We are excited. Armed with our vaccinations (even though our arms were sore for a while), we are ready to hit the road, hop on a plane, and visit new and exciting places. (And you can rest assured we will be in Vegas next year for the Consumer Electronics Show.)
Bill & Phil
William Ramsey, Partner, Neal & Harwell
Phil Hampton, Consulting President, LogicForce
With that in mind, we figured it’d be a good time to share our favorite travel apps and websites. We’ll dedicate most of this article to airline booking apps, but we’ll also include some additional apps and websites that can assist you in your travels in a variety of ways.
AIRLINE BOOKING WEBSITES AND APPS
In our opinion, the best airline booking services are: ITA Matrix, Google Flights (powered by ITA Matrix), Momondo, Kayak, Expedia (and Orbitz and Travelocity) and Skiplagged. Of note: If you are going to travel on Southwest Airlines, you have to search Southwest separately; it does not allow access to aggregators or third-party booking sites.
ITA Matrix and Google Flights
Bill’s partner, Jim Kelley, turned us on to ITA Matrix in the 1990s well before Google bought the technology from a bunch of MIT computer geeks. It’s the grandmother of all flight searching websites. Google bought the technology and software in 2011, but many other providers such as Orbitz, Delta, United and, of course, Google Flights use the technology.
The interface takes a little time to learn, but it is the most powerful tool in the bunch. That said, you cannot book flights directly on Matrix, but you can paste the results of your search on bookwithmatrix.com to book the flight you found. Also, not all airlines can be found on Matrix or Google Flights.
Momondo is an aggregator and a flight booking site, which basically means it searches a number of sites and helps you find the best flights and deals on the web. You then go to another site to book the tickets. Momondo does both, but it shows its booking options first. Many consider Momondo the best of the pack.
Kayak is a pure aggregator. It has a robust set of searching options, but in our experience, it does not always find the best and cheapest flight. What Kayak is good for is telling you when you should wait for a lower price.
Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity
Microsoft gave birth to Expedia and sold it in the mid-1990s. It now owns Travelocity, Orbitz, Hotels.com and Hotwire. From our limited testing, Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz all give the same results. The results are not so hot at finding the best price, but they are good places to book the entire trip if that’s what you need — rental car, hotels, etc.
We stumbled on this site in our research, and it’s pretty darn cool. Its name comes from a little-known travel trick called “skiplagging.”
Here is how skiplagging works. Let’s say you want to go to Cincinnati, but the flights to Cincy are too expensive. However, you found a much cheaper flight that goes to Cleveland but has a stop in Cincy. So you book the cheaper flight, get off in Cincinnati and skip the flight to Cleveland, thereby saving money. (This does not work if you check baggage.)
“We’ll dedicate most of this article to airline booking apps, but we’ll also include some additional apps and websites that can assist you in your travels in a variety of ways.”
Airlines obviously do not like this practice, and they’ve been known to take adverse actions against skiplaggers, such as banning them from the airline or revoking their frequent flyer points. But Skiplagged is still great even if you don’t plan on skiplagging. (It does include skiplag fares in its search results, though.) Skiplagged is an aggregator that often finds the lowest fare and best flights, and it is very fast. The search options and interface are not as neat as others, but if you want to find cheap flights fast, you may want to give it a try.
OTHER TRAVEL APPS AND SERVICES
If you really can’t afford it — or don’t want to fly — there are many apps and websites that make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Of course, Waze and Google Maps are very helpful in making sure you stay on the best route for your driving journey.
While you are on the road, use GasBuddy to help you find fuel by location and price. iExit tells you what is waiting for you at each exit on the interstate, while Roadtrippers gives you suggestions on where to stop to find interesting places, parks, campsites, restaurants, etc. while you are on the road. And if you are a hiker, try the AllTrails app to help you find interesting trails to hike — whether you are in for a short jaunt or a challenging trek.
If taking buses or trains is more to your liking, try Wanderu.
Trip Planning and Organizing
Planning and organizing your trip is key to keeping it enjoyable. You can emulate Phillip and put everything that relates to your trip in OneNote, or you can try TripCase, which will combine all trip-related items into a chronology or itinerary (and you can add notes to the list). A similar app is TripIt, which works by locating confirmation emails in your inbox and building your itinerary from the confirmations.
If you want to learn more about your destination, try TripAdvisor or Culture Trip. The latter gives you interesting articles about your destination, and it’s supposedly written by locals.
There are even sites that can help you decide what to pack for your trip. PackPoint tells you what you should pack, based on the length of stay and the weather forecast and the resources available at your destination.
Come join us at the 2021 ALA Annual Conference & Expo in Austin, Texas. We’ll be presenting The Bill & Phil Show: It’s 2021, So Where Is My Flying Car? We’ll explore the current state of technology — and unveil some of the latest gadgets and innovations that every legal professional will want.
About the Author
William Ramsey, Partner at Neal & Harwell, and Phil Hampton, Consulting President of LogicForce, are best known for The Bill and Phil Show.