Five Best Cheap Travel Booking Sites
Getting away for a little vacation shouldn’t be expensive. There are plenty of great sites to help you plan your next trip, whether for business or pleasure, and compare flights, hotels, and train or bus tickets, all without breaking the bank. Here are five of the best.
Photo: Sean MacEntee
Google Flights hides a lot of power behind its relatively minimalist design. You have the option to search for return, one-way or multi-trip tickets, specify your preferred airline network, choose flights that depart at specific times (perfect if you want to save money on a red eye or if you hate getting up and want an afternoon flight) and even choose how many layovers you’re willing to tolerate.
Like any good flight search engine, you can specify whether you want your tickets to be economy, business or premier, depending on how much you’re willing to spend, and you can even set a price cap if your budget is limited. . . Once you’ve researched, you can choose one of the flights listed to see the type of aircraft you’ll be flying on, some useful details about it (above average legroom, etc.), whether there will be Wi-Fi or electricity on the flight and more. The service walks you through the process, choosing your preferred flights and departure times, showing you alternatives and finally letting you book your tickets.
The site also offers a number of featured flights, discounts to specific destinations and other travel deals on the front page, so if you’re looking for a last-minute getaway or just a budget trip, there’s plenty to choose from. -be one for you.
ITA Matrix has been around for a long time – and it did the trick the last time we asked you this. Since then it’s actually been acquired by Google and its technology used to power Google Flights, mentioned above, but ITA Matrix still operates on its own and remains a go-to resource for tons of travelers looking for power tools. to find the best flights. , search and sift through tons of travel options and get more information about their travel plans and possibilities than most travel search engines offer.
ITA Matrix focuses entirely on flights, but offers additional information such as cost per mile, the ability to use advanced routing codes, allow airport changes, add or restrict stops and change the “city of sale” and the currency of your ticket. If you have a complex travel question, have exceptionally detailed plans, or simply want the most variables and complexity for your research, this service has it. Even the calendar and results you get from your search engines are highly interactive and allow you to browse specific information on flights, airlines, aircraft types, cost changes when changing dates, etc. .
ITA Matrix isn’t the fastest, easiest, or most streamlined option (in fact, while you’re waiting for your results to appear, they suggest using Google Flights for faster results), but if you are a travel professional or need its wealth of features, there is no replacement.
Hipmunk was one of the first sites to make it easier to find flights and not a hodgepodge of airport codes, checkboxes and hard-to-scan results. They’ve also come a long way, incorporating hotels, then helping you find hotel deals close to your other travel plans, and even adding rate alerts so you don’t miss any price drops. The site is remarkably easy to use, and it also pioneered the “agony” filter in addition to prices and departure dates and times – that way you’ll know whether your experience on a specific flight will be torturous or easy to navigate. live, if you’ll likely be on a rough long-haul flight with long layovers and gate changes, or you’ll be on a hassle-free nonstop cruise.
You can sort by cost, of course, compare flights against each other and see when they depart and how long your trip will be on one handy graph, see layover times and durations on the same graph, and more again. Once you’ve booked your flight, you can also book rental cars or hotel rooms, making it easier to sort things out (and save money at the same time). Of course, you can sort by landing time, take off time, stops, select nonstop flights, choose your favorite airline or even sync your own calendar to see which flights work with your schedule and meetings and events previously scheduled.
Skiplagged allows you to save money on flights by using a kind of ingenious tactic: instead of booking you flights directly to your destination, the service searches for direct flights and flights that go to another destination but who make a stopover or layover in your destination city. This means, of course, that you’re on a flight with a ton of people inevitably heading elsewhere, so you can’t do things like check baggage (because that baggage will go all the way to the flight’s final destination) but you can score a bargain as you only take half the journey.
Skiplagged is also looking for direct flights, of course, so you can choose what you prefer. The method is so controversial that United Airlines has filed a lawsuit (now dismissed) against the company for it. Likewise, if you’re willing to be on a plane for a while, Skiplagged will even show you flights that seem to connect everywhere. corn your destination, taking time, but also saving you money.
That aside, it’s a great way to find affordable airfares if your travel schedules are flexible and you’re the type that doesn’t check your bags.
Skyscanner is another easy-to-use flight search engine that searches for flights as well as hotels and rental cars, and tries to ensure that you get the most affordable prices no matter where you travel, domestic or abroad. It’s a little more simplistic than some of the others in the roundup, without the advanced toggles for flexible dates and extra filtering tools, but if you know when you need to travel and just want to see what the lowest possible rates, it’s a great resource to help you research them. Even better, the site makes it easy to find combinations of tickets that are otherwise difficult to search or hard to sort out on your own, and you can see if a unique combination of airlines and transfers will save you any amount of money. substantial (or enough to make it worth it.)
Do you have anything to say about any of the contenders? Want to defend your personal favorite, even if it wasn’t on the list? Let us know what your preferred alternative is — and justify it — in the comments below.