There are many travel sites on the internet that can help you find cheap airfare, but one of them is clearly better than the rest: Google Flights.
The popular website features several customizable tools that help you track and find airfare deals tailored to your needs.
Since Flights launched in 2011, Google has made gradual improvements to its site design, algorithm and its features. Instead of being just a place you go to see airfare prices, Google Flights is now fully integrated into Google Travel to give travelers a one-stop shop for trip planning.
In this article, I’m going to show you some easy ways to save money using Google Flights to book your next trip. I’ll go over how to track prices and how to use the maps tool to find cheap flights and compare prices. Consider this your guide to all things Google Flights!
How To Use Google Flights To Track Cheap Flights and Compare Prices
Clark.com travel expert Clara Bosonetto is a big fan of Google Flights’ ability to save you money when you travel.
“Google Flights should be the first website to visit to search domestic and international airfares before you jump over to a specific airline to book a flight,” Clara says. “With its many filters, it’s the best site to use when you must fly on a specific airline, must have a nonstop flight, you have a multiple city trip (flying into one city and out of another) or you want to book one-way travel.”
Google Flights: How To Use It
How To Find Lower Fares With Google Flights Search
Google Flights works best as an airfare search and research tool. Go to google.com/travel/flights and you’ll see a simple interface that lets you plug in your departure and arrival city information as well as your desired travel dates. The calendar lets you see the lowest price available on each date, and it’s easy to manipulate the calendar to see if there’s a lower price a few days away from your first choices.
Now let’s get into how you can bring your airline ticket costs down even further when searching for a flight.
One of the simplest ways to get the most out of Google Flights is to take advantage of the many filters it offers. Here are some of the best filters you can use:
- Stops: Search itineraries based on the number of layovers.
- Airlines: Select only the carriers you’d like to fly.
- Bags: Select your carry-on and checked bag requirements so y’oull be able to calculate baggage fees.
- Price: Set fare limits in line with your budget
- Times: Learn the best time to book your flight.
Clark’s #1 cheap travel rule is to find a destination on sale, then find a reason to go. That’s sort of the rationale of the next way to save money on Google Flights. Here’s how to do it:
If you type in your departure city but leave the “Where to?” box blank and hit SEARCH, a map will appear. This map will show you the price of airfare from your departure city to several cities across the United States. And if you take your cursor and move (or minimize) the map, you’ll see airfares for destinations all over the world.
This is a great way to find cheap airfares as well as new destinations for a vacation!
Now let’s say you’ve picked a place you want to visit based on the map suggestions. Once you click on a flight and it shows you the airfare, it’s time to compare prices.
For example, let’s say you’re searching Honolulu, Hawaii, prices. To see price comparisons of airfare, click on “Date Grid.” This will pull up a calendar view. You’ll see prices based on which day of the week you choose to fly.
Prices in green are among the cheapest for that week, while red indicates the most expensive prices. If you have travel flexibility, click on the green to save!
Once you select your departure and arrival dates, you’re all set. Now it’s time to monitor the fares via price tracking.
When you toggle on the “Track Prices” button (you must be signed in to your Google account), Google will send you weekly airfare alerts if the price drops.
This means that, without having to do any more research, Google will help you find the cheapest prices for the selected flight route you chose. You can also view all the prices you’re tracking on one page.
If the price drops within your budget, it’s time to buy! Google Flights will show you a “Select” button that forwards you to the appropriate airline’s website, where you can book. If the “Book on Google” button is available, you can book right then and there.
Use the Price Graph
If you’ve got some flexibility, take a look at the price graph to see which time of the year has the best fares. The bar graph gives you a great visual representation.
Don’t forget to use a travel credit card that helps you save even more money by giving you cash back or some other perk. For example, the Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature card gives you 2% back on all your purchases.
Pros and Cons
Google Flights gives you the functionality to compare routes, prices, times, airlines, and more all in one place. But it’s not perfect.
The site shows you flights from most of the major carriers but not all of them. You can’t find Southwest Airlines fares on Google Flights. Some budget airlines like Ryanair and Allegiant Air are also excluded from the site.
Here are some pros and cons I’ve found about Google Flights.
|The site shows you whether prices for a flight route are high, low or typical.||The site doesn’t include all airlines. Southwest is the most notable omission.|
|The sync with Google Travel includes insights on hotel prices and things to do in your destination city.||You have to be logged on to Google to get the site’s full benefits.|
|You can opt to get alerts that will tell you if your chosen flight's price goes down. ||You can't book your flight directly on the site.|
At least for me, the key to a successful Google Flights search is to continue to dive deeper into the tool to explore your options. The initial fares that pop up may not always be the best routes or the airlines you want, so take full advantage of the filters.
And don’t forget to turn on price tracking, which will tell you when flights get cheaper.
Of course, there’s more to booking a getaway vacation than knowing how to navigate Google Flights. For the ins and outs of how to prepare for your trip, check out Clark Howard’s travel booking and planning guide.