Ah airtickets. The bane of most wanderers is the high cost of flights and since the days of steamer ships and trains are mostly over and the hyperloop and transporter are still under construction.
Raise your hand if you often find yourself in a moment (hours) of procrastination typing “cheap flights” into Google…
*raises other hand*
So, here are a few sites I use to find and compare flights. I’ll also add in 3 tips for getting good deals on your flights.
- Have a flexible schedule: If your dates aren’t fixed then you can use the “+\-3” days tool on most cheap flight searching websites. This helps you see a grid of the flight costs three days before and after your initially desired departure and return dates. Most sites let you slide forward and back between dates so you can find the best fares.
- Use the app: I’m not quite sure why but I’ve found that for some sites (like Kayak.com) their mobile app tends to find better deals than their website. Or at least it lists them in a better fashion accounting not only for cost but also for total travel time in the listing rather than favouring one or the other in searches.
- Price alerts: Price alerts are your best friend if you have time between now and your travel dates. Create your search on a site that allows price alerts (like airfarewatchdog.com and Kayak.com) and turn on “Tracking Prices” which will pop up a window where you enter your email to be notified of drops in fare cost. These can be golden.
This is commonly accepted to be the ultimate flight search tool.
Created at MIT then purchased by Google, ITA Matrix searches a large number of airlines (not all of them) and allows for a great deal of customised searches and results. It offers information on cost per mile, geographical searches, an excellent interactive calendar and much more.
It might be overwhelming for novice users but I recommend that you try it out, even if it’s to cross-reference the costs you’re finding on other websites.
Also, you are not able to actually purchase tickets through the ITA Matrix, it’s a tool only for searching and reference.
- Backed with all the power of Google
- Searches an enormous range of airlines
- Lots of customisable features
- Excellent comparison tools
- Research only, cannot be used to purchase flights so there will be another step of actually finding your ticket to purchase after you discover that it exists on ITA Matrix.
- May be complex for some users
I’ve been using Kayak.com for a long time. I’m not sure where the name came from but I like to think that it came from the age-old searches on Google Maps when, if you asked Maps to route you across the seas while it was set on “walking” directions, it would tell you to kayak from Los Angeles to Sydney.
I always got a kick out of that.
So Kayak.com is a staple for me. It has a solid search algorithm and searches not only the airlines’ websites but also other “aggregator” sites.
Perhaps 80% of the time I find myself booking on Kayak.com. I also like their price alert and tracking tool which was mentioned above.
- Wide search range
- Regularly finds the best deal
- Ability to receive price alerts
- Its algorithm will log your IP address and bump up the prices if you search too many times for the same trip.
- The app seems to find, or at least arrange, results better than the website and often when you open the computer to find the deal you saw on your phone, it takes forever to sift through everything else.
Orbitz has been around forever and it’s a mainstay of the cheap flight aggregator websites. Die-hard fans of Orbitz rack up “Orbitz bucks” from booking while logged into the site and these can come in pretty handy to bring the cost of trips down even further.
Lately Orbitz seems to have more advertising on it than before and hey, everyone needs to make money, but the ads can get a bit tiresome.
- Frequently finds good deals
- Easy to select options (ie. non-stop, departure time)
- Lists baggage fees and details on the search results
- Good for package trips
- It is automatically set to search “Packages” so for the inexperienced user you might either want to work slower when starting out with this site or you’ll find yourself in packaged Flights+Hotel+Trip+Car+++++ territory. For the seasoned traveler this can be very annoying.
- Lots of ads
AIRTICKETS.COM (and international subsidiary sites)
More specifically, AirTickets.gr has become a favourite of mine since I started flying in and out of Athens regularly. This site has shown to find flights that others can’t even process.
For example, flying from Athens to the Dominican Republic. Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia, etc turned up with “cannot find flights” whereas AirTickets.gr found lots of them, and at great prices!
I believe this is due to the airlines which they include in their searches. These airlines include smaller companies and less popular routes. Their algorithms also do not push to send you through major hubs like America.
- Excellent fares on less common routes
- Less common search range
- Great international sites
- Difficult to change the language on international sites
- Might not find the best deals on standard / high traffic routes
Airfarewatchdog is recommended by lots of frequent travellers and on their clean, simple site you can see why. Searching is easy and they often result in excellent flight costs.
If you’re just curious where you can go this site has lists of “Today’s Top Deals” and a selection of really cheap flights listed right on the homepage. Of course, these flights all come with conditions (ie. travel dates, regional airports, etc) but if you’re looking to spin the globe and go somewhere at random, this could be perfect for you.
Through this site you can also set up price alerts for specific airports which are close to home or destinations that you’d like to visit. Once a good fare is found by airfarewatchdog you’ll get an email and can book straight away.
Wide range of search options including ‘top deals’ which changes daily
Ability to set price alerts
Searches by home airport and dates to see where you can go on your budget
Highly responsive on social media
The homepage deals often link to exterior sites and require more searching to actually find the deal listed
Not great for international deals, this site is excellent for North America but not great for the rest of the world in my experience
So there you have it! 3 tips and 5 sites to try when you’re looking for your next adventure.
Do you use one of these sites?
Do you have a favourite way or site that helps you find cheap flights?
Please tell me in the comments! 🙂