How to Build a Website Like Kayak: [2024 Edition]

July 20, 2023
5/5 - (1 vote)

Have you ever used Kayak to search for flights, hotels, or rental cars? With its easy-to-use interface and powerful search capabilities, it’s no wonder Kayak has become a go-to travel booking site for millions of users.

If you’ve thought about building your own travel search engine, using Kayak as a model is a great approach. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll walk you through how to create a website like Kayak from start to finish, covering key features, design, data sources, tools, and marketing ideas.

By the end, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to launch your own Kayak-like metasearch site and start attracting users! Let’s get started.

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Kayak: An Overview

First launched in 2004, Kayak allows users to quickly search for flights, hotels, and rental cars all in one place. Instead of visiting individual airline or hotel sites, you can compare options and prices across different providers on Kayak.

Key features that have made Kayak a success include:

  • Fast flight, hotel, and rental car search with filters
  • Price comparison from different sites
  • Sortable results tables to find the best deals
  • User accounts to save preferences and bookings

Building a similar metasearch site has a number of benefits:

  • Attract a slice of the lucrative $600 billion online travel market
  • Leverage existing travel data sources through API integrations
  • Provide a useful service to help users find travel deals
  • Opportunities to earn commissions and advertising revenue

Kayak's Business Model

So how does a site like Kayak make money when they don’t actually provide any plane or hotel services themselves? It’s all about playing matchmaker between travelers and travel suppliers.

This website makes most of its cash through referral fees and commissions when users book flights, hotels, rental cars etc through their site. Airlines, hotels and other partners pay them a percent of each booking made on their platform. So Kayak gets a slice of the travel spending pie without owning any planes or properties themselves!

They also serve up targeted travel-related ads from third parties, making money per ad click. The more users that click and book, the more revenue is generated.

Beyond this, subscription fees are charged to travel agents and companies who want access to the powerful search tools and API to book travel for clients and employees.

There are also premium subscription packages for users that provide special features, no ads and deals. But the bulk of revenue comes from those referral fees.

So in short, this website sits in the middle connecting travelers with the best deals, then takes a cut when bookings happen. Not a bad model for a site that simply helps you search and compare!

Key Features to Include

The core of your Kayak-style website will be its flight, hotel and rental car search capabilities. Let’s explore how to implement each one:

Flight Search

The flight search should allow users to find available flights by:

  • Departure airport
  • Arrival airport
  • Departure date(s)
  • Return date for roundtrip bookings

To source actual flight data, you’ll need to integrate with a flight search API like:

  • Skyscanner
  • Amadeus
  • Sabre
  • Google Flights

These provide access to up-to-date flight schedules and pricing from hundreds of airlines worldwide. Most offer affordable subscription plans for the level of usage you’ll need.

For the search form, you can use dropdown select menus for departure/arrival airports populated from your API data. Include a date picker for selecting dates.

Once the user submits the search, your backend will call the API to retrieve available flight results matching their criteria. Display these in a responsive table, allowing the user to sort by departure time, duration, price, etc.

Hotel Search

Allow users to search for hotel accommodations by:

  • Destination city/location
  • Check-in and check-out dates

For hotel data, you have a few options like:

  • Expedia’s API
  •’s API
  • Tripadvisor’s API

These provide access to up-to-date rates, descriptions, ratings and imagery for hotels globally.

For the search form, use a text input for the destination and date pickers for check-in/out dates.

Display hotel results in cards or a table view, showing price, star rating, basic amenities, and images. Let users sort by price, rating, etc.

Clicking a hotel should deep link to the provider’s site to complete the booking.

Rental Car Search

The rental car search experience is similar to flights and hotels. Allow users to search by:

  • Pickup and dropoff locations
  • Pickup and dropoff dates

integrations, you can use:

APIs like and CarRentalExpress provide listings from all major rental companies.

For the form, use location fields and date pickers. Display rental results showing the company, vehicle type, and price and allow sorting. Deep link bookings to the rental site.

Price Comparison

A key element that makes Kayak useful is its ability to quickly compare pricing across different providers.

To enable this for flights, hotels, and rental cars, your backend will need to fan out the user’s search criteria to all your integrated data sources.

For example, if searching flights JFK ➝ LAX on 09/01 → 09/07:

  • Call Skyscanner’s API and retrieve the results
  • Call Google Flights API and retrieve results
  • Call any other flight APIs you have integrated

Combine the results, display them in one table, and allow the user to sort by price. This allows them to quickly scan for the best deal.

You can take this a step further by showing the price differences:

  • Delta: $278
  • United: $298
  • American: $425

Showing the variance in prices for the same route adds more transparency for the user.

User Accounts

Allowing users to create accounts provides benefits like:

  • Saving payment and personal info for faster checkout
  • View and rebook past trips
  • Get alerted to price changes on monitored flights/hotels

User accounts require a database schema with fields like:

  • Email
  • Password (encrypted)
  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Address

You can use sessions to keep users logged in across page visits. When they perform a flight/hotel search, save it to their account history along with any bookings.

Provide account management pages to view past searches and trips.

Design and Layout

Now that we’ve covered the key backend features, let’s look at how to create a clean, modern design for your Kayak clone.

Your homepage should focus on the search forms for flights, hotels, and cars. Use large, prominent search fields that are responsive on mobile.

Kayak homepage layout

Keep the design minimalist and uncluttered like Kayak’s interface. Use muted backgrounds and ample white space.

On results pages, make good use of sorting and filtering controls. Display results in a table or card format with critical info like price prominently featured.

Results page with filters and sort

Use subtle animations, color-coded sections and high-quality photography to enhance the experience. Consistent branding elements like logo, font and nav menu should carry across all pages.

Optimizing for mobile responsiveness is essential, as many users will search for travel via smartphones. Use frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation to adapt the layout on mobile.

Testing the interface on real devices during development will help catch any responsive issues. Strive for fast load times by optimizing images and caching API results.

Data Sources and APIs

In order for your website like Kayak, you’ll need to tap into data sources that provide real-time flight schedules, hotel availability and car rental listings.

Here are some top providers to consider integrating for each type:

Flight Data Sources

  • Skyscanner: Offers flexible subscription plans to suit your usage needs. Get access to 170+ airlines globally.
  • Google Flights: Part of Google’s QPX Express API. Has detailed schedules for hundreds of airlines.
  • TripAdvisor Flights: Provides flight results from major OTAs like Priceline and Expedia.
  • Sabre Travel Network: Leading global distribution system used by travel agents. Robust flight data.

When evaluating flight APIs, look for the breadth of airline coverage, up-to-date availability data, flexible pricing models, and ease of integration. Most offer SDKs and sample code to accelerate development.

Rental Car Data

  • CarRentals. com: Rental listings from over 800 companies worldwide.
  • Rentalcars. com: Powered by Booking. com, which includes all major brands.
  • CarRentalExpress: Budget-friendly API starting under $100/month.
  • Kayak Rental Cars: Yes – you can leverage Kayak’s own API for rental data!

Review the coverage, pricing models, and call limits when evaluating rental car APIs. Making sure you have worldwide access is ideal.

By combining APIs from multiple sources in each category, you can deliver the best selection and pricing to your users. Most APIs offer usage tiers to suit different traffic levels as your site grows.

Backend and Database

Now that we’ve covered how to source real-time travel data, let’s examine how to store it plus handle user accounts on the backend.

Database Schema

You will need a database with at least two core tables:


This stores registered user accounts:

  • UserID
  • Email
  • Password (encrypted)
  • Name
  • Phone
  • Address


This tracks flight, hotel and car searches users have performed:

  • SearchID
  • UserID (links to Users table)
  • SearchQuery parameters like airports, dates, etc.
  • SearchType (flight, hotel, rental car)
  • ResultCount
  • Timestamp

You may also want tables to store bookings, payment info or user site preferences.

A relational database like MySQL is a good option for performance and ability to join tables like Users and SearchHistory.


Travel search results can change frequently as availability and pricing fluctuates. Hitting API limits is also a risk when traffic spikes.

Implement intelligent caching of results from your flight, hotel and rental car API integrations. For example, cache flight query results for 15 minutes before fetching fresh data.

This takes load off the APIs while providing users with reasonably up-to-date results. Adjust cache durations per API guidelines.

In addition to database caching, a Redis or Memcached layer can further boost performance.

Helpful Tools and Plugins

While a good portion of your Kayak like site will need custom development, third-party tools, and plugins can simplify parts of the build:

UI Kits

Bootstrap, Foundation, and Semantic UI offer responsive layout frameworks ideal for travel sites. Their UI components like navbars, cards, and models can accelerate front-end dev.

ThemeForest also has professionally designed travel site templates and UI kits at reasonable prices. These give you site-wide visual styling off the bat.


For flight and hotel search forms, date chooser plugins like Pikaday.js and DateRangePicker save you UI dev time. Let users easily select single dates or date ranges.


To display hotel locations or rental car pickup spots, embed interactive maps using Google Maps API or Leaflet JS.

Payment Processing

To handle bookings, use Stripe or Braintree APIs to securely collect payments. They handle compliant storage of cards, recurring billing, disbursements to vendors etc.


Google Analytics and Segment provide insight into visitor traffic and conversions to optimize your site. Hotjar gives you user session recordings and heatmaps.

Leveraging tools like these where you can accelerate the development of your website like Kayak!

Launch and Marketing

Once your travel metasearch engine is designed, built, and tested, it’s time to get it out there! Here are proven strategies to attract your initial users:

Pick a Domain Name

Choose a domain name that’s short, easy to remember, and conveys the travel search functionality.

Some examples:

  • TravelCompass. com
  • TripScout. com
  • JourneyFinder. co

Go with a .com TLD if available for broader appeal. BeyondCoast, AndesTravels or TrekMates are examples of brandable travel names.

Secure Web Hosting

Your site will need robust, scalable hosting to handle large traffic volumes. Cloud platforms like AWS and Google Cloud are ideal.

Consider using a managed service like WP Engine if building your Kayak clone on WordPress. Their architecture is optimized for performance.

Search Engine Optimization

On-page SEO tactics like keyword meta tags, schema markup, site speed optimizations, and internal linking help search spiders to index and rank your pages.

Produce detailed written content and videos around travel search topics to organically attract visitors.

Paid Advertising

Facebook, Google, and Microsoft ads can drive targeted traffic for relevant search terms like “cheap flights,” “compare rental cars” etc.

Retargeting helps bring back users who previously visited but didn’t book. Track conversions to optimize spend.

Affiliate Programs

Joining affiliate programs of major OTAs lets you earn a commission when users click from your site to complete bookings on theirs.

Partners like Expedia, Priceline, and have generous travel affiliate plans.

Grow Traffic Over Time

Patience and persistence are key – your traffic won’t explode overnight. Focus on incrementally improving the user experience and value you provide.

Positive word-of-mouth and repeat visitors will gradually snowball as you build trust. Partner deals can also expand reach.

How much does it cost to build a website like Kayak?

Want to launch your own Kayak-like website but don’t have mountains of cash? Good news – with some smart planning, you can get a travel search platform up for less than $50k.

You’ll probably spend around $5-10k hiring developers to build custom search forms, filters, and comparison displays. These are key to making your site useful for travelers.

You’ll also need to integrate APIs from suppliers like Skyscanner or Expedia to source real-time pricing and availability data. Those usually cost a monthly fee, so budget $1-2k per year.

Don’t forget about servers to store and process all those searches! Figure $5-10k annually for cloud hosting fees.

Spend time on a solid interface and user experience too – this is what makes Kayak stand out.

Market like crazy on social media and with targeted ads so people know about your new site!

So with some smart tech investments, elbow grease, and marketing hustle, you can launch a travel comparison site for under $50,000. Then grow your partners and capabilities over time.

Summing Up

Creating your own travel metasearch site in the mold of Kayak is very doable thanks to modern tools, APIs, and cloud infrastructure.

Start by implementing the core flight, hotel, and rental car search workflows along with user accounts. Integrate real-time travel data sources through flexible API subscriptions.

Model Kayak’s intuitive interface and responsive design using frameworks like Bootstrap. Market your website through SEO, advertising, and affiliate programs.

As you add features, fine-tune performance, and craft deals, your Kayak clone can attract a loyal user base. Additional opportunities exist to expand into alternative accommodations, activities, vacation packages, and more.

The online travel industry continues its massive growth trajectory – there’s room for new players to succeed by solving user pain points. With this guide, you have an actionable plan to launch your own Kayak-like metasearch site. Time to start your engines – happy travels!

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    Rohan Murthy

    Rohan Murthy is a freelance writer and in-house content lead at Zipprr, a custom software development company. With over 7 years of experience, he specializes in writing about business, technology and startups. As the in-house content lead, he creates blogs, whitepapers and webpage content for Zipprr. He has also worked with many other clients as a freelance writer, providing long-form and short-form content.