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KAYAK’s emphasis on simplicity has made it one of the top travel search engines in the industry. Using the site’s powerful filtering and flexible search tools, it’s easy to find, compare, and quickly book entire travel itineraries at affordable rates. And once you’ve booked your trip, KAYAK monitors changes to the prices of your itinerary. You can also loop in friends for coordinated group travel using its open voting tools.
KAYAK is just a travel search engine, so you still have to do your booking through airline or hotel sites — however, that hassle is easily overlooked beside KAYAK’s standout search features.
Gracing the captions of wanderlust-inducing travel photos is KAYAK’s signature tagline, “Confident travel starts at KAYAK.” You’ll find the term “confident” used frequently in KAYAK’s Twitter campaigning and hashtags, too. The bottom line? Having confidence in a travel site means you can trust the site to find reliable deals and help you feel comfortable navigating your many amenities.
Is it true?
Yes, you can be confident in KAYAK. The site operates as a travel search engine, meaning it’s essentially a hyper-focused Google that can do all the research for you. Other travel sites do this to an extent, but KAYAK scours even those sites in its search for the best deal.
After comparing rates and tracking prices on our review of the best travel sites, we know you can trust the results KAYAK digs up. And once you’ve found and purchased the reservations that work for you, KAYAK collects them all and operates like a digital planner while also keeping an eye out for cheaper price trends.
Flexible trip planning
|Standout features||Flexible searching
|App rating||Apple App Store: 4.8/5|
|In business since||2005|
When it comes to searching travel options for your vacation, KAYAK offers three flexible filters for dates, weekends, or months. This lets you set ideal time frames while also displaying the prices for the days leading up to and following those dates. Other travel sites require you to run separate searches for every date variation. KAYAK wraps up this data in a chart that displays which days are cheapest to travel across airlines.
If you’re open to where you’re staying, you’ll find value in KAYAK’s dynamic maps. For car rentals and hotel searches, KAYAK generates heat maps that display the cheapest locations and the best neighborhoods for shopping, sightseeing, and dining.
KAYAK’s latest tool, Trip Huddle, helps you plan group trips with ease. Coordinating a vacation with several parties can be complicated, but with one designated MVP (most valuable planner), KAYAK’s tool allows you to plan everything. Rather than long email chains or group chats, you can invite travelers to the huddle and then set destinations, accommodations, and dates for open voting.
Deal search tool
Not only does KAYAK enable you to search for specific vacation packages, it also has a deal search tool where you can peruse discounted rates on hotels, flights, and rental cars. This is a great place to start your search if you’re flexible about where and when you can travel. Say you’re thinking about planning a family vacation — just search for family deals and see what comes up. Or, if you’re looking to spend some time in the sun, check out the beach deals. By leaving your options open like this, you still find what you’re looking for but dramatically increase the chances of landing big savings.
Impressive mobile apps
KAYAK’s mobile apps put the full power of the search engine in the palm of your hand, enabling you to search for, book, and view trip itineraries on the go. The apps also have a built-in flight tracker to let you know if your flight’s running on schedule, along with price alerts. These notifications tell you if the rates for a trip have changed. KAYAK’s app is rated an impressive 4.8 out of 5 from over 185,000 reviews on the iOS store and 4.5 out of 5 from over 225,000 reviews on Google Play. What’s more, KAYAK has just released an emoji search feature on the app: You can now use a variety of emoji (and any of the flag emojis) to search for a destination.
Compiled travel plans
Even if you end up booking your travel arrangements on several different websites, KAYAK facilitates easy itinerary compiling. When you receive a booking confirmation email, forward it to KAYAK or look it up on the website by confirmation number. All of that information then shows up on your My Trips page in your online account. You can view it, print it, or send it to family and friends. It also syncs with your smartphone.
Stay alert to changing prices
Once you add a vacation itinerary to the My Trips section of your KAYAK account, you receive email updates on the price of your travel arrangements so you can book when fares are cheapest. These emails show the changes in price over time, as well as several of the most affordable options that meet your criteria.
Filter by airplane model
KAYAK will soon introduce a function that allows users to filter flights by airplane model type. While KAYAK, along with Booking.com and Priceline, already allows customers to filter by aircraft type, this function will allow a more specific filter which specifies the model of the aircraft. The announcement comes on the heels of recent safety concerns regarding the Boeing 373 Max 8 jet; this feature will allow customers to voluntarily opt-out of any specific model of plane based on comfort level or personal preference.
No direct booking
KAYAK is an aggregator, not a booking engine. While you may find great deals through the site, you’ll be redirected to the airline or hotel site for the actual booking. You can keep track of all of these reservations within KAYAK, but it could get complicated if you’re managing many bookings. For example, KAYAK’s “hacker fares” find departure and return flights from different airlines for a cheaper price — this means you’ll need to go to two separate airline sites (with two separate sets of fees) to complete the purchase.
Flight and hotel bundling deals only
KAYAK offers great bundling deals on hotels and flights, but nothing for booking a rental car. If this is something you need in addition to airfare and accommodations, you must conduct a separate search. This certainly doesn’t take away from KAYAK’s excellent deal-searching tools, but it is a minor inconvenience as you plan your vacation.
KAYAK vs. Travelocity
Unlike KAYAK, Travelocity requires you to have set dates and destinations in mind when you search the site. However, what it lacks in flexibility, Travelocity makes up for convenience. Booking is done directly through the site, and it offers one standout booking option: activities. Travelocity is the only travel site that offers options to book excursions, tours, and other popular activities in your dream destination. If you’re in need of a digital booking agent that can coordinate a vast array of amenities, Travelocity is for you. Stick with KAYAK for more casual and flexible exploration.
KAYAK vs. Booking.com
Like KAYAK, Booking.com is owned by Priceline, but that’s where the similarities end. Booking.com is a booking agent like Travelocity, allowing you to purchase many aspects of your trip through the site. It also flourishes when it comes to lodging, advertising over eight different types of accommodations. Whether you’re looking for a cozy winter cabin or an all-inclusive beach resort, you’ll find a unique place to stay with Booking.com. The one downside to the site? There are no options for cruise booking, and its car rental service is spotty at best. For these amenities, you’re better off with KAYAK.
What is a hacker fare on KAYAK?
KAYAK’s Hacker Fare is when the site presents cheaper airfare by finding flights from two separate airlines. Rather than a round-trip purchase from one company, it may be cheaper to buy two one-way flights from different airlines. KAYAK locates these deals when possible to hack your airfare.
Are tickets bought on KAYAK refundable?
KAYAK is a search engine and not a travel seller — so because you aren’t paying the site, it can’t offer you a refund. For cancellations and refunds, you’ll need to contact the airline or hotel you’ve purchased through.
Do KAYAK prices include taxes and fees?
On KAYAK, flight prices displayed include taxes and fees. This excludes any optional fees like checked baggage and pets. However, when it comes to other accommodations like hotels or car rentals, the fees and taxes vary too much for KAYAK to display.
What are ‘flexible dates’?
Travel dates are often tentative. If your travel dates have some leeway, the “flexible dates” function will display flight and hotel options up to three days before and after your preferred dates. This allows you to see at a glance if staying an extra day or arriving a day earlier will land you a better deal.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a focused way to find the best travel deals, KAYAK is the most flexible site we found. The site offers options to search a range of dates, price alerts, and dynamic mapping. If you’d prefer to book your travel through something akin to a digital travel agent, you’ll want to consider another travel site like Booking.com. But if you don’t mind purchasing through a few separate sites, KAYAK won’t disappoint.