My Favorite Travel Websites To Search For Airfare and Hotels
Published 10/25/07 (Modified 3/22/11)
I think I am secretly a big government, socialist type person (go communism...just kidding). I like freedom of choice but sometimes having too many options can get cumbersome and mind boggling. Frequently, it's good to just have a handful of recommended choices.
When it comes to picking the best travel website to do your airfare or hotel research, there are so many to choose from it can be overwhelming. Many popular news sites like CNN have provided their own top travel website lists, but I think they list way too many. I love lists but I'm not a fan of long lists containing too many choices. Too many choices means I need to take extra time to sort the diamonds from the rough. Just give me the best choice I always say. So that's what I'll do.
Bottom line, after comparing ease of use and prices among the numerous travel websites, my overall favorite is SideStep. The site consistently gave me the most competitive search results. I use it in conjunction with my other two favorites, Expedia and Travelocity. These three sites will give you the best search and pricing results.
Compare Prices Using Sidestep With Expedia and Travelocity
SideStep is what they call a meta search engine because it aggregates and consolidates search results from a wide variety of travel sites. The service pulls airfare and hotel information from more than 150,000 hotels and 600 airlines to give you pricing information based on your search criteria. You can also search for car rentals and cruises as well using their service. When you have chosen your travel itinerary, note that you don't buy or make your reservation directly with them. Instead, Sidestep forwards you to the airline or hotel's website where you make your purchase directly at the source at the offered price. Sidestep is just the free search engine that matches you with the offers.
Sidestep does have a limitation. Although it's search engine can search the majority of the travel related information available on the web, it can only search sites that it's been given permission to scour. Currently, a few popular sites like Expedia and Travelocity have not given such permission, so you will have to search those sites manually.
Sidestep tends to find slightly cheaper and better deals, but the benefit of purchasing through Expedia and Travelocity is that if you visit those two sites via a shopping portal like Ebates you can get 1% cash back or more. You should be able to nail down the very best travel offers by using these three sites, but primarily with Sidestep.
Use the Sidestep Toolbar To Ensure You Get The Best Deals
Sidestep offers a very useful downloadable toolbar that sits silently on your browser. Whenever you visit a competing travel site, the toolbar will offer you the option of searching the Sidestep database to compare the competing website's prices to Sidesteps'. This ensures that you always get the best deals. Currently it's only available with Internet Explorer unfortunately. It would be nice if the toolbar was compatible with my preferred browser, Firefox.