spring break airfaresIt's time to celebrate, kids. For many of you, spring break is just around the corner. Great news, unless you were so busy with school (or partying) that you didn't make plans.

But so long as you have a bit of cash saved up, you actually can get away for spring break. Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz still offer decent fares to hot destinations like Cancun (for beach party lovers), Denver (for skiing enthusiasts) and Las Vegas (the ultimate party city) this month and in April.

That said, searching for the best airfares can last into your spring break. So with time a wasting, Compare and Contrast rated those sites for their best deals and ease of use.Here's how our test worked. We looked at airfares from Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles to the three spring-break destinations. Those cities were chosen because they are in different regions of the country and each has a sizable number of colleges in their metropolitan area. We used the flexible-date function on the sites (something Priceline doesn't have, which is why we didn't test it), to see which had the best airfares from March 12 to April 10. All prices listed below were valid as of March 6 and are subject to change.

Deal site: Expedia
Prices – Boston to Cancun: Start at $351
Prices – Boston to Denver: Start at $257
Prices – Boston to Las Vegas: Start at $308
Prices – Chicago to Cancun: Start at $360
Prices – Chicago to Denver: Start at $230
Prices – Chicago to Las Vegas: Start at $371
Prices – Los Angeles to Cancun: Start at $477
Prices – Los Angeles to Denver: Start at $159
Prices – Los Angeles to Las Vegas: Start at $79
Good to know: Flexible search only accommodates popular U.S. destinations, so we couldn't search for flexible pricing for Cancun trips. Prices were based on our own search for five- to seven-day trips with weekend departures from March 12 to April 3. For fares to Denver and Las Vegas, we looked at trip ranges from March 12 to April 10. The search function doesn't let you look at nonstop flights or connecting flights individually; the options essentially are lumped together, so you'll have to sift through the data to see if your low fare includes a stop or not. Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines were not included in Expedia fares. All prices include taxes and fees.

Deal site: Orbitz
Prices – Boston to Cancun: Start at $353
Prices – Boston to Denver: Start at $259
Prices – Boston to Las Vegas: Start at $351
Prices – Chicago to Cancun: Start at $351
Prices – Chicago to Denver: Start at $239
Prices – Chicago to Las Vegas: Start at $305
Prices – Los Angeles to Cancun: Start at $406
Prices – Los Angeles to Denver: Start at $159
Prices – Los Angeles to Las Vegas: Start at $79
Good to know: All fares listed above include taxes and fees and are for trips lasting five to seven days. Orbitz doesn't offer flights from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines or Frontier Airlines. Its flexible-search option gives you a 30-day window, and lets you assess single-stop and nonstop flights.

Deal site: Travelocity
Prices – Boston to Cancun: Start at $329.62
Prices – Boston to Denver: Start at $259.40
Prices – Boston to Las Vegas: Start at $359.30
Prices – Chicago to Cancun: Start at $347.62
Prices – Chicago to Denver: Start at $238.30
Prices – Chicago to Las Vegas: Start at $305.40
Prices – Los Angeles to Cancun: Start at $368.12
Prices – Los Angeles to Denver: Start at $159.40
Prices – Los Angeles to Las Vegas: Start at $79.40
Good to know: The flexible-dates feature isn't as flexible as Expedia's and Orbitz's, preventing you at the start from searching for the best price on a specific range of dates when you might wish to travel. There were several occasions, too, when we were told that there were available return flights for good deals -- only to end up blocked out when those return dates were selected. Travelocity also lists many rates lower than the ones flagged as the lowest, adding confusion to the search process. In short, its usability leaves a lot to be desired. All fares include taxes and fees and are for trips lasting five to seven days. Southwest Airlines is not included in its fares.

What we think: If you're shopping around for good airfares, check out Expedia first. Based on our test, it offered the best fares five out of nine times (for Boston to Denver or Las Vegas, Chicago to Denver, and Los Angeles to Denver or Las Vegas). Orbitz offered three of the best fares (tying twice with Expedia), and Travelocity had the best fares to Cancun.

Do note, though, that we had to manually search several options on Expedia for Cancun fares. We covered a lot of bases, but it's possible we could have overlooked a lower airfare in our test.

Travelocity's flexible-date search functionality is frustrating, time consuming, and often inaccurate, suggesting one airfare was the lowest only to suggest later in the process that a different airfare (not mentioned initially) offered a lower price.

On the flexible-date search front, Orbitz accommodates the most destinations and gives you the most options (including, unlike Expedia, a clear inventory of single-stop and nonstop destinations). But it restricts your search to a 30-day window and doesn't include airfares from American. Expedia's airfares include American, but its flexible-search function only works for the most popular domestic destinations. So if you're looking for flexible fares to, say, Cancun, looking at Orbitz first would be less frustrating.

But because Expedia offered the best fares five out of nine times, we say go there first if you have certain dates in mind, and use the site to find good deals to major destinations in the U.S. when you have some flexibility and don't mind single stops.

Piet Levy's Compare and Contrast breaks down the prices and perks for products and services that college kids want, and posts them weekly on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items or services you want Piet to write about, to moneycollege@walletpop.com.

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