How To Setup A Kayak Airfare Alert

It’s no secret that we’re huge fans of Kayak.  While the website it great and we use it all the time, their mobile apps are even better: at least their iOS apps are near-perfect examples of how to create great mobile software.  For many like us, Kayak is THE quintessential travel tool on the web and on our phones.

Sometimes when I share a really great airfare with a friend, I get a reaction akin to, How did you find that airfare?  Well the secret is usually Kayak’s airfare alerts: you tell Kayak a little about your trip and they’ll send you an alert when they find the fare you’re hoping to find.  In this blog, I’ll step you through setting up an airfare alert in Kayak.

Here’s our hypothetical example: let’s say we’re thinking of taking a late-summer trip to Hawaii.  We’re looking for good airfare from Atlanta to Honolulu, and while we have an idea of dates (the 2nd and 3rd week of August, 2014) we have a bit of travel flexibility.  We’ve seen roundtrip airfares around $1000, but if we could get it to $900 it’s a “deal clincher”.

1. Log into or register with Kayak – Go to from your favorite browser and either log in with your existing account, or if you don’t have a Kayak account then create one by clicking the Login link then click the “Not A Member? Sign Up” link.  I’ve found Kayak to be “account owner friendly”, in that they won’t constantly spam you, so don’t hesitate to sign up with them.

2. Go To Email & Alerts – In the top right corner of the website, click “My Account” and then click “Email & Alerts”.  This is the screen where you not only manage your alerts but also your email subscriptions with Kayak.

Select Email & Alerts from the Kayak My Account menu
Adding An Alert

3. Add a Flight Price Alert – Click the link “Add a flight price alert” to get a pop-up to set up your alert:



Kayak alert properties window
Setting Alert Details

You’ll probably find the fields on this screen pretty familiar, particularly the From and To fields, the One-way versus Round-trip, etc.  What’s new are the 3 option buttons across the top (Exact Dates, Flexible, or Top 25 Cities), Max Price, Send as Email or iPhone Notification, and Send Frequency.  Here’s how to use each of those 4 new search options:





  1. Click the Exact Dates button if you want the alert to be looking for precise dates for going to and returning from Hawaii; click Flexible if you have some leeway in your dates of travel.  If you don’t even really care where you go, click Top 25 Cities and Kayak will search among popular destinations (roughly) by continent.
  2. Max Price: if you specify an amount here, Kayak will only notify you if the fare drops below that price.  In our Hawaii example, it’d be $900.
  3. Send as Email vs. iPhone: Since Kayak will be notifying you whenever they see the airfare you want, they need to know how you want them to contact you, and since you setup your Kayak account with your email address, email is a natural option.  And if, like me, you install their iPhone app, they also give you the option of pushing notifications to the Kayak app on your iPhone (they have an equivalent Android app).
  4. Send Frequency: this tells Kayak whether you want them to send you a weekly notice of alerts or a daily notice of alerts.  Almost certainly, at least if you’re serious about your trip to Hawaii and not just curious, you’ll want a daily alert since the best fares tend to “come and go” and you’ll need to jump on them when you see them.



4. Set Up Your Alert – For our Hawaii example, you’d set it up like this:
Kayak Alert Properties Window Example
Finishing Your Alert
We’ve indicated that we’re flexible on our dates, so you’ll notice that instead of providing specific departure dates we’ve just indicated we’d like to travel in August; we’ve set our alerts for Atlanta to Honolulu; we’ve set a max price of $900; and we’ve indicated we want daily notifications by Email.  Don’t forget to click the Save button.
5. Sit Back and Watch for Alerts – Once your alerts screen looks like this:
Kayak Alerts & Subscriptions
Your Current Kayak Alerts
you’re good to go.  Should you ever need to change your alert (say if you grab a great hotel rate and now need specific airfare dates, or should you decide to try a trip to London instead), you can click the change link to the right of the alert.  You can also pause the alert (to temporarily stop it) or delete it altogether.
Alerts will show up in your inbox when the conditions are met and will look like this old example of an alert we used last year for our fall trip to California wine country:
Kayak Alert Example
Current Alert Info
We had set up an alert for round trip airfare from Atlanta to San Francisco should it drop below $375, which it did and we snatched it up without hesitation.  Clicking the blue fare links take you to the Kayak site to see the details of that fare’s flights (airline, connections, dates, etc.).  In our example above we were looking for specific dates; if you selected flexible dates, you’d get a calendar of the month you selected with best fares by day…at least one on the calendar has a fare below your indicated max.
If you don’t receive any alerts, you might just be too optimistic about your max fare: raise it by $50 and let the alert run for a while longer.  If you still don’t get any alerts and you’re getting too close to your vacation date, you might have to raise your max fare again or consider alternate airports.  Or if your alert was set for specific dates you might need to consider alternative dates.
Finally, note that you can set up more than 1 alert, and that you can set hotel alerts similarly.  If you have several different destinations in mind, you might set up alerts for each and let the fares drive your decision: and always remember that it’s the total cost of your travel that you should consider, so if you get a really good hotel rate you can spend more on your airfare.  
Happy Kayaking!

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