Before you can embark on a new travel adventure, you must handle logistics: Where will you go? When will you go? How much can you afford to pay? These are just a few of the questions to consider when going to a travel search engine to book flights, hotels, and rental cars.
While we all have our favorite go-to travel search engines for booking our travels, there may be other travel search websites that better suit your needs depending on the type of trip you wish to take. Below is a look at a few of the options that are available to help you plan and book your travel online.
Big Travel Search AggregatorsThe marketing departments of Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity have done an excellent job in making sure that many travelers think of them first when booking their travel. Indeed, the big name travel aggregators have access to the largest inventories of flights, hotels, rental cars, and travel packages, which means that you can usually find and book your travel needs quickly. You can also sign up with each of these sites for fare alerts. Also look at Kayak, which aggregates the aggregators and returns deals from all of them.
Travel Search Innovators
Hipmunk's innovation is in its layout of travel search results. Search for flights and you are given a visual representation of flight details, including cost, length of flight, time of day, and whether or not the flight has wifi. All of these are mapped on a useful grid, which takes a lot of the guesswork out of itinerary building. Look to Hipmunk's efficient format to catch on very quickly.
Wanderfly is built on a different premise: it is a discovery engine. Enter your starting point, an interest (adventure, singles, culture), budget, and time, and Wanderfly will return results tailored to you. Wanderfly is especially good at finding off-the-beaten-track ideas.
There are a few airlines that do not allow their inventory to be searchable on aggregator sites such as Orbitz. Southwest Airlines is a low-cost airline that allows customers to book only on its website in order to ensure the best deals. Large carrier American Airlines has also taken an independent approach to travel booking and has opted to sell its fares only through its agents and website. It may be useful to check the websites of these and other carriers when looking for flights, as some deals may only be available through their respective sites.
Bargain sites are the real alternatives to the big aggregators and are an excellent choice for travelers who can be somewhat flexible with their itineraries.
Priceline, while hardly a no-name, offers a search engine interface akin to the mainstream aggregators, but it is best known for its "name your price" auction-type system for finding discount rates for flights, hotels, cruises, and more.
Airfare Watchdog publishes daily deals on its website and popular Twitter account. Its power lies in its fare alerts; sign up to receive emails when fares for your particular route drops.
Another bargain travel engine is Fare Compare. It simultaneously searches several travel sites for the best deals, allowing travelers to look at rates in one glance.
Group Deal Sites
Daily deal group coupon sites are some of the newest and most offbeat places to look if you're planning a vacation. Sites like Groupon, Living Social, and even Google, which now runs Google Offers in select U.S. cities, deliver travel deals at a deep discount.
While these sites, and their many local clones, are excellent places to look for discounts on local adventures, such as pilot lessons or reduced prices on museum tickets, they also offer specific travel deals, Groupon Getaways are that company's travel wing, while Living Social has Living Social Escapes. Both of these are ideal for travelers looking for a quick answer to, "what do you want to do this weekend?"