Want to get away? Here’s how to find the cheapest flight to anywhere
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Depending on the severity of your coronavirus cabin fever, your agony to travel might cause you to become abnormally undiscriminating when choosing a destination. You may just want to go somewhere. Anywhere.
If you’re willing to let the deals guide your travel, it’s easy to book a steal from your home airport. I’ll show you how to do it with Google Flights. If you’re new to Google Flights, it’s an amazing tool that can help you find some real deals.
Of course, if you’ve accrued miles and points from a travel credit card, you don’t need to scrounge around for the best flight deals — you can just book free flights to anywhere. Even so, it’s worth looking for amazing deals so you can save your miles for more expensive flights later. Additionally, some credit cards have flexible points that are prime for taking advantage of cheap flight deals.
Obligatory note: COVID-19 continues to sculpt the regulations of each state and country. If you’re booking travel, keep in mind that the further into the future you reserve, the more likely your trip won’t be impacted. Additionally, make sure to check your airline’s change fee policies to protect against travel non-refundable travel. Finally, the Centers for Disease Control still says the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to stay at home.
Find the cheapest flight from your closest airport
Step 1. Enter your home airport on Google Flights
Head to Google Flights and enter your originating airport. If you live near more than one, you can enter up to five. For this example, I’ll use my home airport of Cincinnati.
Don’t enter a destination airport. You can enter your desired dates, but if you’re flexible, there’s no need. Don’t pay attention to those boxes.
Step 2. Click “More destinations”
Click on the destination search box (the one that says “Where to?”), and you’ll be presented with a list of popular destinations. At the bottom of this list is a link that says “More destinations.” Click that one.
Step 3. Select dates
I’m now taken to a map with prices for flights from my home airport to various destinations around the U.S.
If you enter specific dates in step 1, these are your prices for those dates. If you’re flexible, however, find the tab that says “Flexible dates.” You can choose how flexible you want to be by selecting either the month you’d like to travel or simply selecting “All.” This second option will search for all flights within the next six months. This is the option I like to use. If the deal is good enough, it doesn’t much matter when it is — I’ll build my PTO around it.
You must also choose between three trip lengths: Weekend, 1 week, or 2 weeks. This is a bit restrictive, so you’ll likely have better luck finding cheap flights by searching for two one-ways instead of a round-trip.
Step 4. Lower the maximum ticket price
If we’re looking for the absolute cheapest places to go, drag the price filter on the side of the page to the left. This will clear the clutter of higher-ticket flights, and leave you with only the astoundingly cheap ones. As you can see, I’m able to fly from Cincinnati to Savannah, Las Vegas, Denver, and more for under $70 round-trip.
To the left of the page you’ll see the information for each flight on the map. You can view the airline and the dates for which this price applies.
Step 5. Search international flights
You can also zoom the map way out to view the entire world at once. Searching with flexible dates, you’ll be amazed at the random deals that pop up from your home airport. Check out this flight to Tokyo for $489 round-trip!
After you click on the destination you want, you’ll get a rundown of available flights on the left side of the page. Again, Google will tell you which dates offer the lowest price.
Note: If you intend to book an international flight, you’ll likely save money by searching from your nearest international hub airport. For example, I’m seeing flights to Paris for ~$250 round-trip from Philadelphia. If I want to visit Paris, I’d save hundreds of dollars by taking a cheap flight from my home airport to Philadelphia.
Save even more money when booking cheap flights
While Google Flights is one of the best tools for finding dirt cheap flights, there are some websites that are even better for getting the lowest possible price. Online travel agencies like Expedia or meta-search engines like Skyscanner can display lower prices than what you might see through Google. A good strategy is to use Google Flights to find your desired itinerary and then plug your dates into one of these other sites.
If you have a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, cheap fares can be a boon if booking through the Chase Travel Portal. Since points are worth 1.5 cents each towards paid flights with the Reserve, you won’t have to shell out many points to book one of these deals. In most cases, you’ll be getting a much better deal than if you transferred the points to the airline itself. A $75 round-trip flight would require just 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points when booking with the Reserve through the Chase Portal.
If you’re booking flights, be sure to use a credit card with travel insurance to cover yourself from unforeseen expenses should something go wrong during your commute. My Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card has literally saved me thousands — you can read about that in my Chase Trip Delay review.
Google Flights can help you find the cheapest destination from anywhere. Just add your originating airport and let it do the rest. There are some other sites that offer similar tools (Skyscanner, for example), but Google is my favorite.
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Featured image by Fotoluminate LLC/Shutterstock
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