Around the late 2000s, budget airlines began connecting greater Europe and Southeast Asia with dirt-cheap low-cost flights that made international travel a thing of the masses. Until recently, the Americas were left out in the cold.
All that began to change just a few years ago when European budget airlines started entering the American market and transforming what was before an uncompetitive and oligarchic industry.
Most Americans still haven’t caught on. It helps to know how to search for the flights properly, which most of you still do not. It’s not difficult to do, but a few Google searches alone usually aren’t going to get you there. I’ll break it down for you with just a few simple rules.
1. Go to SkyScanner.com.
No, I do not have a special arrangement with SkyScanner. This site
simply has the best features to help identify cheap flight opportunities.
There are other flight aggregators out there but none with the same functionality.
2. Make it broad.
In the “from” section, choose United States. In the “to” section, choose
“everywhere.” In the “depart” section just put “cheapest month” if you can be flexible with dates. If not, choose a specific month but absolutely no specific dates.
3. Choose a country.
You will now see a menu of destinations ordered from cheaper to more
expensive. Click on a destination country within your budget that interests you.
4. Choose a destination city.
You will now see a menu of destination cities within your chosen
destination country ordered from cheapest to most expensive. Choose a city.
5. Choose an origin city.
Then, you will see departure cities within your origin country. Typically New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Washington will have the cheapest
fares to Europe; San Francisco, Seattle, and Los Angeles have the cheapest fares to Asia; and Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando have the cheapest flights to Latin America and the Caribbean.
These are the three American corridors for cheap international airfare. If you live in one of them, then fantastic: you can book a bus to any of the cities within your corridor for at little as $5 if you book in advance.
If there is a drastically different price between such places, consider booking from the cheapest departure city and taking a bus there. Bus fare between Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Washington D.C. comes as cheap as $1 – $5 if you search
using Wanderu and buy the ticket well in advance.
6. Consult the calendars.
Now you get a calendar with prices on specific dates. You may scroll between months until you settle on the optimal period for
you to fly for the desired price.
7. Compare Round Trip vs. One-Way.
Sometimes it’s cheaper to book your return flights separately. To check
this, simply switch between the “Round Trip: and “One Way” options
above the Skyscanner search bar. If the round trip is more than double
the one-way fare, it may be a better idea to book your return flight
8. Consider spreading the legs of your trip.
You may also find it is cheaper to fly out from a different city than you
flew in. For example, you could fly into Brussels, take the train to
Amsterdam, and fly home from Amsterdam. This way you would see two
cities for less than the price of one.
To try this, look at a map of your destination country and decide where
might be a manageable extraction point. If you fly into Paris, perhaps,
you would find yourself in Germany two weeks later. You can then
search for a return flight from Germany instead of France using the steps
described above. The added convenience is that you can cover more
ground without wasting time and money returning to the city you
9. Give yourself at least a month of leeway.
Typically the best fares to and from Europe or Latin America are available at least a
month before departure or earlier. With Asia this is true as 6 weeks. If you miss these deadlines, it’s not a deal-breaker, but time is ticking!