Airfare hunting is undoubtedly an onerous pastime. Where to find the best deals? What’s the easiest site to use? What resource is the most reliable? Lucky for you we’ve curated the best airfare sites for 2020 – along with details about why we love each one. We’ve used these ourselves, so we know a thing or two about how they work. Before you dive into a Google rabbit hole, then, take a look at our picks – we think they’ll make your trip planning a whole lot easier.
Best Airfare Site #1: Kayak
Launched in 2004, Kayak has blossomed into a global travel behemoth, helping travelers in all corners of the world book hotels, flights, cars, and more. Their secret sauce involves adding metadata to internet searches for the best prices on travel; up until 2004, websites largely crawled only the frontend site copy visible to users. This enables Kayak to pull a wealth of additional data and detail, allowing users to apply multiple filters to results and find the exact offers they’re looking for.
Why we love it: Not only does Kayak have a slick website with easy-to-use search functionality, but their app (for both Android and iPhone) is top-notch. Users can search by standard parameters – date and departure/arrival cities, but drill-down filters allow for really fine-tuned search results. Looking for nonstops flights only? Kayak can help you find them. How about payment type or price? Onboard WiFi? Special cancellation or refund policies? Number of bags included in the ticket price? Yep, Kayak can help you find those, too.
Kayak also includes ratings for standard flights so you have a sense of how comfortable and reliable they are, as well as on-time departure and arrival history to put your mind at ease as you map out your travel itinerary.
Lastly, Kayak has some standout guides – a lot of which are niche listicles for destinations across the globe. We haven’t done much more than peruse them, but the content comes from actual on-the-ground travelers, so the information seems quite insightful.
Best Airfare Site #2: Airfare Watchdog
Airfare Watchdog has been around longer than Kayak (it launched in 1998) and has a slightly different angle to it. As they claim, their employees search as many as 20,000 routes every day to find the best fares for users. They also manage to track fare changes in real time so you know what you’re getting the moment you’re searching for tickets. In general, though, Airfare Watchdog seems to be more trip-focused – roundtrip airfare is a big showcase, often themed by getaway (romantic, family vacation, etc.)
Why we love it: Like Kayak, the Airfare Watchdog site is generally simple and easy to use. We especially like that they break out “best fares” by airline; while you can search for tickets from any airline in the top search bar, this allows loyalists to stick to the carriers they know and love. Also, and more encompassing than just Kayak, Airfare Watchdog gives you prices from four to five top sites; Travelocity, JustFly, and Kayak are common inclusions.
You can also set price alerts to track airfare (assuming you’re not in a hurry to buy) and can easily see the total ticket cost, taxes and fees included.
If we have any gripe about Airfare Watchdog it’s that the actual airfare view screen is sometimes cluttered with ads. Also, the site regularly uses pop-up ads. That said, booking a ticket is easy, with ticket information, billing fields, and a seat map all on the same page.
Best Airfare Site #3: Momondo
A Booking Holdings property, Momondo is a newer airfare search site, launched in response to the many that flooded the market in the 2000s. Their angle is simple: No cookies to inflate airfare (yep, that’s a thing), no extra fees for booking, and complete transparency. While their interface is sometimes busy, it’s got an app-like feel that we find comforting.
Why we love it: Much like Kayak (no surprise, given the two are from the same parent company), Momondo offers fare-seekers a multitude of filters (airline, layover airports, aircraft type, price range, etc.), along with flight ratings (to reflect customer satisfaction, on-time history, and other factors) and cancellation policy details. The only downside is that they take you to the airline website to complete the booking. That’s not a huge deal, but it can be a bit annoying for people who don’t like new tabs opening everywhere.
Our favorite feature of Momondo, though, is the price-by-date graph at the top of each fare search. This gives you an easy visual of how a few days may affect your ticket price. If you like what you see on a different day, simply click it and watch the results change in an instant. Pretty cool.
Best Airfare Site #4: Travelzoo
Remember Travelzoo? It’s still a thing. The Groupon for the skies, this deal site was always a great place to go for the latest travel deals. The one catch: You really had to be flexible. This was where you came for inspiration, not pricing for specific routes.
For good and bad, not much has changed at the ‘zoo – except for their interface, which is far slicker than the ’90s-esque design we were once so used to.
Why we love it: We’ve long been wide-eyed itinerants, so we have no problem jumping on a random travel deal. For most people, however, that can prove to be a bit of a challenge. Still, there are some incredible offers organized by full package, transportation type (boat, rental car, plane, etc.), or event. If you’re planning your vacation out a ways, start here for inspiration and the deals will follow – some of the best ones we’ve ever found have come from Travelzoo. Even better: Deals have copious details so you know exactly what you’re getting and what the limitations are.
To be clear, though: You can easily search by date and destination if you want to fine-tune your search results.
Best Airfare Site #5: Skyscanner
Born around the same time as Kayak, Skyscanner started for the same reason Kayak did – to deliver airfare from multiple airline prices in one place. They’ve grown significantly since then, becoming as much a source for travel inspiration as a utilitarian flight search site.
Why we love it: Designed much like Kayak, Skyscanner lets users easily tap in their desired destination and departure/arrival dates and see all available flight options. Unlike Kayak, however, Skyscanner has introduced a “sustainable” filter, allowing users to find flights/routes that reduce carbon emissions.
If you’re just on a hunt for an adventure, you can pick the “Everywhere” destination option and see the cheapest flights you can take around the world during the time window you select. Price alerts are also available if you need to track flights to/from a specific location.
Finally, like the other site we looked at, Skyscanner gives users the opportunity to book a hotel and rent a car – a convenient way to check all the boxes for your next trip.
(Once you’ve found your tickets, take a look at these tips for navigating airport travel — you’ll be glad you did come departure day.)