Tools for tracking travel deals – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

6 months ago Comments Off on Tools for tracking travel deals – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Going on vacation is fantastic. Planning, not so much.

Finding a good deal on a flight during travel dates that work for your schedule is only half the battle. Pairing those flights with lodgings and activities that fit your budget adds another challenge.

But there are newsletters, apps and travel websites that can smooth the process a little. We looked at a few tools you may want to consider, based on the kind of traveler you are.

If you: Are game to go anywhere, just get me a really cheap flight.

Scott’s Cheap Flights is a newsletter that alerts people to cheap flights as they’re discovered, focusing mostly on international trips. It was launched eight months ago by Scott Keyes, who became a travel expert after booking several trips using rewards points and airline miles. Unlike other newsletters that compile multiple deals, Mr. Keyes, who searches for many of the deals himself with the help of a partner, sends one for each sale, including recommendations for how quickly people should book.

About a quarter of the deals Mr. Keyes sends out each month are mistake flights, meaning prices are much lower than what the airline intended. Recently, for instance, he found a $285 round-trip flight from San Francisco to New Zealand that he says normally costs about $1,100. Many of the flights are out of major cities with large international airports, such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, and users can’t specify which airports they want to follow. The newsletter is free or there is a premium subscription for $29 a year that has more alerts with priority over the free subscribers.

Another free newsletter is offered by The alerts are a combination of discounts found through automated searches and deals curated by a staff of travel experts. Subscribers can sign up to hear about cheap flights leaving from the airports they fly out of regularly, rule out airlines they don’t like and can choose how often they want to receive the alerts. The newsletter also advises about travel date restrictions and fees.

Unlike more conventional flight comparison tools that track the cost of flying a particular route, these newsletters can draw attention to trips that travelers might not have on their radar. Some of the deals are also time sensitive, so it’s imperative to decide quickly.

If you: Know where you want to go, but are flexible on timing.

The fare calendar on can help travelers determine when a particular flight might be most affordable. It’s similar to the airline tools that show how fares might change depending on travel dates. But the calendar aggregates flights for multiple airlines and shows how prices are expected to change over the next several months. has a similar “flexible dates” tool that lists cheap flights over the next several months for particular routes. also shows how the cost of flights might change, but only by looking a few days before and after.

If you: Need a last-minute hotel, but still want a good deal.

The booking app HotelTonight caters to people who have every other part of their trip set but need a room. The app sorts through hotels available near them that can be booked that night or up to a week away. A recent search for hotels in San Francisco showed rooms available the next day for discounts of 15 percent to 30 percen. The app may appeal to people who weren’t planning to stay at hotels during their trip but changed their minds or had other plans fall through at the last minute.

If you: Want the complete package.

Those travelers who really want to take the work out of planning can buy packages that include flight, hotel and maybe fun excursions. There are limits, though. For instance, websites such as LivingSocial, Groupon and Travelzoo offer discounts on packages that are restricted to specific dates. One recent Groupon package listed prices starting at $449 per person for airfare and a four-night hotel stay at an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, compared to normal prices starting at $629 per person. But travel dates were only between April and August and departure cities were limited.

If you: Want to do the planning, but need help.

A new tool from Google called Destinations comes up with various combinations of hotels and flights within a person’s price point. Travelers need to do a Google search on their phones for the name of the place they want to visit, followed by the word “destinations,” no app required. Travelers who want certain activities, like skiing or surfing, but aren’t sure exactly what cities are best can add those keywords to the search. For example, the top results from a search for “Thailand destinations beach” turned up resorts in Ko Samui, one of Thailand’s largest islands, and Pattaya, a town on Thailand’s eastern Gulf coast. Users can see the estimated cost of visiting each place, about $1,300 per person for a six-night stay, and swipe right to see how the cost is expected to change over the next several months.

The tool also recommends certain travel dates that Google projects will offer the best value, but travelers can also research other factors, such as when a destination is most popular, what the weather should be like then and what the average cost of a hotel and flight is expected to be over the next several months. Users can also change the number of travelers going on the trip, the number of stops they prefer for the flight and the hotel class.

These are only some of the tools available for saving on travel. Keep in mind that many of these sites offer multiple services that cater to all kinds of travelers.

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Tools for tracking travel deals – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette