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Google Flights is one of the most powerful research tools when it comes to finding flight deals and can transform anyone into a world-class travel agent. The site sorts millions of data points in an easy-to-use platform that allows you to find the best deal possible in just a few clicks.
The great thing about Google Flights is the ability to search for great deals with no specific destination in mind. Do note that Google Flights, along with every other flight search engine, will not show prices for Southwest Airlines, Air China, China Eastern, Thai Airways, and Philippine Airlines. For these few airlines, you must go directly to the airline’s website to see routes and prices.
The first step, open flights.google.com. Here you’ll see the option to specify one-way vs round-trip, the number of passengers, the ticket class, departing and arriving airport, and the dates of travel. Let’s run through a few simple scenarios together to see just how powerful Google Flights is.
I want to fly from Orlando, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee, sometime this fall.
The key to starting this search is to put dates around the time I’m looking to travel this fall. I selected September 29 through October 9 for this example, but I’m not married to these dates. Once I select, “Search,” several additional filters will become available.
Google Flights will automatically list available routes in order from least expensive to most expensive. I’m going to specify one carry-on bag where the blue box is circled above, which will automatically update the results.
The cheapest option is Spirit Airlines for $421 round-trip. But remember when I said I wasn’t married to these dates? Here is where magic can happen. Underneath where we selected carry-on is a box, in green, that says, “Date grid.”
When I select “Date grid,” a pop-up will appear that lists out the cheapest dates to travel. Google Flights will automatically color code prices in the date grid. If I move my dates slightly, the ticket drops from $421 per person down to $185 per person, a savings of $236 per ticket. For a family of four, this adds up quickly! To see the specific flights available for $185, select the highlighted green tile and select, ‘OK.’
Next to the Date grid title is a box labeled, “Price graph.” This is essentially the same tool but can give you a bird’s eye view spanning several months.
From this graph, I see that changing my dates to September 21 through October 1 is another option priced at $185. These dates were not shown in the Date grid. Keep in mind that this graph will show prices for the same length of trip I originally searched for (10 days). If I would like to change the length of the trip, I can select the plus or minus button when I hover over one of the blue bars.
Now, this was a pretty simple search. There are several more filters available that will allow you to find the perfect flight, such as the number of layovers, price, departing and arriving time, and more! Let’s take a look at scenario 2 below.
I want to fly to Europe this Spring.
Here’s where Google Flights shows its versatility. I have no idea where I want to go in Europe so how do I find the best deal? Simple! In the search bar put, “Europe” as a destination. You can do this with any continent, country, or state.
The view that appears will be different; it will be a map of Europe. Let’s use the Price filter to help us narrow down the options.
Under the dates to the top left of the screen, click “Price,” and you’ll see a slider bar for the round-trip price. I’m going to slide this to the left until I hit $600. The map will automatically update with available routes at or under this budget.
Most of the map is grayed out, which is perfectly ok because I have four search results for round-trip flights under $600 – Dublin, Ireland for $582, London for $535, Oslo for $577, and Copenhagen for $593. Let’s click on “London,” and select, “View Flights.” This will bring us to the same view we saw in Scenario 1 with the list of available flights.
Now, what if we weren’t necessarily thinking of London? The secret is getting to Europe. Once you have that, it is incredibly cheap to hop to a different country in Europe than flying directly to a certain city.
I used the same map feature to search for flights from London to Europe. Using this feature, I found that a round-trip flight from London, UK to Milan, Italy is only $48 for my dates.
So, for our round-trip flight from Orlando, Florida to London, UK, we are at $535. Add the $48 round-trip flight from London, UK to Milan, Italy, and our total flight cost is $583.
Compare this to the cost of flying Orlando, Florida to Milan, Italy, shown below, which is $1,039 for our dates. A savings of $456 per person!
Another option once arriving in London would be to take one-way flights – a great strategy for those who like to move around a lot. Google Flights allows you to search for one-way flights and multi-city flights. The multi-city option is highlighted in yellow in the screenshot below.
You can fly your original Orlando, FL to London, UK round-trip flight, then fly:
London, UK to Milan, Italy
Zurich, Switzerland back to London, UK
This option gives you more freedom to move around Europe without needing to circle back to Milan, Italy. And, it’s budget-friendly at only $63! With our original US to UK round-trip flight at $535 plus this multi-city route at $63, our total flight cost is $598.
Not ready to book yet?
Google Flights also has a great tracking tool to let you keep on top of price changes. If you find dates and a destination, you can track prices for available flights or even specific flights if you find a route you like.
Circled in green, I can toggle “Track prices,” on for the specific dates in my search or by any dates. By selecting to track prices for my specific dates, Google Flights will send me a compiled list each morning of price changes. If prices have not changed, I will not receive an email. If I toggle, “Any dates,” on, Google Flights will send an email with prices for several date options.
To view all of my tracked prices, I can select the three lines located next to the Google logo at the top left of the webpage for the main menu. On this menu is “Tracked flight prices.” This will list every route that I am currently watching.
Add more than one departing or arriving airport.
In both the departing and arriving airport search bar, you are not restricted to just one airport. Say you have flexibility with what airport you can fly into. For example, New York has several airports – John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), LaGuardia Airport (LGA), and Newark International Airport (EWR). You can add all these airports into the same search by clicking in the search box and either typing in the additional airport names or checking the boxes for the suggested airport(s) that appear.
Use the price meter.
Google Flights contains a graphic near the bottom of the webpage for each search that tells me on a green-to-red scale if the price I found is good. In some instances, it may not show up until you select a specific route (Orlando, FL to London, UK at 8:05 AM and 2:35 PM return, for example). This is a great tool if you aren’t sure what the going rate is for flights to and from your destination.
Book direct when you can.
Google Flights will list out the prices from several websites for the route selected, including directly with the airline. If the price is comparable, always book directly with the airline to save any headache should your flight have any issues.
COVID made a lot of people realize how hard it was to make changes and get refunds for third-party bookings. But if the price is considerably cheaper, go for the third party and use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges later on. Personally, I had to dispute a third-party airline ticket when my flight was canceled by the airline yet the third-party wanted to charge me to refund my ticket!
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