Like most things in life, finding the perfect flight for your vacation is now something that you can just Google! That being said, just like any of Google’s tools, there are tips to use Google Flights well and pitfalls to avoid.
Even with all of the tools available today there is very little that’s simple about planning a vacation. The Google Flights search engine attempts to streamline the process by pulling flights from several major airlines and comparing them next to each other in an accessible way so that you can make the best choice for your travel experience. It is also availabe on iOS and Android through the standard search box.
Whether you’re an adventurer looking to take on the world in a weekend, an over-planner who needs to have every sightseeing stop planned before you step out the door, or a budgeter who needs to make sure that the trip doesn’t go outside your allotted funds, there are tips and tricks that can help you use Google Flights to get exactly the kind of trip you want.
Tips for Planners
If you’re the kind of person who always ends up responsible for knowing where your group is going, what you’re doing, and exactly how everyone’s getting from one place to the next, then you need a tool that can answer all of the questions you’ll inevitably be asked.
Thankfully, Google Flights offers a number of filters and features that can help you to plan your trip in a much detail as you need, letting you pre-plan for everything and preventing travel anxiety.
1. Basic Searches
If you already know where you’re departing from, where you want to go, and have set dates for your travel, there’s nothing easier than simply typing this information into the appropriate boxes and hitting search. Google will immediately list all the best options for those dates and locations, letting you pick the one that works best for your schedule!
2. Set Limits on Your Search
If you already have a pretty clear idea of where you will be flying and when you’ll be flying, Google will let you set as many limits as needed to narrow down your flight options. These filters include:
- Number of stops you’re willing to make on your flights
- The total amount you’re able to pay
- The airlines you would prefer to fly with
- The times you’d rather depart and arrive at
- The maximum travel duration that you can handle
3. Use the Multi-Step Planner
If your trip involves more than one stop, consider using Google’s Multi-Step Planner to keep everything organized and to see your trip at a glance instead of juggling notes on different flights. Just like with a one-way flight, you’ll be able to independently select the dates, times, and airlines you would prefer to leave for each flight.
That being said, if you’re travelling with a larger group and some people will not be carrying on to all legs of your journey, you will be unable to book all the tickets together – the number of tickets you are looking at has to be constant for all flights involved in a multi-city trip.
Google does not offer suggestions for cheaper dates on multi-step journeys – you may need to do some separate one-way searches for that information.
Tips for Budgeters
If you’re someone who tries to fit as much as possible into a limited budget, or who gets their thrills from comparison shopping, Google Flights will give your budgeting heart all the encouragement it needs to keep searching for better and better deals. There are a lot of secrets to getting cheap airfare, and while Google Flights doesn’t take the work out of your hunt for great prices, it does help a lot!
1. Be Flexible with Your Locations
If you live in an area (or are travelling to an area) with access to multiple airports you can search up to five airports in both the departure and return fields, and Google will look for the best deals available at any of those locations. This can be a great way to easily save a couple hundred dollars! Google Flights may suggest flying in or out of a different airport as an option under your original search, but it never hurts to be thorough.
2. Be Flexible with Your Dates
As any experienced travel hacker knows, being flexible with your dates is the number one way to save money on flights. Google makes this kind of comparison shopping almost addictive with the integration of three different visual aids. After you’ve searched your preferred flights, press on the “Show Flexible Dates” button – you’ll have the option to view price comparisons through the following tools:
The Calendar option allows you to see the lowest priced flight on each day of the month, and highlights days that show a significant drop in cost.
The Price Graph option gives you the chance to see trends in flight costs across several months, including historical price data and projections up to a year in the future. This can be a helpful way to decide if you want to book your tickets now, or hold out for a little longer.
Lastly, the flexible dates option helps you to see which combination of dates close to the ones that you searched for will give you the best deal. Your Departure flight forms the top of the graph, and your return flight forms the right side. Where the two lines intersect shows you the lowest price for a specific departure and return date.
3. Get Notifications When Prices Drop
If you’re researching a trip but aren’t quite ready to make the purchase, you have the option to “Save Your Itinerary“. Not only is this a great way to plan trips over the course of several days without keeping a billion tabs open, it also allows Google to send you a notification when prices drop – a great way to make sure you aren’t missing out on fluctuations in ticket price.
Tips for Adventurers
If where you’re travelling doesn’t matter to you so long as you want to experience something new and meet new people, you may often struggle with typical flight search engines. After all, practicality and decisions don’t often mesh well with wanderlust and adventure. Google Flights has designed several features with adventurers in mind – and they’re so fun and easy to use that they may have you booking vacations that you never intended to take.
1. Map View
The most addictive way to use Google Flights for scoping out your next destination is to simply enter the dates of your next holiday or long weekend and your departure destination and then hit enter. Google will fill the map with potential destinations and their price points – leaving you free to scroll and zoom all over the world tracking down the adventure that looks best to you.
2. I’m Feeling Lucky
If you really can’t make up your mind, maybe it’s time to let Google Flights make your mind up for you!
Just like when you hit “I’m feeling lucky” on a Google Search, hitting the “I’m feeling lucky” button on Google Flights returns a single flight plan for you to use, or not use, for your discretion. Using your past browsing history (yes, it’s a little creepy, but if Google’s saving your information at least they’re doing something fun with it!) Google attempts to pick a location that will fit your interests without breaking the bank.
3. Discover Destination Planner
Flying to a random location really isn’t for everyone, so Google Flights also offers a Discover Destination Planner that allows you to enter in some information and receive an itinerary to match.
The planner asks for your general timeline (it can be as broad as “May” or as specific as exact dates), the area you’d like to visit (choose “anywhere”, a specific continent, or an exact country) and the kinds of things that you like to do on vacation (“Food”, “Ecotourism”, “Honeymoon”, “Shopping”, etc.). A few clicks later, and you’ll find yourself with a variety of travel destination suggestions along with their expected cost.
Is Google Flights the Only Tool I Should Use?
Google Flights is only one of hundreds of different travel apps out there, and it would be doing other travel websites and apps a disservice to say that Google has got the travel niche fully figured out.
It’s important to remember that Google Flights is just a comparison tool, not a booking tool. To book the flights you find through the search engine, you’ll still have to go through your airline’s website. Also, Google Flights is really a newcomer to the travel world – there are still some airlines and destinations that won’t show up in your searches.
For now, you’ll definitely want to look into other great travel apps for information on hotels, sightseeing, and ground travel. That being said, you may not have to leave Google completely as Google Maps is one tool that can help you travel smarter!
Have you used Google Flights to book any trips recently? If yes, I’d love to hear about it in the comments and if there’s another travel comparison tool that you prefer, I’d love to hear why.