When I first began frequent travel, people would often ask me how I afforded it. I didn’t have a particularly spectacular paying job, nor was I independently wealthy. But I was always going off to obscure destinations, like Thailand or Australia, generally leaving people with a look of confusion on their faces after telling them of my future travel plans. After many years, this is the first time I’ve gone into detail about how to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. I hope you find this method as helpful as I have!
How to Get the Most Out of the ‘Skyscanner Method’
- This method of finding the cheapest flights from Skyscanner requires one thing: flexibility! You must be a.) flexible in your schedule, and b.) flexible in your destination.
- Ideally, you’ll be able to choose your vacation days after looking for the cheapest flights on Skyscanner. The more flexibility in your schedule you have, the better.
- Embrace an adventurous spirit and don’t have your heart set on one particular place. This is crucial to using Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights. The result is that you will often find great flights to places you may not have heard of, never mind dreamed of going. But that’s half the fun!
How to Use Skyscanner to Find the Cheapest Flights
1. Input Preliminary Information
Head to the Skyscanner website to begin.
As you can see in the photo above, I input my departure airport (Cluj-Napoca [CLJ]). In the next step, you’ll choose your arrival airport. If you double-click on this field, you’ll see a blue box come up that reads ‘Can’t Decide Where? Click here to search for Everywhere’. This is what you want! Search ‘Everywhere’.
In the next field, you’ll select your dates. As I mentioned above, the best way to utilize this method to get the most savings is to be super-flexible with your travel dates. Click on the ‘Depart’ field and you’ll see this drop-down menu appear:
In this step, you can pick a particular month as opposed to a particular date. If you really want to get the most out of this method, select ‘Cheapest Month’. If you do this, the ‘Return’ field will automatically be set to ‘Cheapest Month’ as well.
This is what your screen will look like when all of your information is input:
You will have your departure airport set to where you’d like to leave from, your arrival airport will read ‘Everywhere’ and for both ‘Depart’ and ‘Return’ dates you’ll have ‘Cheapest Month’. You can adjust the number of passengers if you’d like, but we are only using Skyscanner to search for flights – we will book from the actual airline website.
Set any additional parameters in the fields below, such as non-stop flights or flexible tickets only.
2. Select Your Location
The next page will generate a list of the cheapest places you can go. By clicking the down arrow next to each country, you will get a list of cities available to fly into. The photo above shows the current cheapest flights departing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The photo below shows the current cheapest flights departing from Boston, USA (my home airport when I lived back in the States). We’ll plan a hypothetical trip from Boston, since the majority of my readers are based in the USA.
Taking the photos for this post and planning my hypothetical trip, I’ve been to a few of these places already. The next place I see that I’d be interested in visiting is Guatemala, so I click on the arrow to see available cities.
I see Guatemala City as the only option available, and that’s fine with me, so I continue by clicking ‘from $145’.
3. Select Your Travel Dates
Once you’ve settled on your destination, the next step to finding the cheapest flights is to input some dates. The next page brings you to a departure and the return calendar. Initially, you will see many dates on both calendars.
Choose the date (and coinciding price) you’d like to depart on. This will change what is available on the ‘return calendar,’ usually displaying fewer options.
I select September 4th as a departure date, due to the price as well as the fact that it’s on a Saturday and I have a better chance of finding a ride to the airport, hah! When I select September 4, look at how the return dates change:
As you can see, the list narrows down to only one return date for my selected departure date. These dates are ok for me, so I’ll continue. However, if the dates don’t work for you, you can click on different departure dates until you find an itinerary that works for you.
Once you’ve found dates that work for you, scroll down a little bit and click on the green button that reads ‘Find Flights’.
Insider Tip: Be sure to look into the local weather for whatever destination and month(s) you are traveling in. Sometimes the tickets can be much cheaper if it’s rainy season or for some other unfortunate reason. Always double-check to make sure you’ll be going during a favorable time!
4. Find Your Flights
Skyscanner will now generate a list of all available flights they can find for your selected travel dates. One thing you want to be mindful of here: flight times! At the top of the flights you’ll see three fields: best, cheapest, and fastest. I always look at the fastest flight time to get a general idea of how long the flight should take.
Compare the fastest times to the times listed on each flight to get the best value.
As you can see in the above photo, the cheapest flight has a significantly longer flight time. There isn’t too much of a difference between the cheapest ticket and the next cheapest, which has significantly shorter flight times.
Jot down the departure times of both flights.
5. Purchase the Ticket
As you can see from the screenshots, Spirit is the airline that operates this flight route. I never, ever recommend purchasing flights through a third party. Skyscanner is great, but it’s best used as a search engine.
I recommend purchasing your flights through the airline directly, particularly during pandemic times when things are subject to change at a moment’s notice.
So our next step is to head over to the Spirit website to purchase the ticket.
Our search in Skyscanner yielded a flight from Spirit, Boston to Guatemala City, for $212. We’ve found it on the Spirit website for $231.08. Discrepancies like this are common, it’s not a big deal. The return flight from Guatemala City to Boston departs at a slightly different time, but with comparable flight times – be sure to double-check these things! The last thing anyone wants is to have an 11-hour layover.
Be forewarned, that particularly when dealing with budget airlines such as Spirit, you’ll have to pay extra for most things, like seat selection or checked bags, so the price may increase depending on your specific needs.
Additional Tips for Using Skyscanner to Find Cheap Flights
- In addition to inputting ‘Everywhere’ as your destination, you can also do entire countries. This will show you the cheapest cities to fly into as opposed to the cheapest countries.
- If you want to explore Europe, just look for the cheapest ticket to Europe. Once you have that information, you can use the same method, but use the airport in Europe you’ll be arriving in as your departure airport. This will generate a list of cheap flights from that city. And within Europe, budget airlines such as Ryanair, Wizz, and others are great for super-cheap (think less than $30) flights. You can pop over to another country before heading home!
I hope you get a lot of useful info out of this guide on how to use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights! I swear, without this method, I would be returning to the same places over and over again or not traveling as frequently. Enjoy!