By Holger Reinel | Updated on June 11, 2020
A key ingredient to getting good deals is research, but when it comes to finding cheap flights Google Flights does all the heavy lifting. The fact is whether you are planning a business trip or a family vacation, Google Flights is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal and it can save you money in the process.
One of the best things about using this tool is that it is fast; once you make changes to your search criteria the results show up almost instantaneously.
To help you learn how to navigate Google Flights and find cheap flights, here is a step by step review of how to use this tool.
Google Flights is a quick and easy-to-use search engine that is just for flights. It is similar to Expedia, Trivago, or Booking.com in that you enter your search criteria such as the to and from cities, departure and arrival dates, the number of passengers and flight class, click search and Viola! You have the cheapest flights.
It is different from other flight search engines in that this tool provides you more ways or search criteria that allow you to find cheap flights.
Google Flight is not a travel agency or airline, so when you have found the flight you want, you will click on a link that directs you to either the airline or travel agency’s website to process the booking. The main goal of this tool is to find flights that match your search criteria so that you can choose the best flight for you.
Always search for flights in incognito or private browsing mode; this way website cookies cannot track your activity and play pricing tricks on you. If you don’t decide to search again later, close all incognito windows, open a new one, and make a new fresh search.
To open an incognito or private browsing window follow these steps:
On your computer, open Chrome.
At the top right, click More New Incognito Window.
A new window appears. In the top corner, check for the Incognito icon.
Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n.
Google’s flight search engine can save you money in a multitude of ways; you can use it to find cheap flights, set up price alerts, search fares based on neighboring cities, and more.
Google Flights saves you money by letting you set up multiple departures, and multiple arrival, cities, and airports, which helps find the cheapest fares.
On the departure and destination boxes, you can enter up to 7 departures, and 7 destinations separated by commas. This allows you to search at once what departure or arrival mix provides the most cost-effective option.
For example, if you are traveling to Europe, you can enter as your destination “CDG, LHR, BCN” up to 7 destinations to see where the cheapest flight is from New York to Either Paris, London, Barcelona, or up to 7 destinations to nearby cities.
For the destination, you can type London and select all the list of airports or add nearby cities.
When the results are displayed you can select the option that gives you the best price or set up a flight alert to track when a deal becomes available.
Google Flights saves you money by allowing you to set up Flight fare alerts
If you are planning a trip but are not sure where you want to go yet, set up multiple flight fare alerts, wait for a deal to pop up on your email box, and then figure out why you want to go there.
If you are not ready to make the booking but want to track price changes so you can take advantage of discounts or a price drop, use the flight tracker; Google Flights will email you alerts when the price changes significantly. Here is how you can set up price alerts.
Step 1: Perform a search entering your preferences, and then when the results are displayed turn on the switch next to “Track prices” so that it turns blue as seen on the below image.
Step 2: When the results are displayed head over to the menu icon then click on Tracked prices, and activate the “Email notification button on the next screen.
Step 3: Activate the “Email notification button on the next screen, and you will get an email whenever the price changes based on your selected preferences.
Google Flights has a filter where you can add the number of bags (carry-on or checked) and prices will be updated automatically. The tool will then add links you can click to read more about the baggage policies for each airline.
If the flight does not include carry-on bags, you will see an icon showing a suitcase next to the price with a line through it. This indicates your baggage fees are not included in the price, which makes it a handy tool so you are not surprised with an extra fee later on.
To find a good deal, you don’t necessarily need to track prices over a period of time; Google Flights gives you insights into historical prices and shows you how the current price compares to historical prices.
This information is displayed under the flight options of the search results page. The tool tells you the historical dollar range it typically costs for a flight matching your selection and it tells you if how the current price compares to the historical range.
If the lowest price Google Flights finds is higher than the historical price it will also show you that the price is higher than normal. This is a way you can use to assess if you are getting a good deal or not, and at that point could decide if you want to set up the fare alert option.
One caveat you should note is you must specify if you are looking for a nonstop flight or how many stops are acceptable to you; if you leave that option blank, Google Flights will find you the best price, but the flight might involve multiple layovers or a routing you would rather not take.
What really set Google Flights apart is its advanced functionality and easy-to-use features
It’s important to note some budget airlines don’t show on flight search engine results. So if you know of a budget airline you should do review prices on the budget airlines’ website separately to make sure you are not missing on a better deal.
However, note that many budget airlines may have hidden fees.
One nifty way to look for a cheap flight using Google Flights is by searching for a whole region using the map view.
You can access the Google Flights map view either by typing a region on the departure or destination box, and hit enter or by clicking the three-lines icon in the upper left corner and select “Explore Map”.
If you are traveling from New York to Europe, you can type “Europe” instead of a city or airport, and you will get a map showing the cheapest flight to each of the destinations shown on the map.
Airports charge a fee to airlines every time a plane lands on their runway, and that fee can vary greatly from one airport to the other. What does this mean for you?
If you are traveling to or from a city with more than one airport, you could save hundreds of dollars simply by selecting a different airport. Here is an example:
This is a flight from New York (JFK airport) to London (LHR “Heathrow” airport) which is 23 KM from downtown London. Note the lowest price.
Now since London has more airports add a few more airports and see how the price changes. You can select up to 7 different airports, in this case, we are just going to add LGW (Gatwick airport).
Watch how the price changes. By adding LGW now the lowest price is almost $300 cheaper. LGW is 40 KM away from downtown London vs. LHR which is 23 KM from downtown.
That’s a big saving.
Once you have found a deal you are happy with, click on the flight to select it.
Because Google Flights is not an airline or a travel agency, when you select a flight, you will be redirected to other sites where you will complete the booking.
However, as explained earlier, the redirect process is quick and seamless; you are redirected directly to the checkout page of the third party website (airline or travel agency), which means you don’t have to spend additional time reviewing deals on those sites.
You can adjust your search criteria to ensure you get the options you are looking for; some of the key filtering items are:
Try different options until you find the perfect selection and a price that you are happy with.
Speed: Google Flights is fast. It updates the flight options almost instantaneously after you adjust your preferences vs. other search engines that take anywhere between 5 – 10 seconds (sometimes more) to show you the results.
Sharing feature: Once you have chosen an itinerary, but before booking the flight, you have the option to share your selection with someone else. This feature is helpful if you are making plans together with someone else, or to coordinate when a group of people (like friends going to a wedding in the Caribbean) are traveling together.
Calendar-based fare view: You can track how the price changes from month to month by using the intuitive calendar view feature which shows you prices for the next 12 months.
Multiple airport search: You can select up to 7 departures, and 7 arrival airports and search all at once.
Google Flights Tips Feature
Lastly, there is a “Tips” feature you can use to plan things to do at the destination; the feature also has travel guides and it shows major attractions so you can learn more about the place you will be traveling to.
To access the Tips feature click either the “Date grid”, the “Price graph”, or the “Nearby airports” icons.
Google Flights is the best tool for finding cheap flights. The tool not only finds you best-priced flights it also gives you the ability to customize your trip opening the door to even more savings.
For example, if you are traveling from or to a major city, you should consider flights from surrounding airports for even more savings.
If you’re looking for a good deal on a flight, start with a search on Google Flights, but remember to search in incognito or private mode, and clear your browser cookies, for every fresh search that does not end in a booking, set up fare alerts, and cross-check the prices you get with other budget airlines. If you follow these instructions, you will save money on the flight cost.