People often ask me “What’s the best search engine to find cheap airline ticket?” The simple answer is that there is no one best search engine, rather, it depends on where you’re going and when you can go and your flexibility in both of these. In short, you’ll find the cheapest airline ticket when you’re flexible about your dates and about your destination. Note that I’ve including coupon codes where applicable.
Find Cheap Airline Tickets
So, what I’ve done here is compile all the best search engines for finding cheap plane tickets. They are categorized depending on what type of travel resource you’re looking for.
It’s essentially an Ultimate List of Cheap Airline Ticket Search Engines.
Below I’ve listed the category of travel search engines/websites — for instance, International Travel Search Engines or Domestic Discount Airlines — then I’ve given a brief description of when to use those sites, and then I’ve listed the best sites within that category.
For people who frequently search for cheap airline tickets, there are a few sites and tools that may even be new to you — like those in the Market Comparison section. Without further ado, I bring you the:
Find Cheap Airline Tickets Cheat Sheet
Market Comparisons/Buy or Wait
Before you buy a ticket, check out these sites to see average fares, price history, and if prices are rising or falling. Again, check these sites out before you start looking into airfares to get an idea of what you should expect to pay.
Farewatch (Shows average fares)
Kayak (after searching click on ‘show chart of fare history’ in left hand corner)
Farecast (for tickets in the next 30 days shows if prices are rising/falling)
The best search engines for searching for airline tickets. You don’t book through them, rather they redirect you to the airline’s homepage. (This is what makes them different from online travel agencies.)
Kayak or Sidestep (same company now)
When you’re searching for an international ticket, I have found these search engines to be best for finding a cheap airline ticket.
Non-Aggregators/Online Travel Agencies
These sites allow you to search for cheap tickets and buy through them. This means that you deal with that company and not the airline if something goes wrong. (I generally advocate booking directly with the airline.) The online travel agencies may charge ticketing and booking fees for booking through them.
Orbitz and Farecast (30 day window)
Flexible Dates Flying on Weekends
If you’re looking for a flight on an upcoming weekend, these sites are best.
Flexible Destinations (including last minute travel)
If you don’t care where you’re going, you just want to go somewhere cheap, these sites list destinations with cheap airline ticket prices.
Last Minute (formerly Site59)
Mobissimo Activity Search
Finding parking at airports is critical to success in finding a cheap plane ticket. Here are some sites that allow you to do that:
Holiday Extras offers low prices and great choice of Luton airport parking – both on-airport and off-aiport locations.
Suntransfers offers airport transfers between airports and your destination – worldwide.
I hope you find this Cheat Sheet useful. Please consider bookmarking it with your favorite bookmarking site, so that everyone can learn how to find a cheap airline ticket.
What are your favorite travel search engines?
I’m a bit of an airfare search engine geek. I love searching websites and flight aggregators to try to find the cheapest plane ticket possible. As I’ve become more conscious of my environmental impact, this also means searching for nonstop flights.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that many websites don’t make this easy. As a green traveler you too should search for nonstop flights, since much of the fuel burned on airplanes occurs during take-off and landing. So, to assist you in your efforts to search for nonstop flights I’ve put together this list of websites that offer 1-click non-top preference buttons on the front page of the sites. On all of these websites you can check a box to indicate that you prefer nonstop flights.
Nonstop Flight Travel Search Engines: 1-Click
For comparison, here are the websites that don’t offer front page no-stop preference buttons. Most of these sites offer nonstop once you’ve done your initial search, but not before.
I hope this list saves you time and energy searching for nonstop flights. More importantly, I hope it saves the environment as more people choose to pass up multi-leg flights.
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Best Search Engines for Flexible Travel: Search for Airfare 330 Days Out
When searching for plane tickets, you can save a ton of money by searching with flexible travel dates. As part of our cheap travel tips series, I’m going to reveal my three favorite search engines for when you have very flexible travel dates. All three of these search engines allow you to search with more than the standard flexible search of 1-3 days around your travel dates.
Instead, they allow you to search for flexible travel within the next 330 days. Searching for flexible travel dates can save you literally hundreds of dollars on a flight. For example, if looking at airfare from Washington, DC to San Francisco, if you have flexible travel dates for when to visit you could pay $219 to for a flight in June.
But, if your dates aren’t flexible — forcing you to leave a few days earlier or later — you would pay $319 for the cheapest flight. This is how flexibility saves you money.
Again, very few travel search engines allow you great flexibility when searching for flights. Usually the “flexible search” option is 1-3 days around your given date, but these search engines allow you the maximum flexibility — 330 days from today. The three best are FareCompare, Kayak, and Travelocity.
Kayak for Flexible Travel
Kayak’s search function also shows a popup window when you type in your to/from cities.
Cons: Kayak’s flexible travel search is based on other’s recent searches– so the results they show aren’t necessarily fares that are still available for you to purchase. This can be frustrating if you find a great fare, but then it’s no longer available.
FareCompare for Flexible Travel
I like FareCompare the best for flexible travel because it shows you the cheapest dates earliest in the searching process. As soon as you type in your travel to/from airports, the cheapest and most expensive months to travel appear on the right hand side. Then as soon as you click on the departure date, a calendar pops up. It’s fast and easy to follow.
Travelocity for Flexible Travel
Travelocity also has a great flexible travel search option that searches 330 days out. It lists the very cheapest ticket price first (no matter what month it’s in), but I don’t like it as much for three reasons.
- First, it isn’t laid out in a format that works well for me. I like the calendars that appear on both Kayak and FareCompare. Why? Because if it’s only $3 more to fly on a Friday versus a Thursday, I’m going to pay the extra $3. With Travelocity it’s much harder to see the flexible travel dates that work well with a certain schedule.
- Second, it takes 4 or 5 times as many clicks to choose your actual flight options — this gets cumbersome.
- Third, Travelocity don’t include taxes/fees in their results — giving you an artificially reduced price (until the final screen).
Searching for airfare with flexible travel dates will save you tons of money on your next airline ticket.
Save Thousands with Flight, Hotel, and Rental Car Preferences
I almost always use Kayak search engine during some part of a trip planning process because I love Kayak’s search preferences. So I’ve put together my favorite travel hacks that you can use on on Kayak flight, hotel, and rental car searches.
Kayak’s customization search bar is awesome, through TripAdvisor recently launched an aggregator that has pretty nifty search preferences as well (it may even top it). The following tips show you how adjusting search preferences (on any travel search engine) will save you thousands of dollars.
Cheap Flights Search Tips
Adjust Leaving Time To Save on Transportation
Ensure that your flight departure/return times allow you to take public transportation (or is at an hour where a friend/family member can pick you up). If your flight is leaving at 7 am out of Washington-Reagan Airport, the Metro won’t be open early enough for you to take it — resulting in a hefty cab fare.
Take Overnight Flights to Save on Accommodation
Check the “Red Eye/Overnight Flights” box to search for overnight flights. While red eye flights aren’t the most enjoyable for sleeping, that $75-$200 you’ll save in hotel costs will be nice.
Choose Nearby Airports to Find Lower Cost Alternatives
Frequently nearby airports turn up cheaper fares. Make sure you include them by checking the appropriate box when you search for your flight. For example, in a recent search I would save $103 by flying into LaGuardia instead of JFK in New York. (Newark was $20 cheaper than JFK.)
Include Taxes and Fees
Taxes and fees add up — even though Orbitz, Expedia, et al recently suspended some fees. Kayak automatically includes these, so there should be no surprises when you click through to buy.
Review Airline Fees (e.g. Checked Bag Fees)
TripAdvisor includes these in their search results. Kayak has a nice summary that’s frequently updated. You can save anywhere from $15-$200 depending on number of checked bags, snacks and drinks, and pet fees by carefully comparing airlines’ fees.
Cheap Hotels Search Tips
Choose a Hotel Nearby
If you’re in town for a convention, wedding, to visit relatives, or any other event where you’ll be frequenting one place more than most, choose a hotel near that location. Kayak allows you to enter an address, or choose from a landmark, to search for a hotel nearby.
Look for an Airport Shuttle
Choosing a hotel with a free airport shuttle can easily save $10-$50, and you’ll avoid the hassle of a cab or rental car.
Find Hotels with Fitness
Search for a hotel with a free fitness center to avoid shelling out extra cash to use the treadmill. Savings: $10-$15/day.
Search for Hotels with Internet
Find hotels with internet, then narrow it down to find free internet to save $5-$15/day.
Check Parking (if you’re renting a car)
If you’re renting a car or driving, you’ll save up to $40/day (depending on the city) by finding a hotel with free or reasonably priced parking. Bonus: In this economy, give the hotel a call and negotiate for free parking if they don’t already offer it.
Cheap Rental Car Search Tips
Adjust Miles per Gallon
Save money and the environment when you choose a car with better gas mileage.
Check the Unlimited Miles Box
If you’re driving a really long way (like Minneapolis to Chicago), check the unlimited miles box to save a ton (up to $0.89/mile).