Cheap Airline Tickets for Your Summer Getaway

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With the dog days of summer upon us, we’re all dreaming about jetting off to the balmy beaches of Cancun or relaxing on a gondola in Venice. But before we can pack our suitcases and bid adieu, we’ll have to sort through thousands of travel sites to plan our perfect vacation.

We’ve posted this table comparing the best airline ticket deals before, but we thought it would be a great resource for everyone hoping to enjoy the ultimate getaway while staying on a budget. Bon Voyage!

For the rest of our traveling tips, click here.

Site What It Is Booking Fees Hidden Fees Customer Service The Final Word
The biggest player in the online travel biz, Expedia Inc. owns more than 20 popular booking and travel information sites, including Hotwire, TripAdvisor, and Hotels.com. The main Expedia site allows users to search, compare, and book a comprehensive selection of hotels, flights, cruises, cars, activities, and vacation packages.

Biggest player. Owns Hotwire, TripAdvisor & Hotels.com

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None, not even for phone reservations; this does not include fees imposed by governments and airports (e.g 9/11 security fee, facility charges, and segment fees).

$0

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No cancellation fees, but some flights within vacation packages may incur a charge, and individual airlines may charge for cancelling or rebooking. Also, you need to pay the price difference if rebooking a trip for which the original price is no longer available. All fees on Expedia are disclosed upfront (albeit in fine print), but the “taxes and fees” portion of vacation packages is not itemized, so you won’t know exactly what this number entails.

No cancellation fee

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The good news: Unlike many online-only travel sites, there is a phone number for Expedia by which you can reach a human. The bad news: The humans on the line tend to be less than helpful and often will force you to spend a ton of time on the phone transfering between staffers and supervisors — recounting your situation over and over.

There’s actually a phone number

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An excellent, exhaustive resource for booking discounted travel, in the U.S. and Europe particularly. Just beware the add-ons that are offered at the end of your booking (car rentals, activities, insurance, etc.). Sometimes they are prefilled “Yes” and you wind paying for a jungle tour you never wanted.

Excellent, but beware add-ons at checkout

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A smaller conglomerate than Expedia, encompassing CheapTickets, Away, Adventure Finder, and other booking and travel information sites.

Similar to Expedia, but a smaller conglomerate.

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Most airline reservations are free, but some incur an online service fee of up to $11.99 and flight reservations made by phone carry a $25 service fee; a cruise booking is $24.99.

Most flights: $0, phone reservations: $25

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Orbitz.com charges $25 for cancellation on top of fees from the airline itself. CheapTickets.com (which is owned by Orbitz) also charges $50 for cancellation, plus the airline fee.

$25 cancellation fee

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Similar to Expedia. Canned responses and lack of true conflict resolution lead to some frustrated consumers.

Similar to Expedia

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Comparable to Expedia, w/ no surprises in the pricing. A bonus: if another Orbitz customer books the same flight at a lower price prior to your departure, Orbitz will refund up to $250 per airline ticket.

Fewer surprises in pricing

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Sabre Holdings’ main travel search and booking engine. Sister sites include IGoUGo, TravelGuru, and LastMinute.com.

Similar in functionality to Expedia & Orbitz.

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A phone reservation fee of $30 per person for flights, but none if booked online.

Online: $0, phone: $30

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No fees to cancel airline tickets (except from the airline itself), but $30 to rebook the flight.

Can get money back; $30 to rebook

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Annoying offshore call centers. The Price & Service Guarantee has vague language about ensuring that your trip goes well, but consumer indexes paint a pretty different picture (similar to the above).

Vague language about ensuring your trip goes well

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Doesn’t forge any new ground from the above, but its new Experience Finder is a clever way to suss out a good destination, and more users we’ve connected with have had positive experiences than with Orbitz.

Experience Finder is clever way to find destinations

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Newest player in the flight search game; it combines a refreshingly simple interface with a unique “Agony” feature in which your results are ranked in order of the agony you’ll incur during the flight–taking into account price, duration, and number of stops.

Simple interface

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None, since it’s not a booking site. When a user finds a suitable flight, he/she is directed to purchase it on Orbitz.

Redirects to Orbitz to buy.

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No cancellation fees from the website itself–you’re just responsible for airline charges.

No cancellation fee

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An email address (contact@Hipmunk.com) is all you get.

Email address to contact for help

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A good supplementary search engine for flights; the Agony feature is a great way to gauge the overall flight experience before booking.

The Agony feature is great

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Thie Europe-based cheap ticket search engine is one of the most flexible, allowing users to search over 600 airlines for flights in a single month or over the course of a year–in 23 languages.

Europe-based international ticket engine

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None, since it’s not a booking site. When a user finds a suitable flight, he/she is directed to purchase it directly from the airline.

Redirects to the airline to buy

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No cancellation fees from the website itself–you’re just responsible for airline charges.

No cancellation fee

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A form with pertinent information to be filled out and sent to the site managers.

A form to fill out for help

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Exhaustive, easy to use, and unbiased — everything you want from a flight search site.

Our #1 choice for international travel.

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An encyclopedic search engine for hotels, airlines, cars, cruises, and vacation packages that scans not just direct suppliers, but also third party travel sites.

Scans many travel sites at once.

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None, since it’s not a booking site (which means no results are given preference). When a user finds a suitable trip, he/she is directed to purchase it directly from the site on which it is advertised.

Redirects to original source to buy.

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No cancellation fees from the website itself–you’re just responsible for airline charges.

No cancellation fee.

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Full disclosure with addresses and phone numbers on two coasts.

Contact info on both coasts

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Our favorite! They have a comprehensive and unbiased database, and there’s no agenda as to which search results populate first. Plus, it has great creative filters like “no prop planes” (if you don’t want a puddle-jumper).

Our favorite! Comprehensive & intuitive

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