• February 28, 2018 - Since this review was first published in 2016, multiple travel sites have been acquired by giants Expedia and Priceline. We re-tested more than two dozen travel websites to find out if anything has changed. Our new favorite, Booking.com, edges out former top pick Kayak.

The Best Airfare Sites

Whether you’re flying cross-country or across oceans, the best airfare sites make it easy to find the right flight. Powerful search tools help you compare options across airlines, allowing you to nab the cheapest fare.

If you know dates of the flights you want, we recommend starting with Booking.com. This Priceline-owned website has a robust, customizable search tool and consistently returned some of the lowest flight prices that we saw.

Most travel websites are owned by two companies.In 2015, “95% of the online travel marketplace” was owned by just two companies: Expedia and Booking Holdings (best known for Priceline). If you’re left with a sense of deja vu after exploring your many booking options, this is the reason.

Travelers with flexible plans will want to start with Kayak, a sister company of Booking.com. Kayak’s flexible dates tool is unparalleled, comparing the widest range of timelines across multiple airlines. We’re not talking “plus or minus three days.” Kayak is the only travel website we found that offers a “flexible month” and “flexible weekend” search, where you can cross-compare several weeks of dates at the same time.

Finally, if you prioritize knowing the specific amenities your flight offers — whether WiFi or inflight entertainment — we recommend Hipmunk. It wasn’t just the flying chipmunk mascot that won us over. This travel site is so well laid out that searching for flights was surprisingly pleasant. Each search returns a small description of the flight, next to a visual depiction of what time of day the flight (and any layovers) occur — making us a lot less paranoid about accidental one-in-the-morning bookings. The site also uses simple iconography for an easy comparison of features at a glance.

Our Picks for the Best Airfare Sites

Best Overall
Booking.com
Booking.com
The best at finding low prices, combined with an easy-to-navigate website. What's not to love?

If you’re looking to find the best price for your flight, Booking.com should be the first stop in your travel search. Over the course of our testing, it was the site that consistently found the lowest prices.

While it’s not as visually impressive as Hipmunk, Booking.com also makes it easy to find, filter, and compare flights, so that you can find the one that best fits your needs: Search for your flight by selecting trip type (round trip, one way, or multi-city), and entering your departure and arrival cities, dates, number of travelers, and what class you'd like (economy, premium economy, business, first class). We were also impressed by how many options and customizations Booking.com offers. You can filter your search by airline, by number of stops, by airport choice, and by departure or arrival time.

Baggage fees can raise final ticket cost.A cheap fare covering nothing but a personal item is sometimes a worse deal than a ticket that costs an extra $20 but comes with a generous luggage allowance. Make sure to check before you book.

Booking.com does default to sorting your results by “recommended,” so you’ll have to resort them if you want to prioritize the cheapest flights first. You can also sort results by quickest or slowest flight plan, earliest or latest take-off, or even highest price, if you’re into that. The search results also make it easy to tell whether you’ll be charged for a carry-on bag at the displayed cabin class.

Booking.com’s primary weakness is that it doesn’t have a flexible dates tool. It’s a useful first stop if you’ve already nailed down the days you want to travel. But if you’re interested in exploring flight costs on multiple days, weeks, or even months, the easiest option is to go through runner-up Kayak.

Runners-Up for Best Airfare Sites

Best for
Flexible Planning
KAYAK
Kayak
If you don't have a set travel date, Kayak offers the best tools for comparing weekly and monthly pricing.

If you’re left with a sense of deja vu when searching Kayak verus Booking.com, there’s a reason: they’re both part of the Priceline Group. Despite being a sister company, we feel Kayak is worth mentioning on its own, thanks to its powerhouse of a planning tool.

When searching flexible dates on other websites, you’ll be lucky if you can see prices for your dates +/- 3 days. This does give you some flexibility, but if your dates are really flexible, you won’t know if it’s cheaper to fly to Las Vegas the week of August 1st, or August 10th. Kayak kicks up the flexible search game by offering three different search options: flexible dates, flexible weekend, and flexible month.

Flexible dates let you specify when you’d ideally like to be traveling, and then compare what it would cost (or what flights are available) on the days leading up to and following each date. The result is a chart displaying which days are cheapest to travel. If your dates are flexible, but not three days flexible, Kayak also lets you adjust your search to only be +/- 1 day, or +/- 2 days.

Kayak-Flexible-dates-for-Airfare

Kayak’s three-day flexible dates tool lets you compare 49 different travel plans to find out which dates and prices are the best fit.

Flexible month lets you mark the length of your trip, whether a three-day weekend getaway or a month-long expedition — and then asks for the earliest date you’d be willing to leave. You’ll be given a 30-day chart of flights and prices, letting you pick and choose from several weeks of options. Flexible weekend works similarly, except it will only call out weekend dates (and you can specify whether your weekend starts Thursday evening, or Friday morning). If you’re trying to find the lowest price — and you don’t mind staying an extra day or cutting your trip short to get it — Kayak’s tool is unparalleled for simultaneously comparing the most dates across multiple airlines.

Kayak didn’t earn outstanding marks for finding bargain-priced tickets, like Booking.com, but neither were its prices exorbitant. In the case of our hypothetical NYC-LAX vacation, choosing Kayak only meant spending between $7 and $15 more than Booking.com.

Unlike Booking.com, Kayak isn’t a booking engine. It’s an aggregator. This means you don’t purchase your ticket directly through Kayak.com. Instead, when it’s time to purchase, you’ll be redirected to the website of the airline you’re traveling with. If you’re tired of handing out your credit card information (and setting up another username and password) to new websites, the upshot is that Kayak doesn’t require you to sign up to use their services. Just be aware that if you end up booking one of their “hacker fares” (which combine a departure flight on one airline with an return flight through a different one) you’ll need to go to two separate websites to complete the booking.

Best for
Comparing Amenities
Hipmunk
Hipmunk
The best way to compare extras across multiple airlines, whether WiFi or layover length.

We won’t lie: we were drawn in by the flying chipmunk mascot of this lesser known travel site. Like Kayak, Hipmunk scored solidly average in terms of price. It never found the bargain deal that Booking.com managed to turn up, but it was never the most expensive (or second-most expensive, or even sixth). It hovered close to Kayak and Booking.com for the most part. But if you’re amenity-minded, paying a few extra dollars is likely to be worth it.

After you enter your basic search info, Hipmunk will give you a chart displaying flights that meet your needs. At a glance, you’ll be able to see at what time of day each flight departs and arrives, how long the flight is, how long any layovers are, and certain amenities. Five small icons to the right of each flight let you know if you’ll have WiFi, power outlets, food available, in-flight entertainment, and advanced (read: more comfy) seat options. This makes it easy to quickly sort out which flights will fly by, and which will drag on after your laptop battery has died.

Hipmunk also does well in otherwise helping to filter through your results. You can sort by “Agony” — their calculation as to how painful a flight will be by looking at price, and the number and length of layovers included in the flight plan — in addition to price, duration, and takeoff and landing times. Additionally, we liked how we could choose to either hunt for or sort out the “no frills” flights, which can save us money in exchange for charging fees if we bring a carry-on bag, or want a specific seat assignment.

Our Best Airfare Sites Review: Summed Up

Airfare Site
Best...
Booking.com
Overall
Kayak
For Flexible Planning
Hipmunk
For Comparing Amenities