You have a ton of travel resources at your fingertips when it comes to booking travel plans online. It’s 2016 after all. Flash sales, new airline deals, and travel packages, seem to fill up my email inbox and Facebook news feed these days.
If you’re going to take advantage of these deals, you’re going to have to act fast. Earlier this week JetBlue offered $29 flights across the US if traveling on the leap day 2/29. Last month, the new Icelandic airline, WOW Air, was offering $99 transatlantic flights to Iceland. If you know a good deal when you see one, you have to jump on these deals without hesitation. For most, this isn’t really the most practical option.
In this blog I share with you how to search for the best deal through one of my favorite travel sites: Skyscanner. To start, this works best if your destinations are flexible, but you can modify your search to get you where you need to go. My philosophy today is to find the best deal and see where the wind takes us.
Searching for Flights on Skyscanner:
- Go to skyscanner.com.
- On the flights tab, select “one way” not round trip. We’re going to have several destinations on this trip so we are focusing on flying in and out of different airports.
- In the “From” box, select your closest airport. For better deals, select the biggest international airport closest to you. I’m in San Diego, but oftentimes Los Angeles (LAX) will have the best deals. In this instance, I'm using LAX as my home airport.
- Here’s where things get interesting! In the “To” box, don’t select a set destination. When you click on the box it will prompt you with the option to select “Everywhere” as your destination. Click that!
- Next you’ll want to select your date. For best results, I’m clicking on the “Whole Month” option in the lower right corner. This will generate a calendar of the next year by month. Click on the top option that says “Cheapest month.”
- For the sake of this search, I’m going to leave the “Direct flights only” box unchecked, and select the amount of travelers and cabin class. In my case: “1 adult, economy.” Now lets begin the search! Click “Search Flights.”
- You should now see a list of destinations around the globe and the lowest price ticket on the right hand side. For this exercise we are going to fly to Europe, so we’re going to find the lowest priced European country. In this case: Norway.
- Select the country “Norway” and it will then expand to show you the different cities you can fly into and their corresponding price. In this case, the cheapest flight is also a direct flight. Score! I’m selecting “Oslo” as my first destination as it has the lowest priced flight at $146.
- When you click on the flight, you’ll be directed to either a calendar or chart view of the lowest priced flights found in the last 15 days (see examples of both below). We’ve now locked in the cheapest month to fly and get to Europe: March (your results may vary). I’m going to select one of the lowest priced flight dates in March to get to Oslo (either the 3rd of 15th), and then click to “Show flights.”
- After selecting the date, it will list the flights available that day in order of price, I’ve chosen the first on the list and clicked “Select.” Skyscanner will then search to confirm that price is still available. Don't complete the booking process just yet though! For now, you'll just want to confirm the flight and price are still available.
- Now that we know the cheapest date(s) we can fly into Oslo, we’re going to start our search over at the very beginning. The difference in the search this time is that we now have a different "From" field, in this case “Oslo.” And we know the month we are traveling: “March.” What remains the same is the amount of travelers, and we are still searching “Everywhere” for destinations. Now click “Search flights.”
- Your screen should now show a list of incredibly cheap flights from Oslo to neighboring countries for the month of March. In this example, flights from Oslo to other European cities start at a mere $5. I might “splurge” a little here and select a flight to Brussels, Belgium starting at $11. I've found one that matches my timeline pretty well, for only $12.
- Repeat this process as often as you’d like. From Brussels, I’ve decided to head to Berlin, Germany. Flights start at $11 throughout most of March so it will be easy to select a date that works with my schedule.
- Now here is the trickiest (and worst) part: Getting home! This is where you will want to play around on Skyscanner to get the best results. After checking out flights from Berlin to Los Angeles or San Diego in March, I’m not seeing the same awesome deals I’ve spotted throughout the process…and that’s to be expected. This part takes more tinkering.
- What you will want to do now is start back at the flight search page and select your home airport in the “To” field and then experiment with different European countries in the "From" field. Select the month you are traveling home (in my case March) as your return month and “search flights.” Most of the flights I’m seeing from Europe at the end of March or beginning of April are around $300-400 back to Los Angeles. I know I can do better. Select different European countries in the "from" airport until you find a good deal!
- After a quick search, I’ve managed to find a cheap flight home to Los Angeles from Stockholm, Sweden. My flight home is a mere $180 at the end of March. Prices are comparable through April as well if you wanted to spend some extra time traveling through Europe. Best of all: no layovers! Hallelujah!
- I’m going to backtrack a bit now, and find a cheap flight from my last destination (in this case Berlin, Germany) and find a ticket to get to Stockholm. I’m not seeing the best prices, but they seem to start at $43 for the month of March. I did find one for $51 at the end of March that I think will suit me just fine, and will give me a couple days to explore Stockholm before my flight home.
- If you’re like me, you're going to want to add this all up to make sure it works with your bank account and schedule. This trip will take me to 4 different countries: Norway, Belgium, Germany and Sweden for a total of $400! Of course there will be some additional fees for baggage, etc., but this is a steal if you ask me! I've spread this trip out for almost a month, with about a week in each country. You can always select a shorter itinerary if you don't have a month to spare. Just keep in mind that the more flexible you are with time, the more money you can potentially save on airfare.
- Now that you have your trip and dates mapped out, you’re going to want to click through all of the flights you found on Skyscanner and book them through the site indicated with the lowest price. Simple as that!
- Bon voyage!
Now that all your flights are booked, you’re ready for your next great adventure! The money you’ve saved on flights will give you more flexibility to spend it on the things that matter to you most when you travel. If you have extreme venuelust like I do, you may want to spend that money on nicer accommodations, meals, or excursions!
You’ve heard the saying “time is money.” And in travel circumstances, this means that you’re going to spend more money to save more time. Cheap flights are often going to be at inconvenient times (e.g. first thing in the morning, late at night, or a red eye). Cheap direct flights will also be harder to come by. If you don’t have much flexibility with your plans, pay the extra money to fly direct.
When booking a cheap flight, remember that it is getting you from Point A to Point B. It might be with a smaller airline, without the bells and whistles of a major airline carrier. Just remember that you are taking this flight to get somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Yes, it may board at 7am and getting to the airport that early sounds like death, but just think about the big picture here.
Cheaper airlines will be subject to lots of hidden fees too. Some charge for carry on luggage in addition to checked bags. Be sure to check the dimensions of what size carry on you can bring! There may also be a weight requirement for carry on bags, so always read the fine print! You might have to pay for all snacks and drinks on the flight too. Some airlines even require you to have your ticket printed in advance, otherwise you are charged for that service at the airport.
Another important note to keep in mind when booking flights: Don’t rely strictly on air transportation. There are plenty of other options including buses and trains to get you from one point to another and they will likely save you time and possibly money, depending on the details. Hopping on a bus means you don’t have to worry about checking in at least an hour before departure. It also means you may be able to leave from the city center, instead of traveling to the nearest airport which may not be in the city at all.
Do you have any secret travel sites that you can’t live without? Any travel blogs that you follow that give the best advice? Leave some advice for your fellow nomads below!