How to Use Google Flights to Save Money on Airfare

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How to save money on Google Flights
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THE LATEST:

Google Flights will now show you a pop-up if flying from a nearby airport or changing your dates would be cheaper. See the details below.


If you’re not using Google Flights to track and find cheap airfare, you’re missing an enormous opportunity to save money.

Google Flights has several features that make it one of the best travel booking sites to find great deals. In fact, Clark.com travel expert Clara Bosonetto is a big fan of Google Flights.

“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.”

How to Use Google Flights to Track, Map Cheap Flights and Compare Prices

In this article, we’re going to show you some easy ways to save money on Google Flights by going over how to track prices, use the maps tool to find cheap flights and compare prices.

Google Flights

Since Flights launched in 2011, Google has made gradual improvements to its site design as well as its algorithm. Instead of being just a place you go to see airfare prices, Google Flights is morphing into a one-stop shop for all things travel.

New Features

The site now has some of the best online travel tools for fliers looking to book a getaway. Here are some of the new features on Google Flights:

  • Nearby airports & change dates pop-up: Google will now show you a pop-up of a nearby airport if it’s cheaper. They’ll also alert you when you should change dates for a cheaper airfare. Google Flight users have had the functionality to change flights and nearby airports for a while now, but the pop-ups are new. Here’s what those look like:
    How to save money with Google Flights: Pop-ups new
  • Trip planning: Google.com/Travel combines your flight information with hotel information and suggested things to do and where to eat.
  • Price insights on most trips: Once you choose a trip, Google Flights will show if what you’re paying for airfare is high, low or typical.
  • Added map functionality: Now you can access your flight and hotel reservations via Google Maps, so it’s all in one place when you arrive at your destination.

There are more features to know, and we will highlight them as we get deeper into Google Flights. Now let’s talk about how the site can save you money on airfare.

How to Use Google Flights to Save Money

As you probably know, all sites that advertise cheap airfare aren’t always the cheapest. That’s where Google Flights can help.

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The resource 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 are also excluded from the site.

But don’t worry: Google Flights allows you to search plenty of airlines to take you all over the world. Clara has expert advice for finding the best deals on Google Flights:

“My tip: Frequently hit the RESET button to the left of the date entry boxes. Even when you do see a great fare, hit RESET again. The calendar may adjust with an even lower fare.”

Now let’s get into how you can bring your airline ticket costs down when searching for a flight route.

Track Prices

How to save money on Google Flights by using the "track prices" tool

Sign up for “Track Prices” on Google Flights to save big money on airfare. When you toggle that button (you must be signed into your Google account), Google will send you weekly airfare alerts if the price drops.

This means that without having to do any more strenuous 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.

Explore Maps

How to save money on Google Flights by using the explore map feature

To take advantage of this next feature, you’ll need to be on a desktop — not your cell phone.

Money expert Clark Howard’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 our 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, a map will appear. This map will show you the price of airfare from your originating city you selected to several cities across the United States.

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This is a great way to find cheap airfare as well as new destinations for a vacation!

Price Compare

How to save money with Google Flights by using date grid calendar view

Price comparisons used to be the domain of travel agents, but Google Flights makes it simple: To see price comparisons of airfare, you have to enter in your departing and arrival city and the dates.

Click on “Date Grid” and this will pull up a calendar view. This will show you price fluctuations based on which day of the week you choose to fly.

Prices in green are among the cheapest for that week, while red prices indicate the most expensive airfare.

Conclusion

The awesome thing about Google Flights is that if gives you the functionality to compare routes, prices, times, airlines, and more all in one place. But it’s not perfect: Here are three things that Google Flight won’t do:

  • Unlike some sites, Google Flights won’t make a habit of showing you mistake fares
  • As we mentioned, some cheap flights won’t be included because the site doesn’t index all airlines
  • Also, those with privacy hangups might not like the fact that you have to be logged onto Google to get the site’s full benefits

And finally — and this is a big one for many people — since it’s a flights search engine and not an online travel agency, Google Flights doesn’t let you book airfare directly on its site. Rather, you can book directly with the airlines through Google Flights.

Bottom line: Google Flights works best as an airfare search and research tool. Once you fill in your travel dates and choose your flight, it will show you a “Select” button that forwards you to the appropriate airline’s website, where you can book.

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 & planning guide.

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