Kayak Makes Airfare Searches Flexible

There are plenty of Web sites where you can search for the best airfares, but my favorite is Kayak.

Habit has something to do with this, no doubt. Kayak was among the first fully featured metasearch engine for airfares. And it remains among the strongest, particularly for flights originating in the United States.

Kayak’s simple flight search function is very easy to use. Just type in your departure airport, destination and dates. But Kayak really stands out for the advanced features that make its searches remarkably flexible.

Using the basic search function I can, for example, look for a flight from Bradley International Airport to San Jose, Costa Rica, on particular dates. With the “custom” feature I can add the airports in Boston and New York to my departure list and the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica, to my destination list. Using the “flexible” feature (you have to register to use it) I can search a range of dates for the lowest fares.

So now, instead of searching for the best fare from A to B on inflexible dates, I’m looking for the best fare from the area of A to the area of B over a range of dates. That reflects exactly how I arrange my leisure travel, and it spares me the trouble of repeatedly searching a variety of dates and routes.

Fifteen years ago, when I was laboriously typing airline codes into the EasySabre reservation system on AOL, back in the days of phone modems, I could not dream of these possibilities.

Kayak is, as I mentioned, a metasearch site. It’s not a booking engine. Unlike Travelocity or Expedia, it doesn’t sell the fares directly but connects to other sites that sell tickets, including airline sites and online travel agencies.

For years, Kayak has been branching out into other areas of travel. It now has metasearches for hotels and car rentals, as well as listings of travel package deals, cruise deals and the like.

There are, of course, other sites offering their own menu of features. There’s Microsoft’s entry, Bing Travel, which looks remarkably like Kayak, as well as FareCompare, Fly.com and others. Momondo is an excellent alternative for flights originating outside the United States.

But when it comes to searching for low airfares, Kayak is still the site I turn to first. And that’s why it’s one of my top five Web sites for budget travel.

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