One of my favorite parts of a vacation is flying, but organizing the flights can be overcomplicated and frustrating. It does not have to be this way, as there are many mobile apps that can help you book flights with ease.
Free on iOS and Android
With versions also available for BlackBerry and Windows Phone that offer slightly different features, this is my favorite flight-booking app. Its main attraction is the well-designed interface (right), which means you know where you are in the app and what you are doing at all times. Also, it is great at delivering deals on cheap flights.
When you open Skyscanner, the app automatically presents the option to fly from where you are to anywhere — great for last-minute getaways. You can also enter start and end locations for a trip, along with dates, your preferred flying class, and the number of passengers.
After you press search, it presents a list of flights that match your criteria. You can filter this list in a number of ways to find the flight with the best price, the least amount of interim stops, and so on. Tapping on a particular flight takes you to a page with more detailed information, and an option to book.
The deals come from different flight-booking providers that are not controlled by Skyscanner. But Skyscanner will connect you directly with these booking services by phone, or send your booking request straight to a provider’s online booking system.
Used like this, Skyscanner is an easy way to find flights for a trip. But the app has a number of extras, too; it can show a chart of flight prices around your chosen flight dates. This will tell you if it is worth considering flying a day or two earlier or later to get cheaper flights.
The iOS edition also has an “explore” button that shows flight deals on a spinning globe map — another great way to inspire a last-minute vacation.
There is much to like about Skyscanner. One drawback is that it sometimes shows an estimated price at the start of the booking process that can be very different from the price you actually pay.
Free on iOS and Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone
A good alternative to Skyscanner is Kayak’s app (right). This app offers similar convenience in finding flight deals offered by different airlines.
It is more conventionally designed in terms of look and feel than Skyscanner, and is straightforward to use.
It also offers extras, like the option to search for flights within one or two days on either side of a target date, which will return more flights. You can book flights directly through the app or call the airline to book by phone.
I am not a fan of the app’s highly minimalist interface, but it may be to your taste, and Kayak has plenty of other features, like the ability to book hotels and rental cars as well as flights.
Free on iOS and Android
If you do not like the way these two apps work, or cannot find deals that tempt you, then it is also worth trying Orbitz’s app.
This app has a much more Web-page-like design, and it seems to have a lot more “twirling clock” icons as it loads information than its rivals do.
But it works similarly to Kayak and it is very popular. I find that using this app is somehow less satisfying than booking a flight through Skyscanner.
Free on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone
Once the flight is booked, different apps can log an entire trip itinerary in a single, easy-look-up interface. Of these, TripIt (right) is my favorite.
The app acts as a kind of trip database, logging information about flights, hotel reservations, and even events that you have planned, right down to timing, addresses, and map data. You can choose to enter your event data manually, in which case the app has a very accessible interface, or data can be sent to your account automatically from some compatible apps — like Skyscanner.
I like this app and find it convenient when traveling, particularly because I can quickly call up a piece of information when I need to verify a detail, like a flight number or venue name. I sometimes get lost in its many layers of menus, but if you are the kind of traveler who loves to note down all your information before you travel, it is great.
Free on iOS and Android
An alternative to TripIt is TripCase. This is a similar itinerary database app, with a few extras like the ability to show the weather conditions for your approaching trip.
Just as a reminder, flight prices can change very quickly, so it is often worth comparing the flight data shown on an app with what is on the airline’s own website, to be sure you are getting the best deal.Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.