Arguably one of the most overwhelming parts of a vacation is booking the flights. With so many options to choose from, so many variables to account for, how can we get the best bang for our buck while keeping our precious leg room and complimentary cookies? Below I’ve broken down a few different flight booking tools for you to use to find the best flight prices and routes with the best values.
At least in all my experience booking flights, there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all for the best prices and best value for your money. This just means we must do a little extra searching if we want to find great flight deals. To make the maze a little less messy, I’ve laid out the advantages and disadvantages for each tool to narrow down which you’d like to use.
All of the following websites provide something unique, and though some are superior to others, they each offer their own pros and cons.
You’ll find a few tips at the end of this list to take your flight-booking game up a notch or two.
This website breaks down individual flight prices showing which fees are thrown in the reservation, including fuel surcharges and taxes.
After being acquired by Google in 2011 following its development by MIT pros in the 1990s, this tool is so powerful that many of the flight search engines across the web are based around it. Google Flights is one great example.
TIP: Once you’ve found your flight reservation, instead of re-typing in your itinerary details in a booking site, use BookWithMatrix.com to simply copy and paste your chosen itinerary from Matrix ITA and book through their software.
- Breaks down fees in a flight route so you can take advantage of “fuel dumps” and other airline errors
- Provides cost-per-mile statistics
- Offers a calendar to compare prices
- Has lots of filters
- Does not offer a mobile app
- Can be a bit intimidating to new users
This website rounds up fares that have been posted by airlines in error. Price tags for these are usually very inexpensive compared to normal prices; sometimes a whole digit less than the intended number (simply because of a human or computer error).
Fares are snatched up quick, but it’s a great tool for those who are interested in traveling without much of a care where or when.
Another similar option is TheFlightDeal.
- Finds human and computer errors across the web to bring you incredibly cheap prices
- Does not provide much flexibility – you will likely have to be the flexible one in flight dates/times and destinations
- Error fares are snatched up quickly
This search engine is very user-friendly to beginners and usually offers great prices. Skyscanner also provides “mashup” fares, which help you combine flights for a cheaper price.
- Offers a map displaying prices depending on your city and departure month
- Collects competitive prices
- Offers “mashup fares” to save on flight routes
- Does not always have the most competitive prices – depends on many things like desired route and timing
Google Flights is very easy to use, has all the options/filters one can need, and usually has great prices. If you are a visual person without a ton of patience in the vacation booking experience, then you might want to risk putting all your eggs in this basket; a little extra money on the flight price (though Google Flights usually has great prices – there’s always an off-chance they won’t) may be a small price for you to pay in exchange for ease-of-use and a fast booking experience.
Google Flights is a great tool to rely on for booking flights for the lazier travelers looking to simply look and book.
- It’s very user-friendly and visually simple
- Lots of filters
- Allows an option to buy tickets separately so you can save more
- Offers price alerts
- Allows you to share your itinerary to allow for others to plan around
- Offers Discover Destinations – allows you to explore more options from your city of origin
- Offers a browser extension to see how much precious leg room you are given, carry-on restrictions, and amenities
- Does not offer a mobile app
Kayak collects information from hundreds of flight search engines, providing some of the best prices across the web.
- Detailed map view with price points
- Lots of filters including an option of when you’d like your flight to depart
- Future price predictions
- Collects hundreds of search results
- Isn’t as user-friendly as the other options on this list
Skiplagged is another good option for a quick and painless look and book. Prices are usually super competitive and the website is simple, tasteful, and easy to use.
- Offers competitive prices
- Will round up multi-stop flights with one stop as your destination so you can save more
- Exposes flight loopholes
- Offers a mobile app
- Won’t be able to find prices for smaller airlines
This article originally started with only seven flight booking tools, but my recent experience with Kiwi has me throwing it on this list with the others. I have found better prices with Kiwi for certain flights (looking at Denver, Colorado, USA to Europe for August) and the ease of the site is really unique in some ways.
- Displays super competitive prices
- Allows users to select multiple airports for both the destination and departure city
- Has a more visual feel – calendars with price listings on individual dates
- Gives discount incentives
- Shows map with prices everywhere based on the departure city, dates, stops, etc. you select
- Offers price alerts
- Includes multi-stop options to give you the best prices (if you like to choose longer travel days over larger price tags)
- Isn’t ALWAYS the best prices; though this is true for most, if not all booking engines these days
Some Heads Ups . . .
TIP: Get in the habit of using Private Browsing/Incognito Window on your browser when booking flight reservations. Many times you will see the price increase just because their computers have noticed a certain IP address is viewing it. This is so you act quickly and reserve your flight before the prices jump again. Private Browsing hides your identity from websites & takes those robots out of the equation so that you get a fairer price.
TIP: Many of these search engines, if not all, will not provide results for many smaller airlines like Southwest and Allegiant. The routes may be displayed, but the prices will not because they do not allow “any automatic device, program, or algorithm” to check and pull prices, as explained on Southwest Airlines’ website.
You’ll have to go to the airline’s website to view them, or use sites like AirFareWatchDog.com, which pull prices using humans rather than algorithms. This website is good for finding competitive prices, but I didn’t include it in the list because it’s not as user-friendly as the other options.
TIP: Keep in mind it might be worth it to double check your airline of choice’s rules ahead of booking with them – many airlines have added fees, such as luggage, that’s not included in the price you see.
With these great tools to use to book flights, you should have no trouble finding a price that suits your budget. It’s a maze out there, but one worth navigating to get the best value to get to your destination comfortably. These flight booking websites work great, and are perhaps some of the most-used, but this doesn’t make them the best…
I’ve shared my favorites with you, but with all the websites out there I’m sure I missed some good ones! What is your favorite flight booking tool?
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