Cheap Flight Hacks with SkyScanner


You did it!

Cash: stockpiled.
Job: quit.
Career: delayed.
Possessions: gone.
Research: complete.
World travel dreams: ready to be fulfilled!

If you didn’t follow my advice to get yourself free flights, then calm your nerves about your dwindling cash-stash with Skyscannerthe greatest cheap flight tool ever invented.  Its special features make it possible to dig up flights for rock-bottom prices by allowing you to search an entire months, years countries, and the entire world!


How?

Be Flexible

Cheap flights without flexibility is almost unheard of.  Rather than decide, “I’m going to fly to Paris in August after that internship/job/wedding,” ask Skyscanner “When should I try to go to Europe/South America? Where should I start?”

Think Big

Don’t search from or to tiny airports.  At the Skyscanner macro-level, sometimes it won’t even return results. Instead, search from your nearest major airport.  Then get a ride, take a bus, or maybe even buy a cheap commuter flight from your tiny airport to the big one.

Go Anywhere

If your heart is set on seeing South America, or Australia or Italy or Africa… use Skyscanner to follow your dreams.  If your mind is still open about destination, why not check out what the world has to offer based on price?


 Update: I wrote this post after I tired of explaining Skyscanner over and over.  Later, I found an opportunity to host Skyscanner ads – a no-brainer since I love and use it.  However, the ads plus my screenshots look like a bit of a marketing orgy.  It’s not. This page is not a gimmick to earn me cash.  If it were, it is a failed gimmick.  I only get ad $ if you are from one of three European countries and actually buy a flight, which happens… almost never.

Step 1:


My absolute favorite Skyscanner destination? “Everywhere.” Enter your nearest major airport into the "From" search box and type the word Everywhere in the "To" search box. Even better? Just type the name of your country into the "From" search box, and Everywhere in the "To" search box.

Why this makes sense:


Sometimes a ticket from your nearest major airport won't have any great savings attached. However you may find an airport in your country (or a neighboring country) with flight savings of hundreds of dollars. If an additional ticket to said airport is just a slice of the cash saved, you win!

Everywhere is the best destination ever invented!

Everywhere is the best destination ever invented!


Step 2:


Pick a month. Entire-year searches often return vague or no results far more often than “month” searches. Because there is currently no way to pick a range of months, you should repeat this step with all months that are possibilities for you.

If your trip is so far away you aren't getting results? Search the corresponding months in the present year instead to get an idea of what you might expect. (e.g. For three years now, flights to Australia have been most affordable in September, October, February and March.)

Why this makes sense:


Considering departures beyond the range you've imagined will often score you amazing deals on Skyscanner.

If you're not dying of desperation to get out of town (or country), hanging around for a month or two longer than you planned can give you the kind of time to spend with family and friends that you haven't had for years. Take advantage!
This pop-up appears when you click in the "Depart" date selection box.

This pop-up appears when you click in the “Depart” date box.


Step 3:



Search one-way. Just click the little box.

Done right, these will become some of the happiest moments of your life.

Done right, these will become some of the happiest moments of your life.

Why this makes sense:



One of the best things about long-term travel is that you can finally let go. You can stop running your life according to schedules full of commitments that – when the time comes – you often follow-through out of nothing more than obligation and habit. One-way allows you to go with the flow. One-way allows you to be in the moment. One-way takes you from your comfort-zone-of-perceived-complete-control to life-changing experiences you've never even dreamed of.


Step 4:


Click "search" and scan the list of countries!

If your heart is set on a place, find the first location on the list that's close to your ultimate destination. If your mind is open, dream your way through all the possibilities for the month you've searched.

Note: upon clicking a price link, you'll see that fare is only available on one or two days in the entire month, often only for a single flight, and only from a specific airport. It could still be the flight for you!

Take notes. Change the month and search again. And again. And again.

Why this makes sense:


Even if you are committed to an area or country, flights to neighboring places may be far cheaper. Once in the neighborhood, you can often score a bargain flight to your actual destination. AND you'll see another piece of the world along the way!

If you aren't attached to a certain spot, you might find a destination that was never on your radar! Who knew you wanted to go to Turks & Caicos or Israel for less than $200 aFrom NY Newark, London Luton at the time of writing - July 2014. or Guyana or Kyrgyzstan for less than $300? bFrom London Gatwick, Miami, and London Stansted at the time of writing - July 2014.

You, too, can discover insanely cheap fares!

You, too, can discover insanely cheap fares!


Step 5:



Connect the dots.

What's that, you say? You don't live in New York, London, or Miami? No worries! This is where your notes and a little math come in handy.

Loved that Turks & Caicos flight for $129 from NY Newark? Now do a search for the cheapest flight from your area to New York in the same month. The flights might be a few days or weeks apart, but that's okay! Thanks to time between cheap flights, I've taken awesome accidental vacations cin Hawaii, Sweden, Portugal, and Amsterdam and ended up living in Croatia!

Now add up the price of all your flight legs and compare the total to the cost of a direct, layover-free itinerary from your location to your destination.

Why this makes sense:



Skyscanner is a great way to discover cheap destinations you'd never considered. Sometimes you'll find that the journey to the airport with the shockingly low fare is worth it overall. Other times you'll find you're better off saving the additional travel legs and paying an extra $100 to leave from closer to home.

Some argue the money you spend on your accidental vacation negates the savings of the cheap flight. I think like this: I could spend $800 on a super-convenient flight or $200 on a cheap flight plus $400 on my accidental vacation. I still save *and* get to see a new place. Win, win!


Step 6:



Go crazy! (optional)

The possibilities are limitless. Can't believe you can fly to [faraway destination] in [some month] for only $85, and yet it still doesn't necessarily make you want to visit [said faraway destination]?

Do a new search from [said faraway destination] to "everywhere" in the same month. See if there is a more desirable location you could cheaply fly to from [said faraway destination].

Why this makes sense:



The wider you open your mind to the possibilities, the more treasures you'll find!

Example: Not keen on Turkey in October, but the flight is just $148? Do an October search from Turkey to Everywhere. Maybe, for just an additional $20, you'll find yourself in that Italian villa or German castle you've always dreamed of!


Yes it takes work…

If researching several possibilities, connecting the dots, and then adding up the costs involved in each to make an overall decision sounds like a lot of work, that’s because it is. No free lunch here! However, think of it this way:

I’ve saved thousands of dollars in the last few years on flights. Thousands. I’d estimate it’s taken me between five and ten hours to muck around with a million different flight options and finally pick one. But even if I’d only saved $1,000, (I’d reckon it’s closer to $5,000) that means I essentially paid myself between $100 and $200 bucks an hour (up to $500 – $1,000 an hour) to sit on the computer dreaming about all the places I might go. Not bad.

Yes some of the flights will truly suck…

Often the adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. Again, no free lunch. Sometimes that amazingly cheap flight means gross airports (called LCCTs – Low Cost Carrier Terminals), horrible flight times, very long layovers, and -if you’re new to the budget flight scene – lots of bells and whistles you weren’t expecting to pay for. (i.e. cheap flights rarely include food or checked baggage. Sometimes they don’t even include carry-ons.) However, if your main concern is price, you’ll suck it up.

Appreciate that being in any kind of airport – even a gross one – is a huge privilege. As is taking a flight anywhere – even if it meant getting up at 3 a.m. or having to check in for your flight at midnight. Long layovers are an opportunity to see a new city, catch up on emails, write postcards, read your book, study up on your destination, people watch, play games, stretch your whole body the way you wish you did every day, make a new friend, or just appreciate that by contrast everything else will seem so much better.

To address all the not-included bells and whistles you’ll (hopefully) educate yourself beforehand, pack lots of edibles for the plane (sandwiches, nuts, fruit, water, juice, cheese, chips, etc.), pay for any bag you need at the time of ticket purchase or at least before you get to the airport, check in early to avoid getting those horrible-non-reclining seats right next to the toilets, etc.  (Here are tips written for a specific airline, but most apply across carriers.)

Yes, it’s totally worth it.

Why don’t I mind doing the “hard yards” on budget flights?   Because it’s better than doing the “hard yards” trading your time for money and then using your money to buy a more expensive/convenient flight. Doing the budget thing requires paying with your time – a luxury commodity.  However, when you start paying with time, things are ultimately less expensive.  They cost less time and less money overall..

The fare difference requiring thirteen hours on a crowded airport floor using disgusting bathrooms often buys an extra month of budget travel in SE Asia. A month!  All you have to do is endure a less-than-perfect experience for thirteen hours – that’s 3% of the time you spend awake in a month.   However, if you make $10 an hour, you give up 15% of your month to earn the same.  dBut wait.  A job doesn’t happen in isolation like the time at the airport, so it must be put into context.  Even after your month of budget Asian travel is earned, a job demands that you work at least an additional 147 hours that month, plus spend time getting ready for and traveling to and from work for a minimum total of 35% of your waking hours spent in a way most people say they’d rather avoid. Which sounds better to you? Spend 3% of your time unpleasantly or 35%?

Okay, enough soapbox. Get to searching! There are places to see, people to meet, and tons of cheap flights with your name on them! Good luck! ♣


Flight booked?  On to other trip planning stuff like:

Save more money with these travel hacks:

Since I joined a Skyscanner affiliate program (long after publishing this post), the lawyers say I have to say this: FTC Required Website Disclosure: You should assume that the Owner of this Website has an affiliate relationship and/or another material connection to the providers of goods and services mentioned in this website and may be compensated when you purchase from a provider. You should always perform due diligence before buying goods or services online. The Owner does not accept payment or merchandise in exchange for the reviews themselves. They are written objectively and with honesty.

References   [ + ]

a. From NY Newark, London Luton at the time of writing - July 2014.
b. From London Gatwick, Miami, and London Stansted at the time of writing - July 2014.
c. in Hawaii, Sweden, Portugal, and Amsterdam
d. But wait.  A job doesn’t happen in isolation like the time at the airport, so it must be put into context.  Even after your month of budget Asian travel is earned, a job demands that you work at least an additional 147 hours that month, plus spend time getting ready for and traveling to and from work for a minimum total of 35% of your waking hours spent in a way most people say they’d rather avoid. Which sounds better to you? Spend 3% of your time unpleasantly or 35%?


2 comments

  • August 7, 2015 at 9:20 am

    I use Skyscanner regularly while living here in Scotland but I had no idea I could type “Everywhere” into the search box. Can’t wait to try. Have found some glitches lately on there with one Dutch flagged 3 letter airline quoting prices on sky scanner that jumped up 50% when you went to purchase the flight. But mostly I have had great success with it. $50 round trip from here to Belfast, Ireland for a day trip is not too bad! Enjoying your blog. Good stuff!

    • August 7, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      Hi Morgan! Yeah, I am in love (obviously!) with Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” feature. I recommend it all the time. The price jump thing happens sometimes for me too, especially if I’m looking at routes that aren’t popular. Skyscanner amalgamates search data, so it’s calculations aren’t live results but rather a display of what has been searched before you. (That’s why it doesn’t work great for smaller airports – not enough people searching those routes to generate data.)

      Hope that helps clarify, and glad you can now work your own Skyscanner magic!

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