When it comes to air travel, most everyone is looking for a deal. When you have to budget for baggage fees, in-flight snacks, and headphone entertainment, it makes sense to take a little extra search time in order to get the most bang for your buck – and that goes double for parents who are traveling with kids over 2 years old.
While you might have already scoured popular sites like Travelocity, Orbitz, or Priceline, don’t forget about smaller sites that could have flown under your already-busy radar. What they lack in household name status, they more than make up for in clever features that the big sites don’t offer, such as visual timelines, naming your own budgets, and price predictors.
Besides the cute little chipmunk logo, Hipmunk, which was created by Adam Goldstein and Reddit cofounder Steve Huffman, has a lot to offer travelers. Designed “to help people who are overwhelmed with pages of irrelevant search results,” Hipmunk sports a single-page visual guide that organizes flights on an easy-to-read timeline. The site has two separate searches – one for flights and one for hotels. Adding a splash of hipster personality, Hipmunk also has a category called Agony for flights and Ecstasy for hotels.
World travelers themselves, the founders admit that there’s more to choosing a flight than just price. Creating an algorithm that includes time of flight, number of stopovers, layover length, as well as price, site visitors can potentially judge a flight by how horrible – or painless – the experience will be. The hotel search is similar but with a more positive spin – a combination of comfort, reviews, and of course, price.
Launched by the cofounders of Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, Kayak is a comprehensive one-stop search site that offers options for air travel and hotels, as well as cars, vacations, and other deals. Site visitors can enter their info and compare prices on various travel sites, including Priceline and Hotwire, simultaneously.
One handy feature is a Flexible Dates calendar that shows the best airfares for your particular search in any given month. That way, if your schedule is flexible, you can see which dates are priced best to fly.
Under the More tab, Kayak provides a helpful reference page that aids travelers with additional tools such as price alert sign-ups, a list of airline fees, low fare tips, and nonstop flight schedules.
Also check out Kayak Explore, which allows you to filter your search based on your budget. Spot on a global map where your travel savings can take you.
3. Bing Travel
With its helpful Price Predictor feature, Bing Travel has figured out that modern travelers have become a bit obsessive when it comes to tracking down deals. Enter a flight search, and not only will Bing give you the various pricing offers from sites including Travelocity and Priceline, but the search engine will also give you a price prediction tip on whether you should go ahead and buy or wait a couple of days. Granted, nothing can ever be 100% guaranteed given airlines’ flights of pricing fancy, so Bing breaks it down to a confidence percentage.
Bing also gives you options before you click the Search Flights button. In addition to the details summary of your flight, the website also asks you to Consider These Options, which are lower-priced alternatives for leaving or coming back a day or two earlier.
For hotels, Bing has a Rate Indicator, which is a map currently available for 30 U.S. destinations that alerts customers as to whether today’s rate is a deal. Color-coded by greens, yellows, and reds, the markers let travelers know if they’re scoring a deal, getting an average price, or if they should opt for another hotel altogether.
4. Airfare Watchdog
Created by travel journalist George Hobica with the consumer in mind, Airfare Watchdog aims to sniff out the best deals on the web, whether they’re from airline sites or newsletter- and site-specific promotional codes.
You can also check out the top 50 fares on any given day, most being for travel within or between the United States and Mexico. Want to find the cheapest flights out of your city? That’s an option as well, and listings include domestic, international, and unadvertised flights. The same goes for a city that you have your eye on for an upcoming vacation.
Sign up for travel alerts if you’re eyeing a future trip. There are city-to-city and “anywhere that’s cheap” alerts.