Traveling is amazing. Researching and organizing a trip can make you want to rip yourself apart limb from limb. But there are few moments of personal victory that surpass the feeling of landing a super cheap travel deal, especially on flights. Here’s how you do it!
I’ve put together a list of travel sites, both fare aggregators (FAs) and online travel agencies (OTAs) to help with your travel plans. They aren’t listed in any particular order, but I do mention my go to sites in their respective paragraphs.
Let’s take a look! I hope this helps (even if only a little).
Note: I have no affiliation whatsoever with any of these companies and gain no compensation (aside from your happiness of course) in any way by referring you to them.
Skyscanner is big in terms of online flight deals. It compares millions of flights across thousands of airlines, instantly. Skyscanner has lots of search options, mobile apps and a price tracker function. You can scan through prices and flights for a month or up to a year, a great way to see rises and drops in pricing. Once you pick your flight, you’ll be redirected to the airline site or travel agency, which allows you to skip fees that some other sites tack on, sometimes without mentioning them.
Skyscanner is one of my top five cheapest airfare sites. I consistently get cheap prices and quick results with these guys, in fact, I booked my upcoming three country trip (Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines) via Skyscanner. I saved $1300 (CAD) compared to the price a travel agent had found me (Ha! Win for the good guys!).
What makes TFD cool is that they’re great at hunting down error fares, which in turn gives wanderlusters (I just invented that word, don’t steal it) like you and I, the cheapest airfare possible. This cracks my top five as well.
With TFD timing is everything. Airlines won’t leave super cheap prices out there for long (they want to take your money, as much of it as possible). So you’ll get the most out of TFD by following them on social networks like Facebook and Twitter and subscribing for their newsletter. But you can find great deals directly on the site itself. If you keep an open mind about where you’re wiling to go, this site is for you.
Skiplagged finds you cheap airfares, especially if you skip the layover part of your trip (throwaway tickets). Here’s how it works;
There’s you, destination A (your final destination to a popular city) and destination B (a less popular city). If you go directly to A, it’ll cost you $2000, because hey, it’s a popular city and everyone wants to go there. If you go directly to B, it’ll cost you $500, because it’s a boring little place that no one wants to visit. Skiplagged could find you a ticket to B, with a layover in A, for let’s say $750, saving you $1250 on the original price. When you arrive in A for your “layover”, you stroll out of the airport and toss the remainder of your trip in the trash. Sound good?
WAIT! There’s a catch! Never check baggage when using Skiplagged to find flights. Checked baggage generally gets sent to your final arrival city (destination B in the example), if you ditch the last leg of your trip, you’d be ditching your stuff too. Also, NEVER book roundtrip with Skiplagged. If you skip any part of your trip, the rest of your booking gets cancelled, including return flights. Third, you’ll be redirected to another website to make the actual purchase (legal issues with Orbitz and others). Aside from these three exceptions Skiplagged is a sweet search engine. Oh, and the prices in the example are made up.
What I like most about MAS is its neat calendar function. It shows an entire month of airfares for you to plainly see when the cheapest airfares are up for grabs. Type in when and where and the matrix does the rest. Again, the trick here is to be open-minded about when you want to travel. You’ll notice that by adjusting the days in your itinerary, you can save yourself a ton of cash. Skyscanner and Kayak have similar functions, but this is a great alternative.
Some people may disagree with my inclusion of AFWD on this list. Here’s why it made the cut. No, it doesn’t have the MOST fares, but here is what the site offers;
The problem with newly dropped airfares is the lack of seats available at those prices. But for some reason, they get listed anyway. AFWD says if seats are in limited supply or just doesn’t list the fares that come with possibly unavailable seats.
AFWD lists airline “site-only” fares. Many third party sites don’t have access to the cream of the crop prices because the airlines that sell them reserve them for their most loyal clients and VIPs. AFWD does have access to these cream of the crop prices, whereas many other sites do not.
Ever get annoyed while online shopping because you see there’s a promo code discount but you don’t know what it is (drives me nuts)? AFWD lists promo code prices WITH THE PROMO CODES to help you save money.
There are more perks to using AFWD but the ones listed should be enough to convince you it’s the real deal Holyfield.
Trabber is another cool search engine that lets you quickly compare airfares on a number of popular flight sites. They compare budget travel companies, the “usual” airlines and OTAs (online travel agencies). A great feature on the Trabber site is honest final pricing. They always show the final airfare including fees and charges from the booking sites that are sometimes hidden. They themselves don’t charge additional fees or commissions.
This is another site that you can score a few extra perks on by signing up for their newsletter, following them on twitter (if you speak Spanish) or adding them to your RSS feed.
KAYAK (Part of the Priceline Group)
Kayak, a FA (fare aggregator) is also in my top five sites for booking the cheapest airfare, fast. Similar to Skyscanner, Kayak compares hundreds of booking sites at the same time, with one simple search. Their website is easy to navigate and their mobile app is easy to use.
The best part of the Kayak site is they give the option to book either with an OTA or travel agent or directly with the airline. Giving consumers that choice seems practical and obvious, but most sites still haven’t caught on to that yet (tisk tisk).
This little site with the funny name has one or two pretty impressive features. Anyone that shops more than a few times a year, for anything, has been in a situation where they bought something, and then as though it was an episode of Punk’d (remember that show?), the price drops. The hard part is that most stores won’t refund the money you’ve overpaid.
Yapta fixes that problem. And for that reason alone is also on my top five list. Of course this depends on the airline’s refund policy. But if there’s money to be put back into your pockets, Yapta has your back.
Redtag is a veteran in the travel site game; tried, tested and true. It doesn’t make my top five list but it’s still worth consulting when you’re shopping around for the lowest airfare possible. They have great customer service before, during and after trips (around the clock), which is more than some other sites can say.
Their information is live and in real time so you don’t have to worry about getting your anxious little heart broken over a great deal you found that is actually expired and the site managers have been too lazy to remove it.
If you haven’t heard of Orbitz, you probably live under a rock, haven’t heard of the Internet, are deathly afraid of heights or some combination of the three. They’ve been around since 1999, they’re an OTA and a major player in the world of travel booking. They offer a wide range of travel products, such as cruises, car rentals and more. If the price is right, Orbitz can easily be a one stop shop for your airfare needs.
Full disclosure; I’ve never found my cheapest airfare on Orbitz but a name this big doesn’t get and remain this big without pleasing a whole lot of consumers.
PRICELINE (Includes Kayak in Priceline Group)
Priceline is yet another OTA big name in the world of airfares and travel. It’s like a shopping centre of travel booking, meaning you can go there and find everything you want, and maybe some stuff you weren’t looking for too. They get solid prices for hundreds of thousands of flights and combine them with a few Priceline unique services to bump up the consumer savings.
They also have a lot of great features on their mobile products too! It’s tough to compete with a site as well rounded as Priceline.
Another site with a bit of a funny name that is not to be underestimated. CheapOair is a FA that combines “three powerful reservation systems with fifteen discounted rates data sources,” which puts them in the perfect position to give you more bang for your buck. They have great and always available customer service 24/7.
They have millions (no, literally) of discount fares to choose from every year. I’ve had more than a few friends book flights with CheapO and they’ve been satisfied.
BRAVOFLY (Part Of The LastMinute[dot]Com Group)
Bravofly isn’t the big player some of the other sites I’ve mentioned are, but a player nonetheless. It’s European based so if you’re heading to Europe or flying out of there, it may be worth a look. I like this site because of how comprehensive it is. Shoppers can buy and manage flights as well as a few more non flight related products too. Bravofly has you covered from A to Z.
They have multilingual mobile apps and the websites to match. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that, we all like a well-rounded product.
OneTravel is a cool booking site for a few reasons. The first reason is that they were launched in a barn somewhere in Pennsylvania in the nineteen nineties. I don’t care what anyone says, that makes for a pretty cool story. Okay, now on to more practical reasons. I’ve had a few boring customer service jobs and I’d never go back to them, BUT I took away one major lesson from those jobs and it’s that customers really appreciate it when someone’s there to help. OneTravel offers 24/7 customer service and I like that about these guys.
Next they specifically cater to a wide category of travellers that are rarely even mentioned on other sites, like student travel or gay and lesbian travel. And I like that because, travellers are all very different, why should we all be treated the same?
Aside from the fact that the name conjures up some really funny images in my head, I like this site a lot. It doesn’t have the best design but it has a lot of great features. First, they combine reduced airfares with advertised fares of hundreds of air travel companies, which altogether can usually find you a pretty good deal.
The reason I really like Air Gorilla is the extras. They provide travel maps, guides, GPS rentals, rail tickets, passes you name it. You can also keep up with recent travel advisories and warnings. They have a few more cool features, but the ones I’ve listed are enough for me to put Air Gorilla in my top five airfare sites.
EXPEDIA (Owns Travelocity And Hotwire)
Expedia is a household name in the land of travel. It’s a well known OTA and is Canada’s largest online travel site. Canadians get access to over a hundred airlines, over a hundred thousand hotels and an array of vacation package options. They also display the true price of a booking which again helps prevent any nasty surprises at checkout time.
The icing on the cake is reputable 24/7 client support via email and telephone. Expedia is also a part of the larger travel family, Expedia Inc.
FlightFox has a cool take on travel. Sometimes, no matter hard you try, you just can’t seem to find the answer to your booking problem. That’s where FlightFox comes in. FlightFox lets you post tricky travel plans, and for an upfront fee of at least $24, other FlightFox users can compete to get you the best price or path of least agony. Everybody wins, you get a good price or route, another user gets paid and FlightFox takes a cut. I love the concept.
FlyinAway is a newer site with another great spin on airfare purchases. If you took eBay and an OTA, put them in a room together and they made sweet sweet love, FlyinAway would be their love child. The thinking behind FlyinAway is that the power is in your hands, so all of the travellers interested in the same flight will be pit against each other in a bidding war to get the best deal.
The downside to this site is that auctions remain closed until enough bidders are ready to start bidding. I like this site based on how creatively they approach the airfare problem.
Right away, HipMunk gets points for style and ease of use, not to mention a cute mascot that reminds me of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Where many sites will give you the cheapest fares, HipMunk aims to do the same, except it also identifies that the cheapest flight may simply not be the best one.
HipMunk factors in intangibles like layover time and amount of stops and gives them an “agony” ranking. It seems as though the entire system was built around keeping the customer happy, and I for one, appreciate that immensely. With newly added flight deal notifications, it’s easy to see why this site should be a go to when shopping for airfares.
Aside from bloggers and 9-5 desk workers, the rest of the world pretty much uses their mobile devices as their first means of doing just about everything. Geneo kept that in mind when designing their mobile-only travel app. If you’re always on the move, how could you not have this app? Once you download and log into the iOS app, it records your home airport and search history. With Geneo you can do everything you want, when you want, where you want.
Another round of style points! Momondo’s user interface is both easy on the eyes and easy to use. Here’s how it works in all of its simplicity; it scans as many sites as possible for the best airfares and then reports back to you. It’s been known to find the cheapest airfares consistently and it’s also very fast. Momondo will often return results with the same arrival and departure airports or with different arrival and departure airports, something that travellers do on their own anyway. Might as well let the computer do it for you, right?
There’s also a well-made calendar feature like a few of the other sites that I’ve mentioned to help you save even more by slightly adjusting your itinerary. I like Momondo a lot and I think it’s top five worthy (if I’m not already at six).
BING TRAVEL (Previously Farecast.com)
Long live the innovator! Bing’s futurist approach is an awesome feature on this site. Bing’s Tip tells you within 80% accuracy if you should buy your ticket right away or hang back and wait for a better price. It basically tells you if airfares will rise or fall based on fancy calculations and algorithms.
A few added features that shouldn’t go without mention, selecting flights based on airports, length of flight, quality of flight and airline. All in all a solid flight search site.
In typical Google fashion, Google Flights is by far the fastest site for generating airfare results, so if you’re in a hurry, look no further. I’ll be honest in saying that there will likely be better prices out there with other sites but Google Flights doesn’t do too bad in comparison. It’s the new kid on the block and you can expect bigger and better things from this site in the future.
Another nice feature from Google Flights is its ability to help with non specific searches, finding you flights with merely the mention of a region of the world or time of year, similar to the search engine of the same name.
Much like Google Flights, Adioso is great with vague or general search terms. It’s also great with typical date and location time searches as well, but it’s nice to see that these airfare companies are thinking outside the box. Adioso won’t knock your socks off with the lowest prices but it won’t disappoint either.
If you’re a budget traveler (like most of us) and you’re flexible in terms of when and where you want to travel, Adioso may be the perfect starting point for you. You may not buy your tickets via the website but it can kickstart you onto more specific flight information and give you a good idea of the pricing too. They also have a similar price tracking function to Skyscanner which sends changes in price straight to your inbox.
TRAVEL SUPERMARKET (UK)
If you’re going to or departing from the UK, you’ll want to give Travel Supermarket a glance. Admittedly, it’s a skin and bones type of site with very little in the way of additional perks. They do still offer people in the UK enough tools for them to compare prices and get great deals for themselves, all through an efficient search of hundreds of airfare sites (650 airlines, 39 individual suppliers).
The information found on the site is accurate and functions in real time since Flight Supermarket takes the info directly from a number of airlines. I’d say it’s definitely worth your time.
Plain and simple the kind folks at Daily Trip Hack are a young team of enthusiastic travel searchers that take pride in bringing you and I the best travel deals they can find on the web. They scour the Internet day and night to find the best deals. Then they post them to their site and tweet them for the world to see. Awesome, point blank period.
Seat Guru; I for one love this site and can’t speak highly enough about it. I’m a tall guy and these days I’ve been flying pretty often. It seems as though most airplanes are built for Hobbits, and I’m 6’4″. Needless to say I often experience less than comfortable flights when I’m flying coach. Seat Guru is a huge help because it provides seat maps, flight searches and itinerary ratings, taking a lot of the guess work out of how you’ll feel about your flight. I’m excited about what new things Seat Guru will bring to the table in the future.
- Book as early as possible, I’m talking at least 2-3 months if possible.
- Search in Incognito mode, have an active VPN or at the very least clear your cache and internet search history. Airfare websites can track your previous searches and will then increase the prices for what they know you’re looking for.
- When checking for airfares, book all the way through to see if prices are in real time, if they still exist or to spot hidden fees.
- Many of the sites I’ve listed here have country specific websites, a quick Google search will let you know if they have a .ca/.com/.uk/.au etc.
- Good sites will naturally always be close in terms of pricing, the decision then becomes a matter of preference, ie: (mascot, nice colours, referral from a friend etc).
Finally, as you can probably tell from this lengthy list, there is no one pure best site to provide you with the cheapest airfare possible. Don’t rely on 1 search to save yourself money. I personally use a minimum of 3 to 5 for best results. Cross reference the hell out of your choices with these sites and you’ll save big money every time so you can continue to Pack Light and Travel Often.
Was this post helpful? I’d love to hear from you! Do you know of any awesome websites I may have missed? Comment below! Let’s share our knowledge and make traveling better for everyone. You can also mention me on Twitter [at]DriftAway2015 or on Facebook at Drift Away – Travel Blog. Hope to hear from you!!
Until next time,