Cheap Christmas Airfare: The 10 Best Web Sites

Fly.com

This site comes from the folks at TravelZoo and had some nice features but did not always come up with the best price. When searching, we instinctively clicked on a button that led us to another booking site, such as Travelocity, to find the exact flights and not always the cheapest flights. But by clicking the "details" button, we easily brought up more information and showed the cheapest sites to do the booking. For instance, clicking on "details" showed us that Travelocity wanted $652.10 for a ticket that would have cost only $642.80 to buy on United.com, for the same exact flights.

Fly.com also gave us another one of those blind fare options through booking site Vayama. The $785 fare from Chicago to London (the best we could find) would reveal the airlines once booked. But looking at the limited data, it appeared to be the United nonstop and the Lufthansa one-stop return.

Searches averaged 18 seconds.

ITASoftware.com

This is a simple, bare bones system that can be manipulated to show advanced users all sorts of options. You can't book a ticket here but once you find that lowest fare, you can go to the airline's site and book the flights. The software here is the back-end system used by several of the other sites listed here.

Instead of the traditional "search nearby airports" it lets you search airports within 25, 50, 75, 100, up to 300 miles away from your search, which can sometimes be more helpful. It also has weekend and month-long searches like several other sites. Searches here averaged 18 seconds.

This site won on the New York to Denver route with a $403 nonstop leaving on Delta and returning on Continental. It also tied many of the others on the other routes. It also notes on the original search screen if there are airport changes, long or short layovers, overnight flights and flights that are on props instead of jets.

FareCompare

This site also doesn't handle your booking, but searches several of the big sites and then redirects users to the best fare. It is a great site for travelers who want to get away, but don't have a specific destination in mind. Once we put in our departure city, a list of getaway deals popped up. Once we entered our destination, a calendar showed up comparing prices on various days to fly.

The one downside was that it kept trying to pop out other search sites, doing the same search, in another window. Each time, we had to manually unclick that function.

The prices here were never higher than any of the other sites. But they weren't cheaper either. FareCompare just listed the other site's prices and redirected us to Ortiz or Cheaptickets or another site, depending on the search. The average search here took just 16 seconds. (FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney writes a weekly travel column for ABCNews.com.)

CheapTickets.com

Tickets here were cheap but not necessarily the cheapest. For instance, on Chicago to London, the best fare we could find was $836 on the United and BMI nonstops. Other sites had those same flights for about $6 cheaper and some cheaper one-stop options. The New York to Denver fare was comparable with other sites but, again, not the cheapest. The site was the fastest for us, averaging just under 12 seconds for each search.

Bing Travel

Microsoft's search engine took over the former Farecast.com site and turned it into a travel search site.

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