Kayak: An Incredible Flight Search Tool

Kayak.com is an all-in-one travel website that allows you to easily compare prices on flights, hotels and rental cars. The Kayak iPhone app mirrors this functionality with a slick, easy-to-use interface that makes finding great deals a breeze.

Today we’ll take at a few of the basic features of Kayak and discuss how the app performed during the review process.

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Kayak.com

The Home Screen

Kayak’s home screen features two pages of tools that cover almost everything you need to plan your next vacation.

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Home Screen

From here you can book a hotel, flight or rental car, get information on airports and airlines, track flights, find great deals and access your Kayak.com trips. At any point in the app, tapping the home icon or Kayak logo will bring you back to this screen.

The large icons make it really easy to make a selection and the travel board theme is executed nicely.

Searching for Hotels, Flights and Rental Cars

The process for booking a hotel, flight or car is about the same. Simply tap one of the first three icons to get started. We’ll start by looking at hotels.

Hotels

As you can see below, to search for a hotel you just enter your city, check-in/out dates, number of guests and number of rooms. My favorite feature here is the ability to tap the location icon to have Kayak automatically grab the city you’re currently in as the basis for the hotel search.

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Hotels

Once you enter your search criteria, you are given a list of hotels in the area. Here you have a number of options for filtering and organizing your results.

The strip of buttons at the top reorganizes your results by giving more importance to the selected variable. This makes it easy to find a hotel based on your personal preferences, whether that be whatever is closest, cheapest or nicest.

If you want even more control, the buttons on the bottom will allow you to filter the results so that only those hotels meeting a very specific criteria will be shown.

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Filtering Hotel Results

Other filters, like brands and stars, allow you to simply check or uncheck types of results that you do or don’t want to appear in your search results. For instance, if you only want to see hotels with three or more stars, uncheck all of the other options.

Tapping on a hotel will give you more details on that selection such as contact information, a Google map of the location, and available amenities. If you want to book a room online, you are taken into Safari where you can use the hotel-specific website.

Flights

Searching for a flight is very similar to the process of searching for a hotel. To start off, you enter the basic information: from city, to city, depart/return dates, number of passengers, and whether or not you prefer non-stop flights. You also select whether your trip will be one way, roundtrip, or multi-city.

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Comparing Flights

Here you can organize your results by the cheapest, shortest and soonest flights. You can also filter the results based on number of stops, airlines, airports, times and price.

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Filtering Flight Results

Rental Cars

Finally, let’s take a quick look at the rental car process. This holds no surprises as it is virtually the same as comparing flights and hotels. First off, you select your cities, dates and times for pickup/drop-off.

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Comparing Rental Cars

Here your options are a bit slimmer than with the other two processes we looked at. For instance, you can only sort your results by two variables: price and proximity. Further, you can only filter the results by three variables: class, agency and options.

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Filtering Rental Car Results

“Class” allows you to filter the results by the type of vehicle, “Agency” filters by rental car company, and “Options” lets you adjust variables such as AC, automatic transmission and miles per gallon.

Flight Tracker

It used to be difficult to find a decent free flight tracker on the app store so I was pleased to see this was one of the standard features on Kayak. You can keep a list of multiple flights to track and search for a flight by flight number, route, take-off location/time, or landing location/time.

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Tracking Flights

Once you’ve found the flight you’re looking for, the list view conveniently gives you a quick summary of the flight information. Tapping on a flight will give you more details including the appropriate gate number and terminal.

The flights you are tracking remain in your list when you quit the app so it’s easy to come back later and check up on the same flight.

Airport and Airline Info

Kayak gives you three ways to get information on airports and airlines. The “Airports” tool gives you a list of all the shops and restaurants within a given airport. You can even filter the results based on the gate, terminal or category of shop.

The “Airlines” tool provides you with simple contact information for an airline. This makes it easy to call or check out an airline’s website. You can also see how many times a given airline has been searched for on Kayak this week.

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Airline Fees and Airport Shops

Finally, the fees section lets you choose a specific airline and view a breakdown of all associated fees for baggage, pets, meals etc.

Trips and Buzz

The final two features we’ll look at are trips and buzz. Kayak.com has a feature that allows you to setup “Trips” and enter information for everything from flights, hotels and rental cars to restaurants, meetings and sporting events you plan on attending.

For each event you can enter detailed information regarding the location, time and extra notes. The basic idea is to have Kayak be your complete travel itinerary and assistant. From the Kayak iPhone app you can see all of the trips you have setup on Kayak.com and any associated information. You cannot however, create trips from the iPhone app.

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Trips and Buzz

Buzz

The buzz feature allows you to quickly find great deals on flights. Simply type in the airports you’re flying to and from along with the month that you want to fly. You are then presented with a graph (shown above) showing the best prices available for the that trip along with a list of flights that you can book along with their corresponding prices.

How Did it “Fare?”

Overall, the Kayak iPhone app is excellent. I was really impressed by the quality and diversity of the feature set for a free app. The interface was nearly perfect and incredibly easy to use and each tool was really packed out with customization options.

However, the app isn’t quite perfect and does in fact have a few problems. First off, it can be quite sluggish at times and can quickly begin to wear down your patience. There are also a few little things that bothered me like the lack of customer reviews on hotels (beyond a star rating) or the absence of a map showing the plane’s location in the flight tracker (I’m a sucker for maps and love to track progress visually).

My biggest annoyances include the lack of a built-in browser or the ability to create trips. When you’re ready to book a flight, car or room the app closes and takes you into Safari where you might or might not be taken to a mobile friendly site. I can understand why the app is forced to redirect you instead of letting you book directly but it would be nice if you didn’t have to leave Kayak to do so.

Finally, I don’t see a reason they didn’t include the ability to create trips from within the app. You can view all the details of a trip on your iPhone, but the actual creation of the trip must be handled within the full Kayak website.

Conclusion

If you travel once a year or more, go download Kayak. It’s free, saves you money and has useful tools to aid you on your trip. There are a few flaws but they’re not enough to overshadow the fact that you’re getting a really great, professionally developed app without spending a dime.

Let us know in the comments below how you think Kayak stacks up to other travel apps you’ve used and whether or not you’ll be downloading it for your next trip!


Summary

Kayak is a super easy way to compare prices on flights, hotels and rental cars from tons of different sources. Additional features include detailed airport and airline information and flight tracking. Kayak is remarkably well-developed for a free app but does include a few flaws such as the lack of a built-in browser and the inability to create Kayak.com "trips."

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