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When it comes to booking travel, it sometimes feels like there are an unlimited number of online travel agencies to choose from — and Kayak is one of them. But is Kayak legit? Can it actually help you get a good deal when booking travel? We did some digging to find out.
What is Kayak? How does it work?
Kayak bills itself as the world’s leading travel search engine. It’s not a booking site. Instead, think of it as an aggregator: Kayak scans hundreds of third-party travel and brand websites and shows you the best prices. That means you’ll likely find a wider range of pricing for a single room or rental car than you would on direct booking sites.
Kayak shows you a list of pricing and booking options for every flight, rental car or hotel from dozens of individual travel operator websites, including other popular booking platforms like Priceline and Booking.com (Kayak is owned by the same company as those two).
To find the best travel deal, select what type of travel you want to book and insert your dates and destination. You can search for:
Vacation rentals and more.
Then, Kayak shows available options from multiple companies and booking platforms.
Take flights, for example. When you search and see an option that suits you, click on the listing for more details and information on where you’ll be booking, then click “View deal” and Kayak will transfer you to the booking website, whether that’s an airline website or a different OTA like Expedia.
If there’s a drop-down menu, that means there are various booking and pricing options for your selected itinerary and you can click on the arrow to check prices across multiple platforms.
Booking a hotel works about the same way. Perform your search, browse the list of available options, then click on the property listing to see more details and prices across multiple platforms. Click “View deal” to be taken directly to the booking page on the site with the best price. There, you may be shown similar properties for even more booking options.
Rental cars work similarly, though the car rental company will be displayed on the search page in addition to details about the cars available.
Is Kayak reliable?
Kayak is just as reliable as other travel search engines, so there’s no need to wonder, "can I trust Kayak?" In reality, it can often be more reliable than third-party booking sites since its users are driven to individual travel providers for booking. This act of booking directly often means you’ll have access to better customer service in case your plans change, you have to adjust your travel schedule or you want to update a booking. Since Kayak isn’t a booking platform, their customer service can’t help with those issues.
Do be aware that price fluctuations are a possibility. Occasionally, you may conduct a search that reveals one price, then, when you select “View deal” and are taken to the booking page of another website, you could see a price change alert and a slightly different deal than was just listed on Kayak.
Likewise, it’s not a bad idea if you book a hotel using one of the third-party sites listed to call and confirm your reservation as sometimes third-party bookings can get lost in the shuffle. And keep in mind that if you’re hoping to earn points for your stay, the easiest way to do so is to book directly with the provider.
Ways to get a good deal on Kayak
There are, of course, tips and tricks for getting even better deals on travel when using Kayak.
Use search filters and price calendars
For hotels and other stays, you can select filters like:
Specific amenities like free parking and breakfast.
Star rating and more.
There’s also a color-coded calendar that highlights what days might be cheaper for travel, which could help you locate a better deal if your plans are flexible. Search flexibility based on price isn’t as robust as on search sites like Google Flights, which offers detailed graphs, charts and calendars, but there are still options.
Consider a Hacker Fare
It sounds like cheating, but these fares are legit. They usually occur when Kayak finds a great deal on a round-trip flight by utilizing multiple airlines. For example, the cheapest round-trip flight Kayak found from Miami to Boston was a departing flight on American Airlines and a return flight on JetBlue Airways booked through Expedia.
This search concept isn’t original to Kayak — you can perform similar searches on Google Flights — but it’s a handy one to consider if you’re looking for the absolute best deal on air travel.
» Learn more: How to choose a travel credit card
Create an account to save cash
At least for hotel bookings, travelers with a Kayak Explorer Rewards account can sometimes get access to exclusive deals. It doesn’t cost anything to sign up for this loyalty program, so anyone can claim these deals, plus, those with an account can also track price fluctuations, get notified when prices drop and organize travel plans.
Set a price alert
Most travel search engines offer the option to set a price alert and Kayak is no exception. So if you’re not quite ready to book, set up an alert for your preferred travel days and destinations, and Kayak will notify you when prices go up or down to help you score the best deal. The feature is available for flights and hotels.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
Is Kayak legit? Absolutely. Is Kayak a good deal? It can be. While it isn’t a booking platform, it can help you find better prices for flights, hotels, rental cars and more by scanning actual booking sites across the web. Just make sure to take note of what platform or travel site you actually book with in case you have to make changes to your itinerary.
Using the site’s many search and alert tools can be a smart money move for finding a good travel deal.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card