Tools to plan itineraries

Old Mar 13, 19, 4:02 pm
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Question Tools to plan itineraries

What, if any, online tools do y'all use to plan itineraries?

I'm currently trying to plan something along the lines of LHR-NCE-IBZ-MAD-LIS-OPO-LGW in August for 2 pax, where:
  • LGW-NCE could be substituted for LHR-NCE, if more economical. No LCY-NCE though.
  • LIS-OPO could also potentially be OPO-LIS, if more economical
  • LIS-OPO (or OPO-LIS) would be a surface segment (hire car)
  • LHR-NCE and OPO-LGW (or LIS-LHR) are BA J (either booked J, or Y + POUG if silly money)
  • All other segments are IB Y (no I2 though, as keen to get Avios+TP)
With a lot of moving parts and possible options, and not that fussed with specific dates (but pretty sensitive to price), I'd want one place where I can plan and budget the whole itinerary (even if the flights themselves are booked separately), see the whole trip in one overview, see the total cost, and see how jiggling different dates and routing options affects the price.

All the usual travel sites have a multi-city option, but they want specific dates for each segment, and then come up with a random mix of Ryanair and easyJet and no flexibility at all to refine before the algorithm gets confused and throws its toys out of the pram.

It's clear this needs to be booked in many separate bookings, which I don't mind. But I'm going mad trying to keep it all straight, and every travel site there is seems to prioritise sales conversion tactics over usability, so I have no place (that I know of) where I could plan and budget efficiently.
  • BA.com in my attempts doesn't want to sell any IB flights at all; they want to sell an LHR connection for all the internal segments
  • Kayak has a "Watchlist" I can save to, but the second I start searching for the other segments, the previous ones are automatically deleted for my convenience
  • Expedia allows you to "save for later", but since I'm searching for each flight separately, it creates a separate itinerary for each flight, and I can't find any way to merge them.
  • TripIt would require a LOT of manual typing and fiddling.
So, what do the fine girls and boys and others of this board use to plan, price and fine-tune complex itineraries like this?

Last edited by groenroos; Mar 13, 19 at 4:07 pm
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Old Mar 13, 19, 4:13 pm
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Originally Posted by groenroos View Post
So, what do the fine girls and boys and others of this board use to plan, price and fine-tune complex itineraries like this?
This "other" uses ITA and EF, and a fair number of bits of paper with handwriting scribbles to make notes.

If I want to look at lots of permutations and options, there is no substitute for doing the hard work myself. I doubt that any online tool is going to help you do what you want. Repeatedly trying different options on ITA may come close to this. But if you're doing stuff that requires separate tickets for certain bits of the trip, then I doubt that any online tool will do it.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 4:15 pm
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I actually asked a friend (phd in math/statistics) why there are no planning tools, how humans still work on schedules. He said that humans may not get the absolutely best option but they get pretty good options, just based on intuition. Computers just cannot do that at this point in time, not even close.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 4:30 pm
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Originally Posted by s0ssos View Post
Computers just cannot do that at this point in time, not even close.
What? Not even IBM Watson or Microsoft AI?

PS. I really am joking. As a postgraduate student of AI in the early 1990s I know most of the commercials and hype - with some notable exceptions - are BS.

Last edited by golfmad; Mar 13, 19 at 5:46 pm
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Old Mar 13, 19, 4:34 pm
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Originally Posted by golfmad View Post
What? Not even IBM Watson or Microsoft AI?

PS. I really am joking. As a postgraduate student of AI in the early 1990s I know most of the commercials and hype - with some notable exceptions - is BS.
Apparently MIT tried to do that, scheduling school busses. Seemed to work great, except for the fact computers don't know that parents have to work, and will not accept a change from 7 to 9am for the schoolbus.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 5:01 pm
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Originally Posted by Globaliser View Post
This "other" uses ITA and EF
I'm assuming EF stands for ExpertFlyer; what's ITA?
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Old Mar 13, 19, 5:04 pm
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Originally Posted by s0ssos View Post
I actually asked a friend (phd in math/statistics) why there are no planning tools, how humans still work on schedules. He said that humans may not get the absolutely best option but they get pretty good options, just based on intuition. Computers just cannot do that at this point in time, not even close.
I'm not necessarily even looking for an algorithm to figure it all out on my behalf, I'm more than happy to do the thinky-work myself. What I want is just one central place to contain a single list of the flights that I choose, and sum up the total cost. I know I could use pen and paper as suggested, but where's the cool factor in that?
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Old Mar 13, 19, 5:11 pm
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ITA is the ITA Matrix by google.

A more complex version of google flights!

https://matrix.itasoftware.com/
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Old Mar 13, 19, 5:15 pm
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So ITAmatrix is a website/software that was bought by Google, and thus degraded. But it has more powerful search options and flags that one can use, if you search around there should be a primer on how to use it.

In terms of flights, I don't think there is a piece of software powerful enough to sum up flights, because you are thinking that flights are priced as a segment. But when you link segments together the price can change. For example, you want to buy A to B, B to C, and then C to D.
You can definitely buy them separately, as 3 distinct tickets, and just add up the cost, but often it would be cheaper if you do some combo. But the combo A to B and B to C may actually not be as cheap as buying the tickets separately. Or maybe A to B and C to D should be bought together, and B to C separately. As far as I know, there is nothing to do that.

Google flights is pretty powerful in letting you choose different flights, but I don't think it has enough functionality to do what I just described.
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Old Mar 13, 19, 5:24 pm
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Originally Posted by rockflyertalk View Post
ITA is the ITA Matrix by google.

A more complex version of google flights!

https://matrix.itasoftware.com/
It's not by google! Google bought it and made it worse! It existed before google bought it.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 12:42 am
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Originally Posted by rockflyertalk View Post
ITA is the ITA Matrix by google.

A more complex version of google flights!

https://matrix.itasoftware.com/
Does this give the no frills airlines however? Did a search on one where easyjet and ryanair have direct flights, but it only gave me results with full service carriers via the capital, so indirect. Also tried LON - AMS and no no frills carriers were listed.

To the OP, Excel is your friend in situations like this!
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Old Mar 14, 19, 3:11 am
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Originally Posted by groenroos View Post
I What I want is just one central place to contain a single list of the flights that I choose, and sum up the total cost. I know I could use pen and paper as suggested, but where's the cool factor in that?
It's a long, long time since anyone called MS Excel cool but that's what I use. Dates down the first column, permutations of flights down as many columns as you need. You can see the shape of each combination and the total cost.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 4:02 am
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I also use Excel for all my travel planning. I have a template. Well, I call it a template, it is actually a copy of the last trip but it means that all my trips are planned and documented the same way. It also means that at any time, either during the planning phase or during the trip itself, I have access to all the info about my train trips to/from the airport, parking, hotels, flights, seats, times, aircraft types, lounges etc... all on the one sheet.

There are trip planning products, such as TripIt, which I also use, but like the spreadsheet they only document what you have planned/booked.

I don't know of anything that can actually help with the scheduling and finding of flights other than ITA Matrix which is my "goto" place to find flights. Unfortunately Matrix does not have many of the Low-cost airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair etc so it isn't the only solution.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 4:46 am
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Originally Posted by s0ssos View Post
It's not by google! Google bought it and made it worse! It existed before google bought it.
Excuse me I was just quoting what google has on their search engine...

I didnít say whether or not it existed before google but thanks for the insight that they brought the software. Albeit Iím not surprised by that.
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Old Mar 14, 19, 5:01 am
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Originally Posted by s0ssos View Post
So ITAmatrix is a website/software that was bought by Google, and thus degraded.
There have been changes since Google bought it, but I wouldn't be so fast to insert the word "thus". There are things that one cannot now do which one used to be able to do, but ITA never did everything to begin with because it was - even from its inception - a project in how to manage the unmanageable. There have always been changes from time to time in what could be done using ITA, and in the comprehensiveness of the search results returned (any complex search always returned limited results), and when ITA was in the habit of accepting more variables at once and returning more results at once, the returns could often be illogically selected. (You could sometimes be shown odd and very complex routings, but not be shown something much more simple, straightforward, fast and cheap.) Restricting how much you can search for at any one time improves the logicality of the selected returns.

The options and filters that you have always been able to apply make it, to me, the most powerful GDS published pricing search engine that I've ever used. But even so, it's not perfect (and it never was), so use it as one tool out of many, and exercise some care in interpreting the results. There is no substitute for hard work.
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