Lonely Planet Writer

How a Washington DC journalist unintentionally became the internet’s budget travel guru

A non stop flight from San Francisco to Bali for less than $300? It sounds impossible, but Scott Keyes finds deals like this for thousands of subscribers around the world every day.

Scott Keyes on his travels.
Scott Keyes on his travels. Image by Scott Keyes

Currently living in Portland, Oregon, 30-year-old Keyes decided to start the email newsletter service when the travel aspect of his job began to overtake the work itself. “I worked for years as a journalist in Washington DC. Travel was a major part of that job, and the frequent flyer miles I was earning prompted me not only to figure out how to get the most value from them, but also devise other travel hacks,” Keyes told Lonely Planet News.

In 2013, putting his newly acquired insight and investigative journalism skills into action Keyes found one of the best deals of his life: a nonstop flight from New York to Milan for $130 roundtrip. Not only did he save a serious buck, the experience ended up motivating his venture: “word spread about the deal I’d gotten and friend after friend came up to ask if I’d let them know next time a deal like that popped up. Instead of trying to remember who I had to alert, I decided to create an email list that anyone could join so I could let everyone know at once.”

Keyes, who has travelled to 47 countries and amassed millions of frequent flyer miles, has also penned the books ‘How To Fly For Free’ and ‘How To Find Cheap Flights’. When the business took off and it came time to expand the team, Keyes bravely enlisted the help of those in other countries that he had never met. There are now 21 people on the team spread across ten countries, many of whom have never met face to face.  Next on Keye’s agenda is a trip to Socotra, a Yemeni island with trees and vegetation that he describes as an “alien world”. With so much travel experience under his belt, he certainly has the essential ingredients for the perfect trip fine-tuned.

In his eyes, it comes down to “amazing food, a good travel buddy, a willingness to try new things, whether it’s activities, adventures, foods, or interacting with people when you don’t share a common language. No more than seven days worth of clothes, even if you’re gone for more than a week, and my computer and iPad so I can search for cheap flights while on the road.” But at the end of the day, Keyes believes it is all about a “Goldilocks amount of planning” – or in layman’s terms, not too little, not too much. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights here.