A team from the MIT Senseable City Laboratory in Singapore has developed a new web tool — called Escape — to help you determine where you should go on vacation.
Escape is a flight search site that shows you the cheapest flights available on any given date to locations all across the globe. Simply input your location and the date you'd like to travel, and Escape does the work for you.
How Escape works
Flight prices are color-coded: Green is the cheapest, yellow a bit more expensive, and red is the most expensive. For example, if you're departing from San Francisco and hoping to travel over Fourth of July weekend, the cheapest flight available when we checked was a $130 round-trip ticket to Los Angeles. International round-trip options included a $626 flight to Peru; an $855 flight to Manchester, England; and an $887 flight to Vietnam.
The Escape tool not only shows you the cheapest airfares, but it also allows you to filter locations based on weather and popularity. When we kept San Francisco as a departure point but set the weather input for a vacation spot that gets no colder than 70 degrees, suddenly Manchester disappeared and a $1,016 round-trip to Hungary popped up. Likewise, when we filtered by only "extremely" popular destinations, Los Angeles was replaced by a flight to Las Vegas.
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If you're trying to stay on a tight budget, you can input the limit of what you'd like to pay and Escape will apply that to its search. Let's say you remove the weather and popularity filters and cap your departure from San Francisco at $800. Escape says you're going to have a rough time finding a flight; the options displayed when we checked were a $130 flight to Los Angeles and a $626 flight to Peru.
Other ways to get away
Escape isn't the only web tool or app that can help satiate your wanderlust. Google just made some updates to Google Flights and Google Hotels that make it easier to score deals on a vacation. One big update: Google Flights made its price insight tool available at all times, not just during holiday periods. The price meter will show you if the airfare you've selected is low or high compared to average prices and indicate if the price is expected to decline or increase. As for Google Hotels, there's now a feature that allows you to find hotels selling rooms for cheaper than normal or for less than other nearby hotels.
One of the more clever cheap airfare websites is Skiplagged. This site works by finding what it calls "hidden city" routes, one in which you depart the plane at the layover airport instead of the final destination. Let's say you want to fly one-way from San Francisco to New York and you find a flight for $450. Skiplagged might find a flight from San Francisco to Florida, with a layover in New York, for only $250. You then book the San Francisco to Florida flight but exit the plane in New York. (Note that airlines' terms and conditions often prohibit this, but there's nothing stopping you from trying it anyway.)
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Another great option for finding cheap airfare is Hopper. The app analyzes trillions of airfares to show you the best day to book a flight. The company is confident, too. According to Hopper, it correctly predicts airfare pricing at a rate of 95 percent. Hopper also launched a hotel version in 2017, officially making the app a one-stop-shop for financial savvy travelers.
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Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: The best credit cards to use on discount travel sites NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards The top websites to use for travel deals