Though it may no longer be the flashy new toy it once was, Kayak is one of the more established and still one of the most reliable names in the flight deal game.
Today, Kayak has a massive user base and provides the ability to search for everything from flights to car rentals. Heck, they even opened up their own branded hotel in Miami. And while we're usually finding our cheap flight deals elsewhere, Kayak's still worth adding to your flight search engine arsenal.
So how do we make the most out of Kayak? What do we think is great (and not so great) about searching for flights with Kayak? Let's take a look.
How does Kayak work?
Like many of our other favorite flight search engines, Kayak is an aggregator which means that it searches and compiles the results from hundreds of other OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) and puts them all into one place. In addition to searching airlines, Kayak also searches major OTAs like Expedia and Orbitz, as well as small, lesser-known (or not at all known) OTAs that many other sites overlook.
Kayak's results are highly customizable, allowing you to sort flights by a wide variety of factors from flight duration and a total number of stops to which flights arrive or depart early enough to get you to your meeting on time.
Why we like Kayak
Highly customizable flight options
Though its customization options may not be as robust as Google Flights, Kayak lets you get pretty specific with your flight specifications.
Search multiple destinations at once
Kayak lets you enter 3 airports or cities into your search at once so you can keep your options open.
Will pair airlines and one-way tickets for you
The cheapest flights are sometimes found by combining one-way tickets on separate airlines. Kayak will often be able to spot when this is the case and will show it as an option in search results.
If you aren’t sure or simply don’t care where your next trip will be, you can use Kayak's "Explore" option to see which destinations are offering great prices at the moment.
Are Momondo and Kayak the same?
This isn't so much a limitation but a valid question. Both Momondo and Kayak are now owned by Booking Holdings (owners of booking.com) and it's usually pretty obvious when you compare each of the sites side by side, both in features and search results. So, you may not need to use both in your cheap flight search.
Can be a bit slow
Hardly a deal-breaker but searching across hundreds of sites takes time, sometimes as much as a full minute, which stands out if you're used to something extremely quick like Google Flights.
Prices are sometimes outdated
It doesn't happen often but Kayak's prices shown sometimes lag behind updated prices elsewhere, causing you to click through to a deal that is more expensive or doesn't exist anymore.
How to use Kayak
STEP 1: Start with the basics
Go to Kayak and fill in the appropriate airports or cities in the “From” and “To” boxes. For increased flexibility, you can add up to 3 airports or cities in each box. So, if you're just as willing to fly out of New York’s airports as you are to fly out of Philadelphia, you can search all of those airports at once.
If you’re in the early planning stages or simply don’t care where you go, you can also use Kayak’s “anywhere search” function. Instead of filling in your destination airport, click on the box that appears and you’ll be able to search for cheap flights to, well, just about anywhere. It’s both a great way to find creative vacation ideas and to maximize your travel budget
STEP 2: Review and compare flight results
From here, you will see all the available flight results with several ways to arrange your results.
They'll automatically be sorted initially by “Best”. However, you can choose to sort the results by common options such as “Cheapest” or “Quickest,” as well as highly specific options such as flights with the least CO2 emissions or earliest landing. All of this can be done by toggling through and clicking “Other sort” above the search results.
Pay close attention to the details in your search results. The cheapest flights might have an enticing price tag but take twice as long as the “Best” option, as is the case in the image above. In our experience, the "best" option is usually pretty accurate.
Of course, can still filter results further via the filter options on the left-hand side by more common factors such as the number of stops, departure times, specific airlines, and more.
STEP 3: Buying flights through Kayak
Again, buying flights through Kayak is extremely similar to the process with Momondo.
you can simply click “view deal” and Kayak will take you directly to the OTA where the deal can be found and you'll finalize your booking there. However, many flights will have a drop-down arrow next to the “view deal” button if there’s more than one way to make your purchase.
Once you click that button, it will show you several other sites where you can book that same flight with various prices listed beside them. Go ahead and click your desired deal and it will take you directly to that site’s checkout page where you can book your selected flight. It might even let you book directly through Kayak.
Kayak filters and customizations
Calendars and flexible dates
To increase your chances of finding the dates with the best deals, Kayak allows you to add filters for flexible dates. It also shows you a calendar with expected flight prices for the month. You can choose flexible dates by selecting the plus/minus 1, 2, or 3 days options and the chart will automatically adjust.
Otherwise, if you click to choose your date, a color-coded chart will appear to show you estimated pricing for specific dates. Both of these options make it really easy to find the cheapest flight if your travel dates are flexible.
Search multiple destinations at once
As mentioned earlier, Kayak is one of the search engines that allows you to search multiple specific destinations at one time.
For example, if you were searching for a flight from Dallas to either Lisbon or London for your next vacation, you could enter both airports or cities in the destination box to pull flights to both cities in the same feed rather than having to do two separate searches.
If you are unsure of where you want to go or maybe you are just up for a weekend getaway to anywhere, you can use the “explore” feature and search from a location to anywhere. Kayak will pull up a map with prices and other filters to narrow down your perfect option. This is a great feature for our flexible and adventurous travelers.
Like many of the flight searching tools, Kayak allows you to set up price alerts for certain flight paths and destinations via email.
What's extra helpful about this feature is that it gives you Kayak's recommendation as to whether you should purchase the flight now or wait. This recommendation is based on trends in pricing and whether the price for that typical flight path and dates is high, normal, or low.
You can also set up price alerts that will send you an email when new flights/prices become available for the route you searched for.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.