I’m currently sipping on a freddo espresso in Greece as I write this. I left Asia a week ago, and I only decided about a month ago that I wanted to spend my summer in Europe. I found a cheap flight and booked a spur-of-the-moment one-way ticket and didn’t look back.
I’m not telling you this to brag, but more to make a point that travel is not as elusive as you may think it is. Let me explain why.
You see, I’m a travel blogger. I spend most of the year jetting from one place to another, sitting in planes, and discovering new cultures while fighting off jet lag.
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
There are two ways that I make this happen. First off, I’m an entrepreneur who started her own business two years ago. I work online full-time as a travel blogger, writer, and freelance marketing consultant to stay on the road.
Secondly, I spend a lot of time researching ways to travel on a budget no matter what destination I’m going to. For instance, people may think Greece is an expensive destination or Europe in general, and yet in a week, I’ve already found a way to make my daily costs less expensive than what they were when I was living in Portland, Oregon last year.
I also found a direct 11-hour flight to Athens for around $300 from Singapore, which allowed me to start my Greek summer without spending all of my travel funds at once.
One of my biggest travel hacks for being able to stay on the road for so long is finding cheap flights anywhere around the world. I’ve traveled to 29 countries in the last nine years, and only once did I pay over $400 for a flight.
That’s huge when it comes to saving money, and using that extra cash for other things, like more travel, or simply being able to splurge on more luxuries when you travel.
So how, may you ask, am I able to find such inexpensive flight deals? One word: Skyscanner.
I’ve used Skyscanner for years and it is one website that I will always stand by for finding the cheapest international flights. I’ve booked 90% of my flights in most of the last decade from Skyscanner, and my appreciation for the website hasn’t wavered an inch throughout the years.
I will always try new flight websites to make sure that there aren’t better deals out there, or better up-and-coming websites for buying flights. I still haven’t found one that surpasses Skyscanner’s search capabilities and deals, and I’ve done a lot of research.
So, my first piece of advice for finding cheap flgihts? Use Skyscanner. You’ll already be one step ahead for finding the cheapest deals! Of course, there are a few other tips to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the best deals for an upcoming trip.
I’ve broken it down into general tips for finding cheap flights online, and tips for using the Skyscanner website and app, specifically.
General Tips for Finding the Cheapest Flights
Day of the Week – Does it Really Matter?
This is one tip that I always take with a grain of salt. There are so many ‘flight buying’ guides out there that say you should only look for flights that leave on Mondays and Tuesdays.
I’ve found that a good majority of flights are cheaper when they leave on Mondays and Tues-days, but that I’ve also found a decent amount of cheap flights that leave on Fridays and Satur-days, which are meant to be peak times for flying
I’ve also tried out the whole buying flights on certain days and/or at certain times of the day, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter.
Patience is key when it comes to finding a flight at the right price. I usually give myself at least a couple of weeks of comparing multiple flights, cities, days, before I’ll actually buy.
When I was looking at my flight to Hong Kong from Vancouver last fall, I spent almost every day for a week looking at flights. The prices wouldn’t budge, so I decided to take a break and look at a later date. A week or so later on a Wednesday night I randomly checked Skyscanner, and I found a flight for US $274, about $200 cheaper than any I’d seen the previous week. You can also set price alerts to be notified when the price drops so you don’t have to spend every day searching!
Airports & Cities Matter
Since I’ve been buying flights on a regular basis for so long, I already have a long list of airports and cities in my head that I know will almost always be cheaper to fly into and out of.
A general rule of thumb is the more popular the city, the bigger the airport, and flying during the shoulder seasons can make a difference for finding the cheapest flight prices.
With that said, there are always going to be exceptions. Because so many people fly during the summer for their holidays, there are also dirt cheap summer flight specials that you can find with certain airlines.
It also helps to know what’s happening in the world right now and how that might affect flight prices. If there has been bad publicity recently in a certain destination that can actually lower prices because airlines are needing to fill up seats for flights that are already scheduled to go there.
Tip: On Skyscanner, you can select "nearby airports" to compare prices from other airports.
Think Outside the Box for How to Get to Your Destination
One thing to think about is even if it’s not the exact destination you’re wanting to go to, just get to the region and then find a cheap flight within that region.
For instance, flying into London from San Francisco may be $200 cheaper than flying into Prague. Europe has plenty of budget airlines and you can sometimes find flights for $20, or if you’re really lucky, $5.
So, you would buy that flight to London and then find a separate flight with a budget European airline to wherever you want to go. It will probably work out much cheaper than trying to search for flights from San Francisco to Prague, where there will likely be a layover in London anyway.
The same goes for Asia. There are a plethora of cheap budget airlines within Asia once you get to the region. Just fly into Singapore, Hong Kong, or Bangkok and fly to where you want to go after.
Flexibility is Your Best Friend
In general, the more flexible you are the better deals you will find. Flexible dates are your best friend when it comes to flying cheaply. You can search for a whole month and pick a random date that is the cheapest.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of flexibility, especially if you only get two weeks of vacation per year that you have to ask for six months in advance. But, it is a good thing to keep in mind.
This goes with flight times as well. Yes, red eyes can be pretty horrible, especially if you don’t sleep on planes, but they can be incredibly cheap as well because no one else wants to take them either. How did I find a $300 flight from Singapore to Athens? Why, I took an 11-hour red-eye.
How I see it is I make compromises on how I get to the destination to save as much money as possible, but then once I’m there I’m able to splurge on the experiences that drew me to that place from the start.
The Question of Buying Flights Early
This is another tip that I see on a regular basis that I’m always a bit skeptical about. There are some websites that will say that you should buy your flight within a certain time frame before you want to leave.
In some cases that is true, especially if it’s around the holidays or a big festival, but in general I haven’t found much of a difference with finding cheaper flights the earlier you buy. In fact, it can actually be cheaper to purchase flights closer to the dates you are traveling. Don’t forget to check out Skyscanner’s Best Time to Book Data to see when you should book the cheapest flights for your next trip!
As a general rule of thumb, I buy my flights 1-2 months before, sometimes even just a couple of weeks before (although then you’re starting to cut it close), and I’ve managed to keep almost all of my flights under $400.
Round-trip vs. One-Way
Because I slow travel, I’m lucky enough to take mostly one way flights, which helps keep my flight costs down. However, there are times when I have to take round trip flights when I’m visiting home or making a quick trip to a new destination for the week.
In my many flight searches over the year, I’ve found that buying individual one way tickets can actually work out cheaper than buying a round-trip flight.
This is something that most people don’t think about doing, and it takes a little extra time to search through the different deals for each way, but I’ve found it can be worth it in some cases. It also allows for more flexibility to leave when you want to on the way there and back. For more information on round-trip vs one-way, check out a few different scenarios to see which is the best option for you.
Travel Carry-On Only
One of the biggest ways to save money on flights is traveling carry-on only. If you’re only going to be gone for a week or two, you should be able to fit your belongings into a carry-on.
It’s also such a smoother process when you don’t have to check a bag at the airport, worry about your luggage getting lost, or wait in a big circle of people that love to crowd around the luggage carousel and obstruct your view. Check out Skyscanner’s guidelines to carry on sizes and fees.
Additional Tips to Find the Cheapest Flights on Skyscanner
In addition to the tips above, these are a few hacks that go a long way in finding the best deals on the Skyscanner website and app:
Sign up for Price Alerts
If you’re eyeing one or two flights in particular, sign up for price alerts directly on the search page. There’s a little button with a bell symbol that says “Get Price Alerts” in the left-hand corner.
This will alert you via email whenever a flight changes in price to give you a better idea of when you should buy.
Search for Whole Months at a Time
Probably my favorite tool on the whole Skyscanner website and app is being able to search for flight prices for whole months at a time. When you click on the white “Depart” box in the search, you’ll have an option to look at a “Whole Month”.
You can even search for the “Cheapest Month” to see what time of the year is cheapest for getting to your destination. This could be a great tool if you want to plan to go somewhere next year as well, and you want to know in general when you can expect the cheapest flights.
You can view the month prices in a calendar format or a chart depending on your visual preference.
Search for Whole Countries
You can also search for whole countries, which can help in deciding which airport to fly into. For instance, if you want to go to Germany, you can just put “Germany” into the search bar, and all of the potential cities you could fly into come up, from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Use the “Everywhere” Option
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also put “Everywhere” into the search box. I love this option because it allows you to view the cheapest destinations from your current location, organized by the cheapest country to fly into, and within each country, the cheapest cities.
For instance, from Athens, Greece in September, it’s cheapest to fly within Greece. When you look closer, Rhodes, Mykonos, and Mytilene are the least expensive spots to fly into. If you’re only looking at countries, after Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, and Cyprus are the cheapest to fly to in September.
Use the Visual Map
And lastly, if you really enjoy looking at maps and the visual side of things, Skyscanner also offers the option to look at a flight comparison map. On the home page in the search area, there’s a clickable “Map” button in the top right corner.
Just put in where you’re flying from and voila! You’ll have the world at your fingertips with ideas on how much it’ll cost to get to any destination you desire.
If you’re too busy to implement all of these tips for your own flight research right now, don’t worry!
I already did a quick little search to find a few flights for under $400 that are heading to Europe or Asia this summer from the US, so you can spend less time online and more time exploring a new destination.
The question now is, are you ready for your next international adventure? Travel really doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think it is if you have the right tools.
LA – Paris (Cheapest)
LA – Reykjavik
LA – Ho Chi Minh City
LA – Bangkok
LA – Singapore
San Francisco – Paris (Cheapest)
San Francisco – Dublin
San Francisco – Ho Chi Minh City
San Francisco – Hong Kong
New York – London (Cheapest)
New York – Oslo
New York – Paris
New York – Hong Kong
New York – Ho Chi Minh City
New York – Bangkok
Note: The above prices were pulled at the date of posting and may have changed
About the Author
Author Name// The Atlas Heart
Mimi McFadden is a travel blogger and freelance writer. Originally from California, she has been slow traveling the world since 2013. When she’s not writing, she’s probably sipping on a pint of craft beer, practicing yoga, chasing waterfalls, or losing track of time with a good book. You can find her on Instagram, Facebook, and her blog, The Atlas Heart