Type these words into Google “cheap flights“, you’ll get 27 million results!  If you have a lifetime to spare, follow them. If you don’t, follow this step-by-step guide instead.

Everyone wants cheap flights

There is no guarantee it’ll get the absolute cheapest deal in every case (anyone who does is lying), but it’ll get pretty close, and take only a couple of minutes. Which leaves you with a lot of life to enjoy, wherever it is you’re going.

What you need

An internet link, a vague idea of where you want to go, and a rough time frame of when (to the nearest month is fine). Nothing more precise than that — the more flexible you are, the better. Now, log on, and…

Skip the travel agents

The likes of Lastminute.com, Ebookers.com and Expedia.co.uk are agents: they have agreements with a number of airlines to resell their flights. Nothing wrong with that, and they have their uses (see point 5), but they’re not the place to start looking for cheap flights, simply because they rarely have as big a range of flights as…

Cheap flights from the screenscrapers

The name’s fancy, the technology’s fiendish, but what they do is simple: screenscraper websites don’t sell you anything directly, but search around lots of airlines looking for the cheapest fares and then present them to you in a list. They’re all improving constantly, but various travel writers agree that one of the best right now is Skyscanner.net.

Four reasons:

  • it’s lightning-fast
  • it’s easy to use
  • it searches 600-plus airlines, with all the cheapies, including charters and Ryanair
  • and it has some brilliant gizmos.

You can search all prices across a day, a month or a year, and, if you’re not sure which is the best airport for your destination, the map view shows all the options.

Check out the competition for cheap flights

Sorry, but it’s a must. When you’ve found the flight you fancy, check the price against at least two other screenscrapers. Try Kayak — a close second to Skyscanner — and Kelkoo.  Get the best, book and you’re done. Unless…

Need a hotel too?

If you do, it’s well worth looking at an agent (see above). They negotiate cut-price deals for flights and hotels booked together, which could be cheaper than booking separately.  This can apply to flights and hotels included in package holidays.