February 12, 2020

Kayak: How to Find Cheapest Travel

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Kayak is one of the best ways to find cheap travel deals for flights, hotels, cars, cruises, or vacation packages. Learn how to use it to find the best possible deal for your next trip in our guide.

Pros & Cons

What we like:

  • Direct bookings
    Since Kayak is not an online travel agency (OTA), customers are not forced to buy any accommodations through the website. This means users can earn loyalty points.

  • Explore map
    Travelers with flexible plans can use the map on Kayak's homepage to search prices across the world all at once.

  • Flexible date search
    In each flight search, users can search specific dates, entire months, or just weekends within a month.

  • Price prediction
    Kayak uses historical data to predict fluctuations in flight prices up to 7 days in advance, indicating if it will be cheaper to book now or wait until later.

  • Price comparison tool
    When searching, users can choose to compare their results with other OTAs and providers at the same time.

What we don't like:

  • Listed prices can be wrong
    Sometimes the price listed on Kayak's website will be higher once you've clicked through to the actual provider's website.

  • No Kayak-specific prices
    Many OTAs offer exclusive deals that are even further discounted from their base price. Since Kayak doesn't have its own bookings, it doesn't offer anything like that.

  • No rewards program
    Kayak doesn't have any type of rewards program, unlike some other travel sites.

  • Slow website
    Conducting a search on Kayak takes longer than some other OTAs and metasearch sites.

  • Lots of sponsored listings
    Search lists almost always start with a sponsored ad, which may not actually provide the best deal.

What Is Kayak?

Kayak is a travel metasearch site that helps you find the best travel deals. Through Kayak, you can search for deals on flights, hotels, cars, cruises, full vacation packages, and more.

But unlike other online travel agencies, such as Expedia or Hotwire, Kayak is a metasearch engine for travel deals. That means Kayak will present you with options from other sites. If you want to book a deal, you'll have to go to a specific website.

You can use Kayak to find great deals on travel. But to get the most out of the platform, you'll need to know how to navigate the site.

KAYAK FLIGHTS

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One of the most popular features on Kayak is their flight search engine. For many people, it's the start of their travel journey.

When you visit the Kayak site, you can navigate directly to the Flights page by clicking the link at the top (right beside the Kayak logo). This page lets you search for specific dates and destinations.

Right under the search engine, there are several shortcuts for travelers, including:

  • Popular Destinations
  • Deals
  • Recommendations

Many of these options come with a specific date and destination requirements. If you're flexible, some of these deals may work for you. Otherwise, read on to learn more about finding the best deal for your itinerary.

Is booking flights through Kayak safe?
Unlike sites like Orbitz or Expedia, you won't book your flight directly through Kayak but through other websites to which you are directed. It is safe to purchase tickets this way—just be sure the third-party website that Kayak refers you to is a legitimate and reputable website.

Before you begin your search, think about whether you need to travel on specific days, or whether your travel dates are flexible. Most people don't realize that some flexibility on the dates or even airports can lead to significant savings.

Starting your search is simple. You can input the:

  • Departure city
  • Arrival city
  • Dates of your travel
  • Number of travelers

Kayak gives you the option to compare to other websites, like CheaponAir. It's the same process as any other website.

Once you hit search, Kayak will take you to a list of options sorted into three categories: Cheapest, Best, and Quickest. The Best flight options are a mix of price, time, and carriers.

You can also sort the flights by landing time, departure time, and more advanced options like added fees, stops, prices, airlines, and more. These are available on the left-hand side of the page.

Right above the results, you'll find three boxes designed to help you get the best possible deal. Read on to learn how to use them.

Booking with Kayak vs. the Airline
There are some key differences when purchasing tickets from a travel website instead of directly through an airline. For example, if you want to redeem your miles or credit card points for a flight, you will not be able to do this with a third-party site.

In addition, booking with a third party means that if your flight is canceled or delayed, the third party and their customer service—instead of the airline—may handle rebooking directly.

How to Find the Best Flight Deal

Four key features will help you find the best flight deal on Kayak: price prediction, flex dates, and nearby airports. If you have even a little bit of flexibility, you may find yourself saving hundreds on your flight.

Price Prediction
This tool helps you decide whether to buy your flight now or wait for a better deal. It's one of the website's best features for finding good flight deals.

You can access the tool once you search for a specific flight. It gives users the ability to determine how prices for their specific flight will fluctuate, based on historical data.

For example, the price prediction tool will tell you the flight's monthly average, the daily low, and expectations for the next seven days. With this information graphed out, you can determine when you will want to act and buy the flight.

Create an alert for price predictions to learn when prices will move in the future.

Flex Dates
Use this tool to understand how you can change your flight days to save money. It allows you to better understand how price trends are related to your travel dates.

For example, did you know that the most expensive day of the week to fly is Sunday? With Flex Dates, you can save hundreds of dollars by understanding the costs of flying on certain days of the week.

Nearby Airports
This feature pinpoints nearby airports on a map—and the cost of flying into those options instead. While alternative airports can be more expensive, they may also save you significant money.

For example, flying out of Los Angeles International Airport instead of San Diego International Airport might save fliers up to $500 dollars—if they are willing to take a train or drive to the other airport instead.

Our Advice
This tool appears as a box on the top left of the window. It tells you whether it's a good time to buy your tickets or not. But the box only predicts price fluctuations within the next seven days, so keep that in mind.

On the other side of the screen, you'll see a Track Prices feature. Use this to keep track of your specific flight over the coming days and weeks. Kayak will send notifications when the price fluctuates.

What Does a Hacker Fare Mean?

Kayak's Hacker Fares let you bundle two cheaper one-way flights. These flights must be bought separately, instead of as one round-trip, because they have separate itineraries.

Occasionally, Hacker Fares consist of flights from separate airlines. In general, they are a great way to get a good deal when flying.

Are Hacker Fares safe?
Buying a Hacker Fare is just as safe as booking any other type of plane ticket using Kayak. The only difference is you'll purchase each leg of the trip separately. However, there is a downside to buying 2 one-way fares instead of a round-trip ticket.

For example, if your flight going into New York City is canceled due to weather, and you decide not to travel, getting a refund for your return trip or re-booking would be much more difficult because it would be viewed as its own flight.

Other Tips to Find Cheap Flights

It's one of the most-asked questions: how do you find the cheapest flight? It can be challenging—flight prices on OTAs and travel websites vary dramatically day by day.

When you look for a cheap flight, whether on Kayak or elsewhere, here are a few tricks to consider:

  • Search in Incognito Mode
    Sites like Kayak and Google Flights will track how often you check certain flights. If the site sees you checking certain flights too often, prices will go up. But using Incognito Mode (private browsing) lets you shop without being tracked.

  • Track Price Trends
    On Kayak and other search engines, make sure to track price trends for flights you want to buy. That way, you can tell when to buy and when to wait. Understanding how prices fluctuate is key to getting a good deal.

  • Be Flexible
    If your travel plans aren't set in stone, you can save a lot of money. The Kayak engine has options to determine price trends throughout the month.

    If you have flexibility with your travel dates, you can opt to fly on days that cost less, like Tuesdays. And if you are open to a variety of destinations, you may save even more.

Kayak Flights to Anywhere
Using Kayak Direct under the More section of the menu, you can find places to go from your home airport. That means you can see where you can fly anywhere in the world.

Kayak Direct will show you the flight time, distances, and airlines that will fly the specific route. This option works well for anyone looking to find out where they can go from their home airport without a layover.

Booking Flights Through Kayak

You may come across an option to book your flight through Kayak. When you pick this option, it will look as if you are booking through Kayak. You'll even be able to do it through the site.

However, you'll actually be booking through a third-party interface like Travelocity or Priceline. How will you know what Online Travel Agency you are booking through?

When you go through to book your flight on Kayak.com, you'll see a line at the bottom. That will tell you the Online Travel Agency. For example, it may say: "You are booking this flight with Priceline."

It's important to remember this. If you have issues with your flight, you will have to contact this third party to resolve them.

KAYAK HOTELS

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Kayak offers a similar simple search engine for hotels. When you visit the homepage, select Hotels from the top menu bar. Keep reading to see what comes next.

Who owns Kayak?
The company is owned by Booking Holdings Inc., the group that also owns Booking.com, Cheapflights.com, and more. Kayak was founded in 2004 by Steve Hafner, the man behind Orbitz, and Paul M. English.

How to Book Hotels With Kayak

Follow these simple steps to find the best deal for your travel plans.

  1. Input your destination city.

  2. Select the number of rooms and the number of guests.

  3. Add your length of stay. As you select dates from the map, Kayak will color-code areas of demand.

When you click search, you'll see a similar format for hotel search results as you did for flights. Your options will be in the middle column, including the prices and where to book.

Kayak's Hotel page automatically defaults to the recommended hotels. That means you won't see the cheapest prices listed at the top.

Above the options, you'll also find a link to view your results on a map. The map will share popular destinations, tourist stops, and restaurants.

Use the left-hand column to filter your results by number of stars, review scores, prices, freebies available, property type, and more.

On the right-hand side, you'll find the option to compare results with different sites and price alert notifications.

Using Kayak's Price Tool
Kayak will show you the price of a hotel on multiple sites, including the hotel's own site. The prices will be listed right under the hotel name—click the drop-down menu to see the full list to get a sense of whether or not you're getting the best possible deal.

Hacker Stay Prices

As with flights, Kayak has Hacker Stay prices for hotels. You can use this tool to break up your stay by booking through different search engines. For example, you may purchase three nights through Expedia and four through Hotels.com at the same hotel.

This option can save you significant money, but there are downsides. You may have to swap hotel rooms in the middle of your stay. Sometimes, a hotel cannot combine the two reservations when you arrive.

What Are KAYAK DEALS?
Find this feature in the main menu at the top. This section is much like the Packages section of the site except Kayak Deals on vacation packages, hotels, and more have predetermined prices and dates.

The front page features some of their specific highlighted deals, like football games, a family resort, and more. In addition, you can filter by types of deals: hotels, cruises, tours, live events, and more.

Kayak Hotel Booking Tips

Pay Attention to Taxes and Fees
Prices on the Kayak search page do not include these charges. Added taxes and fees, including resort fees, can often add a significant sum to the total.

Check With the Hotel Directly
If you are a member with any hotel chain, consider going to their website and checking member rates. They are not included in OTA search results and may be lower than the listed rates.

Many hotel membership programs are free. You may save money on rates and earn points by being a member, which can pay off in the long run.

Use Special Features
The Track Prices button on the top right corner of the Hotel page can help you determine if you're getting the best deal.

Kayak also has a feature to save hotel information for later. Click Watch under the orange button that says View Deal. The site will create a trip itinerary for you to follow any changes in prices.

What's the Cheapest Hotel Booking Site?
To save money on hotels, make sure to check:

  • The Hotel's Website: Check to see if the hotel is offering any promotional rates for booking directly.

  • Metasearch Sites: Such as Kayak and Google Flights.

  • Online Travel Agencies: Such as Hotwire, Priceline, and Expedia.

When booking a hotel, always check the hotel's own website first. Hotels will often offer special deals for guests willing to book through them first. In addition, some hotels will offer added discounts and perks for anyone who signs up for their free member accounts. By booking directly, you can earn points with the hotel chain as well.

If those rates are too high, next check metasearch sites, like Kayak. These metasearch sites consolidate hotel rates from both the hotels and OTAs, so checking them first is smart in order to narrow down the cheapest rates.

When checking Kayak:

  • Use the Kayak Map Feature
    Filter using Kayak's map feature to get a better idea of price points and locations. You may be able to find better deals in neighborhoods close to sights or other desirable neighborhoods.

  • Take Advantage of Hacker Rates
    If you're willing to switch rooms or forgo points, you can save a lot of money by booking hacker rates.

When you find a rate you like, book it. If it's through an OTA, run a search on that OTA's site just to make sure it's not listed for less or as an opaque booking.

Some hotels will not recognize your member status unless you book directly with the hotel.

KAYAK CAR RENTALS

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Kayak searches through thousands of rental sites for the best prices on rental cars, including Thrifty, Dollar, Hertz, Payless, and more. Read on to find ways to get the best deal.

How to Rent a Car With Kayak

Start searching for car rentals on Kayak by clicking Cars on the top bar. Input your destination city and the dates of your trip. You can also opt to compare prices with other sites as well.

The car rental results page looks a little different from the other search results pages.

On the top, you'll find filters to sort results by car type, passengers, rental agencies, and more.

The search results will be on the left-hand side. On the right-hand side, you'll see a map with pickup and drop-off destinations.

If you decide to narrow your search, the search results will move to the middle of the screen.

Above those results, Kayak uses its algorithm to predict whether it is a good time to buy. Kayak will tell you they are seeing lower than average, higher than average, or just average prices for your dates.

Special Rate Car Deals
When booking a car rental with Kayak, you may find a Special Rate listed among the search results. These deals typically offer greater savings, but the car rental agency is hidden until you book.

KAYAK PACKAGES

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Many people use Kayak and other travel websites to book package deals on their trips. These packages include flights and hotels bundled as an all-in-one price. Booking this way can save you hundreds of dollars.

To book a package, head to the main bar up top and click on Packages. Then follow these easy steps:

  1. Start by filling in the dates of travel and the starting and ending destinations for your trip. You'll see flight prices pop up.

  2. Once you have selected your flight, click the Add a Hotel button and hotel results will populate. When reviewing the results, keep in mind that the prices are listed for a hotel and flight combined.

  3. Once you book your hotel, you will be taken a specific site or vendor to book your flight (for example, Expedia).

Keep in mind that prices for flights and hotels will fluctuate depending on demand. If you are in a rush or see a good deal, book it right away to avoid price increases.

How to Find the Best Times to Travel

Kayak can help you find the best time to travel when booking package deals. Under Kayak's Packages tab, find the section called Search Vacation Deals by Destination.

For example, if you're looking to visit Paris, Kayak can help you identify price trends throughout the year to plan the most affordable times to visit.

The prices you will see show estimated pricing trends for each month depending on past pricing history and trends.

KAYAK CRUISES

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Many people don't know that you can search and book cruises through Kayak. You can find this option under the More drop-down menu.

Searching for cruises on Kayak is a little different than flights or hotels. Once you input your nearest port as the origin, you can do a broad search for all available locations or pick a specific destination. You can choose by cruise line and month of travel.

Your search results will be the main column on the next page. On the right-hand side, you will see a small column with other sites so you can compare prices.

How to Get the Best Deal on Kayak Cruises

The real value and savings on cruises come from any onboard credits you receive for booking, not the ticket price. Most OTAs and metasearch sites will pull up similar rates for each booking, but not all will include these extras, which ultimately save you money.

For example, an 8-night Bahamas cruise from New York costs exactly the same on Cruises.com as it does on Priceline: $1,449. Prices are listed per person, not per cabin.

It's difficult to know which websites will offer onboard credit on Kayak, as the list view does not display that information. To find the best deal, you will have to click through to each website to see what they offer.

When searching for deals, make sure to keep an eye on the type of room you are searching for. The prices for different variations of rooms, like ocean view versus balcony view, may vary once you make your selection.

KAYAK GUIDES

The new Kayak Guides feature helps you plan upcoming trips by exploring flight costs, popular destinations, and more info from real travelers. Think of it as a way to discover new places and plan ahead.

Kayak Guides can be found under the More drop-down menu. You can input your destination from the page and find guides that others have written about the location.

Each city guide is different, depending on who writes it. You will find anything you may need, from more general suggestions like best restaurants to things to do, and more specific recommendations like spots for dogs and Asian food tours.

The best part? Real people write the guides—people who have intimate knowledge of the city. It's a great way to plan your trip and explore new parts of destinations you may already know about.

KAYAK TRIPS

Kayak Trips is on the right-hand side of the upper bar. In this section, keep track of your planned trips and your itinerary.

The service is free to use after you sign up. You can create an account by clicking Trips at the top of Kayak's homepage and then Sign Up to get started.

There are a few ways to use this feature:

  • Manually add your trips

  • Connect your account with your email inbox and have Kayak import your trip information

  • Send your booking information to trips@kayak.com and have them add it to the system

Once your information has been added, Kayak Trips works as an itinerary and trip planning software. It will keep track of your trip details, including upcoming check-ins, flight status, and more.

This feature works great for group trips. A blue Share button will help you pass along the information to anyone who may need it. In addition, you can invite your friends and family to edit the trip as well.

KAYAK BUSINESS

Kayak Business is a new corporate trip management profile launching soon. It will feature an inventory of flights, hotels, and more for corporate travel. Think of it as an easy way to manage your expenses as well.

The tool has no subscription fees, no hidden fees, and no service charges to use. You can sign up for early access now by clicking here.

How KAYAK Compares

Kayak is great option among many online travel agencies. But before booking, you may want to consider others.

It's important to keep in mind, however, that the same groups own many of these companies. The same groups, for example, own Booking.com and Kayak. The same group owns Expedia and Travelocity.

Here are some of the other popular OTA options:

SkyScanner
This flights-only website is a popular spot to find cheap flights on just about any airline around the world. Skyscanner will search more than 1,200 flights all at once for the best deal.

Expedia
Expedia is one of the most popular online travel agency websites—and one of the biggest. It can help you find travel deals on flights, cruises, hotels, vacation packages, and more. One of Expedia's biggest perks is no cancellation fees on almost any hotel accommodation on their website.

Booking.com
This is one of Booking Holdings Inc.'s smaller websites. Best known for their hotel bookings, Booking.com also offers flights, combo deals, and more. Their loyalty program offers percentage discounts on hotels.

Orbitz
One of the Expedia group's best OTAs is Orbitz, a travel site that offers discounts on everything from flights to hotels and more. The website has a competitive loyalty program: earn rewards and redeem them instantly, or cash them at a rate for 1:1 U.S. dollar.

Travelocity
This site caters to customers 24/7 before, during, and after your trip. The website offers online-exclusive travel deals on everything from flights, hotels, and more. Members get 10% off their bookings.

Priceline
Priceline is a competitive alternative because of the agency's "name your price" feature, which allows you to bid on accommodations with fair prices.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Using an online travel agency like Kayak can unlock some of the best travel deals.

Once you understand how to use Kayak to its full potential, you can begin to book your own cheap travel deals for everything from flights to hotels and beyond.

Note: This website is made possible through financial relationships with some of the products and services mentioned on this site. We may receive compensation if you shop through links in our content. You do not have to use our links, but you help support CreditDonkey if you do.

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Orbitz

Orbitz is a well-known online travel agency that offers discounted flights, hotel stays, rental cars, and more. Find out below if those deals are actually worth your time.

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