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TourismI find cheap flights for a living & helped people save $50,000 in the last 6 months. Giving free advice/searches for the next 4 hours (AMA!) :-)

Jan 19th 2016 by scottkeyes • 50 Questions • 217 Points

So my geeky obsession is finding cheap flights. (I once had 15 minutes of Internet fame for a cheap world trip I took, but that stardom is long gone.)

Though I typically work for hire on flight consulting, I still get a thrill of finding cheap flights for people, especially when they couldn't afford to travel otherwise.

In that spirit, I'm here for the next four hours to help you either with your specific flight searching needs, or general advice on how/where/when to search. There's nobody I like helping more than fellow Redditors :-) AMA!

For humblebrags science, favorite roundtrips I've found:

  • NYC to Milan - $130 (normally $800)
  • LA to Cook Islands - $471 (normally $1,500)
  • Orlando to Bogota - $180 (normally $500)
  • San Francisco to Bali - $348 (normally $1,000)
  • Toronto to Azores - $271 (normally $1,200)
  • DC to Nairobi - $310 (normally $1,000)
  • NYC to Paris - $343 (normally $800)
  • Boston to Osaka - $519 (normally $1200)

Proof: I wrote two ebooks on free/cheap travel and run Scott's Cheap Flights List, a service to alert people when mistake fares or similarly cheap flights pop up. (You can check it out here if you're interested, but zero pressure!)

UPDATE: thanks for the great questions, everyone! my mind is frazzled from 6 hours of flight searching so gonna hafta sign off. much love and hopefully reddit will let me come back to do this again soon!

Q:

Do your books cover all of the methods you use yourself in finding deals, or do you keep some of it secret to keep your business going?

A:

ha! that would be pretty dastardly of me...

no, i don't keep anything secret. it's partially just a matter of practice. i've gotten very good at not only searching, but searching quickly, so i can check a ton of places faster than a layperson might be able to


Q:

Are these deals, that are often credit card rewards, primarily geared towards Americans?

A:

The deals I find for a living and send to my cheap flights list don't involve credit cards. just straight cash homie

but yes, the list is geared towards Americans and Canadians. happy to help in this AMA if you're flying from somewhere else though!


Q:

I'm in Canada. YYZ to be specific. Looking for the best way to find cheap flights!

A:

awesome! great deals out of YYZ pop up a lot. anywhere in particular i can help you with today?


Q:

Nope. Pretty open to all options. More interested in the methodology than having you search for me. Thanks though!

I'm getting married in July, but I think we're going to delay our honeymoon until about this time next year and go on a bigger trip.

A:

ahh, if you wanna learn methodology i put out a short ebook How To Find Cheap Flights. you can find it at the website above or i'm happy to send to you on the house since you're a redditor.

i know you said not to search for you but i couldn't resist. one good option:

YYZ-PDL (Ponta Delgada in the Azores) for $343 USD roundtrip 8/19 through 8/27 or 831


Q:

We're in Buffalo,NY (buf) and are itching to go to Ireland / scotland end of this year. We are willing to travel to get to a cheaper airport if necessary. Any tips or ideas?!

A:

absolutely! here's a nonstop roundtrip from Toronto to Dublin October 7 through 20 for $470 roundtrip.

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=BUF,YYZ;t=DUB;d=2016-10-07;r=2016-10-20

tons of availability, even over Thanksgiving :-)

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=BUF,YYZ;t=DUB;d=2016-11-17;r=2016-11-30


Q:

i am a united card member. i fly across the country 2 or 3 times a year. is it worth paying a little more to stay premier member? I do enjoy upgrades. is united better that american?

A:

oh man, that totally depends on how much you enjoy the perks of being elite status and value it. are you United gold? platinum?

i used to be suuuuper wary of frequent flyer programs because i worried they would give me perverse incentives that would ultimately cost me more. i don't still think that way, mostly because i've learned to game the system to make sure i'm getting good value out of my miles.


Q:

What are the most obvious things people should do to get the best deals that are often overlooked?

A:

great question!

i'll give you two obvious ones:

(1) always search separately on Southwest.com because their results don't show up in search engines like Kayak

(2) flexibility is king. if you have a destination in mind and dates that are set in stone, 90% of what can be done to get a cheap flight is already eliminated. instead, for people who really want cheap flights, i recommend searching for the fare, not the destination. that is, seeing first where there's really good deals from your home airport and then deciding among those great deals which destination/dates sound best to you. may sound intuitive, but almost everyone searches for flights with dates/destination in mind first


Q:

are your deals with the main airlines or a mix of budget and main carriers?

A:

a mix. i figure other than a bad experience here or there, most people don't care what airline they fly so long as they can do it for a lot less money


Q:

Can you help me get cheap Red Wings tickets? Or do you only do flights and whatnot?

A:

i'll trade you cheap Red Wings tickets for cheap Broncos tickets this weekend. deal?


Q:

What is your favorite in-flight snack?

A:

beer. no question


Q:

one of your books is how to fly for free. Is that possible today still?

A:

absolutely :-) in the past two months i've taken free trips to Mexico and Portland!


Q:

Hi. Thank you for doing this Ama. I don't fly very often but this year I paid quite a lot for really short trips (Milan-Madrid 300 round trip) and (Zurich -London 220 round trip). Do you use any particular website to search for deals ? And I have one more question, how does the fly-miles work? It depends on the company or they count between the different airlines ?

A:

my pleasure! and great questions.

i usually use a mix of Google Flights, Momondo, Vayama, and SkyScanner when searching for deals. the specific one depends on various circumstances.

Frequent flyer miles work as a pseudo-currency you can redeem for flights/upgrades on that airline


Q:

Hi There! How do you go about doing this better than what can be found by your average user?

PS I am looking for two people from Toronto to Lisbon May 24th return July 10. Could you show me your airline pricing prowess in action pretty please?

A:

searching for flights is a skill like any programming or any other. the search engines are only as smart as what we tell them to do. so doing hundreds of searches a day, you get quick and better at it, know where to look and what's a good price.

not sure if that answers your question or not. if you've got something more specific i'm happy to help!

the best price i found for 5/24 through 7/10 is $464 USD:

http://www.momondo.com/flightsearch/?Search=true&TripType=2&SegNo=2&SO0=YYZ&SD0=LIS&SDP0=04-05-2016&SO1=LIS&SD1=YYZ&SDP1=10-07-2016&AD=1&TK=ECO&DO=false&NA=false#Search=true&TripType=2&SegNo=2&SO0=YYZ&SD0=LIS&SDP0=04-05-2016&SO1=LIS&SD1=YYZ&SDP1=10-07-2016&AD=1&TK=ECO&DO=false&NA=false

that's a pretty solid fare for summertime travel to Europe!


Q:

I'm getting married in New Orleans on Nov. 19th. Any tips on the best ways (beyond signing up for the list which I plan to do) to find cheap flights from Detroit & Chicago to N.O. for specific dates (11/17 or 11/18)?

A:

found some on either day for $145 one-way.

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=ORD,DTW;t=MSY;d=2016-11-18;r=2016-11-23;tt=o

roundtrip is gonna be cheaper than two one-ways ($268 plus they're nonstop) so i'd recommend that if you have a return date in mind. either way both prices are pretty decent. you could wait around and hope they'll fall, but the max they'd fall is like $40 or $50, so might be worth it just to lock in the decent price now since it's a pretty important trip!


Q:

Wow, $145 for anything out of Chicago is amazing! I came here specifically looking to see if you could find any good prices from Chicago? What is the best flight you can find to Scotland the end of April/beginning of May please?

A:

$729 with the possibility of a free stopover in Iceland if you want it

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=ORD;t=EDI,GLA;d=2016-04-29;r=2016-05-10;sel=ORDKEF0FI852-KEFGLA1FI430,GLAKEF0FI431-KEFORD1FI853

can depart on any Friday or Sunday, return on any Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday


Q:

I travel from Philadelphia to Sacramento a few times a year and usually pay about 300$-450$ round trip. Am I over paying?

A:

$300 isn't bad at all. $450 isn't great. whether or not you're overpaying though mostly depends on how set in stone your dates are. if they're flexible, you should be able to get cheaper. if they're pretty firm, you're more at the airlines' mercy.

in general i'd give those fares a B-


Q:

Are there any international destinations out of MLB that I should keep an eye for deals on?

A:

great question! i'm slightly ashamed to say i've never actually searched for flights out of MLB. there's lots of great deals out of Orlando though. i found some flights from Sanford to Brussels the other day for $362 roundtrip. gonna be hard to beat that


Q:

Whats an example of a roundtrip flight you have sent your premium members from NY? (sent this week or last)

A:

since i'm a bit Type A, i'll just list all of them for you:

  • South Africa & Europe (2 for 1) for $565 roundtrip
  • Barbados for $186 roundtrip
  • Rio for $498 roundtrip
  • Beijing or Shanghai for $599 roundtrip
  • Colombia for $291 roundtrip
  • Mumbai ($615) or New Delhi ($650) roundtrip
  • Istanbul for $444 roundtrip
  • any of the following cities for $490 roundtrip

Amsterdam, Netherlands (AMS) Budapest, Hungary (BUD) Copenhagen, Denmark (CPH) Moscow, Russia (SVO) Munich, Germany (MUC) Paris, France (CDG) Prague, Czech Republic (PRG) Riga, Latvia (RIX) Vienna, Austria (VIE)


Q:

Wow, thanks for taking the time to look :) that looks great

A:

my pleasure :-) hope it works for you!


Q:

Hey what is cheapest fare from San Diego to Newark/New York/Anywhere in New Jersey from around March 19th to like March 26th?? I cant find anything better than $500. Thx in advance


Q:

Do you have any tips on saving money on national flights in Canada (e.g. Toronto to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton)? Thank you!

A:

it's not Canada-specific, but being flexible with dates/locations, not waiting until last minute to book but also not booking more than 3 or 4 months ahead of time. you may be in luck too since a new budget Canadian airline was just announced!


Q:

Wow this is neat... Shot in the dark since my needs are kind of specific, but if you're still doing these, I need to get from San Francisco to Toronto on July 12, then Toronto to San Diego on July 18, and then from San Diego back to San Francisco on the 25th-ish (maybe a day later). Is there any hope for me?

A:

this may be my greatest challenge yet...

so i think you're looking at around $500 all-in, which honestly i expected it to be more.

don't try to book it all as one trip. instead, book 3 separate one-ways

SFO-YYZ: $208 YYZ-SAN: $204 SAN-SFO: $85

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=SFO;t=YYZ;d=2016-07-12;r=2016-07-16;tt=o

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=YYZ;t=SAN;d=2016-07-18;r=2016-07-22;tt=o

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=SAN;t=SFO;d=2016-07-26;r=2016-07-29;tt=o

you could try holding out for a little bit better, but i probably wouldn't risk it


Q:

I have $1000, want to get away and visit another country for a while and do tourist shit, don't care when or where, is this possible for me to do?

A:

oh god yes. you should be able to do it and have plenty of money left over


Q:

Did you try finding flights that are departing from and to a destination other than U.S ?

A:

i don't do that for the cheap flights list i run, but happy to try if you're looking for anywhere specific!


Q:

Could you check from Bahrain to Istanbul ? cheapest i found was $221

A:

roundtrip or one-way? approximately when?


Q:

Round trip, from February 4th till 17th

A:

double-checked, but that looks like the best fare. good job!


Q:

Haha, well i read your 15 minutes, and stated to be open. I am extremely open to wherever. I live in Los Angeles, and bad experience with Mexico, but that could have been just because it was just shy of San Diego. I am a fan of people, but cuisine, and sites would be more inticing.

A:

how about Rome? checks all 3 of those boxes :-)


Q:

So what would be a starting zone to get there. Passport of course, but i mean what credit cards should i be looking at to accumulate miles and then what season should i start looking to go for better fares. Also am i looking for layovers or is there nonstops that could be cheaper. Not looking to go tomorrow but within the next few years would be nice. Lets say im starting with negative 200 dollars, as i just bought my passport :)

A:

if i were in your shoes, i would get the American Airlines credit card with a 50k signup bonus. it only costs 40k miles roundtrip anywhere to Europe if you depart between Oct. 15 and May 15.

if you want to pay for a flight, there's no quick answer on layovers vs. nonstops. i'd just search for whatever's cheapest and then take it. you don't search any differently whether it's a layover or nonstop


Q:

On average are these cheap flights just one off/last minute situations or would a person be able to book a vacation for a specific date and be pretty confident that one of these deals would appear?

A:

almost never are they last-minute deals. that's partly because last-minute deals rarely exist anymore. they used to, but nowadays airlines actually jack up prices in the final week because they're trying to squeeze more money out of business travelers.

it's hard to ever predict with certainty where/when a deal will pop up, but you can be confident some good deals will emerge and you'll be able to book them for down the road. for example, a deal i sent this morning for $565 roundtrip from NYC to South Africa & Europe was able to be booked anytime throughout 2016.


Q:

Can you help me find a deal from New york/richmond/dc to Japan in May??

A:

here's one from NYC to Tokyo May 3 through 15 for $688 roundtrip.

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=JFK,EWR,LGA;t=KIX,TYO;d=2016-05-03;r=2016-05-15;sel=JFKPVG0MU588-PVGNRT2MU523,NRTPVG0MU524-PVGJFK0MU297

far better than the usual price of around $900


Q:

Good deal but looking to stay longer. Are these deals usually contigent on specific days?

A:

looks like you could stay all the way to the 23rd

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=JFK,EWR,LGA;t=KIX,TYO;d=2016-05-03;r=2016-05-23;sel=JFKPVG0MU588-PVGNRT2MU523,NRTPVG0MU524-PVGJFK0MU297

yeah, only available on certain days. if you click the calendar it'll show you price previews


Q:

I just booked me and my husband two round trip tickets to Greece for about ~650. Going in April leaving from Iah. Was this a good deal?

A:

yep! i'd estimate that fare would typically cost north of $800 per person, so i'd say you did well :-) have a blast!


Q:

So, my local airport is tiny and thus flights in and out always seem to be incredibly expensive. Any tips in navigating this? There are larger airports 2.5 hours and 4 hours away but I am reticent to add that much travel time to an already long day of flying, and it seems as though there isn't that big of a difference anyway.

A:

what's the airport?


Q:

LIT. (Little rock, Arkansas)

Edit: we mostly fly to and from RDU or CLT as we are originally from NC, though we do a bit of international and west coast travel as well.

A:

i'd highly recommend trying to get into frequent flyer miles if i were you. it'll cost the same number of miles to fly from LIT to Europe, for example, as it would from CLT to Europe


Q:

I have to go to MSP to IAH , leaving on Jan 30, back on the night of Feb 4. I searched a lot, price for two way seemed similar to taking two different one way flights. So i booked one way flight from MSP to IAH for Jan 30 thining i will look into cheaper return flights when i get some time later on. I need to book a flight from IAH to MSP for Feb 4 , time after 3 pm. Is this someething you could help me with ? : IAH -> MSP day : Feb 4 Time : after 3 PM

Thanks

A:

you might be in luck. so the best fare the search engines will tell you for that one-way is $174. yikes.

if you can leave at 1:52pm on Feb. 4, or a 6am flight on Feb. 5, you can get it via hidden-city ticketing for $94

https://skiplagged.com/flights/IAH/MSP/2016-02-05

if you want that option, make sure to read a bit about hidden city ticketing first and how it works. plus you can't check a bag on the return, only carry-ons


Q:

Thanks much !! :)

A:

:-)


Q:

Roundtrip flights from Los Angeles to Orlando, anytime from early June to mid August, @1 week between arrival and departure?

A:

best bet looks like $209 roundtrip on Frontier in early/mid June. dates have some flexibility. be aware that Frontier has bag fees

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=LAX;t=MCO;d=2016-06-07;r=2016-06-14;sel=LAXMCO0F91632,MCOLAX0F91631


Q:

It's always been my dream since I've picked up German to visit Germany but I've never found anything under $1200 for a flight from Louisiana to Germany. Not sure what I'm doing wrong. Any idea for this route?

Edit: I have to specific time frame, but I am a Uni student, so I follow the standard schedule, if that helps any


Q:

This almost sounds too good to be true, thank you very much for doing this, any chance you can help me find something from amsterdam (or anywhere in or near the netherlands) to buenos aires? Preferably in april for a month?


Q:

Thank you! That's amazing, yeah, I'm a Brazilian, living in Europe, with friends in Argentina, I'd love to fly around more, visit my family in Brazil, but exactly, the trickiness of finding cheap flights is holding me back

A:

i hear you. flights to Brazil from the US at least have been getting a lot cheaper lately, if it's any condolence. but Buenos Aires can still be pretty tough


Q:

Hi there! I live in Wichita, KS, and I always have trouble finding cheap flights. Do you have any tips for the layperson on how to search? The main places I'm interested in are Raleigh, NC, Anchorage, AK, and Bogota, Colombia. Thank you!

A:

yeah wichita is a tough place to get cheap flights from, unfortunately. the main thing I'd recommend is getting into frequent flyer miles. it costs the same number of miles to fly from Wichita to Bogota as it would to fly from NYC or LAX to Bogota.


Q:

Would you have any advice booking a trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas? The dates I was looking at were 06/09-06/12. Thanks

A:

if you can make it 6/8 through 6/11 the price drops from $261 to $93

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=SFO;t=LAS;d=2016-06-08;r=2016-06-11


Q:

Hi! I recently moved near Charlotte, NC and am in a long distance relationship. My gf lives in Tampa, FL and we are having trouble with the whole "not seeing each other" thing.

I think if we could find cheap flights staying for a few days at a time, we would both be much happier. I wouldn't mind popping down for a few days every few weeks, etc. My schedule is totally of my making, but the budget is super tight. Any ideas?

A:

totally sympathize. i was in mexico while my lady was in connecticut. not easy!

sounds like you're in a good position in terms of being flexible about when you visit.

have you looked into frequent flyer miles at all? without getting too bogged down in the details, your situation is basically perfect to be using British Airways miles. it'd cost between 9,000 and 15,000 miles roundtrip to go from CLT to TPA, and you can get a credit card from them with a signup bonus of 50k!


Q:

Hey there! Planning a trip to Atlanta to Boston for two weeks in March. Dates are flexible, but the beginning of the month is better. Any flights? Thanks!

A:

this $167 spirit flight (dates can be changed) looks like your best bet

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=ATL;t=BOS;d=2016-03-02;r=2016-03-16;sel=ATLBOS0NK163,BOSATL0NK146

you can save $10 if you book two one-ways and book the return on Skiplagged

https://skiplagged.com/flights/BOS/ATL/2016-03-16

just be sure you know the rules regarding hidden city ticketing first!


Q:

I'd like something this summer from Houston to someplace with a beach and some all inclusive resorts?

Stupid auto mod.

A:

haha that automod has been hyperactive today. annoying.

any timeframe you're thinking about?


Q:

This summer

A:

length?


Q:

I have a girlfriend in Toronto and I live in San Diego. I'm planning on moving out there in about a year, but of course want to still see her semi-regularly in the meantime without spending too much. Is there anything better than just buying my tickets in advance and going to Kitchener instead? I would take other forms of travel if they're cheaper, I just haven't found one yet.

A:

looks like in March and April flights are cheaper if you fly to Buffalo and then roadtrip over (if that's a possibility) i'd be sure to always search for flights leaving LA area as well.

looks like you can save ~$100 if you do hidden city ticketing

https://skiplagged.com/flights/SAN/YYZ/2016-03-22/2016-03-29

if you're not familiar, be sure to read up on it beforehand so you know the rules


Q:

Looking for SMF to SJU for 8-10 days that includes 7/1-6. Any advice for finding this cheap?

A:

found it at $394, about $50 to $100 better than i'd normally expect for peak summer travel from west coast to the caribbean

https://www.google.com/flights/#search;f=SMF;t=SJU;d=2016-07-02;r=2016-07-11;sel=SMFCLT0AA475-CLTSJU1AA783,SJUMIA0AA287-MIACLT0AA856-CLTSMF0AA494