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Flight Booking

How to Use Expedia to Find Cheap Flights

Scott Keyes
By 
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)
10 min read
Last updated 
October 24, 2019

Founded in 1996, Expedia is one of the oldest online travel agents. Expedia.com is part of the Expedia Group, an umbrella company that includes other online travel agents (OTAs) like Orbitz, Travelocity, trivago, and a handful of travel booking platforms. This is why you’ll often find that the prices and features found between these websites are similar.

You can use Expedia to find flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and vacation packages. Since it’s been in the travel search business so long, Expedia has many features that make it a top choice for travelers, though it lags behind other, newer search sites in some respects.

In this guide, we’ll break down the pros and cons of using Expedia and show you how to use Expedia to find cheap flights and score great deals through the Expedia Rewards program.

What Expedia is good at

This is where Expedia excels when it comes to finding cheap flights:

  • Upgraded price at checkout: It’s easy to compare the difference between basic economy, premium economy, and other cabin classes at checkout. You can quickly compare the perks and cost of upgrading to see whether it’s worth it for you.
  • A clear cancellation policy: Expedia clearly outline the cancellation information for each flight before you check out.
  • Flight scores highlight the quality of the flight: Expedia factors in things like flight length, amenities, and aircraft type, and provides a flight score for each flight so you have an idea of the overall quality of a flight.
  • Easy to use rewards program: Expedia rewards repeat customers with a points program.
  • Save on car and hotel packages: You can drive down the overall cost of your trip by combining flights, accommodation, and car rentals.
  • Offers an Expedia credit card: Frequent flyers can maximize their spending with Expedia’s special credit card program, partnered with Citi.
  • Customer service: Expedia is a larger, more reputable OTA and part of the larger Expedia group, and they generally have better customer service and reliability than the smaller OTAs.

What Expedia is bad at

Here are the features we think Expedia could improve:

  • Limited multiple city search: Expedia only shows results for airports within one city, rather than a larger region.
  • Flexible date search isn’t very flexible: You can only search within three days on either side of your original search dates, making it a poor option for travelers with an open travel schedule.
  • No option to book directly with the airline: Flights are booked directly with Expedia instead of offering the option to book directly with the airline.
  • Occasionally misses the lowest price: Expedia doesn’t show flight search results from all online travel agents. You might be able to find a cheaper price elsewhere.  
  • No map functionality: While many online travel search engines like Kayak and Google Flights offer a map that shows the cheapest city to fly to in a region, Expedia does not.

Expedia Tutorial

We’ll share exactly how to book a flight on Expedia with these simple steps.

How to choose your route type on Expedia

First, go to Expedia’s homepage at Expedia.com. The homepage will open to a search box where you can choose between searching for solely flights, hotels, car hire, cruises, things to do, and vacation rentals. You can also select an the “Bundle and Save” option to package these search options together.

To look for cheap flights on Expedia, click on the “Flights” icon.

On the second row of the search box, you can choose between roundtrip, one-way, and multi-city options. Select the route type that you’d like to search.

selecting trip type on Expedia

How to set departure and arrival locations on Expedia

Type in the city or airport you are flying from as well as the city or airport you plan to fly to. If the city you’re traveling from or two has more than one airport, it’s wise to type in the city rather than a specific airport to search for the most options.

inputting location on Expedia


For example, if you plan to fly from Los Angeles to New York, you’ll see search results that feature all of New York’s airports of JFK, LGA, and EWR. Unfortunately, unlike Google Flights, Expedia does not offer a feature where you can type in multiple cities or airports at once.

selecting airports on Expedia

How to set your dates on Expedia

Type in the dates you’d like to travel in the “Departing” and “Returning” sections of the search box. Then, select how many travelers will be going on the journey.

setting dates on Expedia

How to make the most of the advanced options on Expedia

To refine your search even further, click on the “Advanced options” link. This will create a drop-down menu where you can customize your flight. Since this link isn’t bolded and in a normal font size, it can be easy to miss.

advanced options on Expedia


Here, you can choose between a nonstop flight, refundable flight, flight class, and preferred airline. Note that if an airline is featured in the drop-down menu of preferred airlines, this doesn’t mean that the airline services the route you’re looking for. For example, you can select Uzbekistan Airways as your preferred airline on an LAX to JFK route, even though Uzbekistan Airways doesn’t fly this route in the United States.

One of the key hidden features of the preferred airlines menu is that you can search for budget airlines with and without baggage. If you have a preferred airline and know you’ll be needing extra baggage, this is a great feature.

Once you have the flight details you want, click the yellow “Search” button.

Understanding Expedia’s flight search results

Once you search for the flight you want, you’ll be taken to a page that shows all of Expedia’s available flights for the route you’ve chosen. As a default, these results will only show the outbound flight and will be sorted from cheapest to most expensive.

Before going further, confirm that the route type, route, and dates are correct at the top of the page.

flight results on Expedia


You can adjust the departure and arrival airports by clicking on the blue “Nearby airports” link. This will show a drop-down menu of the closest airports and the distances between your initial airports and other airports nearby.

searching nearby airports on Expedia

Tips for setting flexible dates

Expedia allows travelers to search for flexible dates. To do this, click on the “Show flexible dates” link at the top of your search results. After a few seconds, a calendar will pop up. With flexible dates search activated, Expedia will compare the flights three days on either side of your initial search and highlight the cheapest fare of these dates in green. Be patient as it can take a few seconds for these results to appear.

Your initial search will be highlighted in navy blue, where it’s easy to compare against the others.

viewing flexible dates on Expedia

How to filter results for more advanced results

On the left side of the screen, you can tailor your search to suit your travel style, budget, and schedule.

In the first drop-down menu, you can toggle between sorting your results by price, flight duration, arrival time, and departure time.

filterin on Expedia


You can then check the airlines you’d like to be featured and uncheck any that you’d like to be excluded from the results.

filtering results on Expedia


Finally, you can customize your departure and arrival times to leave/depart in the early morning, morning, afternoon, or evening. This is ideal if you want to avoid red-eye flights or have to be somewhere at a certain time.

What do Expedia’s flight scores mean?

Under each search result, Expedia will assign a flight score on a scale from 1 to 10. Expedia calculates this by factoring the length of the flight, the make and model of the aircraft, and the amenities offered on the flight. This doesn’t always mean that a 10/10 flight is the best value, but if you see a high scoring flight on the cheaper end of the search results, you can trust that you’re getting a good deal.

flight scores on Expedia


In addition to Expedia’s flight score, you can also see whether the flight comes with wifi, entertainment, and charging capabilities.

How to make the most of Expedia’s bargain fares

At the top of the search results, Expedia may feature a bargain fare. Sometimes, this fare is a great deal—though it often comes with extra restrictions.

bargain fares on Expedia


One caveat of Expedia’s bargain fares is that you won’t know the exact details of the flight until after booking, similar to Priceline’s Express Deals. Instead, you’ll get a general overview of when the flight will depart and arrive. You will also get a range of stopovers rather than a set amount.

bargain fare details on Expedia


Bargain fares tend to work best if you’re planning a last-minute flight. Otherwise, they may not be much cheaper than a flight planned months in advance where you can fine-tune the details. Sometimes the stress of the unknown isn’t worth it.

How to see extra fees on Expedia

Under each search listing, you’ll be able to click on a link that says “Details & baggage fees.” This will show flight details like the exact route, departure and arrival time, aircraft, flight number, cabin class, total distance traveled, and estimated baggage fees.

viewing extra fees on Expedia

Extra fees may also appear when you click “Select this fare” and are taken to a page where you’ll choose your return flight. Expedia will sort the return flight from lowest to highest as a default.

creating an itinerary on Expedia

When you select the return flight you’d like, you’ll be taken to a page that features an overview of your booking. On the right of the screen, you can look through a list of what is and isn’t included in your flight. Sometimes, you can add features for an extra cost.

trip summary page on Expedia

How to upgrade your cabin class on Expedia

During your search, you can choose between basic economy, premium economy, business, and first class. While you tend to get more features and priorities as you move up in cabin class, there is a lack of standardization among the airlines.

At checkout, Expedia will show you options to upgrade your flight as well as flight perks you can purchase.

upgrading on Expedia


Select the “Show more” menu to see exactly what you’d get for the price of each upgrade. If you were planning to purchase extra baggage and seat selection anyways, it may be more economical to upgrade your cabin class instead of tacking on extras.  

Completing your booking with Expedia

Once you’ve found your perfect flight with Expedia, you’ll be taken to a page where you can enter your booking details, purchase travel insurance, add your TSA PreCheck information, and frequent flyer number. You’ll then be asked to enter your payment information and an email address for Expedia to send the booking confirmation.

adding personal info on Expedia

Expedia’s cancellation policy

One of the perks of booking a cheap flight with Expedia is its clear cancellation policy. Expedia allows customers to cancel their flights free of charge within 24 hours of booking—and makes it easy to do so.

After 24 hours, some airlines may charge extra for canceling or changing flights. Some budget flights are nonrefundable. Before you complete your booking, Expedia will share the terms of your booking and cover any details you may have missed.

Expedia cancellation policy

Expedia points

When you book with Expedia, you can double-up on point perks by earning both Expedia Rewards points as well as points towards any frequent flyer program you belong to—a win-win. Note, though, that while this applied to flights, it often doesn’t apply for hotels; many don’t allow bookings from third parties to accrue points.

How to earn Expedia Rewards and points

Expedia Rewards is a free loyalty program that offers discounted rates and benefits to its members. You can earn Expedia points by booking flights, hotels, packages, car hire, activities, and package vacations.

The Expedia Rewards program is divided into three tiers:

  • Blue tier: The status you get when joining Expedia Rewards.
  • Silver tier: Earned after spending $5,000 USD on bookings or staying in a hotel 7 nights per year. You get wifi, free breakfast, and spa credits.
  • Gold tier: Earned after spending $10,000 USD on bookings or staying in a hotel 15 nights per year. You get all of the same perks as silver members, plus unlimited free room upgrades upon check-in.

How to redeem Expedia Rewards points

Redeeming your Expedia Rewards points is easy. Once you find a flight, rental car, hotel, activity, or holiday package you like, continue the booking process as if you were paying in dollars. At checkout, select “Use my points” in the payment section.

Expedia Rewards Points: What they’re worth

One hundred and forty Expedia Rewards points are equivalent to $1 USD. For flights, you must have enough points to cover the entire cost of the flight—you cannot use part points, part dollars for flights like you can with other bookings. If you don’t see the “Use my points” option when booking a flight, it means you have not earned enough points.

Expedia Rewards Credit Card

Expedia also offers an Expedia Rewards Credit Card that’s partnered with Citi that allows cardholders to earn extra points, automatically upgrade to silver status, and earn 1 Expedia Rewards point per $1 USD spent on other purchases.


Bottom line: While Expedia lacks some useful search features—like flexible date search and multi-city search—this OG OTA still attracts loyal users with its rewards policy and and easy-to-use interface.

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Last Updated 
April 26, 2019
How to Use Expedia to Find Cheap Flights
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Scott’s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

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