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Thought this piece from the NY Times would be helpful re finding the best prices for plane tickets/hotels. Some of these websites have been mentioned in other threads, but here they are all in one place. I tried the other day and it's excellent. Except I can't figure out how to do multi-leg searches. I'm not sure you can.
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December 26, 2004 NEW YORK TIMES
One-Stop Shopping: Searching With a 'Bot'

Are online travel search engines the great time savers they claim to be?, and Yahoo have all recently introduced services that simultaneously search for the cheapest prices for hotels, airlines and car rental, and sometimes for online travel agencies. Sidestep, which has for years offered free software to scan the Web for travel bargains, is rolling out that feature on its Web site.

The companies aim to relieve the pain of the typical online travel buyer, who, says PhoCusWright, a Connecticut-based travel consultancy, browses through four sites before making an air fare purchase, and three sites before booking a hotel room.

But online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz have begun barring search engines that scan the Web for the best prices from listing their fares. And since these so-called travel bots (as in "robots") themselves do not search every travel supplier, travelers are well advised not to rely solely on these sites for booking help.

Still, the sites are generally useful in finding bargains that agents may miss. So depending on how tight one's budget is, and whether one is willing to forgo some of the customer service benefits of an online travel agency, the extra clicks can be worth it.

I recently tested the major travel bots for late-January flights from New York to Phoenix and Paris, and a one-night hotel stay in San Francisco. was the most user-friendly of the bunch. Yahoo's FareChase service ( is also good, and since it is still being tested, should improve steadily. Mobissimo also proved fairly effective.

Kayak, which made its debut this summer, offers several valuable features. For the New York-to-Phoenix trip, the site returned 351 flights, topped by one from JetBlue for $217, then America West at $222. Kayak provides total travel time and other flight details, though, so I could quickly see that JetBlue's 12:15 a.m. arrival time in Phoenix was not worth the 5 bucks in savings. America West arrived at 10:30 a.m.

By a slight margin, Kayak returned the lowest fares of the bots and beat Expedia on the same America West flight by $6.

On the left side of Kayak's results page is a column with options for narrowing the results. Click and drag an arrow labeled Flight Times or Price, for instance, and the results shrink to suit your preferences.

Like other travel bots, Kayak sends you to the page of a supplier's Web site to make the booking. Kayak does not disclose all of the sites it scans, but it says they total 60, covering 550 airlines and 85,000 hotels.

Orbitz allows Kayak to scan its fares, helping to account for the vast number of airlines and hotels searched. Expedia and Travelocity do not, and both sites negotiate special fares with airlines that Kayak can miss. Orbitz is also phasing out its relationships with both Kayak and Sidestep, Kendra Thornton, an Orbitz spokeswoman, said.

FareChase, meanwhile, turned up the same fares for my Phoenix flight search as Kayak. It also found similar fares for the Paris trip: $420 on Air France versus $419 on American through Kayak. Travelocity, by comparison, returned the same American flight for $424.

Online agencies like Travelocity are quick to point out, though, that their sites include services not offered by the bots. For instance, Travelocity lets customers know when a flight has three or fewer seats left.

FareChase's search results incorporate a grid approach like Orbitz's, where you see fares and the number of stops at a single glance on the left side of the page. When you click a particular flight on the grid, the right side of the page displays more details.

That approach was especially useful for my hotel search, because I could quickly see the hotel's star rating, its distance from the center of San Francisco, and the lowest price for hotels with that rating. FareChase's best rate for a four-star place was $159, at the Renaissance. Note: FareChase is not yet available to Macintosh users.

Mobissimo, which was fully rolled out in November, says it searches international sites more thoroughly than competitors, and bested the other sites for my Paris trip, with a $333 fare on AirIndia, on Mobissimo's main drawback, though, is that its search results list fares only, leaving users to click around to find details about flight times and number of stops.

To its credit, Mobissimo also found the lowest priced four-star hotel for my San Francisco stay, an $80 room at the Inn at the Opera, in downtown San Francisco, through's lowest price, by contrast, was $140.

Sidestep, like FareChase, discriminates against Macintosh users, at least for its software download. After some initial difficulty, I installed Sidestep's application in less than a minute, and found fares similar to those of the other bots.

The company's site,, permits users to search for hotels and rental cars, no matter what type of computer they use. Within the next several months, air fares will also be available in case users would like just one more site for their bargain hunting.