Sick of the simplest search requiring ten tabs open on ten windows, our concierge decided to determine once and for all which travel search tool works best for which conundrum. Whether you need cheap last-minute seats or are traveling with your 6'ft friend who demands extra legroom, there's a single perfect site for you.
If You Don't Care Where You Go So Long As You Can Get There Cheap, Try Scott's Cheap Flights
Scott's Cheap Flights operates an email newsletter that sends out alerts for the best flight deals. Some days you'll find sub-$300 tickets to Oslo, other days a $400 round trip to Peru. But they don't tell you where to get it: you'll need to act fast to snag your cheap trip. There's also a paid newsletter that alerts you to premium destinations—think India for $600 roundtrip, or Tokyo for $500.
If You Want To Research Your Perfect Itinerary, Try Kayak
Kayak goes direct to airlines to search for the best flight for you, but the best reason to opt for this website over the others is their search feature. You can sort by: layovers, departure/arrival airport, departure/arrival time, layover duration, flight leg duration, airlines, flight alliance and booking site. One caveat: use Kayak as research only and head direct to the airline to book. People who book through the site complain of being kicked off flights or reservations that never go through.
If You Need To Book A Last Minute Flight, Try Priceline
While Priceline offers a good deal of cheap fares, they don't go above and beyond what other flight aggregators offer—until it comes to last minute travel, that is. If you're looking to spend a weekend away NOW, go to Priceline. That's because airlines turn over their last-minute empty seats to the site when they need to rid of seats quickly. Do be aware that Priceline only offers round trips and connection flights on a single codesharing airline. This means you might lose out on some extended stops that let your switch airports or carriers, but it does mean your trip might be a bit more enjoyable.
If You Want To Track Cheap Fares From A Specific Airport, Try Airfarewatchdog
If you don't live in a major city, it can feel like many cheap fares just don't apply to you. But Airfarewatchdog fares will. Use the site to set up cheap flight alerts from your airport of choice, which will be rounded up into a tidy newsletter just for you. Have a specific route you want to travel? Let them know and they’ll notify you when prices dip.
If You Want A Frank Assessment,Try Hipmunk
Hipmunk was founded by a Reddit co-founder and brings the off-beat sensibility you expect from the chat forum to travel. In addition to search filters by airline, departure/arrival airport and timing, Hipmunk adds an "agony" rating for each flight, calculated according to the number of stops required. The corresponding "ecstasy" rating is used for hotels, which loop in results from Airbnb. If you're looking for domestic flights, you'll also get price results from Amtrak.
If You Need To Get Extra Legroom, Try Seatguru
Seatguru is TripAdvisor's own flight aggregator and, while it doesn't necessarily collect the absolute cheapest offerings, it will help you maximize your flight for comfort. In addition to their flight search mechanism, they have seat charts for pretty much every aircraft on every airline, plus ratings for the different seats on the plane. You'll also be able to search for amenities including on-board wifi, reclining seats, power outlets and personal televisions. Especially useful if you're tall, or just want to make sure an extra-long haul flight doesn't leave you zapped of life.
If You Want To Nerd Out About Cheap Flights To Particular Places, Try Momondo
At first glance, Momondo seems pretty similar to Kayak. They offer similar filters, a choice of dates, and hotel searches. But if you're looking for the absolute cheapest deal, Momondo is king. Not only will they filter trips by price like Kayak, they also offer a timeline of estimated prices, which lets you quickly compare the prices for travel dates across an entire month at a time. You'll also be able to see their travel insights, which tell you the most popular airlines, the most and least popular months to travel and what you can expect to spend overall at your destination.
If You're Interested In Package Trips, Try Travel Pirates
Not only does Travel Pirates alert you to cheap flights, they'll also throw in recommendations for where to stay or nearby resorts to help simplifying planning. Their suggestions range from flight and hotel pairings to Airbnb recommendations and multi-city excursions. Not all trips are available from all airports, but the site will give you in-depth information on the price difference from each departure city. You'll purchase on a partner sight, most frequently Expedia or Travelocity.
If You Want To Search Deals By Destination, Try The Flight Deal
The Flight Deal is more of a research tool than a place to buy discount tickets, but it can help you work out the perfect place for you that won’t send your bank account into the red. The site operates like a blog, posting about cheap fares on specific airlines between certain destinations. They also offer plenty of information on travel credit cards and mileage travel deals so that your trip is just as cheap as your flight. Think of this as Scott's Cheap Flights for when you need to plan ahead.
If You Don't Want To Do Any Of The Work, Try Secret Flying
Secret Flying's secret sauce so to speak is their ability to find "incorrect" prices and post them—but those you'll have to jump on fast (think $1,500 business class flight from San Francisco to Auckland, all because of a human error omitted zero). What we really love them for, and find them insanely more useful, is their well-researched cheap deals. Like The Flight Deal or Scott's Cheap Flights they find astonishing travel deals, but they also give you examples of specific dates when you'll get the absolute lowest prices and will even recommend what they call "open jaw" flight—when you arrive in one city and leave from another.
If You Like To Bend The Rules, Try Skiplagged
Not only does Skiplagged show you the usual cheap flights that all the other sites are offering, they also let you in on "hidden" city fares. Say you're flying from New York to Chicago. A direct flight might be costly, but on certain flights you can book a stopover in Chicago with an onward destination that's cheaper—you just ignore the onward destination and leave in Chicago. Be aware that airlines are none too happy about this "trick," which has been going on for years. Only choose these fares if you need a one-way flight as it's airline policy to bump people off flights if they miss a leg.