This well-known site is one of the best travel package sites for a reason. Expedia offers a full complement of bundle options (flight/hotel, flight/car, hotel/car, and flight/hotel/car) as well as trips to just about every corner of the globe. It’s reliable when it comes to pricing, too: Expedia offered the lowest price in two of my five tests, and was cheaper than average in all but one test booking.
That said, the amount the site said I was saving on a given package didn’t always match up to the actual price difference when I added up the cost of the trip’s individual elements. In one of my test cases, it was actually cheaper to book my flight, hotel, and car separately. So take those supposed savings with a grain of salt (or even better, price out the components separately on your own to be sure you’re getting the best deal).
Expedia has plenty of useful filters to help you find what you need. You can sort hotels by price, distance from a city’s downtown, guest rating, package discount, and property class, while flight options are given a rating “reflecting the duration of the flight, the type of aircraft, and the quality of amenities the flight offers.” There’s also a map view so you can check out the location of each hotel. I appreciated that the site clearly showed extra baggage fees that might apply on a given flight.
Best Feature: The breadth of choice and consistency of pricing make Expedia perhaps the best site for vacation packages. You may not always get the absolute lowest price here, but chances are you’ll pay a fair rate and have plenty of options to choose from.
Expedia’s Sister Sites: Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets
Many travelers don’t realize that Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets are all owned by Expedia Group, and typically have very similar inventory and pricing to Expedia. Each of these sites has similar layouts and filter options, too. Like Expedia, these three sites offer every possible vacation package combination involving a flight, hotel, and/or rental car.
It was rare for any of these sites to beat out Expedia’s prices in my tests; in general, the rates were identical (especially on Travelocity, where I didn’t find any deviations from Expedia) or a little bit higher. However, Orbitz and CheapTickets did offer slightly cheaper packages on one flight/car itinerary.
Because the pricing is so similar, it’s probably not worth searching all three of these sites in addition to Expedia unless a difference of a few dollars will make or break your travel budget.
Best Feature: Travelocity, Orbitz, and CheapTickets all offer a checkbox on their main booking page to specify “direct flights only”—a feature that isn’t currently available on Expedia. This saves you a step when filtering your flight options on later screens.
Note: Expedia Group also owns Hotwire, which I didn’t find quite as reliable as the other three in my tests. For one itinerary, a nonstop flight that the other sites offered was not available when booking a Hotwire package (though it was available when booking a separate flight on Hotwire), and the pricing on some searches was a little higher than on the other sites.
Like Expedia and its partners, Priceline also offers every possible combination of flight, hotel, and rental car. Its search results pages are easy to navigate, with plenty of filter and sort options, plus a map view for hotels. Priceline offers numerous hotel options in popular vacation destinations at every price point.
One quirk to prepare for: Priceline’s flight result page lists departure and return flights together as a pair rather than letting you choose each one separately. This cuts down on the number of screens you have to click through but could mean extra scrolling while you try to find the exact two flights you want. Not all flights that are available when booking airfare separately on Priceline seem to be accessible to those booking a package—so it’s worth checking both.
Priceline was in the middle of the pack as far as pricing was concerned. It won one of my tests but was the most expensive option in two others; overall, it offered cheaper-than-average prices 60 percent of the time. To help you save money, the site offers “Express Deals” for rental cars, an opaque option in which you don’t know which rental car brand you’ll get until after you’ve booked. If you’d rather choose which company you’re renting from, standard car rentals are also available.
Best feature: Once you’ve selected your flight and rental car preferences, the site will keep them the same as you click through alternate hotel possibilities—saving you the hassle of having to select them over and over again.
As its name suggests, CheapCaribbean.com has a more limited scope than other sites on this list, but it’s worth checking if you’re planning a trip to the Caribbean, where package trips such as honeymoons are particularly popular. The site turned up cheaper-than-average prices for both of my Caribbean tests.
CheapCaribbean.com is one of the best vacation websites for all-inclusive packages; there’s a checkbox for “all-inclusive” right on the site’s homepage. Once you’ve entered your trip information, you can also filter your results by “only adults,” “family friendly,” and “luxury.” Each hotel-specific page includes a list of good features (“What’s to Love”) and not-so-good ones (“What We’d Change”).
In some ways CheapCaribbean.com isn’t quite as sophisticated as other travel package sites. There’s no map available to compare locations of the listed hotel options, and having to use a drop-down menu to enter your departure and arrival cities feels a little old-school. (Also annoying: not being able to group Houston’s two airports into a single search, though you can select “all airports” for Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.) But the affordable deals are worth a few snags, as long as you’re only looking for a flight/hotel package—there’s no option to add a car or create any other package combinations, though you can add travel insurance and transfers, at least for the destinations I checked.
Best Feature: The “Deals of Fortune,” or bookings where you know the destination but not the exact resort until about a week before the trip. This is a fun feature for value-conscious travelers who aren’t set on a particular island or property.
A popular meta-search site, Kayak saves travelers time by searching many of the best travel package sites with a single click. Unfortunately, you can’t specify which elements of your trip you’d like to bundle; it searches flight + hotel by default. You can add a car later on some of its partner sites, but if you’re looking for a flight/car package, you’ll have to go elsewhere.
Results list the cheapest available packages from sites such as Priceline (Kayak’s parent company), Expedia, and CheapCaribbean.com. There’s a map view available, and the results page shows both air- and hotel-related filters to make it easy to find nonstop flights, free breakfast, or a specific hotel.
I found that the prices listed on Kayak didn’t always match the price on the source site when I clicked over to find the deal—a fairly common problem with meta-search sites. But I also occasionally discovered that I got a different price after clicking from Kayak than I did when searching the same itinerary from the booking site’s home page. For example, a Las Vegas package was $819 per person on Priceline when I clicked over from Kayak, but just $783 when I booked the same package from the Priceline home page. Another test offered the opposite result, with the price being cheaper after clicking from Kayak than it was when booking directly on Priceline. The lesson: Test both options when using a meta-search site.
Best Feature: Being able to search some of the best vacation booking sites in a single place is a major time saver. Though Kayak doesn’t always find you the lowest possible price, it’s a good place to start your search and get an idea of what’s out there.
The Funjet home page gives you two only vacation package options: flight/hotel and hotel/car. However, you can work around this by adding a rental car on at the end of a flight/hotel or individual flight booking.
There are plenty of sort options for your results, including price, hotel name, rating, distance, and location. While the map view isn’t immediately obvious and is a little low-tech (you can’t zoom in or out), it is available, and you can filter your results to properties within a certain distance of popular landmarks.
One annoyance: Travelers with multiple gateway airports have to search each one separately—there’s no option to search all New York or Chicago airports, for instance. And Funjet’s prices aren’t the most consistent, ranking as the cheapest in one test and the most expensive in another. Still, the site is worth comparing to others when booking your vacation.
Note: If you’re headed to the Caribbean, Central or South America, Hawaii, or Mexico, try your search on Funjet’s sister site, Apple Vacations. The destinations it covers are more limited than Funjet’s, but I found that the prices were often a little better. CheapCaribbean.com is also owned by the same parent company, Apple Leisure Group.