Wondering what website you should be booking your airfare with to get the best deal? You’re not alone. There are seemingly endless options when it comes to choosing the best flight booking site these days.
In addition to the option of booking directly with your airline, there are dozens of flight booking websites, also known as online travel agencies (OTAs), to choose from. The uncomfortable truth is that no one flight search engine can guarantee the best price 100 percent of the time, but using a mix of the right resources can help ensure you’re not overpaying.
The Best Flight Booking Sites
Here’s a quick rundown of the best flight search sites for booking cheap airfare.
- TripAdvisor Flights
- One Travel
- Google Flights
One important thing to remember about booking sites/OTAs is that Southwest fares are not sold on them. Some other airlines have also pulled their fares from some booking sites, but most airlines do make their fares available.
Here’s why these 10 are the best flight booking sites and meta search options out there, and the best defining feature of each. Since it’s impossible to know which site will provide the best price for your particular trip, you should compare fares from a few sources before you book.
It should be noted that Expedia owns Travelocity, so this flight booking site basically gives you Expedia price results with a different color scheme and organizational preferences. Travelocity’s homepage is streamlined, but doesn’t offer a flexible-dates search. On the results page, bag fees are revealed by clicking a drop-down for each fare, which makes it a little difficult to compare fees (you will likely have to scroll a bit). Travelocity rates each flight itinerary with a score on a scale of 10, which assess the duration, type of aircraft, and “quality of amenities” available onboard from ‘Very Good’ to ‘Satisfactory’ to ‘Fair.’ Travelocity does not charge a booking fee for round-trip flights on the same airline.
Best Feature: The out-of-10 flight rating assigns each itinerary a clear score, so you’re a lot less likely to mistakenly book a long layover or miss out on a better itinerary with Travelocity.
As previously mentioned, Expedia is nearly identical to Travelocity. Same interface, same flights, same prices, but in a different color scheme. As with Travelocity (and to be fair, a number of other OTAs), Expedia will try to up-sell you on adding a hotel to your itinerary. This can save you money, but be sure to compare prices before you book. Expedia does not charge a booking fee on round-trip flights on the same airline. When you select your fare from the list of options, there’s an interstitial step that displays what is and isn’t covered in the fare, including seat selection, cancellations, changes, and baggage rules.
Best Feature: Like its subsidiary Travelocity, Expedia basically double-checks that you understand what sort of fare you’re choosing before you click “select” again. It’s a helpful bit of transparency in today’s cluttered airfare landscape.
Much like Travelocity and Expedia, flight search sites CheapOair and One Travel are versions of the same product, owned by Fareportal Inc. CheapOair charges the same booking fee as One Travel: up to $35 per ticket. The price results are identical, although the layout of the results differs somewhat, as CheapOair opts for a chart rather than a calendar.
Best Feature: Similarly to Bookit.com, CheapOair prioritizes nonstop prices over itineraries with stops, organized in an easy-to-read charts that’s organized by airline.
TripAdvisor (SmarterTravel’s parent company) is known for its hotel reviews, and now travelers can apply their ratings to airlines, plus search for airfare on TripAdvisor Flights. On testing this flight booking site it’s clear that TripAdvisor doesn’t always serve up the cheapest fares, but sometimes it did. It always, however, gives you the option to surface Expedia, Travelocity, and other flight booking sites’ results, so you can compare right away with one click. TripAdvisor Flights also has some helpful search options up-front, like a check box for prioritizing nonstop flights.
Best Feature: TripAdvisor’s flight search tool is unique from others in that it offers review-based FlyScores of airlines alongside their fares, so you’re less likely to book with an obscure, low-rated airline without realizing.
Bookit.com results are listed in a handy chart (rather than as the typical scrolling list) showing the lowest prices grouped for nonstop, one-stop, and two-stop flights for a few primary carriers including the ‘best price,’ clearly marked. Otherwise, its results page is similar to most, with lots of drop-down menus and checkboxes for narrowing your results if you have specific needs. However, it charges a booking fee. Annoyingly, it was difficult to find information on exactly how much this flight booking site charges—terms and conditions are vague on the topic.
Best Feature: The table-style results chart on Bookit.com makes it easy to compare prices in one place rather than scrolling and mentally comparing itineraries.
One Travel borrows its interface from Google Flights’ calendar search feature. When you enter your departure and destination airports, the dates field brings up a calendar with prices pre-populated. This is a helpful feature for immediately honing in on the travel dates with the best prices if and when your dates are flexible.
One major drawback: One Travel charges a steep service fee of up to $35 per ticket. One Travel also offers different (and in my opinion, sometimes worse) itineraries than most at the top of its results page. Highlighted itineraries, upon closer inspection, included an extra stop. It’s important to make sure you’re comparing the same exact flights by looking at the flight number, or at least by keeping track the different options.
Best Feature: The calendar organization that’s hard to find on other flight booking sites is the most ideal format if you’re flexible on travel dates.
Travelzoo is quite different from the other sites listed here. Instead of booking specific itineraries, you can search broad timelines (this week, next month, this summer, etc.) for deals in your desired destination by either month or season. This makes Travelzoo a good fit for people with a budget and time frame, but no firm idea of when or even where they want to go. The downside is that if you do have specific plans in mind—for example, you need a flight to Omaha in March—Travelzoo is not likely to be helpful.
Best Feature: Travelzoo’s flexibility requirement can afford some great deals you won’t find elsewhere, like cheap business class flights and multi-city itineraries that will make a dream trip a lot more affordable than you’d think.
Google Flights is a powerful, simple metasearch site that comes free of ads and distractions. After you enter your departure and arrival airports, the calendar pre-populates with prices so you can target dates with lower fares (One Travel uses this tool). Once you have your results, you can track fares on your selected dates and receive updates by email.
Best Feature: The “search by map” function, which allows you to enter dates or a flexible period and see fares displayed all at once on a map. This can be helpful if you want to go to Europe in April, for example, but don’t have a particular destination in mind.
Often imitated and frequently duplicated, KAYAK was a game-changer when it launched back in the mid-2000s. And it’s still one of the most powerful metasearch tools available. You can also set up fares alerts to track prices over time. The interface is noisier than Google Flights thanks to a preponderance of ads, but still easy to use.
Best Feature: Its Hacker Fares claim to piece together separate one-way tickets, potentially saving you money compared to similar itineraries, and its wide range of filters, sorting options, and predictive technologies put a lot of tools at travelers’ disposal.
Momondo giveth, and Momondo taketh away. One quirk of Momondo is a lack of transparency around the results. The top result in my test search was listed as from a “Major Airline,” which I was only able to identify by matching it to results from other searches. One plus: Momondo surfaces results from Southwest … but without prices. The results showed flight times and details from the carrier, but the fare was listed as “Unknown Price.” Only by clicking through to Southwest could I see the fare. Still, it’s nice to have a reminder that Southwest is an unlisted option. Another plus: Momondo searches for fares from a ton of smaller OTAs, which could lead to a deal that other metasearch tools miss.
Best Feature: The mention of Southwest is unique to Momondo. It gets kudos for flagging a reminder to check a competitor for something it doesn’t offer.
The takeaway? In determining which of these sites are the best ones for you to compare prices with, it’s helpful to determine which sites meet your trip-booking needs. Do you want to clearly see bag fees up front? Do you want an easy ‘flexible dates’ function, or are your dates firm? If your travel plans are loose, do you want to see prices for multiple destinations? Different flight booking sites have different capabilities.
Once you determine which site is worth your time depending on the trip, compare prices with a few to make sure you’re getting the best deal. And always check the airline’s own site: OTAs are good at displaying fees associated with an individual flight, but it’s trickier to compare fare options (classes like basic economy vs economy) on that flight.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that this list can be separated into two main types: Booking sites (also called OTAs) that you book directly with as a third party, and aggregators otherwise known as meta-search sites that’ll send you to a booking site to make your transaction. The latter is better if you want to using any frequent flyer programs you might belong to and acquire points.
What’s your idea of the best flight booking site? Which ones did we miss? Comment below.