Itching to just grab your suitcase and fly somewhere? Don’t really care where as long as it’s cheap and gets you away from wherever you happen to be? Wondering where to start?
We’ve scored some fantastic deals using airfare search engines that let you type in your departure city (or country) and search for a list of cheap flights to virtually any destination in the world.
We found our last flight, a one way ticket from Cancun, Mexico to Madrid, Spain for $160 USD all in. We also just booked a one way flight from Istanbul, Turkey to Toronto, Canada for just $288 after taxes and fees. That’s less than your average local flight within Canada.
Sound interesting? In this post, we:
- Tell you how we find cheap flights to anywhere (and no, none of these companies paid us to write this post).
- Review the major flight search engines that allow you to search from a departure city (or country) without including any specific destination
Let’s start with what we think is the best search engine of the bunch for this: Skyscanner. To find cheap flights to everywhere from your destination, just leave the To field blank in your Skyscanner search.
Skyscanner lets you see up to a week, a month or even a year of fares at a time, which can save you a bundle if your dates are flexible. Skyscanner also lets you type in a country name to find cheap airfares from all cities in the country.
Free Apps: We use the Skyscanner iPhone app a lot as well. The app seems to have almost all of the features of the site, including the ability to search for flights to anywhere, and for a month’s worth at a time. It also features a cool interactive map that lists prices to cities around the globe. The apps are available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.
Note: The prices listed on Skyscanner are based on previous flight search data. When you click the link the initial prices might differ from the actual listed price. When you actually go to book, prices may change as well.
What we don’t like: Unfortunately, the Skyscanner site itself doesn’t let you see your results in a map. (Clicking the small map link above the To: Field on the search page doesn’t show your airfares on the map, but the map will let you zoom and draw specific routes, which you can then search, which is pretty cool in and of itself). Also, the prices you see aren’t always the final price you pay.
Our take: The best of the bunch. Skyscanner is easy to use, we’ve found that the fares it comes up with are generally accurate, and it even comes as a well designed app. Love it. It also makes a great tool to quickly find cheap alternative routes to your destination.
The Kayak Explore tool is made specifically for searching for flights to anywhere. To find flights, type your departure city and select your search options.
Kayak’s Explore tool lets you search for airfares for different seasons, making it a great tool for long term planning.
Results show up in a map. You can drag and zoom, making it easy to see airfares to different regions, or even for the entire world at once.
Kayak Explore has some fun search options, including searching for fights by weather, and by things to do (golf, gambling, and so on). You can even narrow down results by budget.
Note: The prices listed on the Kayak Explore map are based on flights bought on Kayak in the last 48 hours. When you actually go to book, prices may be different.
What we don’t like: One thing we don’t like is that Kayak Explore won’t let you see all flights from a specific country. Instead, you’re limited to searching from specific cities. We’re also not keen that the Explore tool only lists round trip fares, making it a bit harder to plan trips with multiple legs.
Our take. Very good. We love the map display of fares, and the fun search options, but don’t like that it only lists round trip fares, and that it won’t display the cheapest flights from a specific country.
Best of the Bunch
We use Skyscanner and Kayak Explore almost exclusively to search for flights from a specific destination to anywhere. That said, there are a couple of other flight search engines that do a similar job (though not nowhere near as well). We’ve included them here just for the sake of completeness.
Like Kayak Explore, FareCompare lets you search for fares to anywhere from a specific departure city.
The problem is that FareCompare only has a fraction of the functionality of Kayak Explore or Skyscanner.
What we don’t like: The huge limitation of FareCompare is that it only lets you search from departure airports in Canada and the USA. You can also only search from specific cities, as it won’t let you search to or from specific countries or regions. Once you select the airfare that interests you, finding that flight can be awkward as it opens a half dozen windows to other popular sites like Expedia.
Our take: Too limited and just another front end to more popular search sites
Whichbudget will let you search from a city or country to anywhere for the cheapest airfare. It also lets you search from a good range of international destinations, and was the only search engine that would let us specify Anywhere in the departure field, which is helpful if your departure city or country is flexible.
What we don’t like: Unfortunately, the results are a bit clunky, the text is hard to read, and you can’t sort the results to show the lowest price first.
Our take: It’s ugly too look at, with poor sorting of results, small text and worse than average results.
Airfarewatchdog is probably the most bare bones of all the search engines that let you find a flight to any destination. It will only let you search from a specific airport (not even a city, but a specific airport), and doesn’t offer useful filters (like one way or return).
What we don’t like: You can only search from cities in Canada and the US. On top of that, it keeps asking for your name and email to sign up and get your results.
Our take: Not bad for searches however only useful within the US and Canada. Might be good as an email watchdog if you’re wanting to go to specific place and are just waiting for a good deal.
Mobissimo’s Activity Search
The Mobissimo Activity Search lets you search for fares from a departure city to anywhere, based on the activities you choose. And no, it won’t let you search to or from entire countries. And yes, you must choose an activity to get it to work.
Unfortunately, the Mobissimo Activity Search just brings up a long list of places. You need to click on each location individually to bring up prices.
Our take: Fail. Unless you have countless hours to waste clicking through each link or just want some ideas of possible locations to check out don’t even bother.
To sum it up
Both Skyscanner and Kayak Explore are both helpful for getting a general idea of flight costs to different places around the world. If you’re flying out of Canada or the US and know exactly which airport your leaving from them you can check out the others.
However, once you’ve used any of them to pick out affordable destinations (and dates), it’s worth it to compare those flights to some of the budget airlines that don’t appear in a lot of search engines. You also need to compare hidden airline surcharges like baggage fees and specialty taxes.
Different airlines charge differently and a lot of these search tools don’t always factor those costs in. It might even be worth it to get actual human help from a company like Flightfox now that you have a decent baseline to compare it with.
You can also now compare those price to the ITA Matrix. This company was bought out by Google and is used as the backend for their Google Flights site. Both are great tools however they don’t include flights to anywhere options so weren’t included in this roundup.
For more tips on finding a great deal, check out our Six Quick Steps to Nailing the Cheapest Flight.
Did you like this article? We’re working on Part 2: Finding the Cheapest Flight to Anywhere: Advanced Travel Hacking. Sign up to get our new blog posts by email so you don’t miss it.