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Five tools for better, easier price comparisons

SmarterTravel

In the past, we’ve compared search tools offered by the three major online travel agencies (Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz) to help you decide which is best for your trip planning. However, new price-comparison websites have become popular in the past few years, while older websites continue to add new features. All of these sites can make the process of searching for and buying travel less time-consuming.

These price-comparison websites allow users to enter travel details (including departure and destination cities and dates) once and will search hundreds of travel sites, from airline websites to cruise providers. To help you determine which website is right for your price comparisons, we’ve outlined the strengths and weaknesses of the major players.

BookingBuddy.com

Launched in late 2003, BookingBuddy.com searches for airfare, hotels, car rentals, vacations, and cruises, and offers a free weekly newsletter. In addition, BookingBuddy.com offers a selection of travel deals offered by advertisers. Full disclosure: BookingBuddy.com is a sister site of SmarterTravel.com.

Strengths

BookingBuddy.com allows users to choose which sites to search in all of the major travel categories, including a unique option to search other price-comparison websites (such as Kayak, Mobissimo, and FareChase) and online travel agencies (such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity). Users can enter travel itineraries once and search different providers, many of which aren’t available through online travel agencies. BookingBuddy.com allows users to perform both round-trip and one-way searches, unlike some of the other comparison tools.

Weaknesses

BookingBuddy.com does not have the capability to search open-jaw itineraries, and only searches for economy-class adult fares. BookingBuddy.com also has a limited selection of vacation providers.

Kayak

Kayak was created by the co-founders of Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity. It searches for airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacations. Kayak’s searches produce a broad list of fares that can be shortened by adding filters with user specifications (airline, number of stops, alternate airports, etc.). In its car rental, cruise, and vacation searches, Kayak allows users to choose which websites to search. Kayak also has a section of advertiser deals.

Strengths

When searching for airfare, Kayak saves past searches, a helpful feature if you’re tracking fares over a period of time. Also when searching airfare, Kayak allows users to specify nearby airports and nonstop flights.

Weaknesses

Kayak will only search economy-class flights for adults, so travelers searching for open-jaw itineraries or specialty (non-adult) fares should look elsewhere. Kayak also has a very limited selection of vacation providers.

Mobissimo

Mobissimo searches airfare, car rentals, and hotels. Its airfare search is similar to Kayak’s, providing a long list of fares that can be shortened by adding filters with user specifications.

Strengths

Mobissimo searches economy-, business-, and first-class fares. It also searches both round-trip and one-way flights. In addition, Mobissimo searches a wide range of providers, both domestic and international, and even searches worldwide low-fare carriers such as Ryanair (Europe), Tiger Airways (Asia), and Virgin Blue (Australia).

Weaknesses

Mobissimo does not search cruises or vacations.

SideStep

Launched in 2000, SideStep is one of the original fare-comparison websites. Available as both a search engine and a downloadable toolbar, SideStep searches airfare, hotels, and cars. It recently launched a vacation search that is still in beta form.

Strengths

SideStep will search for adult, child, and youth airfare, but not for senior discounts. However, its hotel search has the ability to search for senior discounts.

Weaknesses

SideStep does not currently search for cruises. Users who download the SideStep toolbar might find the pop-up comparisons intrusive, although there is a way to turn off the pop-up feature.

Yahoo! FareChase

Yahoo’s FareChase, still in beta form, searches for airfares, hotels, and car rentals, using technology similar to that of Kayak, Mobissimo, and SideStep. As FareChase evolves, users who utilize Yahoo! for e-mail and news may appreciate a travel search function on their homepage.

Strengths

FareChase can search for specialty fares—for example, reduced-price fares for children, infants, and seniors. It also can search for one-way and round-trip fares, as well as economy-, unrestricted economy-, business-, and first-class tickets. Users can also check alternate airports.

Weaknesses

FareChase is still in beta form, so it isn’t as developed as its competitors. FareChase currently only searches for airfare, hotels, and car rentals. Its hotel search currently only includes hotels in the U.S. and Canada.

No matter which price-comparison website you decide is best for you, the important thing is that you shop around. These five websites will make it even easier to compare prices with the click of a search button.

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