• February 28, 2018 - Since this review was published, multiple travel sites have been acquired by giants Expedia and Priceline. We’ve updated our testing methodology and our review to make sure we're recommending the best websites to help plan your perfect vacation. Our old favorites, Booking.com, Priceline, CheapTickets, and Expedia, are joined by Kayak and Hipmunk as the best travel websites.

The Best Travel Site

The best travel site should be a valuable tool in creating your ideal trip, whether you’re planning an overseas vacation, a business trip, or a weekend road-trip. These websites work like robotic travel agents. Instead of asking you to go to the dozens of airline websites and hundreds of hotel websites to search for your ideal dates and route, travel sites perform all of these searches with a single click. To find the best, we looked for websites which could search for a variety of bookings, and tracked prices and user experiences focusing on flights, rental cars, and hotels, and bring us back the best services at the best prices.

Most travel sites scored solidly average: Their designs aren’t eyesores, but they didn’t impress us with cheap prices or user-friendly features and navigation. Our six favorites represent the best in price and navigation, and should be your first stops for planning your dream vacation — whether it’s a quick weekend getaway, or a months-long global excursion.

Booking.com is our top pick for Best Airfare Travel Website — consistently finding cheap prices and offering the most filters when looking for a hotel. Whether you’re looking for the cheapest flight, or exactly the right hotel room, Booking.com should be your first stop. Your car rental needs are best served elsewhere, however, and the website is generally more ad-laden than our other top picks.

Priceline's signature Name Your Own Price tool qualifies it as a great car rental site. You might be able to save on your rental with a little patience and luck. However, we wouldn’t recommend it for airfare — it tends to be on the expensive side for plane tickets.

Kayak's clean layout was a favorite with testers. It also scored big points for having the best flexible dates tool of any website we tested — letting us choose whether we wanted to look just at one day before and after our ideal dates to track down a better price, or if we wanted to look at the whole month. We were consistently impressed with its presentation, whether searching for airfare, hotels, or rental cars, and Kayak also scored fairly well for price. Kayak’s primary downside is that it’s a search aggregator more than a booking engine — you’ll have to go through to a different website to actually booking your arrangements.

CheapTickets easily tied first place for the best car rental site — along with its parent company Expedia. With an impressive number of filtering options and low prices, both websites make it easy to find the perfect car rental. The two websites are almost identical — though Expedia adds a “recommended” sorting feature to search results in addition to CheapTickets’ “total price” and “distance.” CheapTickets was slightly more expensive than Expedia on average, but the difference was usually so slim, we gave slight preference to CheapTickets overall.

Hipmunk scored high points for presentation and makes it easy to compare hotels and plane tickets with clear grids and intuitive icons. It scored solidly average for price, never overcharging us compared to the competition, and frequently found some of the least expensive flights and car rentals. However, we weren’t fans of the car rental page, which features a hard-to-navigate grid layout.

Our Picks for the Best Travel Site

Booking Holdings Sites

Booking Holdings is one of two giants in the travel website industry. We found three of its websites that blend together low prices and lots of detail, allowing you to pick which hotel room, car rental, or plane ticket you should buy.

Best Airfare Travel Site
We love this website for its low airfare prices and thorough hotel searches, but don’t recommend using it to search for rental cars.

Booking.com was our top pick for the best airfare sites for one simple reason: It consistently found the lowest prices for plane tickets. While it doesn’t offer flexible dates, it has enough search features to make it easy to find your perfect flight. We also loved the thoroughness of its hotel booking site, which has so many filters that we almost started to feel a little claustrophobic on the page. You’ll be able to see whether each room has air conditioning, a private bathroom, a flat-screen TV, free Wi-Fi, and possibly 20 more amenities. You’ll have a clear picture of what exactly you’re paying for, but since Booking.com does this for every hotel room, the page gets full really quickly.

That said, in addition to not having a flexible dates option for airfare, Booking.com doesn’t have a cruise search feature or suggested trips available. And while it has a car rental section of the website, we couldn’t get it to actually find any cars. But if you’re looking to book a plane ticket or a hotel room, Booking.com is our top pick.

Best for Bargain Hunting
If you have the time and the patience to hunt for the best deal on a car rental, Priceline’s Name Your Own Price Tool can score you a great deal, if you’re lucky.

If you’d like to rent a car, we’d recommend Priceline. Its trademarked "Name Your Own Price Tool" was discontinued for airfare, but you can still use it to get a great on a car rental. (To read more, check out review on Priceline in the best car rental site.) Unfortunately, we’d recommend staying away from Priceline when looking for an airplane ticket — it was usually more expensive than 60% of the competitors.

Best for Flexible Planning
Kayak’s clean presentation and solid price results make this site a good option for making your next plane ticket or hotel booking.

We also liked Kayak, whose clean layout makes it easy to absorb a lot of information about different travel arrangements quickly and compare flights. We loved Kayak’s flight search for having the best flexible dates tool of any travel site we tested — ranging from flexible weekends to flexible months. Kayak also impressed us with its hotel search, which includes a map displaying not only where hotels are located within a city, but which areas are best for dining out, shopping, and sightseeing.


Kayak’s heatmap (available in hotel searches) makes it easy to see whether your hotel is located in a good area for eating (left image), shopping (right image), nightlife, or sightseeing.

Expedia Sites

The Expedia sub-brands are a little easier to group together than Booking Holdings. Booking Holdings’ websites vary significantly both in terms of appearance and what prices they serve up — hence why we recommend Priceline for car rentals, but suggest avoiding it if you only need to book an plane ticket. Expedia sites are nearly identical in presentation, information, and sorting abilities. If you’ve gotten a sense of deja vu after visiting these four sites sequentially, there’s a good reason for that: Expedia has found a formula that works, and is running with it.

Best Car Rental Site
Our top pick for Best Car Rental, we loved how many filtering options CheapTickets offered to help us track down our perfect car — but weren’t impressed by its expensive airplane tickets.

Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, and CheapTickets jointly won top pick for the Best Car Rental Travel Site. There was no price difference among these four websites, and their rental policies — free cancellation, unlimited mileage, and refilling policy — were identical, too. Each website offered the same filters (car type, daily price ranges, rental car company, neighborhood, etc.), and displayed results in a clear, easy-to-read list. You’ll be able to sort the list of cars either by total price or distance, or if you’re using Expedia itself, you can also sort by its “Recommended” picks.

Best Car Rental Site Runner-Up
If you’d like to book your airfare ticket at the same place as your car rental, we recommend Expedia: It has similar prices for cars, and significantly cheaper airfares compared to its sister company.

While we loved these four Expedia pages for car rentals, they were surprisingly lack-luster when we tested them for finding the least expensive plane tickets. At best, they were strictly average. Expedia and Travelocity never found the cheapest price, but they were never egregiously expensive. Despite the name, CheapTickets was the greatest outlier. Its tickets were always at least $20 more expensive than most of its competitors. Orbitz was less consistent, sometimes offering a fare comparable to its competitors, and other times raising the price to $40 more expensive. If you’re looking for the best airfare, we recommend starting your search with Booking.com or Hipmunk.

This solidly average theme followed the Expedia sites through its other services. It offered some of the most important filters for hotels — price, star rating, customer rating, and amenities — but wasn’t as thorough as Booking.com or Kayak. And while you can book cruises through the Expedia websites, the amount of customizations are even more limited than their hotel searches. Instead, the site pushes you to call a Cruise Specialist for more information.

Independent Travel Website

Best Comparison Features
Hipmunk offers impressive and useful presentations for airfares and hotels, and competitive pricing across every travel category.

Hipmunk did well in our pricing tests, finding either the cheapest price of the day for airfare, or within $15 dollars, and finding one of the lowest prices in car rentals. That said, Hipmunk’s greatest strength is its presentation — and, no, we don’t just mean its cute mascot. The site excels at giving you enough information to fine-tune your results and compare booking options without giving you a visual overload.

We particularly liked how Hipmunk organized its airfare and hotel search results. For flights, after you type in your basic information (point of departure, destination, and dates), you’ll be greeted with a chart displaying how much each cabin class will cost, at what time of day the flight arrives and leaves, and what amenities are available on each flight. The end result is a clean presentation that is easy to read, and that makes it easy to compare options.


Hipmunk’s clutter-free display makes it easy to assess whether it’s worth accepting the cheapest flight — which lasts 13 hours and has almost no amenities — or if we should upgrade to the four-hour flight with amenities.

We were even more impressed when we searched for hotel rooms. Search results display in gorgeous cards next to a map. At first glance, the cards look simple, only displaying customer ratings, a general area, the price, and a few photos to scroll through. However, hovering over a card enables you to “flip” the card, and see the highlights for each hotel (whether it includes free wifi, parking, or breakfast, or has a pool and allows pets), customer reviews (broken down by location, service, room, and vibe, among others), and rates. We also liked how you can adjust the map to pin down where in the city you’d like to stay — your results will narrow down or adjust as you go.


Hipmunk’s unique hotel-search results page makes it easy to compare hotels and learn more about each option, without making the website feel crowded or hard to navigate.

That said, Hipmunk fell short when it came to searching for rental cars, where its grid display is more confusing than it is convenient, and we weren’t fans of how you can only search for rental cars near the airport. These two flaws were enough that, even though Hipmunk found cars as cheap as those offered by our top picks, Hipmunk wasn’t even a runner-up for the best car rental site.

As mentioned earlier, Hipmunk is also one of two of our top websites to not book cruises, or offer preplanned trips. Instead of presenting potential trips for you to brainstorm about or be inspired by, it has Hello Hipmunk. It’s an A.I.-based travel assistant that works with your email, calendar, or social media apps like Facebook messenger, Skype, and Slack to help give you advice on making travel plans. If you don’t feel like going directly to Hipmunk.com or using the app, you can email (or message, or slack) Hipmunk directly.

The examples Hipmunk gives make us believe Hello Hipmunk is best at answering direct questions, like “Can you show us flights from Seattle to Houston, leaving June 12th and returning June 15th please?” However, the A.I. can apprently handle modifiers like “I need recommendations for a romantic trip from Los Angeles between July 18-24” or “I prefer American Airlines.”

We recommend checking Hipmunk out if you’re making a hotel or airfare reservation, but if you’re just trying to book a car rental to zip around town for a day, we recommend looking at CheapTickets — or another Expedia website — first.

Our survey revealed the importance of price — as well as a few other interesting tidbits about travelers.

To help us find the best travel websites, we surveyed over 500 travelers to find out what they valued most, whether they wanted to book a complete vacation package, or just a car rental. The overwhelmingly most important factor was price — more than 60 percent of surveyed travelers marked price as their No. 1 concern when using a booking engine.

We asked travelers what two factors they would describe as being most important when searching for and booking airplane tickets, hotel rooms, and car rentals.

For airfare, people first cared about getting the right price, and then getting the exact dates they needed for their trip. Seeing flexible dates was another popular option — possibly linked to getting the lowest price for the trip. Travelers also valued being able to see what it would cost to upgrade their cabin class, the amenities that would be available on their flight (like in-flight entertainment, Wi-Fi, and food service), as well as being able to mix-and-match airlines to potentially get a better price.


Price was one of the primary factors for 90 percent of travelers when purchasing a plane ticket.

We were surprised to see that price had some stiffer competition when travelers searched for a hotel room. Price was still the undisputed winner, but was only the first or second most important factor for about 70 percent of travelers, as opposed to 90 percent for airfare. Customer reviews and star rating were also important to helping us keep an eye on quality, as was being able to locate each hotel on a map. Travelers also valued being able to sort and search for hotels by specific amenities (like having a gym, or being pet-friendly) and seeing results from Air B&B and other niche sites show up on their search.


Price competed with other quality-determining features for travelers deciding on a hotel room.

That said, price made a comeback when tracking down the perfect car rental; no other factor came close to being important for more than half of our surveyed travelers. Travelers appear to like being able to specify unlimited mileage (whether you can drive as far as you like without being charged a fine), see customer reviews, and identify the type of car, but above all else, price is king.


Most travelers didn’t value being able to specify extra add-ons (like infant seats, navigational systems, or snow chains), or requesting a specific rental company as other factors.

We asked our travelers a final question: would they consider a blind booking? Blind bookings are typically seen in car rentals or hotel bookings, and very occasionally when purchasing airfare. In exchange for not knowing the specific information about your booking, you might be able to save money. Car rentals might let you know the general type of car, a group of car agencies you might be renting from, but you won’t know for certain until you complete the booking. Similarly, you’ll be able to see pictures of the hotel room and read about its amenities, but you won’t know the name or exact location until you’ve purchased the room.


Despite the emphasis on finding the lowest priced ticket, room, or car rental, most travelers would not choose a blind booking, or required steep savings to consider it.

In addition to 36 percent of travelers saying they would not consider a blind booking, 12 percent responded that they would either require savings greater than $200, or would only consider a blind booking for certain purchases but not for others, like a car rental, but not a hotel.

Our Travel Site Review: Summed Up

Travel Site
The Best
Airfare Site
For Bargain Hunting
For Flexible Planning
Car Rental Site
Car Rental Site Runner-Up
Comparison Features