Having a flexible schedule is one of the best ways to save hundreds on airfare. Here are the few sites that still offer this money-saving tool.
Having a flexible schedule is one of the best ways to save hundreds on airfare, but a dwindling pool of sites that let travelers consider multiple dates has made money-saving searches difficult. “It’s a bummer,” says George Hobica, the founder of the deal site Airfarewatchdog, “because people are going to spend a lot more time searching for a cheap fare and they’ll probably end up missing the fact that had they gone in March to Shanghai on United rather than in April, they would have paid $668 round trip rather than $1,100 round trip. That’s an actual example.”
Luckily, there are still some flexible-date search engines available if you know where to look. These four sites can save you hundreds—and critically do it quickly without a steady stream of hunting and pecking at a variety of dates, Hobica points out.
This Australian site may be little-known in the U.S., but it offers powerful options including flexible date searches and flexible stay searches. The date search gives both relative and specific options, letting you search, say, “next week” or “next month” as well as in, for example, mid-May. The flexible stay option is useful for finding out about fares that drop significantly between, say, a Monday and Tuesday or a Sunday night and a Monday night.
This site’s flexible date search prioritizes price, showing the cheapest available fares, along with advance booking windows, before showing the dates on which those prices are available. It’s ideal for the price sensitive but only works for domestic flights.
The search giant’s flight-search tool is still a work in progress, but a new addition is a calendar-based pricing tool that shows a spread of fares depending on a departure date, once your city pairs are punched in. The best fares are conveniently highlighted in green—and Google lets you search premium economy seats, too.
Kayak does offer a version of flexible search for those users who create a free account with the site, but even non-registered users can search up to three days on either side of your preferred departure date.* The site also shows a general calendar of the “best fares found by users in the last 48 hours” for a set of cities, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to lock in the same fare.
* This post has been revised to correct inaccurate information about Kayak’s flexible search options.