Q: What's your personal favorite site for searching airfares? I’m partial to Kayak.com, but sometimes I use Travelocity and Orbitz. Is there one site that’s best for last minute deals? What about Mobissimo?

A: There really isn’t one “magic bullet” Web site, even though travel techies have been trying to build one for years.

One of the problems is that low fare leader Southwest Airlines, now the largest US carrier based on domestic passengers boarded, doesn’t release its fares to any site other than its own. That’s also true of Allegiant Airlines. Plus, those Spirit Airlines special fares, which you can sometimes actually book, only appear on Spirit’s site. And I often see that airlines save their best fares for their own websites or they offer promo code discounts if you book on these sites (even Kakak omits these).

When I'm booking my own travel, I'm usually flexible in my dates, so I start my search with
Hotwire.com, Kayak or ITA Software, which have very good flexible date search functions. Cheapair.com has a good flexible search, too, but only for domestic and US-Canada round-trips, and it's an especially clean and easy to use site. I also like Orbitz, although lately its flexible search has been shut off and on and off again. If I’m looking for a flight between two foreign countries, I use Mobissimo.com. As for last minute deals (when you have less than a 7-day advance purchase), I suggest using the name your own price (bidding for travel) feature on Priceline.com.

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