Tuesday, 30 September 2008

#29 – Top travel writer resources: Skyscanner

Or where to look first for cheap flights.

Travel writer freebies
As a travel writer, it is often possible to get a lot of freebies – hotel rooms, restaurant meals, excursions, even the odd airport transfer. But one thing that I’ve always found it hard to blag is the air fare.

Flight costs
Take a lot of flights (which, almost inevitably, any full time travel writer will do), and the costs can ramp up massively.And if you’re going to end up paying for all those flights, then you may as well find the cheapest, cutting your costs as much as possible.

There are various ways to do this, but one that I find consistently good is Skyscanner. In fact, at times in the past, I have been worried that I may be getting slightly addicted to it.The site certainly has its faults – especially since a recent redesign which has seen an irritating amount of complete inaccuracies creep in – but for cheap flights on budget airlines, it’s hard to beat.

Budget airlines missed by most search engines
Skyscanner tends to cover the airlines that most search engines miss – the likes of Ryanair, Easyjet, Tiger and Jazeera Airways – as well as some downright obscure low cost carriers that only fly a few routes.The real beauty is that you don’t have to give it much information. One of the irritating things about other engines is that you usually have to put dates in and say which airport you want to fly from.

Getting the best deal
Personally, I just want the best deal. For me, there are four or five airports which are roughly as easy as each other to get to – I’ll generally fly from whichever is cheapest and has the most sensible flight times.I’m also very flexible on dates – I’m freelance and I don’t have a nine-to-five job to go to. I don’t need to book leave, so I’ll book for whenever the flights are cheapest.

Date and departure options
With Skyscanner, you don’t need to faff around, constantly tweaking the date and departure options in order to get results. If you want to, you can just put the departure airport as ‘United Kingdom’ and leave the rest open. It’ll come up with every country that can be directly flown to from the United Kingdom, listed by the lowest possible price throughout the year.

Booking on a whim
Obviously, you can narrow these options down if you’re wanting to go somewhere specific in a certain month, but part of the beauty is seeing what options are available. In the past, I’ve just booked to go somewhere on a whim through Skyscanner, purely because I’ve never been there before, it’s cheap and I may as well.

Starting point
It’s not a failsafe tool – as I say, they have really messed the redesign and expansion of the site up – but it’s a great starting point if you’re looking for flight options.

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