How I Book Airfare for Vacations Super Cheaply

Every single time I talk about going on vacation super cheaply, I get people asking me "But how do you get tickets so cheaply? How do you actually do it?" And each time, I answer,, But apparently that isn't enough of an answer because even with me telling people that that's how I do it, I get the question again and again.

So I decided that I'd walk you through how it is that I get tickets very cheaply through Skyscanner.

Before I continue, I just want to say that Skyscanner and I have no partnership, I'm not seeing any money from this post. I'm writing and recommending this website purely because of my good experience with it, and because it has changed the way I live my life. I love travel, and I always thought it was impossible for me financially, until I discovered Skyscanner. And that's why this post specifically focuses on that.

Here's the thing. I also have people who told me they checked out Skyscanner and the tickets weren't actually that cheap, so they don't understand why I am telling them it is cheap. Well, that's because it's not that Skyscanner automatically will give you rock bottom prices, but that you have to use it a certain way, and this post is to help clarify that.

There may be other websites like Skyscanner that also do similarly, so I'm not saying Skyscanner is best, but it is the one that gives me the most options to save money. (By the way, also has similar options, but I do find it less user friendly than Skyscanner, but check it out for an alternative.)

I've done this in person a few times and awed people, but it is so much harder to do this in a post, with all these screen shots, but I will try my best. Lets pretend we're together in person, and each screenshot is a screen I'm showing you on my phone, as to how to do this.

So the first thing you need to know in order to get tickets extremely cheaply the way I do, is you need to be flexible. The more flexible you are, the cheaper you can get your tickets. Flexible in terms of everything.

Get rid of this

Here's the first page on Skyscanner, the one you get to when beginning to look for a date.

Note I didn't pick an airport, instead of chose my entire region. You can pick a specific airport, but if you're flexible about where you fly from, then you have more low cost options.
Notice I didn't pick a destination either. That's how you get the lower prices. By going wherever the wind blows you. For people like myself who have a wanderlust but don't have specific places they want to visit specifically, this is really wonderful. I mean, I do have places on my wish list to travel to one day, but at this point in my life I'm content to just explore new places, as long as it's a place I haven't been to already. This is what I like about Skyscanner, that it doesn't make you pick a specific location, but gives you options everywhere.

If you want to pick a specific location, you can. Just realize that'll increase your price.

Lastly, notice I didn't pick a date. First it gives you the option to pick a date, or pick whole month. Once you pick whole month, it gives you the option to pick cheapest month. This is the way to get the cheapest tickets. Again if you aren't flexible with dates, or are less flexible, choose specific dates, or choose a specific month, but note that the more you narrow down your criteria, the more it will likely cost.

Skyscanner then will give you a list of locations (by country) where you can fly, in order of cheapest ticket to more expensive. Since Italy for $20 round trip interested me, I clicked on that, to see more.

Here were the cheapest two options. Milan sounds good! So I clicked that to see more.

Then I get this page that shows me options flying from the two cities in my region that have airports. The closer city costs more money, and the further costs less. 1/3 the price. So here's where you have to do some math. Is it worth traveling to the further city (how much does it cost to travel? How much of your time will you use up?) to get a cheaper ticket, or is it worth spending more and flying from a closer place. I check this each time.

Then you get a calendar for departure dates and a calendar for return dates. Each date has the price listed. I find you only get the return date listed once you choose a departure date. I click on the cheapest date that works for me.

Then it shows you the total cost for the dates you picked, and then click "Show flights".

Then the website has to actually search if a ticket actually exists at that price on those dates. Well, look at that- no! This date actually has the cheapest ticket be $48, twice as much as it said originally. Sometimes that happens because of a computer glitch, and sometimes that happens because the cheaper tickets got sold out and sometimes because of who knows what else.

If that happens, just go back and pick a different date and see if the price for that date is accurate.

Oh look, a flight for the same price, just a few days apart.

Let's see if this time it actually has such a flight at that price?

Ok, not exactly $20, but close enough. Let's move on. Click select for that price.

Here's the flight information. If that looks good, then press book.

Now here's the other part.
These flights are only cheap if you don't check luggage!
Don't spend any money on anything extra. Not on picking your seats, not on booking luggage, nada!

But also, read the luggage policy that the airline has before you book. Ryanair, as shown above, allows just one carry on, and not even a full sized carry on, just a personal item (which can be a backpack).

If you pay extra for priority boarding, you usually can bring a carry on suitcase. I didn't see that option listed when I went to take screen shots for this post through RyanAir. 

Wizz Air makes the priority boarding and luggage policy clear and easy.

Depending on how I travel and what I need, I usually get priority boarding. It isn't significantly more expensive, and makes me able to carry more.

But I never book specific seats or pay to check my luggage.

As I said, you can, but don't expect the tickets to be as cheap.

Basically, no frills. No nothing, no nada.

The one thing I sometimes do pay extra for is flexible dates, because with my life being the way it is, by paying extra I'm able to change the dates of the tickets as needed.

Ok, so this is how I do it.

Lets see, are there flights just as cheap from other places?

Here I plugged in New York as the departure location.

Ok, not as cheap as I can get locally, but still pretty decent!

Denver or Florida from NY for $51 round trip? Not bad!

Ok, lets try another city. How about Cleveland?

Cheaper options than New York within the USA, but to other countries it is more but still not bad.

Who's up for a Florida trip?

Check out tickets from London! Also super cheap!

Ok, so it does look a little unfair. Super cheap tickets seem to be more to countries in Europe, and are pricier in the US.

But still, this is how I found is the best way to find cheap tickets.

Oh, another thing- sometimes you'll find cheap tickets to one city, but it's not exactly where you want to go. If you're willing to take a bus from there to go to the city where you want to go, that might be cheaper than flying directly there, and depending on the location, it may not add that much time to your journey.
As for pricing and availability? This changes all the time! If you go look and don't see anything in your price range, go back and look again a week later! There's always new flights up, always great prices. That's how I ended up booking my tickets to Bulgaria for me and my kids in December- I opened Skyscanner to show a friend how it worked and discovered these rock bottom deals to Bulgaria (I'm saying it listed at around $15 round trip the first time around, but once I paid for priority boarding for one- everyone will bring a backpack and I'll be bringing a carry on- and once everything was finalized, I'm paying $140 for our family of five to fly there) and booked them.

And guess what? Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the perfect time to book tickets. Two years ago I booked 10 Euro round trip airfare with RyanAir to Belgium, and they had tons of 10 Euro tickets. So if you want a cheap trip, and you're willing to be flexible with dates, locations, and luggage, you can get really great deals!

I'm sure there are other good sites for Airfare, but so far this is the only site I've found that allows you to input such flexible parameters to allow you to find the best deals. But if you know of another similar site that works similarly, I'm happy to hear it.

Listen, I know not everyone wants to fly the way I do. But for people that have a travel lust, but are flexible about when and where, and they just want affordability, this is certainly the way to do it!

Do you go on vacations? How do you book cheap airfare? What is the standard price you pay for your flights?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I've tried SkyScanner, but I am constrained by dates, and there's only so much hassle I'm willing to go through for cheap tickets and so much of my time off that I'm willing to spend in a metal tube or in places that try to sell me bottled tap water for $5.

    My usual go-to is; last time I paid 663 euros/person for three people to go from Amsterdam to San Francisco, San Francisco to Washington DC, and from DC to Amsterdam. And it was on a major carrier, too, so when our last flight got canceled we were still able to make it home with only a slight delay.

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