Finding a good and reliable travel app can be a hard task. This post tries to answer a common problem amongst travelers: which are the best apps to find cheap flights on your phone?
Booking flights before vs now
Not many years ago, you need an appointment with your travel agent to book a flight. We booked flights with rigid dates and destinations and it was simply a matter of finding the best deal.
Today, you can book through your PC or desktop in the comfort of your home. Hell you can even use your phone or tablet. I am a super fan of this convenience. This means you can book a flight to anywhere even while you are pooping.
Still, just because it’s more accessible it does not mean is necessary simpler, specially if you are very price-sensitive. Finding the best time to buy cheap flights online is an art to be mastered.
The whole online flight booking paradigm is changing.
The Best Mobile Apps To Find Cheap Flights
I tend to feel lost in the sea of numerous mobile apps out there. There’s just so many travel resources that promise you to save time and money!. Finding the more appropriate for your travels can be a trial and error exercise which translates into many hours wasted.
So, I have analysed the digital world for you and came up with a selection of the best travel apps to find cheap flights to get you started with!
Everybody knows SkyScanner. If you don’t, you are not a true traveller. Alongside with the speed and usability of the app, I find two features on SkyScanner particularly interesting. The first one is the price chart: you can see your search results per day in a intuitive and interactive monthly bar chart. This is great in so many ways and it means it can help you decide immediately which is the cheapest date to book the flight within a time period.
Number 2 is that you don’t even need to know where you want to go. Based solely on your fixed dates or a broad time period, the Explore option shows you where is cheapest to fly, which is a perfect tool for the early stages of your trips. I use it this feature a LOT when I am defining my itinerary or choosing which hub city should I adopt in a multi-city trip.
SkyScanner’s iPhone app has a particularly beautiful interface and I even prefer it to the web version. Since it’s free I would say this is an amazing life-saver app and a must-have for any traveller.
I feel Hipmunk is more popular in the U.S. than in Europe, but this app is a good choice for comparing and selecting flights. At least in the iOs version, the interface is clean, choosing the date of the flight is wonderfully simple (this is always the trickiest part) and the results can be easily sorted by departure time, price and agony (amount of stops you’ll have to make to get to your final destination). Fare alerts can also be set in an option the lower menu.
A couple of things bother me though. First, the little hyperactive chipmunk is annoying at times. Then, the information on the graphic results is not immediately comprehended. Only after clicking around the screen, I could decipher the different symbols and colors that identified the flights. There is a learning curve to take advantage of all the features in this app which I don’t think it should exist.
I confess I have never heard about Kayak since a year ago. Shame on me, because now it is my favorite engine for finding the best deals on flights. The simplicity of its design, the excellent filter and sorting interface and the speed at which you can get the information you need are its major differentiators. I can literally book a flight in 5 minutes.
The app also contains a flight tracker, airport gate information and price alerts for any changes. Nowadays, it is even possible to actually finish the booking process within Kayak, without the need to forward for external websites.
Besides the reliable results, Kayak presents a beautiful interface (and not just because of the orange!). I love the way your flight searches are grouped in tabs so that you can easily go back to an earlier search to compare prices or flight hours.
Personally, for some reason, I enjoy more using the web version than the mobile app, but either way I highly recommend it.
The start screen presents the departure and arrival airports are visually identified through its IATA code, although it is also possible to choose a city. The visual identity is strengthened in the loading screen, where you can find an image of your destination city.
Within Momondo’s flight results, there are tabs across the top of the screen that let you move between the cheapest flight, quickest flight time as well as options for ‘early out’ and ‘late in’. The results are extremely easy to read and feature all the information you need at a quick glance, including the carrier logo and total transit time. When you click on one of the them, you are quickly forwarded to the airline’s website.
Overall, perhaps there are too many colors in the screen, which sometimes make it feel a little bit busy. But overall, it is a very nice looking app.
I could mention also Expedia or Rumbo, but from my experience, I don’t think these have better features nor return more reliable results. Regarding the airline own mobile apps, I really have to talk about easyJet‘s app as in many ways, it should be a reference to many other airlines. It’s extremely simple, easy to use and with a strong visual identity, completely in line with their branding. It’s probably the most agile and straightforward app in the task of ticket reservation out there.
My process to buy flights online:
For me, booking a flight nowadays looks like this:
1. Start off exploring when and where you want to go using SkyScanner. Use email alerts to track the price of some destination/date combinations.
2. Double check the fares using Kayak or Momondo.
3. Choose your final date and destination.
4. Final price check using the airline’s app or website.
5. Book the flight through the most affordable channel.
You should seek your own process of booking a flight, finding out what works and what doesn’t and choosing which apps you should use. Read my guide about when to book flights online to get you started.
Regarding mobile apps in particular, I fancy a lot Kayak and Skyscanner. Right now I think these are the best apps to find cheap flights out there, although some others have really unique features acting as differentiators facing the competition.
In the end it all comes down to a process of finding the travel app(s) that not only best suit your needs, but also the ones that feel better to use. These are the ones that in the end, will most likely improve your travel experience!
Which other apps do you use to book your flights?