Whether or not you subscribe to Kayak or use its booking engine, the website—and the planning tools embedded therein—are something everyone can use for free. This includes a highly useful feature called Kayak Direct, launched back in 2011 as a hackathon project among the Kayak product team but has since remained a well-kept secret among travel planners and travel geeks.
A useful instrument for determining destinations that can be reached via nonstop flights from your home or desired airport (big and small), Kayak Direct also tells you which airlines can get you there and the cheapest dates to reach a desired destination (if you have flexibility).
We’ve written in the past about using Wikipedia and Google Flights as top resources for travel planning. Kayak Direct is another, lesser-known asset for plotting your next trip. Here’s how to take full advantage of it.
Discovering nonstop destinations and the time and distance to get there
Kayak Direct makes it easy to see all the nonstop destinations available from a specific airport via commercial aircraft. The landing page will automatically populate with options from the airport closest to you (based on your computer or phone’s GPS). But simply type in a different airport in the first available field, choose your optimal month for travel, click the search button, and voila: You’ll see all the places available via nonstop flights.
The resulting information is well organized and easy to digest. Options are listed in order of distance (and time from your home airport). For example, I’d like to explore possibilities for getaways in June 2023 from my home airport, Fort Lauderdale (FLL). Given all the issues with travel these days, I don’t want anything but a nonstop flight. I enter this information into the appropriate fields and see that I can hop on something as short as a 45-minute, 60-mile flight to Bimini in the Bahamas.
At the other end of the spectrum, I can go all the way to Oslo, Norway, 4,708 miles away on a single flight from Fort Lauderdale. (Note: All destinations between Bimini and Oslo have not been listed in the name of brevity.)
When and how to get to your destination
On the right-hand side of the populated information, you’ll see a list of the airlines that can possibly reach each destination. If you click on the expansion arrow, you can see more details on flight schedules. Just because an airline icon is listed doesn’t mean the airline flies to the destination. The icons are simply showing the airlines through which you can book flights thanks to code-share arrangements.
Resorting to our previous example of Fort Lauderdale to Bimini, we see from the schedule that identical flights are sold by JetBlue, Silver Airways, and United. (If and when you reach the point of booking, you’ll discover it’s Silver Airways that operates the flight.) We also see that there’s no airlift between the two airports on Mondays and Tuesdays—there goes my idea of a long summer weekend in Bimini using a commercial aircraft!
Assessing options at any budget
On the same landing page, after entering your home or desired airport and ideal travel month and scrolling through the info, return to the top left-hand side and click “show routes on map” to explore pricing. This will reroute to another page with an interactive map that plots possible nonstop destinations and the cheapest round-trip flights there. You now have an option of filling in the field of a desired destination, which can be as general as anywhere, a continent, or a region. Then you can choose a date range or exact dates and the length of trip between 1 and 14+ days. You can further adjust your options by budget or flight duration.
Let’s clarify with another example. I am toying with the idea of going from Fort Lauderdale to the Caribbean for three to six days in May. I’m flexible with my dates but not my budget. I don’t want to spend more than $200 on a round-trip flight. I enter my info and slide the budget scale to $200 to reveal options that include Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and Key West (which isn’t really the Caribbean, but we appreciate that it appears as a viable alternative).
These destinations aren’t what I had in mind for my May trip. So, I slide the scale to $280 and see that now the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and the Bahamas have been added to the mix. From there, I click on the destinations to see which dates offer the best prices, and I’m on my way to Montego Bay in May for $226 round trip.
By understanding and using the power of Kayak Direct, you can figure out how to reach nonstop destinations in a cost-effective manner. This doesn’t substitute for our favorite travel duo, Wikipedia + Google Flights, but it’s a great supplement.