Unlike an online travel agency (OTA), like Expedia and Travelocity, metasearch sites simultaneously search numerous travel agency and travel supplier (airline, car, and hotel) websites to find the lowest prices without forcing the consumer to visit multiple websites. Unlike an OTA, you cannot book your travel on a metasearch site. Once you make your selection, the metasearch site sends you to the appropriate website to complete your booking.

Cheapflights, Farechase, Kayak, Mobissimo, Qixo and SideStep are some of the more popular travel metasearch sites, but new sites appear all the time. Newly launched Search Party.com is a metasearch site specializing solely in hotels. And the travel space has also recently been invaded by a number of general merchandise metasearch shopping sites. You can search multiple websites to purchase a DVD player, a pair of tennis shoes, or a toaster on Next Tag.com, Price Grabber.com or Smart Shopper.com so why not a trip to Boston?

Numerous travel industry studies say the average consumer checks three or four websites before purchasing travel. Metasearch engines bring those sites to the consumer with a single inquiry and offer a side by side comparison of results from multiple websites. On a recent search for flights between Chicago and Atlanta, SideStep searched 11 websites simultaneously. Qixo advertises that it will search up to 28 travel websites and Mobissimo claims 152 sites.

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