Flight search engines have made travel incredibly easy in recent years. With a few keystrokes and clicks, we’re off to the races and we get an incredibly comprehensive list of flights that meet our criteria. What most people don’t know is that there’s a way to get even better and targeted search results to find that exact route you’re looking for or that mistake fare someone posts on Facebook.
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How to get the best deals in travel
- Hottest deals – Bookmark the travel deals page.
- Car rentals – stop getting ripped off and learn about car rental coupon codes.
- Hotels – Use corporate codes or get Genius 2 tier with Booking.
- Flights – Have you ever heard of the “Everywhere” feature?
- Insurance – Make sure you’re covered and learn more about where to buy the best travel insurance.
What is ITA?
Before we begin, we should probably talk about what ITA is. ITA is essentially the core technology that powers every single flight search engine. Guys like Hipmunk essentially pay a fee to feed all search queries through ITA and when they receive the results, theme and format it to look like their own.
The big rumbling in the industry was a few years ago when Google acquired ITA, further cementing their position in anything related to search. That is how Google Flights was born.
Harnessing the Power of ITA Routing Language
As part of the platform that they’ve built, there are a lot of hidden “easter eggs” so to speak that give you unlimited searching power at your fingertips. These come in the form of ITA’s own routing language that is essentially short form that allow you to apply very specific filters.
At first glance, the language might as well look like Greek. And if you didn’t know how it worked, it might as well be. This ITA routing language (or routing codes) is a super short form to specify the exact flights you want.
Here is comprehensive list of ITA codes:
This is a helpful listing of examples:
What is not so clear from here is that when you type in your search, you separate the airport code with ITA routing codes by doing a double colon (::).
Routing Codes In Practice
Let’s try to learn the codes by using ITA’s own tool called ITA Matrix. This is a native tool built by ITA that allows you to search for flights in a much more raw kind of way. It’s not a tool I normally use as I much prefer Hipmunk but it is a very clutter-free interface that’s right to the point.
So let’s say you want to do a flight from Toronto to Los Angeles on Air Canada with a stopover in Denver, you’d type this in the Departing From field:
Returning back from Los Angeles, let’s say I want to take any Star Alliance flight but direct only. I’d enter this into the
The beauty though is that these ITA
The final search in ITA Matrix looks like this:
The beauty of all this is that you can find some pretty unique routes using this method that other search engines like Kayak, Expedia and others just aren’t able to do without a lot of work. Leveraging your knowledge of these codes, you can turn into a serious travel hacker.
What you should read next
Travel Resources For Your Next Trip
If you’re in the process of planning your trip and putting together your itinerary, these are genuinely the best resources that the Going Awesome Places team stands by 100%.
Airport Parking: You’ll need a spot to leave your car at the airport so why not book a spot at a discount. Use code AWESOME7 to get at least $5 off at Airport Parking Reservations or Park Sleep Fly packages.
Hotels: Our go-to is Booking.com because they have the best inventory of properties including hotels and B&Bs. The exception is Asia where Agoda always has the best prices. TripAdvisor is also useful for reviews and bookings.
Vacation Rentals: Airbnb is the market leader but you’d be surprised how you can find cheaper deals on the lesser-known VRBO.
Travel Insurance: Learn how to buy the best travel insurance for you. This isn’t something you want to travel without.
- Insured Nomads – Popular insurance provider for frequent travelers and comes with great coverage and special perks.
- RATESDOTCA – Search engine Canadians looking for the cheapest insurance including multi-trip annual policies.
- SafetyWing – A perfect fit for long-term nomads.
- Medjet – Global air medical transportation.
- InsureMyTrip – Best for seniors, families, and those with pre-existing conditions.
If you need more help planning your trip, make sure to check out our Travel Toolbox where we highlight all of the gear, resources, and tools we use when traveling.