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Plus, everything you need to know to find a cheap flight.
Getting on a plane is kind of my thing. I’m a travel writer galavanting worldwide, and that means a lot of airfare research, booking, and even the occasional last-minute flight pivot when a random assignment hits my inbox. You could say that as a result, I've become a de facto travel agent, understanding nuances of how and when to book airfare to save money and maximize miles (hint: always check your fare classes). And since fuel costs and staffing shortages are attributing to what feels like an all-time high for airfare, I'm letting you in on my little secret for scoring the best flight deals: Skyscanner.
Skyscanner was founded in 2003, but it landed on my radar about five or six years ago when I informally started hearing about it from peers in the travel industry. Since then, it's become the go-to secret of frequent travelers like myself in search of the best flight options, hotels, and car rentals.
While there are plenty of travel search platforms out there, not all of them compare with some of Skyscanner's best features, like the ability to isolate flight searches by country or "everywhere" in the world or to help you separate the best times of the month to travel. Here’s a complete guide to Skyscanner, as well as my best hacks for using the travel platform to its full advantage.
The “Everywhere” Search
One of my favorite ways to use Skyscanner — and one of its best features — is searching for flights from a preferred destination to "everywhere." This "everywhere" search can show results for the entire world, or you can even drill it down by a specific country. If I don’t feel like dealing with customs and immigration, I sometimes use this feature and search from my preferred airport and the entire USA for a quick weekend getaway. I also often find myself using the "everywhere" search to pick a destination anywhere in the world.
You can find this feature on Skyscanner via a button that says "Explore everywhere" on Skyscanner's homepage or type "everywhere" as your destination. Further down on Skyscanner's website, the platform also shows popular destinations searched by other travelers and the ability to quickly check flight rates and hotel and car rentals to those trending destinations.
Once you land on the results page, Skyscanner shows you precisely what's available, ordered by price. So it regularly inspires me to consider new places and experiences, like when I found airfare to Asheville, NC, for just $35.
To use this feature more specifically within the US or a specific country, you can log on to Skyscanner.com, plug in your preferred departure airport in the "From" field, and type any country name in the "To" field. For example, if you want to hit Italy this summer but are unsure which airport will be the cheapest to fly to, you can simply set "Italy" as the "To" destination and search for a specific set of dates. Skyscanner then orders the lowest to highest price results from your departure airport to that bucket list destination you're eying. As of press time, Skyscanner revealed that the airfare I need to get to Italy this summer will be about 30 percent cheaper if I fly into Naples rather than Florence or Rome.
I particularly like this feature because it lets me get a sense of the airfare to multiple airports within the same country. This takes the guesswork out of deciding where to start or end the trip, and it's helped me make smarter travel decisions as I do my planning. For example, considering another trip I will take to the South of France, Skyscanner told me I can get to Paris for $784 while getting directly into Nice will cost $947. However, the additional cost of a train fare or renting a car from Paris to drive to Nice makes me feel confident in taking the direct flight into my final destination.
The Whole Month Search
I use Skyscanner's Whole Month Search more than any other feature on the platform to help me determine when I should target a trip to a specific destination. It has helped me avoid high flight prices caused by conferences, events, or public demand — and I find that if I have the flexibility, it saves me serious cash on my trip planning. In fact, I would estimate that, over the past few years of using it, Skyscanner has helped me save thousands of dollars just with the Whole Month search tool alone.
Most recently, I saved myself and my buddies some dough by selecting a specific week in early December that Skyscanner's search revealed would be best for getting down to sun-filled Montego Bay. We all had some time off and wanted to travel to the gorgeous Tryall Club before the holiday rush. So knowing it's a busy travel month, I searched for the whole month of December and found the best range of dates to travel, making the airfare about 40 percent less than other flights in the same month.
The Whole Month search has never been more valuable since new data reveals that post-pandemic pricing science is more complex than ever. "Knowing when to book travel has become trickier since the pandemic as airfare algorithms no longer operate in the same way," said Laura Lindsay, Global Travel Trends Expert at Skyscanner. The pandemic shifted how airlines worked their pricing because seasonality fell by the wayside, with airlines unable to accurately forecast purchasing trends based on this seasonality. Lindsay added that this is due to many factors, including hybrid work schedules that allow travelers more flexibility and the ability to take that work-cation trip, making it harder to predict when travel will be in higher demand.
Price Alert Search
If you know where and when you want to travel but are not in a rush to book, you could save by setting up a price alert using Skyscanner, like I did the time I was hoping to snag a pair of flights to Zakynthos for my husband’s 40th birthday celebration. To do this, press the Alarm Bell icon on your chosen search. Afterward, you'll be notified when prices to your destination drop so you can swoop in and secure the best deal. I’ve used this a few times to watch airfare I suspected might drop in price, and I’d recommend trying it if you know you are going to take a flight in the distant future.
Don't delay, though — in my experience, you'll want to book rather quickly if Skyscanner sends you that coveted alert because, in the past, I've noticed airfare prices spike back up within 24-48 hours.
Open Jaw, Multi-City Search
Skyscanner's multi-city search also helped me make a trip a more affordable reality recently. I was able to select multiple journey legs and plan what are known as "open jaw" trips with stopovers.
I like researching these open-jaw trips because they allow me to see various destinations in a more extended trip, meaning fewer overall flights and carbon emissions.
I've recently used this same feature when researching business class seats to Athens, which I was able to score on Swiss Air with a stopover for about one third of the direct flight cost. As a result, I'll also get to spend a few days in Switzerland, which I've wanted to visit separately in the summertime.
"Planning ahead and starting to look a few months out can help you to track the prices, but for any last-minute, spontaneous travelers, there are still deals to be had — and the more flexible travelers will always get the best prices," Lindsay adds.
Add Nearby Airports
Another trick I love when searching Skyscanner is to click the "add nearby airports" option. Since I live within easy travel distance of JFK, La Guardia, and Newark Airports, this has helped me find the best possible flight paths and fares, and it's something you should try out, too, if you have a few airports nearby.
When flight costs are high at my home airports, I've even considered taking flights from airports further afoot, like Westchester County, NY, and Philadelphia, PA. The added bonus of Skyscanner's "add nearby airports" feature is that it can be applied to your arrival airport, too. This has saved me some serious dough when I need to fly to South Florida since Ft. Lauderdale and Miami airports aren't too far from one another and Naples is a possibility, albeit with a longer drive time.
Research and Book With Better Confidence
The Savings Generator is Skyscanner's latest money-saving tool for travelers and one I've been playing around with recently. Lindsay tells me that the tool uses data collected from millions of airfare searches on Skyscanner to serve up money-saving hacks for the 15 most popular destinations from dozens of cities worldwide.
For that reason, it's a little more limited than some of the site's other features, but it does help calculate savings whether you're flying solo or with a group or family. Here's how it works: From a list, you simply select where you're traveling from, and the month you're planning to travel, and then from another list, you pick a popular destination from your city in that chosen month. For example, you could select that you're leaving from Los Angeles in June and heading to Tokyo, a popular destination that month for travelers departing from La La Land. The Savings Generator will then tell you the average flight cost, the best time to book your airfare, the cheapest days to travel as well as the most expensive, and it also assigns a dollar figure to how much you can save if you follow some of the Saving Generator's advice.
If you're looking for an excellent way to search for airfare and other travel needs like rental cars and hotels, take advantage of all the money-saving tools from Skyscanner. The platform is currently available on desktop, my preferred way to search it, on your phone's mobile browser, and even through a dedicated app with an impressive 110 million downloads.
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