Airfares are up an average of 15% since 2009 and projected to climb another 5% this year, according to FareCompare.com.
To get the best price with the fewest clicks, find a flight-search site to match your travel style.
FOR PENNY PINCHERS:
The pick: When going cheap is your top priority, start with Kayak.
The test: In 15 searches, the site came out on top nine times, tied four times, and was beaten twice — the best record in our test. The Kayak fares were often only slightly cheaper, but some gaps were dramatic: An identical roundtrip from Washington, D.C., to Jamaica was $379 on Kayak vs. $449 on Travelocity.
Shopping by price can mean painful layovers and departure times, but you can screen those out using the site’s customizable search tools.
FOR FLEXIBLE FLIERS
The pick: Vacationers with give in their schedule should try Adioso. Rather than using the usual plus or minus three days tool, this site lets you enter a plain language request, such as “10 days in the Caribbean” or “Vegas any Friday when price drops to $300,” returning results in a graph that allows easy comparison of your options.
The test: Searching “New York to Puerto Rico in April,” for example, turned up a $285 roundtrip, departing mid-month. We did find the same fare elsewhere, but only after multiple searches.
FOR PASSPORT STAMPERS
The pick: Globetrotters should be sure to check Vayama, which specializes in international travel.
The test: Vayama put together flight combinations we found nowhere else, like a $316 Paris-to-Budapest roundtrip on Air France and KLM (the runner-up came in at $332 on different airlines).
For short hops while abroad, Anne Banas of SmarterTravel.com recommends sites based outside the U.S., such as Momondo, the only one in our test to search regional airlines like Brazil’s Azul and SafariLink in Kenya.
FOR JET SETTERS
The pick: Constantly zipping from city to city? Once again, Kayak is the one to beat, although this time the deciding factor is ease. The site’s multistop search automatically fills in the previous connecting city and appropriate month, trimming some time (and annoyance) out of the process.
The test: Kayak, Google Flights, and Bing Travel dug up similar fares — including a Boston-Denver-Austin itinerary that all three priced at $389 — but Kayak got there in fewer keystrokes.