By Alicia Price

Planning a trip can be exhausting. Add in the many apps that promise “cheap flights” and other perks, and now booking that dream vacation feels more like a chore. I know it’s tempting to book the first cheap flight that pops up from your search criteria, but don’t. I’m going to give you 4 of my most utilized favorite and FREE apps that have made finding the best flights a breeze.

Google Flights
So, you are ranting to your closest friend about your boss, your significant other and kids driving you up a wall. Your friend undoubtedly can relate, so the two of you decide to get the crew together for a quick weekend trip to let loose. But where are you going? Google Flights is the perfect resource for these and similar situations. It allows you to see the prices of any destination with just an input of dates and a “from” location. This is my go-to when I need a getaway without breaking the bank and no hard preference on where I end up.

Secret Flying
I booked my flight from Boston to Barcelona for $260 which I saw from an Instagram post from @secretflying. Also in website and mobile app form, Secret Flying does the work for you in regards to finding cheap airfare, both domestically and internationally. The caveat, however: there is no selection of destination. Deals are usually good for about 24 hours and dates are relatively fixed for the price displayed. While there are limitations, the deals are unmatched.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a personal flight guru that tracks flight prices for you and advises when is the best time to book a reservation…? Well, now you do with Hopper. I utilize this app when I have a set date and destination well into the future. Let’s be realistic, none of us has the time nor desire to check on a flight price daily in hopes of finding the best deal. So, that family vacation you want to take in August…just input the dates and destination into Hopper for predictions on the best time to book and when prices will potentially increase. I find this app most effective when my travel dates are months into the future.

Pop quiz. Direct flights from Detroit to Charlotte NC are $327, however flights to Atlanta with a layover in Charlotte are $129. What do you do? Book the one way Atlanta flight, pack a carry-on and stay in Charlotte. Now, I don’t make this a
habit unless there is a significant price difference for both outgoing and returning flights. Nonetheless, Skip-lagged finds the flights with a layover in your destination, no additional steps necessary.

Now, this app has nothing to do with booking flights. However, it is a valuable resource to have.

Mobile Passport
This is the app I did not know that I needed. My recent flight returning from Panama to Detroit had a scheduled 2-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale. Two hours to get through customs and to the gate for my connecting flight seems reasonable, right? Well, not when your outgoing flight is delayed by 30 minutes. Now, if you have ever gone through customs you know that there is no way to gauge the time needed to get through. I am not yet a Global Entry member so Mobile Passport is the next best thing. This app allows you to submit a declaration electronically and usually has an express line through customs. Currently, there are roughly 15 airports that utilize mobile passport within the USA. This app saved me.

I want to leave you with a few additional, flight-related tidbits,

Utilize the airline’s mobile apps, this is great for mobile boarding passes, check-ins, and tracking flights.

Sign Up for TSA Pre-Check.
This was easily the best decision I’ve made. The 5-year benefit completely outweighs the small fee. I have yet to wait longer than 10 minutes in a TSA line within the USA and I travel at least once a month.

There is 24-hour cancellation without penalty policy. While this policy is restricted to bookings made one week or more prior to a flight’s departure, flights to and from the US can be canceled without penalty for up to 24 hours after the reservation was made. So if you see an unbeatable deal, book it. You have 24 hours to change your mind.

And As Always Happy Travels!