An aggregator is a website that searches for deals across multiple websites and shows you the results in one place. For example, if you wanted to find a cheap flight from New York City to London, you could sit down and check American Airlines and then British Airways and then Iceland Air and then... or you could just head to a website like Skyscanner, which will check hundreds of airlines at once and show you which one is the cheapest.
It really is that simple! By heading to an aggregator, you're practically guaranteed to find a cheaper flight than if you'd searched manually, and you'll save so much time through doing so, too.
Because students are a special fare class unto themselves, you'll often find the cheapest airfare using an online student travel agency's search -- student airfare finders like STA Travel can often beat the best prices aggregators can find, as the aggregator is searching "regular" fares while STA is searching student-specific fares. It's always a good idea to check a student travel agency's airfare price against the price found by an aggregator, though, as it's not consistent as to which will be cheapest.
In general, though, if you're a student and looking to fly, STA should be your very first stop.
Which Are the Best?
There are dozens of travel aggregators out there, but here are some recommendations.
Skyscanner: If you check only one aggregator during your research, make it Skyscanner. Skyscanner almost always gives you the cheapest price on flights. One of my favorite features of the website is getting to look at flights over an entire month to find which date is cheapest, and searching from my location to "everywhere" to see where I can fly inexpensively. It's great for building travel inspiration and looking at destinations you may not have originally considered flying to.
Adioso: Adioso is where I head to after Skyscanner, as I love using their simple search engine. Adioso has some pretty nifty features that Skyscanner doesn't, too. You can search from your current location to "somewhere warm" or "a budget city" or "a local festival", depending on whatever you're in the mood for, which can be a lot of fun! You can also search by continent, too, and over a wide date range, which not many other aggregators let you do.
Google Flights: Google Flights is easy to use and has a cool mapping feature to help you easily see where you can affordably fly to on your budget while looking at a map of the world. Google Flights will occasionally find cheaper prices than Skyscanner or Adioso, so if you're still not happy with the price you've been given with those aggregators, head here next to see if it offers you a better price.
Check Aggregators for Accommodations
Aggregators aren't just for finding cheap flights! You can use them to find fantastic deals on accommodation, as well. Some of my favorite websites to check include:
HotelsCombined: HotelsCombined has some great deals on accommodation, as it checks other aggregators like Expedia, Booking, and Agoda, in one giant search engine. If you're looking for the absolute best deal on accommodation, this is one of the first sites you should go to.
Hostelz: Hostelz searches hostel websites like Hostelbookers and Hostelworld to see if there are any differences in prices and which one is likely to be best for your budget. You'll be surprised to find out that there is usually a fair amount of difference between prices on the two sites.
About Booking Buddy
Booking Buddy pulls together 29 aggregators, like Kayak, on one page. You must choose which aggregator you want to use for your travel search and then return to Booking Buddy to search another aggregator, but it's very nice to have all of 'em in one place. A few of the Booking Buddy choices:
- Yahoo FareChase
You'll notice that none of the websites I recommended using above, like Skyscanner and HotelsCombined, are not included in Booking Buddy's search, so make sure you check each of those individually, rather than booking whatever Booking Buddy shows up first.
The Key is Research
As you've probably figured out, the key to picking up a fantastic deal using a travel aggregator is to use many of them and compare the different prices to see which is cheapest. You don't have to spend hours and hours searching, though -- just pick two or three of them and if you find a price you're happy with, go for it! Even if you only spend a couple of minutes on Skyscanner, you'll likely to end up with a better deal than if you'd chosen an airline at random and checked to see the price they're offering.
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.