Google Flights is a search engine specifically designed to help you navigate the wonderful (and complicated) world of online airfare ticket purchases. There are lots of tools on Google Flights that are designed to get you the best deals, and they will do all the legwork for you so you don’t have to. This article will highlight all these features so you can be sure you're maximizing your ability to find the lowest cost flight.
A Couple Tips To Start.
Don't have a set destination or itinerary. If you let your destination pick you versus you choosing your destination, you’ll get a lot more out of this search engine. Call me a nerd all you want, but I always liken it to the Harry Potter world in which the wand chooses the wizard, instead of the wizard choosing their wand. Letting Google find the best location for you based on the dates you want to go or the price you’ve set for yourself is the best route to getting the lowest cost flight.
Flexibility is key. Whether this be with destinations, travel dates, or what airline you fly, you're going to get the best deals if you aren't locked into a set plan.
Ready To Get Started?
Let's say your dates are flexible and you don’t really have a set destination in mind. Start by going to Google Flights and select the Explore Map option.
Explore the map. From here, you can select your home airport, and the dates you want to travel. I popped in random dates about a month from now. From here you have three options, you can select a destination airport (how boring!), drag your mouse around the map to see what price points look like all over the globe, or you can hit my favorite button: “I’m feeling lucky.”
Feeling Lucky? Did you choose option 3? You can click this button as many times as you want and it will show you different destinations flying out of your home airport. I clicked it a couple times to see what I could find, and voila! I just found a roundtrip ticket from San Diego to Denver for $87 non-stop roundtrip flight through Spirit Air. Ok, so not all of your will want to travel via a discount no-frills airline like Spirit. But for a little over a $100 after paying for baggage fees, this deal isn't half bad!
Browse for deals. If you’re just doing some preliminary flight research, you may want to just click around the map and explore different prices around the world. Experiment with different dates and you’ll see how the prices change month to month.
Discover Destinations. Under Discover Destinations, you can select where you want to travel to. Discover destinations will pop up on your search if you haven't selected a destination on the search bar. Options include North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. You can also select the month of travel if you don’t have specific dates set. You can also set the length of your trip whether it be a weekend trip, one week or two weeks. If you have a particular travel interest (e.g. food, beaches, etc.) you can also add that to your search.
Use tools to set your travel parameters. Want to get more specific with your search? You can set additional parameters on the Explore Map function. These include the amount of stops, price, airline, times of flight, interests, duration, and separate tickets (the newest feature).
- Stops - Choose from nonstop, up to 1 stop, up to 2 stops, or any amount.
- Price - You can search for flights under $50, $100, $150, $200 or any amount.
- Airline - Search for flights that allow you to redeem your airline rewards miles. The partners include Oneworld, SkyTeam, Star Alliance.
- Times - Choose your outbound time and return time.
- Interests - This is perfect for you Venuelusters out there that have a type of destination you want to go to but need to narrow it down. Choices include adventure travel, beaches, culture, ecotourism, food, honeymoon, islands, nature, outdoor recreation, shopping, wildlife, and winter sports.
- Duration - How long can you handle traveling for before you burst? You can select the number of hours up to 29 hours and 30 minutes or any amount of hours if you’re open to it. If you do allow for a longer travel time and have a hefty layover, you may have a few hours to kill which you can explore that city before heading back to the airport.
- Separate Tickets - This is a new feature. You can choose from showing separate ticket options or hiding them. This will allow you to book airfare using different ticketing sites. For example, you can book one flight using the airline directly and the other using a third party site. One of the coolest new features on Google Flights is they now include train travel for a European destination. Hopping on a train after a flight may actually save you some money (or time - depending on the layover).
Use the 3 date search filters: Set dates, flexible grid dates, or price graph. Instead of searching by specific dates, you can also search by the flexible dates grid or a price graph. Here are some searches I did using LAX as my starting point and Shanghai, China as my destination. Using these tools I can see that traveling for a week in October can save me hundreds of dollars instead of traveling there this summer. Drag the tool on the price graph to see what a 7-day trip would cost during different months this year to see the difference!
Check for Google Flight suggestions. When you have selected your destination and dates, you'll be given a list of flights. Google Flights will automatically tell you if there is another way to save you money to get you to that destination. For example, my home airport is San Diego, but when I search for flights abroad, it will notify me how much I can save if I fly out of a nearby airport (e.g. Los Angeles). It will also let me know that I can save money by flying out one day earlier or later. You'll see their suggestions just above the list of outbound flights available on your departure date.
Save and share your work! When you’ve found a flight you like, select your date of departure and return and scroll to the bottom of the page. You can save your itinerary by clicking “Save This Itinerary.” You can go back to this as often as you’d like to track any changes in pricing. Save as many itineraries as you’d like! If you’re planning far in advance you can use this tracker to see how the prices change by airport, dates, time, etc. when you save multiple itineraries.
You can also set up alerts using Google Now, which will notify you of any price changes. Google Now is available on the Google App on both Android and iOS. You can also share your itinerary via email, facebook, twitter, or Google+.
Another great Google Flight feature is that it notifies you if you need to obtain a visa or other important travel information. It also includes a link to the CDC for traveler health information about the country you are visiting. The page includes a list of vaccines that you need prior to your trip, packing suggestions, health notices, etc.
When you are ready to book your flight, click on one of the links provided to either go directly to the airline’s website, a third party site or call the airline to get the advertised price. That’s it!
Related Article To Help You Save On Flights:
Do you have any pro tips for other Venuelusters?
Tell us how you use Google Flights to get the best travel deals.
Let us know what the best deal you’ve found through the site!