Travelling is the thing I enjoy most in life; my second favourite thing is saving money and when I can combine the two, I am one happy guy!

Over the years I’ve become a budget savvy traveller, but before you can begin to save money, you need to do some research.  Using Skyscanner, I was able to find the perfect route for our upcoming vacation, and we even saved $1,450 in the process.

It’s not like Skyscanner offers lower prices on flight tickets; it’s the information they show that I’m most interested in.  Unlike Kayak and Expedia, Skyscanner lists all carriers including discount airlines. This information makes trip planning on a budget much easier.

What are discount airlines in Europe like?

Discount airlines are very popular in Europe and it’s common to find one-way fares for under $100.  I once flew from Amsterdam to Dublin for $45, which was less than the cost of my cab ride home from Pearson International Airport in Toronto.

Unsurprisingly, some people are shocked at how cheap these fares are and they joke that the planes must be held together by tape.  I assure you these planes are very safe.  People falsely assume that these flights are often delayed or don’t show up at all, but in my experience, I haven’t noticed any delays outside of the norm. Regardless which airline you fly with, trip interruption insurance can provide you with peace of mind in the event of any delays or cancellations.

Identifying your trip priorities

Cheap fares are great, but before you even get to that point you need to identify your trip priorities.  In our case, Amsterdam, Brussels and Istanbul were at the top of our list, but with sixteen days total there was plenty of time to add another location.

how to save money on flights

We started to consider London, Copenhagen, Budapest, and Athens as secondary choices.  Yes, those locations are all over the map, but it’s pretty easy and cheap to travel around Europe.  However, not every route is possible or affordable which is why you need to keep your options open.

how to find cheap flights

Being flexible is key for budget travellers

When deciding where to vacation, I always advise flexibility and avoiding getting your heart set on certain destinations.  If this happens, you’ll probably throw all logic out the window to make your “dream vacation” come true.  Consequently, your budget gets blown.  It’s not just the money; don’t forget about your time.  Wasting 3 days in transit just to see that dream site is not a good use of your time.

how to find cheap flights

Using Google Flights, I searched every route possible and figured out that flying into Istanbul and out of Brussels was the best route.  It was a logical choice; by flying to the most eastern destination first we would gain time as we made our way west in Europe, plus there would be less of a time shift when we returned home.  It wasn’t the cheapest flight available, but it offered the best times, and time is money.

With the long haul flights picked, we just needed to book the internal flights and this is where I was able to find the huge savings.

Do your research when trip planning

I started searching all of our secondary locations through and found a flight to Budapest from Istanbul for $100.  I love Europe and their discount carriers, but this ridiculously low price was meaningless if I couldn’t find a flight to Amsterdam, so I had to investigate some more.

Would I be able to fly to Amsterdam from Budapest and how much would it cost?

How to find cheap flights
How to find cheap flights

I couldn’t believe it, $800 to fly from Budapest to Amsterdam?  There’s no way I would pay that. I’ve flown to Europe from Toronto for cheaper than $800.  I guess that means Budapest was out of the question, right?  Not at all, the budget traveller in me knows there are always more options.

I thought about taking a train to Amsterdam but that really wasn’t an option due to distance and time.  I also played with the idea of visiting another city after Budapest and flying out from there, but that would present its own set of problems.  Then it hit me—I just needed to get close to Amsterdam and I could figure it out from there, so I did a quick search for neighbouring airports.

how to find cheap flights in europe
how to find cheap flights in europe

What a deal!  $450 instant savings by flying to Eindhoven, I could save another $200 if I took the 6am flight for a total savings of $725.  It’s actually a $1,450 savings since I was travelling with my wife.

Wait, where’s Eindhoven?

Ha, I kid, I knew it was in the Netherlands, and even if I didn’t know Google Maps would’ve told me.  Remember how I said research is the best way to save?  A quick search revealed that it was roughly 90 minutes from Eindhoven to Amsterdam which was a reasonable distance.  I even found out that I could book a shuttle directly from Eindhoven airport to Amsterdam Centraal station for just $30.  Another deal!

So was the inconvenience of waking up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight to a neighbouring city, and then sitting on a bus worth it?  Considering we figured out a route that hit all our preferred destinations: yes, it was.  The money saved was just too good to ignore.

Barry Choi is a budget travel and personal finance expert. You can visit his blog at

Money We Have Twitter Barry Choi Google Plus - Barry Choi Image Map
Find related articles on travel

How I Saved $1,450 on Airline Tickets

Jun 26 2014