When you've got to get away: Here's how to find the cheapest flight to anywhere
Depending on the severity of your post-pandemic cabin fever, your agony to travel might cause you to become abnormally undiscriminating when choosing your next travel location. 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.
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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.
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. Search with the destination blank
The destination box says "Where to?" If you click on that box, you'll be presented with a list of broad destinations (like Europe, United States, etc.) Don't enter anything into the box -- just click "Search."
Step 3. Select dates
A map now appears with prices for flights from my home airport to various destinations around the U.S. Click on the dates located in the top left corner of the page. You'll see two tabs:
- Specific dates
- Flexible dates
Click "Flexible dates."
Step 4. Choose 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.
If you're searching for a round-trip flight, you must also choose between three trip lengths: Weekend, 1 week or 2 weeks. This is a bit restrictive, But if you search for one-way flights instead, you don't have to choose a trip length.
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-priced flights, and leave you with only the astoundingly cheap ones. As you can see, I'm able to fly from Cincinnati to Charleston, New York, Miami, Las Vegas and more for under $100 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 (hubs preferred)
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. Note that if you intend to book an international flight, you'll likely save money by searching from your nearest international hub airport. I personally like to search from international gateways near me, like Chicago. For example, you can find tons of round-trip coach flights to Europe for under $400!
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. You need only beware of low-cost carriers that charge exorbitant fees for things like carry-on bags and seat selection. If you can't travel light, you may end up paying more in fees than for your actual airfare. Here's Allegiant, a low-cost carrier offering an $84 round-trip to Key West. Carry-on bags cost a minimum of $20 each way, and checked bags cost a minimum of $35 each way.
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 Chase Ultimate Rewards 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 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.
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.