Waiting for a really good airfare deal for a specific destination you know you’d like to visit? Your best bet is to subscribe to alerts from a flight price tracker that will tell you when a fare drops or when an especially good deal appears. These types of airfare alerts are not the same as the many general “deal” bulletins you can receive. Instead, they’re keyed to specific travel dates, air routes, and sometimes even airlines—a kind of “set it and forget” for travelers who don’t want to go hunting for the cheapest airfare.
The 5 Best Flight-Price Trackers
Several options generally rise to the top of most evaluations. Here are the top five, in no particular order, plus what makes each one stand out, followed up by some broader flight-tracking options:
KAYAK (part of the Booking.com empire) is a robust flight price tracker. You can tailor the tracking filters as tightly as you want: by destination, class of service, number of stops, and more. As with many online search systems, it does not include Southwest in its fare searches. KAYAK can also track prices of hotels. Both are possible by selecting the “Price Alerts” switch on the left side of the results page once you’ve searched for your specific dates.
Skyscanner, a London-based metasearch system, operates in much the same way as KAYAK. The “Get Price Alerts” button on the search results page enters your trip(s) into the system, and you can manage your account for details. As with KAYAK, this flight price tracker doesn’t include Southwest fares. And although it can search hotels, it does not offer a tracking function for them. Skyscanner’s “Get Price Alerts” option on the left side of the results page allows you to choose from email, Facebook, and Google to easily create an alerts account and start getting emails—all you have to do is enter an email address for them to be forwarded to.
Hopper is a mobile app for both iOS and Android phones. (Note: Hipmunk, often previously cited as one of the outstanding search system with a tracker function and a competitor for Hopper, recently went out of business.)
Airfarewatchdog, SmarterTravel’s sister site, distinguishes itself from the others by including Southwest in its airfare searches. That’s because it uses a combination of online search and searches by real people—airfare analysts—to dig out the best deals. Otherwise, it’s functionally similar to the others, and it also covers hotels as well as airfares.
Yapta, owned by independent software company Coupa, alerts users about price drops on airfare or hotel bookings that could get you a partial refund. It’s “powered by Skyscanner” (so shares most Skyscanner features) and its high ratings are based, in part, on the ability to notify travelers of refunds they might be due following fare cuts. But that’s of more useful to business travelers on flexible tickets than to leisure travelers on nonrefundable ones. (Unlike Skyscanner, it doesn’t track or even list hotels.)
Lastly: Not a website so much as a broader platform built into the internet giant Google, Google Flights provides an outstanding range of choices for tracking flight prices. For any trip of interest you can enter an origin/destination, travel dates, how many tickets you want, class of service, plus screening for the number of stops and other variables to track as many individual flights as you want. notifies you if the fare goes below the value when you first entered the search. It covers most airlines except for Southwest, which does not provide its fares to any metasearch systems. It notifies you by email on as many specific searches as you set it to. Google Flights does not include hotels. As an added bonus, Google Flights will also tell you the cheapest time to fly to a given destination, or the cheapest place to fly in a given time period, if you’re unsure of where and/or when to travel.
For premium fares (premium economy, business, and first class) you can use any ITA Matrix-based sites, which cover all fare classes. Those who want more detailed information on first- and business-class deals, however, can subscribe to several paid sources like First Class Flyer and Notiflyer, starting at $99 per year. Read more about where to find deals on premium airfare here.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 5 Best Ways to Rack Up Airline Miles
- The 16 Best Car Rental Booking Sites
- The 17 Best Sites and Apps for Last-Minute Travel Deals
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.