How to Book Your Next Flight on Your Smartphone

Travelers today have more options than ever before. Here’s our guide to mobile booking.

By Tom Samiljan

As with almost every other online activity, planning trips is increasingly done on mobile devices: A recent study revealed that 32 percent of millennials book flights on their cell phones and another 20 percent on their tablets, according to the 2013 Future of Travel report, by Expedia.com and Egencia. Not surprisingly, new (and improved) mobile apps and sites are meeting the demand, offering not only straight-up good fares on the days and with the airlines you request, but also unique new tools and services that provide unpublished flexible fares that were unavailable through traditional search methods. The following mobile-optimized sites and apps will turn your smartphone or tablet into your personal travel agent.

Google Flights

Google Flights searches all flights in real time, all the time. As a result the site is so fast, you may not have a chance to blink before seeing a selection of flights to your destination. Or change one element—say, the day you’re flying or the airline alliance—and the service updates the list in real time. You can save or share itineraries and book direct with airlines or online travel agencies. Don’t be surprised if you find unusual routes that other apps don’t uncover—e.g., France via Montreal in the high-fare days of midsummer—saving yourself hundreds of dollars. (google.com/flights)

GTFO

Spontaneous fliers are sometimes rewarded for their procrastination. Just as same-day hotel booking apps list real-time deals for same-day bookings, so the cheekily named GTFO (Get the Flight Out) instantly gives you a list, starting with the least expensive, of flights taking off from your chosen airport that very night. If you’re willing to pick up and leave right away, or just want a last-minute getaway and don’t care where you go, you’ll find surprising deals all across the globe, from London and Las Vegas to Bangkok and Budapest. (iOS)

Kayak

The original meta search engine’s flight search offers real-time fares from hundreds of online travel agencies and airlines, though not as fast as Google Flights. It has numerous other tools, however, such as Explore, which lets you search for fares more generally by map, so you can, say, choose the best place to go for less than $300, or fly to Manchester instead of London to save on a trip to England. There’s also a handy fare-tracker option that will send you email alerts whenever the price of a specific itinerary goes up or down. Try the website for even more features, such as the Price Forecaster tool, which uses historical data to determine whether a fare is likely to change. (AndroidTM, BlackBerry®, iOS, Windows Phone; kayak.com)

FlightFox

Sometimes humans still find the best prices, as Flight Fox can show the next time you’re on the hunt for a business-class fare to Asia or an affordable round-the-world ticket for the whole family. For an up-front fee of $49 to $349, depending on your request, Flight Fox’s team of travel agents will search far and wide for special combinations, last-minute deals (and loopholes for getting you some of the best deals) that are often cheaper than those found by the DIY travel search engines. You don’t have to actually buy the ticket, but you will have to pay the fee. And if you have a lot of frequent-flier points and want to use them wisely, Flight Fox can search for mileage-based requests, too (in which case you would pay just the up-front fee). (flightfox.com)

OptionsAway

Back in jet travel’s golden age, most airlines let you hold a fare for a time before buying it. Some airlines will do that now for a fee of as much as $24, but Options Away will let you look for fares and hold the one you want with the airline as long as you want for 21 days for a onetime fee of $4 to $45, which is a lot less than the average fare increase. (iOS; optionsaway.com)

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2015