Getting used to Google Flights is actually pretty easy…
People either don’t care about flight deals until it’s too late, or they book too early. With a little help from Google, you can change that, or at least know you’re making the right move when you do.
Tracking, filtering and switching to the best flight deals really couldn’t be easier and there’s no excuse not to. It’s free, after all, and good news like price drops can come straight to your inbox.
Google Flights is a simple yet powerful way to search for flights, allowing you to use all the flight deal tips you’ve read on the internet, without the silly stuff like changing your location with a VPN.
Here’s how you can become a legendary flight hunter with Google Flights, or at least be someone who knows all the best tricks to save on airfare and get results…
Step one: Use Google Flights early and often
People come up to me all the time and say “oh yeah, I know all the tricks about cheap flights, I’m booking on a Tuesday at 6am”. I smile, nod and think to myself “Mmmm nice, that’s good for you, but there’s no reason, and you can find out why so easily.”
Why; Because for starters, a day like Tuesday when all the deals drop is a myth, and also because Google Flights gives you so many tools to know everything you could possibly need before you book.
I start my flight searches long before I expect to book anything and play around with things every few days, but even searching once properly is all you need.
Using other sites like Expedia or Skyscanner to compare when you find a great price is smart shopping, but only when you’re ready to book. It’s the simple tools Google offers that make it something you want to spend time with.
The easiest and best way to find really great flight deals is Google Flights. In case you’ve heard that ITA Matrix is actually the best, Google Flights is basically less clunky than ITA Matrix and works with more real-time flight availability, while ITA Matrix can show outdated results.
Step Two: Use your Google Account
If you’re signed in to your Gmail account, Google Flights gets new layers that really improve search. It also makes it very easy to receive destination alerts if you are traveling internationally.
As international travel restrictions change so frequently at the moment, Google can let you know exactly what tests or documents you may need before you book.
But back to the flight deals.
As you’ll soon see, using your Gmail, you can let flight deals come right to you, right to your inbox via Google Flights price alerts. Search once and you’ll see new results whenever prices change, without having to search again. Google does it for you, all the time.
We’ll get to that more in a second. All it takes is the flip of a switch, or realistically speaking – the click of a button at the top of your search. There’s nothing like waking up to savings in your inbox.
Step Three: Open Features
If you’re going somewhere far, the more flexibility the better. Maybe Boston has $260 round-trip flights to Spain, but New York is over $500. This is where Google Flights shines.
You can enter up to seven (7!) departure cities and seven (7!) destinations for a single search. You will see the lowest price of all possible results. Yes, with a search you can see if it’s cheaper to fly from Paris, London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Dublin, Rome or Budapest.
Is it worth the savings and effort to leave somewhere else? That’s up to you, but it never hurts to compare…
Note: if you want to set price alerts, you can generally only search for 5 departures and destinations, instead of 7. Not a big deal…
Step Four: Set up multiple Google Flights alerts
Notifications are free, notifications are easy, and you should 100% use them.
Whenever you search on Google Flights, you have the option to press a button that will track the prices for the flights you want and email you when the prices change. Just wait until the search appears to be completely finished and the button will appear.
If you have some flexibility, like maybe leaving on a Tuesday instead of a Wednesday, set alerts for each possible flexibility date to improve your chances of landing a flight deal you’ll remember.
For reasons too random to explain, the same trip departing on a Tuesday instead of a Monday could be saving you hundreds, or in the case of business or first class, even thousands. You only know if you track the prices for each date you could actually travel.
You should also set alerts for premium economy or business class, because you never know! I’ve proven countless times that first class is occasionally cheaper than economy.
Step Five: Get Inspired
Here’s a really cool feature for those of you who are struggling to pick a place or are on a budget and just want to know where it might take you. You are not alone!
Without specifying a destination, you can see flight prices to places around the world just by telling the search where you are. Just type in say… New York and then hit search. You can then refine the map based on price, stops, ticket type and more.
This can be a great way to inspire your next trip or find out that it’s much cheaper to fly from Los Angeles to London than from Los Angeles to Louisiana. This is another strange, but often true case.
You can set criteria such as ‘non-stop only’ or only flights with a specific airline or airline alliance such as Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance and you don’t even have to enter dates! If flexibility is on your side, you can simply see what the best prices are for the entire year.
For those trying to maximize their travel dollars or trying to see if they can fit business class into the budget, you can actually set a budget filter, enter the highest price you’re willing to pay, and see where it can take you by moving the map! As noted, just leave the destination field blank and Google Flights will do the rest.
You can just scroll and scroll around the world, getting a geography lesson while finding super deals.
Step Six: Get selective with Google Flight Preferences
You can only want what you want. Maybe you’re traveling as a family and only want direct flights, or you’re obsessed with Virgin Atlantic and only want to fly with them.
Using the easy toolbar above the flight results, you can exclude certain airlines, select only others, select the number of connections you consider acceptable and also if you have hand luggage. You can then set price alerts with these preferences to make sure you don’t get false excitement!
Step Seven: Find an appointment
No, don’t worry about your love life – just your life.
Google Flights also has a really useful ‘dates’ tool, which lets you see a matrix of the lowest prices within a few days of what you searched for. With one click you’ll see prices for each nearby date, which can help you determine if that dinner with an old friend is really worth it, or if you’re better off saving $300 on your flight by leaving earlier.
Oh, and don’t be afraid to use Google’s two newest features, which help you understand if something is steal, a deal or no big deal.
When you select flights, before you go to any booking screens, Google shows you a thermometer based on historical flight data to tell you if that price is below normal, normal or worse than normal.
What’s your favorite Google Flights tip?