HOW TO USE GOOGLE FLIGHTS
A detailed guide on using Google to find affordable flights, mistake fares, and other hacks to travel more often with less money.
Google Flights is my number one search engine for finding affordable flights. I first started scorging for deals, planning make believe trips, and looking at dates and deals when I was a junior or senior in high school. It was truly love at first sight ever since I found a $400 flight from Chicago to Costa Rica. My friend and I drove 3 hours from our hometown in Grand Rapids, MI to get to Chicago and even slept in Miami’s airport for the 7 hour layover to take advantage of that deal. Now almost a decade has passed and I’ve been able to master Google Flights to take advantage of cheap tickets.
I swear by Google Flights for finding the best affordable flights within your budget to kickstart some of your best travels. 99.99% of the time I let the flight decide where I’m going to travel before even looking up activities or accomodations. From $200 flight to Colombia or Spain, or a $450 flight to Ecuador; when I see a flight deal I’m taking it. When you find a flight deal, don’t hesitate, SNAG THAT THANG!
This How To Guide will detail how to use Google Flights, some of their top features, and other tips for buying tickets domesticaly and internationally.
TOP 6 REASONS I LOVE GOOGLE FLIGHTS:
- It’s super fast and reliable: The time it takes to generate the top deals are within seconds. The airline, price points, and data gathered by Google is reliable and trustworthy so you won’t end up on some creepy random website to get a flight deal.
- You can track flights: After you find a flight deal with your specific dates you can track it and get real time updates on price increases and decreases directly to your email.
- Look ahead for better deals: The calendar allows you to search ahead 6 months+ giving you more freedom to choose different dates, different airlines, or better flight times. Other search engines don’t allow you to look ahead or compare prices with various dates as quickly as Google Flights. They are geared for travelers with specific dates and destinations in mind, but we are here for the DEALS so we need what? Flexibility folks!
- Allows for flexibility: My top tip for finding affordable flights is to be flexible in either your dates or your destination. This allows you to find better deals for anytime of the year for a specific destination you have in mind, OR finding somewhere different you never thought of visiting by having specific dates that you have to travel. Either way you are bound to find a deal.
- The filters give you the price for what you want: Only you know the type of traveler you are. Filters like number of stops, specific airlines, number of bags, price, and even departure and return times can generate the results you need to make the best decision for your travels. The beauty of it is if no results populate with your filters, you can add or subtract filters, or change your dates and departure city.
- It can combine separate airlines to get the best ticket price: When a roundtrip ticket with one airline is too pricey, Google Flights will do the legwork for you and show you a combined ticket price using two different airlines.
USING GOOGLE FLIGHTS DOMESTICALLY
Let’s say you have a specific destination in mind but you have open dates of travel. Start by entering your home airport and specific destination. In this example I use Memphis as my departure airport and Dallas as my destination. A great thing about Google is that if a destination has more than one airport, it will populate the top deal for either airport in the area. In this case, DFW airport populated a $270 deal for the end of this month. But what if there was an even lower price?
Using Google’s Calendar view you can scroll to future months and checkout date ranges in green for even lower prices. Waiting until the end of July would save me $100. After July, prices range from $213-236+.
After finding a killer green deal the next step is to choose your specific flight and weigh the differences in airlines, flight duration, number of stops, and final price.
The $170 deal in the July screenshot above is with Southern Airways Express and has 1 stop in Arkansas. I haven’t used this airline, and ideally I’d prefer a nonstop flight to Dallas since it's only 2 hours, so I’d keep checking other dates and I’d weigh the number of stops and the airline.
After trying new dates, if I left two days earlier it could save me nearly $70 with United Airlines with the same number of stops as Southern Airways. Or I can still save with a nonstop flight for only $223 with American Airlines, which happens to also be where I have Gold status.
It’s always important to weigh your odds and know what type of traveler you are. If you prefer certain airlines, you may want to spend more knowing you will receive a specific level of service or rewards.
After choosing both your departure and return flight Google will allow you to track the flight increases or decreases in price and send updates to your email. If you’re ready to book, it will lead you directly to the airlines website to finish the booking.
On the far left side of the screen, you can see a summary of all of the flights you’ve tracked.
You’ll be able to see if flights are no longer available, or if your flight price increased or decreased.
If you return to one of your tracked flights, you can scroll to the bottom to see the price history. You can use this information that Google gathers to make sound decisions on if you should wait or not to purchase. Price deals are sometimes one in a lifetime. You can always book the deal then choose to cancel within 24 hours for a full refund if you change your mind!
USING GOOGLE FLIGHTS INTERNATIONALLY
With the same information as above, it’s important to note a few more key tips to be aware of for booking international deals.
- Make sure you choose a return flight that has ample time to go through customs in the USA before your next flight boards.
- Try various departure airports near you to compare prices. Other international airports that have great deals for Memphis are Nashville and Atlanta. Even though Atlanta is a 6 hour drive, if I find a $200 flight I usually snag it and spend a couple extra days recovering in Atlanta before driving back. Not everyone is this type of traveler and prefers to go straight home which is totally understandable. But since I'm here for the best flight deals and to make my money stretch across several trips throughout the year, sometimes you just gotta buckle up and press on the gas. When I lived in Michigan, Chicago had some of the top deals and was only a 3 hour drive away.
Example: Memphis versus Nashville for the same dates to Grand Cayman Islands in the Caribbean is a $354 difference.
- Always double check departure and arrival airports. Certain deals internationally could be linked to smaller airports that are farther away from the city center. Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris is closest to the city center, but there are usually deals on ORY and BVA that are 1.5-2 hours away from the city center.
- The flight times are going to reflect the current time zone you would be arriving in. But if you are driving to an international airport in a different timezone, please take that into account before you arrive hours later than you originally scheduled to.
- Long layovers could mean a cheaper flight with an extra country to visit for free (wink wink!) This ticket from Chicago to Cairo, Egypt is only $571. The return layover is a whopping 34 hours which means you have an entire day to explore Warsaw Poland (WAW) in your flight price already.
- Looking to explore Europe or fly country to country? Many times it is a lot cheaper to travel country to country within a specific continent than plan individual trips to each place. Use google flights for literally anywhere in the world and find flights as low as $50 between European countries or $100 from Spain to Morocco!
Sometimes deals appear to be too good to be true, thats why it's important to know what to look for and to use the search filters to weed out the some of the less ideal results. Since everyone is a different traveler, one person may not mind a super long layover or more than one stop to get to the final destination. Versus another person may want to book with specific airlines to rack up their rewards. Once you master how to use Google Flights it will be a GAME CHANGER for adding more passport stamps to your passport! I promise you, if there ain't no flight deal I'm not going. Be adaptable and flexible and you'll definitely find a deal somewhere in this beautiful wanderous world!
If you found this How To Guide helpful and found a cheap flight by using Google Flights, comment on this blog post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!