Getting the best deal for your flight
Comparing Last Minute Airfare Sites
by Joe Raspolich
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One of the most important elements of successfully planning a trip to a faraway place is booking an affordable flight with a quality airline. Luckily, in the internet age, the process of finding and booking a flight that suits you has been made easy by the scores of airfare sites on the net. However, with a whole host of travel sites to choose from, it can be difficult to know which one will help you find the best deal.
There are several things you should think about when looking at an airfare website before you use it. The first thing you should look at is the value you can get. Since this is the main reason you are going through airfare sites, ask yourself if the deals are good enough for you to consider them further. Next, make sure the site has a positive reputation with both consumers and experts. Another, important factor is accuracy. Many travel sites offer information and review of airlines, destinations, and other aspects of travel. Make sure the site you use has a track record of accurate reviews and information. Finally, your site should have reliable and helpful customer service.
Considering these criteria, here are the best airfare sites that the internet has to offer:
Expedia is the most well rounded site in all the most important categories. The company boasts over 130 airlines to choose from, which is the largest selection around. With options like that, you are more likely to find a great deal. The site also claims to be able to save you up to $525 when you take advantage of its booking packages. You can book a flight, a hotel, and a rental car, or any combination of the three, for savings. If you are exclusively looking for flights, Expedia doesn't only provide worthwhile deals with packages. In terms of deals, the site shows daily deals in its "Today on Expedia" section. They also offer a best price guarantee. If you find a better price within 24 hours of booking with them, you get a full refund along with a $50 travel coupon. However, several customers on consumer review sites reported that they could not get a refund even though they should have qualified.
Expedia's website is simple and easy to use. The form on the homepage is an efficient way to begin your search. Just enter your departure and destination and then the dates you'd like to leave or return. Expedia brings up the best available flights and you can sort them by price, duration, and specific airlines.
Expedia is also packed full of information. Aside from the plethora of reviews and information on accommodations, cruises, rental cars, and attractions, the site also gives you a lot of information when booking a flight. You are able to see attractions and hotels near your destination. Once you've chosen a flight, a box in the right lets you know about any fees or stipulations that the airline you chose may have.
The company's customer service is very good and is available around the clock by phone, fax, and email. However, if you are trying to get some quick information or support, you may be disappointed since there are sometimes long waits when trying to contact the help desk.
What Kayak's website lacks in raw depth of information they make up for in user friendliness and interesting features. The deals are also very good and kayak will even compare their deals with other top travel sites within your search. For instance, if you want to fly to Chicago, Kayak will display their deals as well as deals from other companies even if the other companies are better. Although they don't always have the best price, the transparency here is something to be admired.
Kayak, in many ways, is the perfect launching point when planning a trip. Even though their site isn't as deep as some other sites, they aren't afraid to link to better deals with other companies. Just type in the city you plan to visit and a list of deals on hotels and rental cars come up from all over the web.
Kayak has plenty of innovative features that make it worth considering. One of these is the handy price trend tool. Let's say you want to book a flight from Miami to Chicago on November 1st. Kayak will display a list a flights and prices, but in the left hand column, the price trend tool will predict what similar flights will cost in the weeks to come and advise you accordingly. Being able to find the best times to fly is especially helpful during peak travel periods.
Kayak isn't the best in terms of information and deals, but they do successfully gather, search, and link you to the sites that have what you are looking for. This makes them a great place to start planning a trip.
Orbitz has all of the basic features that you'd expect from a top travel site, including deals on everything from hotels to cruises, handy search tools, and extensive information. Like Expedia, Orbitz also makes the claim that you can save up to $525 when you book a flight and a hotel together.
Orbitz was initially founded by a conglomeration of several airlines working together, namely Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Northwest Airlines, United Airlines, and American Airlines. Subsequently, the company has partnerships with these airlines in order to provide you with great deals.
Orbitz puts a huge amount of information at your disposal on their home page. You can see "hot hotel deals" that are available at popular destinations, you can look up a city for a comprehensive guide to all it has to offer, and you can find guides to specific hotels and attractions.
One area in which Orbitz excels is service, even though the wait time may be long during peak travel seasons. They are known for their great customer care, especially since efforts to increase response time, service quality, and the website's user-friendliness over the past several years. If you value good customer service and you want to learn more about a potential destination, then Orbitz is a great site to choose.
Travel Zoo claims to be "the deal experts," and after a recent site rebuild, this may very well be true. This is another site that searches and compares fares from all over the web. With their comprehensive Super Search tool, you can find prices from top travel and airline sites. The Super Search also displays deals on hotels, car rentals, and travel packages in separate tabs as well as special deals in a section called "deals you may like." Another great feature of this tool is a small purple icon next to each site with great user reviews for your specified route. The only thing that may bring this search tool down is that fact that you have to click through to the separate sites to see the listed prices as opposed to Kayak which displays them in a side by side comparison.
TravelZoo has a variety of deal opportunities all over their site, including daily deals, local deals, and an entertainment deal section. When you arrive at your destination and find yourself with some free time, you can check out their "deals near me" section to find deals in the area. This is very helpful if you are unfamiliar with the area you are visiting and you can download a free mobile app if you want to find deals around you on the fly.
Travelocity has useful search tools to help you find a great flight. Like a few other airfare sites, they allow you to compare prices from around the web right from their search results page.
Many sites have similar features and tools. However, there is one major thing that sets Travelocity apart and that is the ability to book a train ride. If you get to your destination airport and you still have a bit of traveling to do, you can use Travelocity's "Rail Deals" section to see if there is a locomotive option.
Travelocity claims to have "the most comprehensive guarantee in the industry." Whether or not they back up this guarantee is hard to say but they do make some pretty impressive promises. For instance, they say they will match a better price you find with another site and give you $50 off your next trip. They also guarantee to work with you throughout your trip in case you have an issue like an overbooked hotel, weather issues, or general discrepancies between the reality of an accommodation and what they advertise on the site.
Customer reviewers report having issues with service. However, many reviewers reported finding great deals and a having a good trip. Although Travelocity's site design isn't as seamless and user friendly as some of its competitors, it is still a great choice for airfare.
There are many more airfare sites out there, but these are the top 5 best. Many of the above sites have a lot to offer when you are looking for a good deal on airfare. You have the option to go through an aggregation site like Kayak or TravelZoo in order to see all of your options in one place. You also have the option to go straight to the source with sites like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity and find libraries of information about your destination.
Joe is a staff writer for MoneySavingPro.com and believes saving money can be as fun as it is smart.
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