I keep saying it: among all flight search engines out there, Skyscanner is my top pick when it comes to finding cheap flight tickets and saving money to travel.
For absolutely all the cheap tickets I buy, I use Skyscanner's website or app - which doesn't mean that I always book with them either.
I'm going to show you how to use Skyscanner hacks to travel for cheap, but also point the limits of Skyscanner and what you should do to find the cheapest airfare.
Let's start with the basics.
What is Skyscanner?
Skyscanner is a flight search engine. To be more general, they are an online travel search engine, since they also let you book a hotel and rent a car, but I'll focus on Skyscanner flights only here.
The website (and the Skyscanner app) are completely free to use. There are neither hidden fees or additional expenses: the prices you see are the ones you will pay. That transparency is the result of a few years of work and improved consumer protection laws, for the better!
Think of it as Google, but dedicated to finding the cheapest airfare only, among the multitude of airlines and online travel agents (OTAs). You know that Google scraps thousands of websites in a few seconds (even less) to present you the most relevant results for your query? Skyscanner does exactly the same by searching airlines and online travel agents' websites, by displaying the cheapest flight deals under 30 seconds (that's their promise, and after many uses I found it to be true quite often).
You don't actually book Skyscanner's cheap flights on the website or the app: after selecting your trip, you are redirected to the platform of the airline or OTA, where you complete your booking and pay.
How does it work?
Let's look into the main search engine feature that lets you look for a flight in a few simple steps.
Step 1: Select the currency and language
In the top-right corner, choose the currency you want prices to be displayed in among the most common ones ($, €, £) or others. Just like languages, there is an extended list. Here, I'll go with English and Euro.
Step 2: Choose the kind of ticket you want
Select whether you're searching a one-way, return or multi-city (more on that later) ticket. I'm looking for a one-way ticket (by the way, you should do the same, that's one of my tips to find cheap flights).
Step 3: Fill in your travel details
Enter which city you want to fly from in the "From" section and your destination in "To". Select your flight date from the calendar, the number of passengers and the cabin class (Economy, Premium Economy, Business or First Class).
I'm looking for a cheap flight from Sofia, Bulgaria to Barcelona, Spain at the end of the summer. As a solo budget traveler, I choose "1 passenger" in Economy.
Step 4: Hit search and choose among the flight results
By default, Skyscanner displays results from the cheapest trip to the most expensive airfare (price by adult). Feel free to sort by total journey time, departure time, airline or stops depending on your preferences.
Skyscanner also allows you to play with all sorts of filters to find your perfect flight: number of stops, journey duration, airline etc.
I'm going to book the first and cheapest one.
Step 5: Click select to check your itinerary and finish booking your ticket
Click on the arrow to get the details of your flight, especially if like me, you have a connection. You can check the Minimum Connecting Time to make sure you have enough time for the transfer, but if you don't, the flight shouldn't even be displayed.
Scroll down and check out the "Good to know section". In my case, the journey includes a self-transfer, so I need to check in separately for each leg of the trip. You should always check in online when you can.
If your flight is delayed or canceled, you may get up to $700 in compensation. Get the Service app to save money on travel!
Click "Next" to be redirected to the airline or travel agent's website where you will complete your booking.
There you go: you just got yourself a cheap flight using Skyscanner's basic flight search.
Now let's dive into the real stuff.
What are Skyscanner’s main features?
Skyscanner Price Alerts
Skyscanner Price Alerts are a great way to track prices on a particular flight. You can save money by monitoring a flight you're interested in and buying it when Skyscanner's price alert email tells you that prices have dropped.
You will receive a daily email letting you know of price variations. This free service can be activated for several flights, but you will still receive only one email: that hack makes price alerts less spammy.
How to activate Skyscanner Price Alerts
You just need to search for a flight as described in steps 1 to 4 above. Then, you'll have 2 options:
- Skyscanner will automatically open a pop-up window suggesting that you create an alert for this flight. You just need to write your email address and click the button!
- Click on "Get Price Alerts" to manually open the pop-up window
To be honest, though, I have some reservations about this feature. More on that below.
Skyscanner's “Everywhere” search
Now we're getting into one of my favorite Skyscanner tips on how to save on airfare using useful booking hacks. If you're very flexible in your choice of destination, this awesome feature will open new (plane) doors for you.
You want to travel cheap but don't have a clue where to (or you just don't mind, you're open to every destination)? Skyscanner allows you to search flights to "Everywhere".
How to use Skyscanner's Everywhere search
Step 1: Fill in the search engine and choose "Everywhere" as the destination
The suspense is unbearable, right?
Step 2: Select the country you're interested in flying to
Results are automatically sorted from the cheapest to the most expensive destination. I just discovered that I can go to Sweden for less than 30€!
Click on the arrow to get more details. Apparently, I can get a direct flight to Stockholm for 27€!
Step 3: Click the green button to see the flights
You get the classic result page where you can select your flight and complete the reservation on the airline or OTA's website.
Don't you think it's one of the best holiday tips for travelers open to discover new places they wouldn't have thought of?
Skyscanner's Cheapest Month (or Year) Feature
With the Cheapest Month feature, you can instantly view and select the cheapest month (or year) to book your flight. Once again, it's perfect for flexible travelers. If you're wondering how to save money on flights, you have to be flexible, by the way.
How to find the cheapest month to fly
Step 1: Fill in the search engine and select "Cheapest Month" as departing date
Click on the date, then "Whole month" instead of a specific date. From there, select the month when you want to fly, or the "Cheapest month" if you're very flexible.
By default, Skyscanner displays the flight prices by month in their flight calendar, with the lowest prices in green and highest ones in red.
To spot quickly the cheapest day to fly during the cheapest month, I recommend that you use Skyscanner's flight chart instead.
It's a great way to find the cheapest flights in a month or a year.
Another way to make money if your flight is delayed or canceled is to claim a compensation. The Service travel app saves the average traveler $300 in cash, voucher, or mile on average!
If you need more ideas on how and where to travel cheap, the "Map" is a great feature, not enough spoken of. It's an easy way to visualize all your travel option at one glance.
How to use Skyscanner's Map search
Step 1: Click "Map" in the search screen
Step 2: Select your departure city and date
Note that again, you don't have to specify the airport. You could indicate London without specifying Heathrow or Gatwick for instance.
The Map only allows you to search by month. You get the details when you select a destination. But first...
Step 3: Use the filters to refine your search
Set your maximum budget by clicking "Prices" and adjust to the price you're willing to pay. By default, Skyscanner's Map displays all the flights available without price restrictions.
The green dots indicate destinations available via direct flights, while the red ones require 1 or more connections. If you want a direct flight, tick the "Direct routes only" box.
Step 4: Select your destination
Let's say I want to go to Milan: I click on the city and instantly visualize the flight prices for the month with Skyscanner's flight chart.
Step 5: Choose the number of nights you will stay, the day you will fly and click on the green button
The problem here is that you can only search for "return" tickets, not only "one way".
Step 6: Select your flight and complete your booking
The Map is a great tool to get new destination ideas with a quick estimate of the flight prices for the month.
Skyscanner's Multi-city flight search
If you're not as interested in searching flights by months as planning a whole trip that includes multiple flights, make the most of the "Multi-city flight" search feature.
Book multiple flights at once and travel more than one destination: you can add up to 6 legs to your journey.
How to use Skyscanner's Multi-City search
Step 1: Select “Multi-City” next to “return” or “one way”.
Step 2: Add the destination of the first flight and the departure date
Note that you can't indicate a whole country as the destination, contrarily to the regular "one way" and "return" searches. However, you can indicate a city without restriction on the airport.
The date also has to be fixed: you can't search prices by month.
Step 3: Enter the second leg of your journey
Skyscanner will automatically suggest the arriving airport of the previous leg as departure airport of the next one (Barcelona in this case).
As I told you, you can select a city without specifying an exact airport, as I did here with Glasgow.
Step 4: Click "+ Add another flight" if your journey won't stop here
You can enter up to 6 legs with the dates in Skyscanner's multi-city flight search.
Keep in mind that the airport of departure doesn't have to be the arrival airport of the previous flight: here, I'm planning on taking a bus or train between Glasgow and London for example.
Step 5: Choose the number of passengers, cabin class and hit "Search flights"
Unfortunately, you cannot select the cabin class for each flight, it's the same for all the flights of your search. You can't decide to fly Economy for the first two legs and First Class for the last one (yet?).
However, keep in mind that you don't actually buy the tickets on Skyscanner: you will be redirected to the airline's or OTA's website, where you can opt for a different cabin class. Just be aware that prices won't be those seen on Skyscanner.
Click "Select" to see the details of the itinerary and complete your booking.
Why I love using Skyscanner
Price estimates, travel ideas and transparency
I've been flying a lot. Plus, since I'm working in the travel industry and know my way around when it comes to finding cheap flights, my friends and families often come to me to book their flight ticket. Needless to say, I've used a lot of different tools, websites and apps to save money on airfares.
Yet, I always come back to Skyscanner at one point. Even if I don't book through the platform, I use it to get price estimates or just travel ideas. Skyscanner is transparent on their prices and I never had the bad surprise of additional fees.
Booking cheap flights on the go: the Skyscanner app
The Skyscanner App is one of the best free travel apps that will ease your trip. It's perfect to book flight when you're on the go or if you didn't travel with a laptop.
The limits of Skyscanner: Tips and hacks to go further
Skyscanner is great. But it's not perfect. Here are my tips to really make the most of it.
You can also check out my top travel hacks to find a cheap flight ticket!
Search in Private mode
They say that your search data isn't stored to artificially boost prices from one search to another. Maybe it's true. I still saw a few euros adding up to my searches. Just in case, I recommend that you open a new "incognito" tab every time you make a new search.
Just press the Ctrl (Cmd), Shift and "N" keys. It resets your cookies every time you do it and the website cannot know that you've already been searching for this flight.
Complete your search with regional airlines
Skyscanner includes a lot of budget airlines like Ryanair, Wizz Air or EasyJet, but not smaller regional ones. And these are often a great alternative to save money on air travel.
Do some complementary research on the smaller airlines of the countries you plan on visiting.
I also always search for the flight recommend by Skyscanner directly on the airline or OTA's website, just in case they have a better deal or discount. If not, I book through Skyscanner: it's only fair.
The prices don't include a checked luggage
It doesn't matter when you end up booking with a large airline such as British Airways or Air France since they automatically include a checked luggage in your booking.
But for budget airlines, it's different: these are able to offer lower prices by selling tickets that don't include any option. You have to pay an extra fee when you're bringing a checked luggage. Skyscanner will display their prices for a basic seat without any options, so keep in mind that if you're not flying with just a carry-on, the price will be higher.
Add nearby airports
If you're flexible it may be cheaper to fly from an airport a little further away, even with the cost of a bus or train ticket to get there. Just tick the "add nearby airports" in the search bar.
Check the travel time
It's kind of an obvious advice but hear me out. Don’t just check the time when you land and when you arrive. My brother had the bad surprise of discovering his total journey was 28h instead of 4h! He found a super cheap flight departing at 6 am and arriving at 10 am... the next day. Skyscanner displays a "+1" symbol to let you know that the flight will arrive the next day.
Search for one way only
I never use the "return" flight search. I found out that I can often find a cheaper return flight when I search two one-way flights separately in different incognito tabs.
Look for alternate routes
That's a real hack: find which routes OUT of our destination are the cheapest. Enter your destination as departure and choose "Everywhere" for the destination. Sometimes, it is also cheaper to fly from there, so search again from that country. Now, it doesn’t always work, but it's worth a shot!
A general rule on how to save money on flight tickets is to not look for direct routes: itineraries with connections are maybe more unpleasant, but they're also more affordable.
Don't forget to download the Service travel app to start saving money on travel, automatically:
- The average traveler saves $300 per year in cash, miles, or vouchers
- You submit compensation claims when your flight is delayed or canceled, automatically
- You get rebooked at the lowest price when the rate of your hotel room drops
Which of these trips are you going to use first? Let me know if you have others that I don't know in the comments!
See you around, traveler!