By: Tatiana G. King
The idea of doing several things at once usually comes down to two reactions. You have a set of people that are beyond ecstatic; they can now multitask and get their work done in a shorter amount of time and, presumably, less effort. On the other hand, you have the crowd that think by offering too much choice that you’re opening Pandora’s box. However, when you combine the ability of many choices, with an organized format and an easy-to-follow user interface, your life really can get easier. Whether purchasing airfare, hotels, game tickets, or something a bit less common, there are a variety of sites that can make the discovery and selection process much more meaningful, fun, and useful. Below are what I consider to be, the top aggregate/metasearch, deals, and review sites:
1. Seat Geek
I consider this to be the mother of all live event ticket search engines. Not only is the site super informative and has a clean, readable interface but I personally believe the Seat Geek team thought of just about everything when it came to what the user would want to see. The premise behind Seat Geek is simple: one website where a search for any live event yields the results from hundreds of ticketing sites across the Internet universe. There is even a link at the top of the search results which direct you to Ticket Master if you prefer buying tickets at face value from the original seller. Nevertheless, the listing is expansive and trustworthy, including just about every major and minor secondary market seller. Ticket listings are sourced from sites such as eBay, Tickets Now, Stub Hub, Ticket City, Ticket Network, Vivid Seats, Razor Gator, Dream Tix, etc. Seat Geek only allows results from reputable sellers with 100% money-back guarantees (except eBay). What I adore about SeatGeek is that the prices indicated are all inclusive; meaning the price you see includes shipping and service fees if applicable. You can then easily compare ticket prices and seats to one another on a level basis, without worrying about if you’re missing some information.
Seat Geek does not sell tickets directly. Instead, it allows you to see the exact ticket source, the proper pricing and, once you choose a selection, transfer you out of the site and on to the seller’s website to complete your purchase. It’s simple, fast, and fairly painless. The absolute best part about the site is the “Deal Score” feature. The Seat Geek team came up with an algorithm that, after some light speed number crunching, informs the user on whether they’re getting a decent seat, relative to the amount of money they’re spending. In short, it’s used to determine a seat to price ratio. Seat Geek uses plain English labels, starting from “Awful Deal” all the way up to “Amazing Deal” to indicate whether your ticket is a “bargain or a ripoff”. Besides sorting tickets by price, section, market, and Deal Score, you can add in other filters to your search such as the number of tickets you want to purchase, or e-Ticket availability. Interested in other related events? Click on the “Event Info” button in the top right toolbar and it’ll display a list of other events held in that same venue and other events by that same performer. Even more helpful is that the site can usually render a seat map of the stadium or concert hall where the event is being held–so you can have a much better understanding of where you’re sitting in the venue.
- Clean, Easy to Understand UI
- Searches Across Basically All Top Ticket Sales Sites
- User features to help you discover events based on your interests
- Full Disclosure on Ticket Prices
- The “Absolute Deal Score” feature
- Completely free to use
- No “side-by-side” comparison function
- (i.e. choose two or more tickets and see the differences between them; much like how retail outlets let you compare products)
- Sometimes event venues are not mapped; seating chart unavailable
2. Seat Guru
I use this site religiously when booking plane tickets. Seat Guru helps everyone from the occasional vacation traveler to the elite jet setter interested in snagging the best seat on plane rides. In fact, the utility of this site increases exponentially for people embarking on longer flights (3+ hours) or for those that plan every trip down to the letter. Seat Guru offers another clean interface for passengers to review the airline and aircraft being flown to find exactly where their seat is located. It’s a great resource to use before choosing a seat on your flight. You can either search for your trip using the name of the airline and a flight number. If you don’t have a flight number, the site allows you to choose the departing and arriving airports, along with the date of the flight in order to help whittle down your options.
Once you enter in your query, you’re presented with a list of matching flights along with its associated aircraft type, choosing each option allows you to then view a map of each aircraft cabin. Each seat it clearly marked and associated with a color or letter. Using the map key, you can find out choice information; such as if a seat is “Good”, “Bad”, “Standard”, “Blocked”, “Premium” or “Be Aware” (seats that have special comments or restrictions like bulkhead seating). Hovering your mouse over any seat on the seat map gives you further detailed information on the seat location. Personally, when I search for flights I pop open a second tab in my browser just for Seat Guru. When I’m on the seat selection stage when purchasing a ticket I tab over to Seat Guru to cross reference the the aircraft type. I can then easily make a decision on whether that exit row seat is really worth the extra bucks (or if I’ll get a crick in my neck for sitting upright for hours since the exit row seats usually don’t recline).
Seat Guru also offers various tips on amenities, premium seat information, and other services. Some aircraft even have accompanying traveler photos so you can see actual pictures of the inside of cabins. Whats wonderful is that Seat Guru maps just about any plane type on any airline so regardless of how complicated the trip, you’re covered. They even have a new (beta) Seat Finder tool which allows you to search for flights on a litany of airlines, then filter options out by Price, Date, Nonstop, etc. There’s even a filter option to choose how much a flight would cost with checked baggage. Seat Guru’s proprietary filter, the “Guru Factor” scores the seat comfort levels and on-board amenities against each flight option to indicate the value of each itinerary and recommend (or not recommend) the choice. The Guru Score’s comfort level rating ranges from 0 to 5 (5 being the highest) and is based factors such as seat pitch, recline, width, leg room, etc.
- Virtually any airline and aircraft type can be searched for accompanying seat maps
- Users can match up actual flight numbers and itineraries with matching seat maps
- “Guru Factor” filter
- Flight Search (beta); search across several travel sites like Airfare.com, Orbitz, Expedia, and official airline sites for tickets
- UI was recently updated; made the site easier to navigate and more usable
- Completely free to use
Note: As SeatGuru.com has updated their UI, the old issue of not being able to view aircraft types due to missing flight information has been fixed. Users can view seat maps based solely on the aircraft type without any restrictions. Due to this, the cons below will be reflective of the “Flight Search” option.
- No “side-by-side” comparison feature
- “Refine Search” option and/or filters can be more robust (i.e. No ability to search for flights/seats using cabin type as a filter)
- The “lowest cost” ticket prices displayed were slightly higher prices than those found using other flight search sites
- No option to save or share flight results (i.e. Email flight options to a friend)
After acquiring Sidestep.com in 2007 and then fully integrating Sidestep into its services in 2011, Kayak has become a dominant force in online travel search. This metasearch travel engine allows users to search flights, hotels, rental cars, and even whole vacation packages in one location. The search net cast by Kayak is extensive, including “over 400 airlines worldwide…and hundreds of travel sites…350,000 hotels worldwide…36,000 car rental locations worldwide”. Search filters are also broad, allowing one to search, for instance, for flights based on one-way or multi-city trips, add-ons (like hotels & rental cars), and pop windows to compare other travel sites to Kayak’s search results. There are tons of metrics that can be used to zero-in on choice itineraries; from take off and landing times, airports, airlines and number of stops, to total flight duration and cabin type.
Kayak is great for providing tools to share search results through Email, Twitter, Facebook, Linked IN, or by providing a plain link to use manually. You can even create an account and save search results to a personal “My Trips” area, a free trip planner that can also store booking confirmations and receipts, share flight status, as well as sync with a multitude of mobile devices. The added functionality of a “Detail” and “Fare” button within each itinerary shows the exact departure and arrival times, layover times, any plane or airport changes, if the flight is overnight, flight number and type of aircraft. While it sounds like an enormous amount of data it is still presented in a fairly digestible format. It’s super useful to have everything all in one place rather than be forced to visit each individual site for further itinerary detail.
Comparing ticket prices is also less of a challenge considering Kayak has the option of viewing how ticket prices change based on items like the time of day of the flight or the addition of baggage. With the incorporation of the Airline Matrix, Kayak can give buyers the heads up on the best dates to purchase flights and give a side by side comparison. Hacker Fares, built right into Kayak, display round-trip fares comprised of two one-way tickets on separate airlines; which can be a blessing for penny-pinchers as these often-time result in much lower total fares. Finally, their Price Trend algorithm rounds off the trifecta of assistance, providing confidence intervals on whether or not fares will stay or rise within $20 over the next 7 days and providing analytic indicators on whether its a good deal to buy a ticket at the time of the search.
- Extensive search options, filters, and metrics to pick your perfect flight
- Search flights, hotels, cars, or full travel packages on one site; searches for results from other travel sites
- Hacker Fares and Price Trending
- Due to the sheer number of cross-references, the prices indicated are usually lower than you can find anywhere else
- Completely free to use
- Southwest still doesn’t allow Kayak (or any other flight aggregation site for that matter…) to display their fares; However, Kayak is allowed to include Southwest schedules
4. Phone Arena
While the site does not exactly aggregate reviews from around the web, I use this site to more clearly understand and draw comparisons between smart phones and tablets. The site is always on the cutting edge of mobile news and stays uber current with the latest rumours, specs, and releases. For spec geeks like me the site is a godsend. You can compare smartphones and other devices against each other (up to three items) for side-by-side comparisons that include design information (device type, OS, form factor), display information (screen technology, resolution), battery, hardware, camera, and even carrier information. Search terms and options include searches by carrier (Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, TMobile, and a slew of prepaid phone operators are covered), brands, device type, review ratings, etc. You can even search available phone plans from carriers, based on personal needs for carrier plans. According to the site its “one of the biggest and most detailed phone and tablet specification databases existing on the Internet.”
Phone arena reviews thousands of devices and each one garners an overall Phone Arena rating, ranging from 0 to 10 (10 being the best). Each review outlines the design of the device, the software, and the overall impressions of daily use. Each review also includes tons of photos from just about every angle of each device. I always enjoy how relatively neutral their reviews are, and how the analyses are more fact dominated. the Phone Finder search tool utilizes all the aforementioned filters, as well as overall popularity, date of release, and user ratings to assist in the search for a phone or tablet that fits your lifestyle.
- Find just about any phone or tablet (even rumored or upcoming devices) and compare specs across the board
- The ability to search by carrier helps to clear up the ongoing confusion surrounding phone variants vs. availability
- Reviews are robust and provide a great deal of information that should answer most questions concerning phones or tablets
- Completely free to use
- Rumored specs are sometimes posted, which end up being incorrect or slightly off; to PA’s credit they attempt to y to be as accurate as possible, providing frequent updates through official phone releases
- The site is a bit more cluttered than others of it’s type so may confuse new users
Other Sites to Check Out:
RetailMeNot (coupons & coupon codes)
TripAdvisor (hotel & resort venue reviews–also owns seatguru.com)
Google Images (drag and drop any photo & Google will return results of the same or similar photo)
Reddit (user generated content with top stories from the web)
Indeed (job posting aggregator, pulls jobs postings from top job websites like Career Builder & Monster)
Techmeme (tech news aggregator from around the world)
Pinterest (pinboard style photo sharing website)