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How To Beat the Airlines and Search for Flights Worry Free

Are you sick of searching for a flight and worrying that the prices will increase the next time you look the same flight up?

By: Joseph Gulizia + Save to a List

I have been to six continents and over 45 countries and this is the tool I cannot live without. I frequently find myself looking for flights to far-off places and got fed up with the airline algorithms taking advantage of my search history. The Google ITA Matrix will change how you search for flights. For starters, you are unable to book a flight directly off of this site. The ITA Matrix is a powerful tool to look for the lowest priced fares. You take back control from the airline companies. To name a few things; it allows you to search a calendar of dates for the cheapest fares, you can use different currencies, and change your search location. 

To start; select the "roundtrip" or "one-way" tab, and then input your departure city and destination. There you will be able to see the various airports in the city of your choosing. 

In the dates section you will see two options: "search exact dates" and "see calendar of lowest fares." The first option is the easiest as you input the dates for the start and end of your trip. Next to those dates are dropdown boxes. If your dates are flexible by ±1-2 days, this is where you can make that decision. 

Your second option allows for the most flexibility. You will determine a departure date, and how many nights you want to spend at your destination. The site will show you prices for that specific date and every day up to a month after.

Select how many people are in you party, what class you want to fly in, and if you want a set number of stops or layovers. You will want to deselect "Allow airport changes," unless you don't mind switching to another airport for a connecting flight. The other times I see this being selected is if you know that a connecting flight is only possible at a different airport. For example; regional flights in San Jose, Costa Rica tend to not fly out of the main Santamaria international airport, but the smaller Tobias Bolanos airport. 

The currency by default is set to your departure city. If you are overseas or looking from a different country you will want to change the currency. Use the three letter currency denomination of your choice. A quick tip when inputing the currency, a drop-down with likely suggestions will pop up. If you decide to click on this, you must delete everything except for the 3 letter currency acronym. 

The sales city is a useful tool, as you can change your location of purchase to determine if you can find a better priced flight. I like to use this when purchasing tickets from Canada into the USA. I find when I purchase tickets as if I was in the US, the prices are significantly cheaper. When purchasing your tickets you will need to make sure you set your location to that country you chose as your "Sales City."

The next option is "One-Way." This is the exact same as round trip, except for the option of "see calendar of lowest fares." If you have quite a flexible schedule/want to book a one-way somewhere, you want to see the cheapest options. Pick a date a week or two before the actual date you want to leave, and select this option. A calendar of fares will pop up just like this:

I chose a flight from NYC to Oslo, Norway. As you can see from the fares prices are significantly cheaper on the 10th of January. The orange highlighted prices will be the cheapest in that month's time. Depending on your plans or time constraints, this might be the best option. It allows for total flexibility as well as saving the most on flights. 

Once you have your date or dates selected, a window will pop up with all of your flight options. It will look the same for both round trip and one-way flights. You can see an example of one-way options above, with round trip options below.

Across the tops of each screenshot you will find different airlines that offer the flight you are searching for. You will see prices for "nonstops," "1 stop," and more stops if you have allowed for it. Your cheapest options are yet again highlighted in orange. If you hover over any of the flights listed you will find a dropdown option for "details." This is where you will find more specific details about that flight you have selected. This will show you the exact flight number, departure and arrival times, any layover time, the total duration of your flights including layover time, your departure and arrival city, the cities you stop in, as well as special advisories. To get more info on the advisories, hover over them with your mouse. They tend to be warnings about overnight flights, extremely short connections, or long layover times. 

The final page is your itinerary details. From here you can see the exact breakdown of what goes into your fare. Such as the actual fare price vs the fees that are imposed. This becomes useful when fuel dumping. Fuel dumping will be explained in a different post, along with the multi-city option as those go hand in hand. In short, it is a process of adding an extra flight to your journey in order to get rid of or lower the fuel surcharge imposed by airlines. 

Once you have your itinerary, and the flight you want, go to your booking site of choice. The prices will match, and sometimes be even cheaper than what is advertised on the ITA matrix. For me, my go-to sites are Google Flights and Momondo

Safe travels! If you have any questions on how to use this tool, or anything travel related, don't hesitate to reach out!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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