Take the guesswork out of booking a flight.
Every time I book a flight, I find myself checking lots of different flight booking sites—all while keeping an eye on the airline’s booking site. (I have this fear of missing out on deals, but also a fear of missing out on the extra travel miles I’d get for booking a flight directly through the airline.) I’ve also heard all of the stories about particular days and times that are supposedly better for booking flights. Long story short, booking a flight stresses me out—and I’m probably not the only one.
Luckily, there are more than a few flight booking sites, apps, and tools that make it so much easier to find good prices on travel. Mostly, these sites leave me feeling much more confident in my purchase; I can rest (and, soon, fly) easy knowing I did everything I could to save money on my flight.
Most of these flight booking sites have actual websites, but downloading the apps can get you the best versions. If you don’t like using your phone to make large purchases (or shop around), using a website might work better for you, but either option will help you get a good deal when booking a flight. (For flight check-in or in case of flight cancellations, you’ll likely still want to have the airline app downloaded, too.)
Helpful flight booking sites and apps
You know how sites like Expedia and Priceline used to be the big aggregators of airline and hotel deals? I got to the point where I was comparing the comparisons on all of those sites, bringing me back to square one. Hipmunk does the comparisons for me, looking at deals on flights, hotels, and cars from top travel sites, as well as the actual airline sites.
Skiplagged is an interesting option because it uses hidden city ticketing—a trick airlines are staunchly against—to your advantage. Basically, airline fares for trips that fly through a connecting city have loopholes in which it’s cheaper to skip the second leg of a trip than it is to book a direct flight to the city. Skiplagged helps travelers beat the system, but fly carefully: Many airlines are taking measures to stop hidden city ticketing.
Since I was in college, Kayak has been my go-to for finding cheap flights. Now, it has an app that brings all of the resources from the flight booking site to a much more convenient user interface. From your phone you can compare flights and dates and feel confident that you’re seeing the best options available.
Kiwi allows you to sort your flight options based on whether you want to prioritize the cheapest or shortest flight. It pulls flights from different airlines and makes it simple to see how much money you’d save by opting for the cheapest flight, so you can decide if it would justify the hassle of connections and layovers.
While this flight booking site and app isn’t revolutionary in how it searches for flights, it is cool to use for travel inspiration. You can search monthly deals and even browse through trips based on solo travel or by clicking around on the interactive map.
Have a bucket list destination? Tell Hitlist about it and it will pull up the best times to search for flights to that special place. The app—there’s no booking website for this option—sends you deals based on your ideal locations, and it will notify you about similar deals that are coming up. It also allows you to compare flight prices so that you're confident you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
If you’re always worried that your flight will somehow be cheaper if you wait one more day, Hopper is the app (again, no website here) for you. You can enter your destination and it will notify you about price drops so that you’re sure to catch the best possible deal. If you’re still worried, this app will also send you price predictions based on past research.
Once you’ve booked your flight, check out these helpful apps for an easier trip overall
Whenever I travel, I find myself constantly searching my email for flight confirmations, hotel reservations, and anything else I need along the way. App In The Air has seriously been a game changer. Not only does it keep track of boarding passes and frequent flier programs, it also projects wait times for security lines at airports and even provides tips from other passengers about the best airport shops and restaurants. You can even find tips from travelers about places where you can charge your phone.
It doesn’t sound super fun, but it is super helpful. This travel app predicts your airport security line wait time based on crowdsourcing and historical projections, so you have an idea of what to expect then you get there.
Predictably, AtYourGate will tell you what restaurants and shops are at or near your departure gate so you can plan ahead—and skip past the first restaurant you see, knowing better food is to be found closer to your gate.