Business travel may or may not be better than it was 30 years ago, but the process for arranging flights and hotels today is immeasurably better than it was in the supposed good old days.
Back in 1983, we had exactly one computerized tool, the Official Airline Guide Electronic Edition. Created for first-generation IBM personal computers, the OAG Electronic Edition spit out endless lines of code to represent flights, arrival and departure times and prices. And unless you knew the undocumented secret (the number «99» appended to end of a command line), you couldn’t display all of your fare options in a single session.
Websites like Kayak.com, which help travelers compare air fares, are just one of many online tools that make it easier for road warriors to operate while away from home.
Throw in dial-up modems, 5.25-inch floppy drives and a 10-cent-a-minute charge to access the Electronic Edition and you’re talking the business-travel equivalent of stone knives and bear skins.
Today we’re spoiled for choices to make our planning better. So much choice, in fact, that we’re almost paralyzed by the cornucopia of data at our fingertips and accessible via smartphones, tablets, laptops or our latest-generation PC. I sometimes yearn for the wonky excitement I felt when I first accessed schedules on a tiny, monochrome screen, but, overall, I prefer to use these seven sites to make my life on the road in 2013 a bit easier.
Kayak.com for fare information
The Net teems with sites that claim to beat the airlines at their own fare games. Most can’t. But I find Kayak.com fantastically flexible as a fare-compare tool. You can filter prices by number of stops and connections (useful if you’re looking for a bargain on international premium-class travel); take-off and landing times; by any combination of carriers you choose; aircraft type; and, most creatively, by an airline’s membership in a global alliance.
Best of all, I find Kayak’s layout and displays comparatively clean and intuitive. I say comparatively because every traveler’s idea of clean and simple will vary. Kayak isn’t perfect—it recently refused to show Porter Airlines on a itinerary between New York and Porter’s Toronto hub—but no third-party site is. If Kayak isn’t to your fare-compare tastes, try the relatively obscure Dohop.com or the better known Matrix offered by Google’s ITA Software.