Kayak flights is one of the largest and oldest flight booking sights on the web, and is one of my preferred booking sites.
Kayak is not a travel agent, rather it’s a travel metasearch engine and fare aggregator. When you search for a flight it lists a combination of other flight search sites, travel agents, along with direct fares from airline websites.
Kayak have over 50 international sites, so you can use use your country of origin. This is especially useful when you are putting together a multi-airline itinerary that quotes in different (and sometimes unfamiliar) currencies.
using a travel metasearch site is already going to save you time and money compared to an individual booking agent, but there are still some features that you should know about in order to get the most out of such a powerful booking facility.
Here are some of the features I use when looking for cheap flights on Kayak.
One of my favourite features of Kayak is the explore function. I use this when I am daydreaming about travel and looking for inspiration. I’ve probably used this more than any other booking feature, and I often send it to friends who are looking for travel ideas.
With Kayak Explore you can set your departure point and find flights from that airport. It lists every destination on a map, along with the price of the ticket. Seeing the prices visually on a map helps with my travel planning. If, for example, I’m planning a trip to Europe but I am not locked in with a specific destination, then this tool is good to visualise where I could go instead. You can search for general times of the year, and for specific length of time away.
Explore also doubles as a random adventure generator, where I might pick the cheapest flight to a destination I haven’t been to before.
Make use of the ± 3 days function
If your itinerary doesn’t have locked-in dates then change the search to include three days on either side of your booking. This will show a weeks worth of flights, and the difference of flying the day before might make it worth changing your dates.
It works for return flights as well, with a easy-to-read table showing every possible day combination.
The best non-stop and multi-stop presented first
One of the smart features of the aggregated search results is how the airfares are presented. At the top of the search results a box featuring the “Best Flights” is presented first. This shows the cheapest multi-stop alongside the cheapest non-stop. My natural search instinct is to sort by “cheapest”, but I can by swayed to fly with the direct option if the price difference isn’t too outrageous. If the price difference is still too much then I will carry on comparing the multi-stop options.
The multi-city option is good for bookings beyond the one-way and return fares. I often visit a few different cities in one trip, so I will check if there is a multi-city deal on offer, compared to putting together my own itinerary with individual flights.
I also use this in a similar fashion to the explore function. For example I was looking for flights from Ho Chi Minh City to Osaka, and the one-way tickets were double the one-stop options. I then tried multi-city on a few different hub cities in between to see if I could get a stopover on the way.
Multi-city also includes “Hacker Fares”, which lists flight options from unrelated airlines, often mixing different low cost airlines to find the cheapest route. You have to book these flights individually and your bag will not be checked through on connecting flights. It’s good that this is presented as an option if you are comfortable with flying like this.
This is where having your own currency set is also helpful. If I checked each airline individually first I would have had to convert Vietnamese Dong and Hong Kong Dollar to AUD and work out the estimated cost.
Set up price alerts
If you’re just shopping around or in the early stage of your travel planning you can set up a price alert for different flight routes. This can be done for multiple flights, and you can unsubscribe once you have found a deal or change your plan.
Buy now booking advice
Another feature is the booking advice box, which lets you know if prices are likely to decrease in the next 7 days. This is a guide based on historical data and isn’t based on future knowledge of airline sales, so take it for what it is.
I looked around on several other flights and dates and couldn’t find a “likely to decrease” example.
Use the filters to save time
Unless you are looking for the absolute cheapest flight (even if it’s routed via three cities over two days), then use the search filters to your advantage.
For example after one too many 6am flights where I swore I would never do a 6am flight again, I now filter out early morning flights. Same deal if I am arriving in an unfamiliar city of a new country, I would prefer not to arrive at 1am.
Other filters include total length of travel and the number of stops on the way. And if you’ve ever said “I’ll never fly with x airline again” then you can filter out airlines from your search.
Same applies with airports, where you can filter out your least favourite airports. This is especially useful for overnight transits, as I would stay in Singapore Changi overnight, but not Manila or Jakarta.
Kayak Routes is another interesting way to search for flights. Pick a departure airport and month, and this tool will show you every direct route from that airport.
I don’t think I would ever book a flight based on it only being non-stop, but as a flight and data nerd I like that this is presented as an option.