Cheap Christmas Airfare: The 10 Best Web Sites

Finally, for the Minneapolis to Miami itinerary, Travelocity and eight of the other sites found us the exact same deals: $266 with one stop on AirTran or $315 nonstop on Delta or Northwest (now the same airline). Again, the only outlier was Cheapoair, which was higher at $290 for the AirTran flights and $339 for the nonstops.

Expedia

The site layout here is very similar to Travelocity, and the company also doesn't charge any booking fees. Expedia was among one of the sites with the cheapest airfare for the New York to Denver route. We also found a $10 cheaper fare here for the Nashville to Omaha trip, but we wouldn't have learned the flight times or airline until the purchase was made. (Our review did not include Priceline and Hotwire, which will often sell cheaper tickets under such conditions.)

And while Expedia was cheaper than Travelocity on the Chicago to London trip, we noticed that the American Airlines flights given to us by Travelocity were $45 more on Expedia. Searches here averaged about 23 seconds.

Orbitz

Most of the flights here were competitive with the other sites. For Chicago to London, Orbitz found the $811 one-stop flight on KLM and the United/BMI nonstop, although the Orbitz price was $10 more than some other sites.

One of the nice features of this site was that it showed you both the outbound and inbound flights on one screen. Several other sites made us click through a few pages to get all the details about our journey. Searches here was just 17 seconds during our average test.

Sidestep and Kayak

These two sites have now merged and while they operate two independent URLs, the sites are identical in use. Once the destinations are entered, it automatically pops up a calendar, before we entered the dates showing various fares with the cheapest days to travel. It also asks us if we want to try to search for weekend flights or even multiple weekends. For the advanced user, it is great, as it lets you customize flight times, airlines and airports.

The two sites don't actually act as ticket agents, instead they refer users to sites like Orbitz or CheapTickets to actually buy the ticket. The prices on most searches were comparable with the average, but neither site took the prize for the cheapest ticket. Searches here averaged 14 seconds.

Cheapoair.com

This site turned out to be the biggest disappointment for us. There were way too many clicks required to find the total fee with taxes. Each fare then had a $10 "instant discount promotion" but even with that savings built in, we didn't find the prices to be any cheaper.

For instance, on the Nashville to Omaha trip, the price was $279.90, nearly $29 more than the fare found on every other site we tested.

We did find the cheapest trip from Chicago to London here but it was on a "major airline" that the site didn't name, for $805.65. Cheapoair did give us the flight number and with a quick Google search of "flight 958 Chicago London" we learned that the "major airline" was United. (The return legs were already listed as a flight on Lufthansa, stopping in Munich.)

Our one other major complaint came when we tried to search only for nonstop flights and kept getting that same Lufthansa flight stopping in Munich. We're not quite sure what Cheapoair's definition of nonstop is, but we consider landing in Munich on our way from London to Chicago a stop.

Searches averaged 23 seconds.

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