Searching, Thinking, Speaking Travel Apps No Match For Human Brain, Maybe

Under the premise that searching for a flight online is a time-consuming and annoying task, travel buyers have been presented with a number of solutions. As new technology moves from the lab to the street, we see it being applied in helpful ways that do indeed make life easier and save us time.

Searching for flights online, buyers commonly visit multiple websites, see something they like on one, look for it on another, cross-check with the airline site and so on. When the time comes to pull the trigger and buy, those flights are often unavailable or priced differently. It can be a frustrating task but one that has to be done to find a flight that works with our travel plans – until now.

Say hello to Pintrips, a new online tool that allows business and leisure travelers to “pin” and see flights they’ve found across the web in one spot. Find something you like on a Pintrips-enabled website? Pin it with a click on the pin button next to each flight and Pintrips saves the find, constantly tracks price changes and enables easy comparison.

Stop right there and Pintrips is a win, consolidating all the good stuff we see while searching and putting it in one place. But going a step further, Pintrips pulls in the results of similar searches done by others in a crowd-sourcing sort of way that might eventually be worth considering.

Called “Public Pinning Boards,” this new feature provides “a fast track to pinning by providing the latest pins from the community as well as latest deals,” said Pintrips in a Wall Street Journal statement.

Pintrips does have its limits; capability is currently available only on American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Air and Virgin America airline sites and search sites Google, Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz. But new sites are being added every month and users can request sites too.

Easier yet, Cheapair has a new voice-activated flight search travel app.

Basically, we don’t have to lift a finger with this one to find an abundance of flight information. Using the new CheapAir app available for iPhone and iPad, say a request like, “Orlando to Los Angeles, May 5th to the 10th” or “L.A. to Vegas tomorrow coming back Sunday” and up pop the results – no form to fill out.

Still, finding the right flight can be much like looking for a needle in a haystack; there are just so many different options. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just use our brains to narrow down the results, find the perfect flight, priced right, and be done with it?

Applying the flavor of recent research at University of California, Berkeley, that day may come. Scientists have discovered that when we embark on a targeted search, like looking for a contact lens on a bathroom floor or a car key in a bed of gravel, that various visual and non-visual regions of the brain mobilize to track them down.

“Our results show that our brains are much more dynamic than previously thought, rapidly reallocating resources based on behavioral demands, and optimizing our performance by increasing the precision with which we can perform relevant tasks,” said Tolga Cukur, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at UC Berkeley in a RDMag article.

We look forward to more results from that research but know that the world of travel apps is constantly changing, as we see in this promotional video for the Travel Channel To Go app from 2008.

[Photo credit – Flickr user TZA]

Kayak Data Analysis Brings Budget Travel Tips, Not God-Like Mantra

Kayak, the travel search giant, took a look at more than a billion search inquires throughout 2012. Crunching the numbers, they came up with some interesting information. Based on what those who visit the popular website were looking for, Kayak has some tips aimed to save on travel. Considered a snapshot of information, the study is relatively harmless and can be a generally helpful budgetary tool.

Look through a billion sets of data on any given topic and certain similarities are bound to rise to the top. It is often what we do with the data that counts. In the case of search data, if millions of people were looking for information on “cruise fire,” for example, it does not necessarily mean that cruise ships are inherently dangerous.

But if accepting some notions about those who use Kayak, like that everyone visiting the site is looking for the cheapest flights, the results can verify (or not) preconceived notions we have, booking strategies and more.

Let’s break that Kayak study down a bit and see if there is some useful information that may be of benefit to travelers – some guidelines rather than rules.When to buy-
Kayak found the least expensive airfares to be within 21 to 35 days of departure. That adds some validity to the buying strategy held by many travelers to hold out and wait for a last minute deal.

If that strategy makes you nervous, you’re not alone – and for good reason. Waiting until the last minute can also leave us with a limited seat, flight or airline selection. Those are important considerations when, say, travel includes a family with children who want to sit together, someone with specific flight time requirements or a traveler wanting a certain airline.

Going on a trip and don’t really care when you get there, what airline you use or traveling alone? Waiting until the last minute can be a good idea.

Still, the factors that fuel the Kayak data can change, making today’s strategy obsolete tomorrow. Hooking up with a free service like Airfarewatchdog can bring real-time confidence in the data we collect and base our buying strategy on.

When to fly-
It was no big surprise to see the Kayak data indicate that September was a choice month for low airfare, with average rates coming in at the year’s lowest. Pretty much any travel professional could have verified that though, as September is traditionally a low-travel month. That works for airfare, hotel stays and even cruise travel as does the first weeks of November and December, otherwise busy travel months at other times.

Kayak data also revealed the most searched destinations, least busy times to fly and more. A snapshot of such factors, based on 2012 data, can surely help guide buying decisions but needs to be looked at as just that, a “snapshot” of information, not the word of a travel god.

See Kayak’s full Where To Go and How to Save guide for more.

Much of what we get in the way of travel tips depends on the source too and advice changes over time. The video below, from three years ago, encourages an entirely different strategy on buying airfare.

[Photo credit – Flickr user dcaceresd]

For best airfare deals, shop six weeks before your trip

A recent study of U.S. airline ticket transactions revealed that passengers get the best airfare deals if they make their purchase six weeks before their scheduled departure.

On average, prices at the six-week mark are nearly 6% below the overall average fare, reported the study, run by Airlines Reporting Corp., a technology company that handles transactions between airlines and air travel agents. Airfares begin to rise dramatically one week before the flight, peaking on the departure date.

The study factored in four years of data from almost 144 million flight ticketing transactions with origins and destinations in the United States, making its findings pretty reputable. For more budget travel tricks, this vintage Gadling post shares five things you can do right now to score cheaper plane tickets. The video below share some helpful tips too.

[via Los Angeles Times, Flickr image via Tim Snell]

Using Facebook to find cheap airfare (and stalk people)

The hit social networking site Facebook recently introduced third party applications that serve various purposes. Some are useful: trading music tips. Some are more frivolous: killing zombies. Now there’s a nifty little tool that could save you cold hard cash. It’s an app called “Where I’ve Been,” which mainly serves to show your friends, well, where you’ve been.

But one of its newest features is “flight finder,” which lets you select a departure city and then view a visual representation of the cheapest fares to hundreds of international destinations. The best part is you can narrow the results based on how much you’re willing to pay. For instance, I wanted to go somewhere cheap in late December, so I selected Newark, NJ as the departure city and then used the slider to put a $500 max on airfare. Most of the dots that popped up were in Europe or the states, but I also found a $400 ticket to Lima, Peru.

One thing to keep in mind is the service is in beta right now, so important details like dates of travel haven’t been worked out. Come to think of it, I don’t even know which travel sites they get the data from. That hasn’t stopped rumors that the app has been purchased for $3 million by TripAdvisor.

Ultra Cheap Airfares May Be A Thing Of The Past in Europe

Those 1P (or better yet — FREE!) airfares you can find in England aboard Ryanair or some similar budget carrier sure are exciting after the exorbitant prices we’ve been paying ever since Air Travel became an industry. But they’re a bit deceptive, don’t you think? You don’t ever actually pay 1p. For example, I booked a flight for ???20 and when all was said and done, it ended up being ???60. And that’s before any excess baggage surcharges.

The Office of Fair Trading thinks these ultra-low prices are deceptive too, and they’ve ordered airlines to start being more upfront about their pricing. This means they’ll have to start padding their prices with the cost of non-optional fixed extras like fuel surcharges and air passenger taxes. And if they don’t comply, they’ll find themselves in court.

In all honesty, I don’t mind the low-low air fares, even if it is shady marketing. At least it makes me feel like I’m getting a deal, even if It’s only for the few precious moments before I click that dreaded ‘Calculate’ button.