as typing in LGA, EWK, JFK. Then, if you’re looking to fly United Airlines and American Airlines, you can type in LGA, EWK, JFK :: UA, AA.
The only downside to using ITA is that you can’t book fares through its system. For that, you’ll just have to go the old-fashioned route: picking up a phone to call an agent.
2. Vayama International fliers will love this site, which excels at finding two one-way fares that beat the price of a roundtrip fare. It’s also great for flights to South America — a friend who flies there often swears by its deals. The best time to search is six weeks out when fares tend to be at their lowest.
3. TripTuner For the indecisive traveler, TripTuner works like an all-knowing guide, using a panel of six sliders to “tune” your trip. We had fun testing out the cool interface, which looks like a recording engineer’s soundboard, and the spots it suggested weren’t shabby either. Maxing out the sliders on Relaxing, Adults Only, Parka, and Thrifty delivered some eclectic results, ranging from Puerto Plata to cultural hotspot Ubud, Bali.
4. Tingo This relatively new site automatically refunds travelers when their hotel drops its price after they’ve booked your reservation. There isn’t a cap on how much you can be refunded and it’s fairly straightforward to use. The average refund’s hovered around $36, but BI reporter Mandi Woodruff heard the site refunded one customer $519 after she’d paid $1,234 for a room in Las Vegas.
5. Hipmunk The darling of the startup world offers more than a colorful interface and cool cache (Reddit founder Steve Huffman backed it). It lessens the agony of travel by helping users sort flights by what matters most, be it cost, carrier, itinerary or duration of flight. Last year, the site added hotel search that shows results on filterable Google Maps.
6. The Flight Deal This blog scours the web for deals that fall within its clever 6 cents per mile criteria. “We were inspired to hunt for deals that were 6 cents per mile because we didn’t want to be stuck in coach all the time,” the frequently updated site told Business Insider. “Yes, we publish great deals, but we don’t want them to be fixated on a destination. Chase the fare, not the destination.”
7. Want Me Get Me If you relish the good life but can’t foot the bill, Want Me Get Me is holding your number. The site is still in public beta, but offers an interesting way to max out hotel amenities without getting gouged at checkout. Every hotel booking comes with guaranteed VIP status, free Wi-Fi and automatic room upgrades when available.
8. Hack My Trip “I find the loopholes, the complicated runarounds, the mistakes, and all the other tricks that help maximize my travel dollar,” writes the guru behind Hack My Trip, and that’s just the beginning. From relaying the inner workings of ITA to explaining how to rack up cheap miles and points in weeks, his blog is a must for any mile jumper or travelers looking to save on their next well-earned trip.
9. Foursquare Turns out the most annoying feature on Twitter is pretty useful for pinning whatever dish you’re craving, so long as its in the U.S. Punching in Matzo Balls in Kips Bay, for example, dug up some excellent choices we couldn’t refuse: Veselka (who knew?) and 2nd Avenue Deli.
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