Searching for a flight can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many factors: dates, times, price, fare class, airline, and more. Even when you know exactly when and where you want to fly, where should you look for the absolute best price?
No matter what else you’re considering for a trip, if you’re flying, chances are your main priority is to find the best flight for you—often the cheapest. Dozens of online travel agencies (OTAs) and flight metasearch companies promise to do that, and they do, but each of these flight booking sites does it a slightly different way.
Unfortunately, no website consistently has the lowest prices. Most of the popular OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) are usually in the same ballpark for the price, but not all offer the same benefits or search functionality.
We’ve combed through many popular OTAs to compare prices and show you the benefits and drawbacks of each site.
Best 11 Websites for Booking Flights at the Cheapest Prices
Click on any flight booking site in the list below to go straight to the site and start your search, or scroll down and read our reviews detailing what you’ll get from each site, plus the relative strengths and weaknesses of OTAs and metasearch sites.
Momondo is a travel metasearch engine similar to Kayak. The home page displays a simple search box where you can plug in your travel details.
One of the things I love about this site is the super visual way they show you the price trends for your flight. At first glance, you can tell if you could save some money by shifting around your travel dates a bit. They also offer a price tracker and lots of filtering options on the left-hand side of the screen.
They also offer Mix and Match fares which are simply 2 one way tickets from different providers packaged together to get you the best deal. However, unlike other sites, to book these types of tickets you do have to go to 2 separate websites to book.
Kayak is not an OTA; it’s a travel search engine. And since it’s a search engine, it’s a great place to start.
Kayak compares prices from many different websites all in a single spot so you can easily see where the cheapest options are. Most of the time, you’ll end up clicking through to a different site to complete your booking.
Kayak hacker fares are a great way to save money on your flight. These are itineraries created by bundling 2 one-way tickets (usually on different airlines) instead of a round-trip on 1 airline. These can be pretty good deals, and something that doesn’t always appear in search results of other websites.
Expedia is another tried-and-true OTA that people have been using since the 1990s. Back then, Expedia was a go-to source for searching and booking flights. But how do they stack up now?
I searched for a round-trip flight from Columbus (CMH) to Minneapolis (MSP) on Expedia, United’s website, Orbitz, and Priceline. All were the same price except for Orbitz, which charged a small booking fee.
As far as price goes, you aren’t necessarily getting a deal booking through Expedia, but you aren’t paying any more than you might on the airline’s website.
Expedia offers a rewards program, but I’m unimpressed with the earning potential through flights. The rewards program offers more benefits when booking hotels.
While you can earn miles on a flight booked through Expedia, you often won’t be able to earn miles toward status. You also might not be eligible for seat upgrades.
Google Flights is not an OTA. Rather, it’s a metasearch engine similar to Kayak. Once you find a flight, Google Flights will link you to the airline’s direct website or an OTA to complete the purchase. It is a powerful search engine built on the ITA Matrix, which was originally developed for travel agents.
Google Flights shows you price trends and how your date of travel could affect the cost of your ticket. Plus, it allows you to track the prices of a route, so you can jump on low prices when they pop up! These features make Google Flights a great tool to help you feel confident that the price you’re getting is a good deal.
Priceline is a popular OTA that introduced the Name Your Own Price tool and opaque bookings. These types of bookings can offer discounts, but many of the details are hidden until after the booking. The Name Your Own Price tool was discontinued for flights in 2016, so now Priceline operates like most other OTAs out there.
Testing for a couple of different flights revealed all were the same price across the board on other OTAs and on the airline’s own website. Keep in mind, this isn’t always the case, but generally, the price you get on Priceline will be in the ballpark of the flight cost on other websites.
Tip: An “opaque booking” is one in which select details of the flight like the departure and arrival times and even the airline are hidden until the booking is complete.
Orbitz is another reliable OTA that has been around since 2001. One thing that makes this site a little different is they offer their own rewards program called Orbitz Rewards. You can earn Orbucks when you book hotels, flights, and vacation packages through Orbitz. However, you can only redeem Orbucks for hotels.
When booking a flight through Orbitz, you’ll earn 1% of your purchase price back as Orbucks. If you book a $500 flight, you will earn 5 Orbucks, which is worth $5 toward a hotel booking. Joining the Orbitz Rewards program is free.
Agoda is an OTA owned by Priceline. This website doesn’t offer much more than a simple search with limited filter options when looking for flights. If you’re looking for unique accommodations such as an apartment or private villa, Agoda is worth checking out, but they don’t offer much when searching for flights.
One cool thing about Agoda is the site is multilingual. You can select your language by clicking on the flag in the top menu bar.
Hotwire is a popular OTA that has been around for almost 20 years.
The simple home page offers the main search box to input your departure and arrival cities as well as your desired dates of travel. You will need to click on the third tab in the main search box to access the flight search.
Hotwire can offer a great deal when booking a hotel along with your flight. Many times during the booking process, you’ll see pop-ups or prompts advertising great savings when booking a hotel at the same time. I tested it, and every time I priced out a Hotwire vacation package deal against purchasing a flight and hotel separately, the package deal won.
When searching for your flight, you might come across a Hot Rate flight. These are flights in which the exact times, number of stops, and carriers are hidden until after your purchase is complete. These require a fairly large amount of flexibility and I found the price difference to be as little as $20. They can sometimes offer a great deal, but many times, there isn’t much savings.
Skyscanner is another travel search engine that does not sell flights directly. They show you a list of flights and links to the airline’s website or OTA to complete the purchase.
Skyscanner excels for travelers with flexibility. In the search box, you can select Everywhere to search for the cheapest destinations on your chosen dates. If you have a set destination with specific dates, Skyscanner operates like most other travel search sites.
Travelocity is yet another OTA that has been around for a while. They offer many of the same benefits as other sites like the Price Match Guarantee and free cancellation within 24 hours.
Under the Price Match Guarantee, in addition to refunding the difference in price, Travelocity offers a $50 coupon to use on a future booking of a Travelocity Rate hotel or air and hotel package.
This guarantee comes with the usual terms: the lower price must be on an identical reservation from a U.S.-based website within 24 hours of your booking.
Travelocity Bargain Fares are opaque bookings, meaning you won’t know all the details of your flight until after your purchase is complete. These flights are featured at the top of your search results and can offer savings if you have flexibility in your schedule.
CheapOair is an OTA that offers its own credit card. The CheapOair credit card offers a $50 rebate if you make $500 in purchases in the first 90 days with no annual fee.
It’s great to have options like this, but we recommend a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for more lucrative and flexible travel rewards.
CheapOair can have expensive booking fees. For a coach ticket, the fees can be up to $35. However, once you read the fine print, you’ll see they can actually be as high as $100!
On a flight from Boston to New York, the base price on CheapOair was a couple of dollars cheaper than the airline’s website, but once the fees and taxes were added in, the flight was $16 more! This price even included their CheapOpick! Special Offer discount.
I did several searches for both domestic and international routes, and most of the time, CheapOair was more expensive. Once, they offered the same price as the airline’s website, but they were never cheaper.
Book Direct Through The Airline’s Website
More often than not, booking directly through the airline’s website will give you the best price, or will at least be the same as the OTAs.
Some airlines, like Southwest, won’t even show up on sites like Expedia or Orbitz, so you have to book direct. It can also be the most simple way to book. If a problem arises, you don’t have to deal with a 3rd party to get it resolved.
Another reason to book directly through an airline’s website is to use frequent flyer miles — hooray for award flights!
Of course, to book through the airline’s website, you first need to know which airline has the best prices. There are lots of travel search engines and OTAs that can help you find the best deals, so you know which airline’s website to visit. Some OTAs even offer perks that might make it worth booking someplace other than the airline’s site.
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