Family holidays are expensive enough without worrying that you’re being overcharged on flights. Airlines have secret squirrel type formulas designed to help them maximize revenue per aircraft, and prices can change by the minute for the exact same seat on the plane. Add in seat sales, reward point opportunities and flying time considerations, and it can be frustrating to figure out where the best deal is on any given day.
A decade ago, finding the best possible price on a flight meant hours comparing flights on clunky airline websites or working with a travel agent and hoping they were paying attention enough to jump on the best deal.
These days, many flyers choose to do the legwork themselves, and are turning to a variety of websites to source out the best deals. There are dozens and dozens of websites devoted to flight comparisons and booking, but these are our favourite online travel tools. You may still choose to spend a few hours comparing flights, but if you want to just book it and get it over with, you can be confident these sites have rock bottom pricing.
ITA Software by Google is a data clearinghouse that supplies basically all of the other players with their flight information. It’s the best of the best when it comes to finding your flight, but you will have to book your flight through the airline directly or through another service like Expedia, Kayak or Orbitz.
If you’re not sure where you want to go, and just want to get out of town for a good price, Google Flights offers lots of flexibility in searching, as does Skyscanner. They both offer the ability to select large blocks of time and sometimes even whole countries or regions to see the best deals. Each site will redirect you to the airline’s website or a booking agent, like FlightHub, to book the flight directly, and will prepopulate the information from the flights you chose.
Hipmunk and Momondo are two new sites getting some online buzz, especially with mobile users. Momondo received the travel industry’s Travolution award in 2014 for the best price comparison site, beating out Skyscanner, which had won for the preview three years.
Expedia, Kayak and Orbitz offer the opportunity to book itineraries that pair flights on multiple airlines, but if something goes wrong with one of the legs of your journey, it can be difficult to reach a customer service agent to resolve the issue.
If you’re super flexible with your dates and destination, there are two stealthy ways to find cheap flights. The first is through unique airlines, like western Canada’s Jump On Flyaways. Jump On is basically the Groupon of flights – they offer deep discounts using charter airline planes for convenient weekend getaways. Flights only depart (and you’re only charged) when a minimum number of seats are sold.
The second is to search out your local airfare watchdog – most major cities have someone who runs a website, blog or Facebook page that scours the web for screaming deals. In Calgary, YYC Deals finds great deals to unique destinations, and posts only the cream of the crop.
Keep in mind that when comparing flights, be sure you’re shopping in your home currency, and comparing apples to apples – baggage and seat selection fees, cancellation and rebooking policies, etc. There is no perfect airline search engine, but the ones noted above are relatively consistent in offering the best prices. Happy travels!
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