Introduction | Booking on Site | Airfare | Hotels | Car | Packages | Cruise | Trains/Buses | Activities | Notable Features | Customer Service | Rewards | Pros/Cons | Summary

Introduction

Kayak.com is my favorite website to go to in order to establish my baseline price (ceiling). Kayak is what’s called a metasearch engine, which means that it aggregates fares from numerous airline websites and other travel search sites. It includes the most basic features, as well as many extras that really save time and inform the consumer.

Book on Site?

Kayak does not offer booking of flight reservations on its site currently, but it seamlessly transfers you to the booking page on the airline or travel agent site with any pre-filled information. Car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages are handled the same way, but hotels can be booked on Kayak without leaving the site (for most reservations). Kayak also seems to be honest enough to show you whether booking on another site would be cheaper than booking the hotel on Kayak.

Airfare

Thankfully, airfare booking on Kayak is fairly intuitive, with complex features all laid out in a simple-to-use manner. From the initial flight booking page, the standard three flight options are available: round-trip, one-way, and multi-city. There is also a checkbox on the initial search screen for nonstop only flights.

Date Search – Kayak covers just about all the bases when it comes to filtering through dates in the search. Other than the standard exact (non-flexible) date search, it offers +/-3 days, weekends, and flex-month. The +/-3 day search allows a user to not only add 3 days before and after each date being searched, which is standard equipment on most sites nowadays, but it also lets you search any combination up to 3 days. For example, you can select from one day before, one day after, one day before and after, two days before and after, and three days before and after, and you can set it for both the departure date and the return date separately, guaranteeing you flexibility, yet not too much that it searches unnecessary dates. The weekends search allows users to search upcoming weekends (5 weeks out), or 5 weekends in any month down the line, up to 12 months away. Just as with the +/-3 day search, the weekends search allows any combination of dates for both the departure and return: departures can be Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, or it can be Thursday AM, Thurs PM, Fri AM, Fri PM, or Sat AM. Returns can be Sunday or Monday, or Sun AM, Sun PM, Mon AM, or Mon PM. The flex-month search is a neat, new feature that allows search of any 5 week period for the cheapest prices in up to a 7 day range. You can state a specific number of dates you’d like to travel (i.e. 4), or you can give it a range of up to 7 days (0-6 or 12-19).

Airline/Alliance Search – Upon completion of the general search for flights, the search results page has a detailed left-hand sidebar that allows you to narrow down some variables. If there is a specif airline that you don’t want to consider, you can un-check its box. To search only airlines of a particular airline alliance, there are 3 text links below the airlines list that will filter out all but the alliance that you choose. Southwest Airlines is not shown on Kayak searches currently.

Nearby Airports – When setting search parameters for nearby airports, not only can it search suggested ones by simply clicking the ‘nearby airports’ box, but it can also allow you to specifically select any airport up to 200 miles away that you would consider, without selecting all of them. This is done by clicking on the ‘airport map’ link, which brings up a map of your area and the proximity of each airport on its list.

Fare Class – Choose between Economy, Premium Economy, Business, or First Class.

Comparison Search – Kayak has options on the bottom of the initial search screen that asks whether you want it to open some other popular search sites, like Expedia and Priceline, each in its own separate window, to see if there is a cheaper fare anywhere else.

Kayak’s airfare search landing page.

Hotels

Kayak offers a decent hotel search portal on its site, though not as intuitive as its airfare search interface. The best part of hotel searching on Kayak is the ability to book on the site, instead of being transferred like it is with all other products on Kayak.

Proximity Search – Once on the search results page, Kayak allows results to be filtered by up to 50 miles from a specific location, with items such as the city center and popular points of interest available as the focal point from a drop-down menu.

Rating Search – Hotels can be searched by ratings, with all available ratings being available to filter out by un-checking.

Brand/Chain Search – Brand and chain search does not appear to be available, but there is a search box that you could possibly use to achieve the desired results.

Amenities Filter – Hotel properties can be narrowed down with amenities offered, such as internet, airport shuttle, fitness room, pool, and more.

Property Type Filter – If you are looking for a specific property type, results can be filtered on the basis of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, vacation rentals, hostels, and resorts.

Comparison Search – Kayak has options on the bottom of the initial search screen that asks whether you want it to open some other popular search sites, like Expedia and Priceline, each in its own separate window, to see if there is a cheaper fare anywhere else.

Car Rentals

The car rental search is fairly basic, but achieves decent results. There are not many initial search parameters to fill out, but there are more on the search results page. Rental pickup/dropoff locations can be sorted by distance of up to 50 miles from a specific location, with items such as the city center and popular points of interest available as the focal point from a drop-down menu. Airport locations are also listed. Car class, such as economy, full-size, compact, etc., can be narrowed down via the sidebar on the left. Also, rental agencies, at least the well-known ones, are able to be filtered.

Packages

The vacation packages/bundles area of Kayak needs a lot of work. Though they offer aggregation of packaged deals from various sites around the web, it is quite difficult to use for its intended purpose. If you are going to use Kayak for packages, you are still better off searching for each component separately and building it yourself.

Cruises

Cruise search is available from Kayak, yet most people aren’t aware of this fact because it isn’t prominently displayed – it can be found in the ‘More’ tag on the menu bar. Cruise search is currently only available for the United States, or at least for cruises departing from the States. Search options include destinations, cruise line, state of departure (not very specific), and lengths. On the search results page, cruises can be narrowed down by its stateroom type, rating, and destination. You can also search for a specific ship name by typing that in a text box on the left-hand sidebar.

Trains/Buses

Kayak currently does not offer searches of travel via bus or train.

Activities

Kayak does not offer activities to destinations currently.

Notable Features

My Trips – My Trips is a section available to logged-in members of the site which gives users a place to store any itinerary and travel booked. This feature is my favorite part of Kayak, and I believe that they have perfected this better than any other travel manager. The best part of My Trips is the ability to take any email confirmation of flight, hotel, car, or cruise booking and emailing it to trips@kayak.com (from a recognized email address in your account). Within a few minutes, Kayak sends you a confirmation email, and upon viewing your My Trips section, every part of the trip which had info available from the confirmation emails will be pre-filled in a new trip slot, right down to the seat number of your flights.

Price Alerts – There is a price alert manager available for logged-in users of Kayak which stores flights and hotel alerts. Numerous entries can be entered, and email or phone notifications can be sent daily, weekly, or when a price barrier is hit.

Explore – Explore is a cool feature in Kayak that shows a full-page map of the world with prices for each destination airport around the world for a given month. You choose an upcoming month, up to 12 months out, and Kayak shows fares from your destination city to other airports around the world based on past search history on Kayak from the same airport(s). For travelers like me, who just want to go anywhere, this feature helps immensely.

Customer Service

Customer service is all but nonexistent, as you should get in touch with the provider of the travel arrangements booked if any help is needed. There is a feedback area located via a link at the footer of the site, which is where you can provide any comments or concerns about the operation of the site in general.

Rewards

Kayak does not have any sort of branded loyalty program in place for repeated bookings on their site, but virtually all travel booked earns the relative points in its frequent traveler program, if available, such as via the airline, hotel chain, etc.

Pros/Cons

Pros:

  • Many search options allow for numerous combinations of searching.
  • Aggregates through more than 200 travel booking sites.
  • Price Alerts work well.
  • Historical Fare/Cost data.
Cons:
  • No Southwest Airline support, but blame Southwest.
  • Sometimes prices are cached, so when transferred to booking website, prices may be out of date, though this is rare.
  • Cannot book most travel on Kayak.
  • No trains, buses, or activities booking.

Summary

I love Kayak.com, though I almost never book on it. Like I said earlier, it is my favorite first site when searching for new fare combinations, which I use to establish my price ceiling (the highest price I would pay for my trip). Since I consider prices here to be my ceiling, I am often able to find lower prices, though never by much. The best features of the site aren’t its search options, but rather its extra tools – Price Alerts, Explore, and My Trips.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Do *not* book your flight directly on Kayak.com. Their site says that your flight will be managed by Travelocity, however in booking it on Kayak and not directly on Travelocity.com, you are not afforded any of the benefits of a Travelocity customer (namely, you cannot benefit from price or service guarantees).

    Go to the travel agency site and book directly. DO NOT BOOK ON KAYAK.COM!

  2. The worst experience EVER. I don’t think anybody should be doing business with KAYAK, period. I am a frequent flyer, I used Kayak on most of my international trips. They used to be amazing and their prices were decent. Something ha penned lately (I guess they have merged with travelocity) and their service when down hill. I booked a flight, paid for it and only to find out, a day later, that they have cancelled it. I called their number (which by the way was hard to find since they don’t publish it on their website) and spoke to more then ten people and got the same answer , sorry we can’t help you. Tried to go back to their website and rebook my flight again and what a nightmare. I chose a booking, I fill out all the information only to get an error saying that the flight is no longer available. I tried more than 30 different flights and was getting the same error. (the only reason I went back to their site was because I had already paid for my first flight and didn’t want to lose my money) What a shame. I work in the hospitality industry and will have a good word about them .

    • Charif, I’m sorry that you had to go through that. In my experience, Kayak just seems to be the middle man, and when you click on a flight through them, it usually takes you straight through to the website offering the fare, no? I know that with hotels they are now starting to sell them officially through Kayak, is it becoming the same with flights? Either way, I still think that Kayak is a good reference point to establish a ceiling for fares, whether or not you book with them.

  3. I booked a hotel room on 3-9-2013 thru Kayak.com, Showed up at the hotel at 10pm after a long and tiring day a theme parks, clerk says they are booked solid and he remembers speaking to a kayak rep earlier that day about me, they told him they would call me and reschedule (which they did not). So I call Kayak.com they say they are very sorry and will check into the situation and call me back. Its now 10:30pm receive call back they are going to refund my money in full and great news they found the last hotel available in my area if I want to book it, it will cost me double what I’ve already spent. I tell her that I do not have any more money. And she says she is very very sorry but there is nothing they can do. After going back and forth for a bit she agrees to contact a manager, its now 11:15pm. I wait on hold for 15 minutes she gets back on the line and say the manager is busy with other call and she left a message for them to call me back shortly I ask how long she say within 10-20 minutes. I waited till 12:30am them called them, spoke to another rep he pulled up my account and said let me see if there is a manager available, on hold i go 30 minutes and i finally hang up. I have no more money for a hotel a car full a family and I cant keep my eyes open to drive home a 3 1/2 hrs drive.

    • I am so sorry that you had to go through that, and I hope that it ended relatively well for you in the end. I have heard similar horror stories, but I believe they are few and far between.

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