I taught travel skills classes for eight years (2001-2009). Most of my students heard of and used Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and a host of other online travel booking resources. Rarely, however, did anyone use, or even know of, ITA Software.
I am going to guess that many McCool Travel readers have not heard of ITA Software but it is a resource you should know. ITA Software provides the flight search engine for Kayak, Orbitz, Bing, and Google–so it is a powerful solution.
Here is how to directly use ITA Software to find your own cheap fares:
Type matrix.itasoftware.com into your web browser.
The first time you use Matrix, the airfare search screen will be blank. Matrix remembers previous flight searches for subsequent visits.
First, note that there are tabs for Round trip, One-way, and Multi-city. Although One-way and Multi-city are very powerful options, I will only cover Round trip scenarios in this post.
Next, if the link at the bottom of the tab (next to the Search button) says Simple search options, click it. If it says Advanced search options, leave it.
Example 1: In Departing from text box, type w. Note that a list of airports immediately appears. Type as. The airport list starts with DC – all airports and includes a few others. Normally I would select only Dulles airport but sometimes I am interested in others. Click Nearby. Select 100 from Within popup. Click checkboxes for Dulles, Hagerstown, Charlottesville, and Richmond. Click OK.
In Destination text box, enter los. Select Los Angeles. Click the second Nearby. Select 100 from Within popup. Click checkboxes for Burbank, Long Beach, and Santa Barbara. Click OK.
Under Dates, the See calendar of lowest fares option should be selected. Select January 2012 from the Departing in popup. Type 5 in the Length of stay text box. Click the Search button.
The results screen shows that the cheapest fare of $279 is available on several dates and airlines.
Perhaps the best thing about using this resource is that I can make changes to my search criteria without leaving the results screen. I can limit results to a specific airline or date with one click. I can select a different month or change my stay to 4 or 6 nights on the same screen. I can find only nonstop flight by deselecting the 1 stop and 2 stops checkboxes. In each case, the results calendar automatically updates.
To search for flights between different airports I must return to the main Matrix airfare search screen
Example 2: Click Modify search to return to the main screen. In Departing from text box, type new. Select all New York City airports. Click Nearby. Select 100 from Withinpopup. Click checkboxes for Newark, Kennedy, and Philadelphia. Click OK.
In Destination text box, enter hon. Select Honolulu. Click the second Nearby. Select 300 from Within popup. Click the Select all check box. Click OK.
Select March 2012 from the Departing in popup. Type 10 in the Length of stay text box. Enter 2 adults and 2 youth. Click the Search button.
The results show the cheapest fare of $718 is available on two airlines and three consecutive Mondays. Type 9 in nights away text box and click the Update button shows more $718 flights. Search for 11 nights and the same $718 fare is available on two Thursdays.
Once you are familiar with ITA Software, these steps only take a couple of minutes and are a powerful way of finding cheap fares.
Have you used ITA Software to search for lower airfares? Other sources? Let me know by leaving a comment.
Charles McCool is an independent consumer travel advocate.
© 2011, Charles McCool