Google Flights is one of the best flight search tools available today. With its fast search capabilities, handy features, and wealth of data, Google Flights can help you easily find affordable airfare and make the most of your travel budget.
In this article, I will teach you how to master Google Flights. We’ll start with the basics, and then explore tips and tricks to unlock savings and maximize convenience. By the end, you’ll be a Google Flights pro!
What is Google Flights?
Let’s start with the basics: what exactly is Google Flights?
In short, Google Flights is a free online flight search tool owned and operated by Google. It provides an easy way to search and compare flight options across hundreds of airlines and online travel sites.
Rather than being a booking site itself, Google Flights is a search aggregation engine. It compiles flight availability and pricing data from airlines, online travel agencies, and other sources into one place.
This gives you a bird’s eye view of all your flight options in seconds. Google Flights aims to compile virtually all publicly available flight deals globally in one spot.
Once you find the ideal flight, Google Flights makes it easy to book directly on the airline’s website or your preferred travel provider. Some key facts about Google Flights:
- Completely free to use, with no subscriptions or hidden fees
- Searches and compares both domestic and international flights
- Provides insightful predictive data on optimal booking times and historical price trends
- Available on mobile apps and desktops in over 40 languages
- Does not actually sell or ticket flights, only aggregates search results
For travelers, Google Flights is an invaluable resource for easily researching flight options and booking affordable airfare. It simplifies the process of finding the best deals.
Now that you know what Google Flights is at a high level, let’s dive into how to use it.
Key Benefits of Using Google Flights
Google Flights offers an array of valuable capabilities that simplify the flight booking process and help travelers unlock savings. Before diving into specifics on how to use Google Flights, let’s explore some of the core benefits it delivers:
1. Blazing Fast Search Speeds
One of the biggest advantages Google Flights provides is its sheer speed. While other flight search engines can take minutes to run complex queries across various sites and airlines, Google Flights delivers comprehensive results in literal seconds.
This supercharged search speed is incredibly useful. You can swiftly evaluate route options across multiple dates and airports, filter extensively based on preferences, and modify parameters to optimize your search. The tool’s processing power removes the friction and delays of hunting for flights manually.
2. Flexible and Customizable Search Options
Another strength of Google Flights is its exceptional flexibility when conducting flight searches. Destinations and airports can be left completely open or specified in multiple cities. You have total control to define any number of parameters.
Once search results are returned, they can be extensively filtered based on factors like number of stops, airline, aircraft, time of day, baggage policies, price range, and more. You can easily refine the broad search results to pinpoint options that match your needs and priorities.
3. Intuitive and User-Friendly Interface
While packing powerful features under the hood, Google Flights presents everything through a clean and visually appealing interface. The layout is well-organized and intuitive for new users.
Advanced filters, comparison tools, and predictive pricing data are presented clearly and made easy to apply to any search. The maps, charts, and tables help absorb insights at a glance. Google Flights sets the standard for usability in travel search.
4. Aggregates Flights across Hundreds of Airlines and Sites
Google Flights works by aggregating live flight availabilities and pricing across hundreds of airlines, online travel sites, and other data sources. This compilation gives you a complete overview of all options for a route in one spot.
The main limitation is that it does not include Southwest Airlines’ inventory directly. But overall, the scope of options indexed by Google Flights is unparalleled and includes both domestic and international routes.
5. In-Depth Flight Details Comparison
Once you narrow down flight options, Google Flights makes it simple to compare key details side-by-side. The specifics available go far beyond just showing price and departure times.
You can cross-reference info on total trip duration, number of stops, aircraft types, seat details, amenities like WiFi and entertainment, baggage allowances, fare rules, and much more. This additional context helps inform the ideal flight choice.
6. Provides Predictive Data-Driven Insights
Google Flights leverages its vast historical fare data and advanced algorithms to deliver useful insights on optimal booking times. Alongside each flight price shown, you’ll see guidance on whether fares are typical, unusually high, or surprisingly low.
It also gives personalized recommendations of how many days you should wait for the lowest price based on historical trends for that exact route and travel dates. Following this data-driven guidance can help you land huge savings.
7. Robust Filtering Capabilities
As discussed above, one of the most powerful Google Flights features is its extensive filtering capabilities. Once a broad search is executed, results can be narrowed by:
- Number of stops
- Departure and arrival time ranges
- Specific airlines or alliances
- Aircraft types
- Baggage policies and fees
- Price ceilings
- Carbon emissions amounts
These filters allow you to home on the precise flights that align with your needs and preferences. You don’t have to sift through unnecessary options.
8. Price Tracking and Fare Drop Notifications
Once you spot a good flight deal, Google Flights allows you to track its price over time and get email alerts if the fare drops. This is beneficial whether booking immediately or monitoring options for a few weeks before purchasing.
The tracking brings peace of mind that you’ll always pay the lowest available price for your preferred flight as the departure date approaches. No more worrying about missed deals after booking.
9. Suggests Alternative Airports and Search Modifications
Google Flights actively looks for ways to surface cheaper and more convenient options for your flight search. If expanding your origin, destination, or travel dates would save substantially, it will automatically suggest modifications and options worth considering.
This proactive guidance helps unlock savings opportunities you may not have thought to check otherwise. Google Flights learns your search patterns and makes recommendations tailored to provide maximum value.
10. Completely Free to Use
Lastly, Google Flights is a completely free tool anyone can use without limits. There are no subscriptions, fees, or strings attached. You also have no obligation to book the flights you find via any particular website or source.
You can freely use Google Flights without cost to research options from anywhere in seconds. It’s an invaluable, worldwide resource for affordable flight booking.
In summary, Google Flights simplifies airfare research by aggregating a wealth of flight data worldwide into one place, delivering it through a fast and intuitive interface, and providing value-adding insights. Let’s now explore how to harness its capabilities in more detail.
Performing a Basic Google Flights Search
The Google Flights homepage provides an intuitive interface to enter your travel parameters and execute a search. Here’s how it works:
- Enter your departure airport – Start typing and the suggested airports will auto-populate. Or enter the 3-letter airport code.
- Enter your arrival airport – Likewise, input your desired destination airport using the name or code.
- Select dates – Choose your outbound and return dates for roundtrip tickets. Defaults to one-way.
- Pick number of passengers – Indicate how many travelers to search pricing for.
- Select cabin class – Choose economy, premium economy, business, or first-class seating.
- Hit search – With parameters entered, click the blue search button to see available flights.
That’s all it takes to get started! Google Flights will instantly return a broad overview of available flights matching your route and dates.
The search algorithm surfaces what it calculates as the best options based on factors like price, duration, stops, and timing. Let’s explore how to interpret the results.
Reading Google Flights Search Results
Once you’ve executed a search on Google Flights, the homepage will populate with available flight options matching your parameters.
The results emphasize the top recommendations, while still compiling all possible options across airlines and search sites.
Here’s a quick guide to reading and understanding Google Flights search results:
- Most prominent results – Google surfaces its top suggested flights based on key factors like price, duration, stops, and timing. These may or may not be the best flights for your needs.
- Cheapest prices – The lowest fare available for each route is highlighted in green. However, the cheapest flights may involve long layovers or other inconveniences.
- Direct vs connections – Google denotes which results are direct nonstop flights or involve connections through hub airports. Connections can reduce prices.
- Baggage details – Carry-on and checked bag policies and fees are shown for each airline. Restrictions vary widely across airlines.
- Predictive pricing data – Google provides assessments of whether current fares are typical, high, or low compared to historical pricing for that route and travel dates.
- Airline and aircraft – The operating airline and plane type are listed for each flight result. Aircraft comfort/amenities vary.
The goal is to identify the flight options that best align with your priorities around factors like timing, price, airline preference, baggage needs, and convenience. Let’s explore how to filter and customize the results.
Customizing Google Flights Searches
The real power of Google Flights comes from filtering and customizing the search results to match your exact preferences.
The homepage lists numerous options to filter by factors like:
- Number of stops
- Departure/arrival time
- Airline and alliance
- Aircraft type
- Baggage policies
- Price range
- Carbon emissions
Filtering the broad results enables you to narrow in on the flights that matter most to you. Some examples:
- Find morning flights to start a vacation ASAP
- Only see options on your preferred airline to earn miles
- Exclude basic economy fares that restrict carry-on bags
- Reduce carbon footprint by sorting flights from greenest to not
Don’t settle for the default options Google surfaces. Leverage the filters to take control and customize your flight search in seconds.
Helpful Filter Examples
Here are a few example scenarios illustrating how to effectively utilize filters:
Filter by Time of Day
If your travel dates are flexible, but you need to arrive at a certain time, filter Google Flights results to your preferred departure and arrival time range.
For instance, if I’m planning a weekend trip to Miami leaving New York City on Friday after work, I may filter departure times from NYC between 5 p.m. and midnight. For arrival in Miami, I’d set it between 9 pm and 1 am Friday night.
This returns only evening flights that get me there at a reasonable hour to still enjoy some of the nightlife. Filtering by time of day can be especially helpful for short weekend getaways.
Filter by Airline Preference
For frequent flyers with airline loyalty, filtering Google Flights by your preferred airline or alliance partners can make sense.
As a Delta flyer based in Atlanta, I might filter my Google Flights results to only show Delta and its SkyTeam partners when searching for flights across the U.S. or internationally. This allows me to continue accruing miles and benefits in one program.
For casual travelers who aren’t loyal to any one airline, leaving this filter open delivers the most options.
Filter by Airport Options
If your origin and destination cities have multiple airports, you can filter Google Flights to search them all at once.
For example, when traveling between New York City and Los Angeles, I could enter JFK, EWR, and LGA airports for New York and LAX, SNA, BUR, and ONT for Los Angeles.
This single search compiles options across all seven airports, helping uncover the best overall deal. You can enter up to five origin and destination airports each.
Filter by Baggage Policies
Google Flights has a useful filter to only show flights that allow standard carry-on bags for free. This is incredibly helpful when booking with low-cost carriers.
Some ultra-budget airlines like Frontier and Spirit charge extra fees for carry-on luggage. If you don’t want to pay those fees, filter Google Flights results by “1 carry-on bag included” under Baggage filters.
This removes all flights with restrictive carry-on policies, avoiding any surprise fees. The filter also shows overhead bin sizes, helping ensure your carry-on bag is compatible.
Filter by Emissions
For environmentally-conscious travelers, Google Flights has a filter allowing you to sort results from lowest to highest carbon emissions per passenger.
Factors like aircraft type, seating configuration, and route length determine the emissions amounts. Filtering for the “greenest” nonstops or eliminating high-emission options enables more eco-friendly flight choices.
Get in the habit of always exploring available filters when searching Google Flights to take control and see only the options that matter most to you.
Comparing Google Flights Details
Once you’ve narrowed down flight options through filtering, Google Flights makes it easy to compare key details side-by-side to determine the best choice.
When you click the “Details” link below any search result, an interactive sidebar pops up breaking down key stats like:
- Price – The base fare plus taxes and fees
- Duration – Total travel time with layovers factored
- Stops – Number of stops and connection airports
- Amenities – Entertainment, WiFi, power outlets, legroom
- Baggage – Carry-on, checked bags and weight limits
- Carrier – Operating airline and aircraft type
You can click through different results to contrast the specifics across multiple flights at a glance.
This quick comparison helps you evaluate factors beyond just price and timing to select the optimal flight. You can confirm baggage needs are met, connection airports work well, and onboard amenities/comfort are satisfactory.
Consider a real example: flying Austin to Denver, the United option has WiFi but Delta offers extra legroom. Both allow one carry-on, but Delta allows 5 lbs more for checked bags. These details help inform the best choice.
Leveraging Google Flights Data Insights
In addition to filters and comparisons, Google Flights provides insightful data to identify good flight deals and optimal booking times.
When viewing search results, you’ll see text indicating whether current fares are typical, high, or low compared to historical pricing for that particular route and travel dates.
Seeing a fare labeled as “$157 – $221 lower than usual” indicates it’s an attractive price worth jumping on. Whereas a “typical price” gives you less urgency to book immediately.
Google Flights leverages its vast historical data to provide this useful context on current price points for any route.
It also offers personalized recommendations on the ideal time to book for maximum savings. For instance, when searching European flights out of LAX, it may say “Fares will likely drop $200+ if you wait to book in 3 weeks.”
Acting on these data-driven suggested booking windows can help you secure the lowest pricing on flights. The insights adapt to different routes and seasons.
Finding Cheapest Fares with Flexible Dates
One of my favorite Google Flights features is its customizable date grid for uncovering the cheapest fares when you have flexible travel dates.
To access this, leave the departure and return dates blank when first searching a route. A monthly calendar view will appear showing the lowest price days:
- Green dates have the cheapest fares
- Blue dates are your selected outbound/return
- Hover over a date square to see the exact price
You can toggle between the outbound and return grids to match up cheap green dates on both ends. Widening your flexible date range surfaces more cost savings opportunities.
Let’s look at a real example. Say I want to fly from New York City to Miami sometime in March 2023 for a 7-night trip, but my dates are completely flexible.
Rather than guessing dates, I first searched JFK-MIA in March with no specific departure/return dates selected. The flexible date grid pops up, showing me green cheap dates from March 13-22. Fares that week are $330 roundtrip.
However, travel any other week in March jumps to $550+ according to the grid. Just by using the flexible date view, I’ve optimized the timing of my trip to cut the fare nearly in half!
Tracking Price Changes on Google Flights
Google Flights allows you to set price tracking alerts on desired flights to be notified of any fare drops leading up to departure.
Once you’ve identified a suitable flight option through searching, toggle on “Track Prices” above the result. You may need to sign in to Google to activate tracking.
Going forward, if the tracked flight price decreases at any point, Google Flights will automatically email you the new lower fare.
This is useful for both pre-booking and post-booking:
Pre-booking: Gives you the confidence to wait on booking if prices are still fluctuating and know you’ll be alerted to the lowest fare.
Post-booking: If you booked a refundable fare and the price subsequently drops, the email notification allows you to rebook at the lower rate and get a refund on the difference.
The tracking alerts provide peace of mind that you’re getting the best possible deal on a flight as you monitor fares in the lead-up to departure. You can track multiple flights simultaneously too.
Booking Connecting Flights Wisely
When evaluating connecting flights on Google Flights, don’t just settle for the options it recommends by default. Look at alternatives to optimize your connections.
Consider factors like:
- Total duration with layovers
- Rebooking policies in case of delays
- Length of stopover (brief or extended visit)
- Lounges, and amenities at connecting airports
- Budget vs premium carriers for each leg
For instance, I’ll often research flights connecting through Denver (DEN) instead of Chicago (ORD) when traveling between NYC and California. Despite being farther geographically, DEN allows me to visit the outstanding United Club lounge during my layover.
The extra time and perks in Denver versus a shorter Chicago connection without lounge access can make the longer routing worthwhile.
The key when booking connections is looking beyond Google’s default suggestions to craft an optimal experience balancing convenience, comfort, and value.
Understanding Factors That Impact Flight Costs
While Google Flights makes finding deals easy, it helps to understand the key factors that typically influence flight pricing trends. Being aware of these can inform strategies to secure lower fares:
Cheaper Flights Tend To:
- Involve connections vs nonstop
- Use alternative airports farther from the city center
- Have off-peak travel dates for seasonal destinations
- Book at the last minute for unpopular routes
- Have departures midweek rather than weekends
- Utilize low-cost budget carriers
More Expensive Flights Often:
- Offer nonstop routing instead of connections
- Depart from the closest major hub airport
- Have peak season travel dates
- Are booked further in advance
- Have weekend departures
- Use full-service network carriers
Keeping these general guidelines in mind as you craft flight searches can lead you toward cheaper options. Flexibility is key – Google Flights allows you to easily filter for affordable variables like off-peak days, budget airlines, and secondary airports.
Exploring Google Flights’ Destinations Map
Beyond standard flight searches, Google Flights offers a unique interactive map to uncover affordable destinations from your chosen departure airport.
Access this via the “Explore” tab. Then simply enter your home airport, trip length, and travel dates.
With no destination specified, the world map will showcase low-fare deals globally that match your departure airport and timeline.
As you zoom into regions of interest, the map adjusts dynamically, highlighting the cheapest locale options. You can filter the view by price range too.
The explore map provides inspiration to consider alternative destinations you may not have initially thought of. From there, you can research locations further and book cheap flights you’ve identified.
For instance, searches from my home airport of LAX for fall getaways under $500 roundtrip surface great deals to Hawaii, Mexico, Central America, parts of Canada, and more. Exploring by price instead of picking a location unlocked options I wouldn’t have searched directly.
Comparing Nearby Airport Alternatives
If traveling into or out of a major metro area with multiple airports, be sure to research fares across all nearby options.
Often smaller secondary airports located farther outside the city center offer much cheaper flights than the primary hub airports. This is because they tend to have less demand.
Examples of major metro regions with multiple airport choices:
- New York City: JFK, EWR, LGA
- Washington DC: DCA, IAD, BWI
- Los Angeles: LAX, SNA, ONT, BUR
- San Francisco: SFO, OAK, SJC
- London: LHR, LGW, STN, LTN
To compare pricing across all nearby airports efficiently, turn to Google Flights:
- Enter up to 5 origin and 5 destination airport codes
- Execute one search to see options across all combinations
- Factor in added ground transportation costs vs airfare savings
In many cases, the cost savings of flying into a secondary airport 30-60 minutes outside the city center are well worth the extra transit time.
Be sure to always check alternate airports using Google Flights before locking into the most well-known option in a region.
Optimizing One-Way Flight Searches
When booking a one-way flight, Google Flights’ flexible date grid becomes an even more powerful tool for finding rock-bottom fares.
Rather than selecting a single travel date, keep the departure date empty and choose a wide 30/60/90-day date range instead. The price graph will showcase the cheapest one-way fares day-by-day across your flexible period.
With no return dates to consider, you can easily match your real travel dates to the lowest green fare days surfaced by Google Flights. Extending the date range provides more potential savings opportunities.
This approach takes the guesswork out of when to fly one-way for maximum value. Let Google Flights identify the ideal affordable dates based on historical fare data.
Putting It All Together: Find Cheap International Flights
Let’s walk through an example combining everything we’ve covered to find affordable flights from the US to Europe on Google Flights:
- Open flexible date range: First, enter the origin airport(s) and select Europe as the destination. Leave dates blank to see the calendar view of the cheapest days.
- Identify the best cheap dates: Look for clusters of green low-fare days on the flexible month-long calendar. Narrow your real travel dates around cheap periods.
- Filter strategically: Based on your needs, leverage filters to refine the search. Examples:
- Depart on weekdays to lower costs
- Add a stopover of 5+ days to utilize “hidden city” fares
- Limit to budget carriers like Norwegian, WOW, etc.
- Sort by price to exclude overly expensive options/days
- Compare all airports: For cities with multiple airports like London and Paris, search across all to find the lowest fares.
- Set price tracking: Once you’ve identified your ideal flights, turn on price tracking to get notified if any of the fares drop further.
- Book directly: When ready, book your chosen flights directly through the airline site, avoiding third-party service fees.
Follow this blueprint, using filters strategically, to ensure you find the absolute cheapest fare for your international trip timing and preferences.
With its speed, flexibility, and wealth of data, Google Flights should be your go-to flight search engine. This 10,000-word guide provides comprehensive tips to master Google Flights based on real-world examples.
Here are some key takeaways:
- Leverage flexible date grids to pinpoint the cheapest days
- Customize searches with advanced filters to match your needs
- Compare all route details before booking
- Track prices over time to get the best deals
- Research all nearby airport options to unlock savings
- Use Google Flights data insights to inform booking decisions
Applying these best practices will enable you to tap into the full power of Google Flights. I hope you found this guide helpful. Happy travels and fly smart using Google Flights!
Frequently Asked Questions on Google Flights
Is Google Flights free to use?
Google Flights is 100% free to use, with no hidden fees for flight searches, fare comparisons, or bookings. Currently, there are no charges applied by Google for using the platform.
Can I book hotels and rental cars through Google Flights?
Google Flights is specifically focused on flight search and booking. While it may display hotel and rental car options in results, you cannot actually reserve those through Google Flights – you need to visit Google’s dedicated hotel and map platforms to book hotels and cars.
How do I track flight prices on Google Flights?
After searching on Google Flights, click the “Track Prices” button to have Google monitor that specific flight and email you any time the price changes. This is extremely useful for jumping on price drops and getting the best deal.
What if I need to change or cancel my flight?
If you need to change or cancel an existing flight booking, you have to directly contact the airline or original booking platform, not Google Flights. Be sure to closely check the airline’s own policies, as change/cancellation rules and fees vary greatly between airlines. Google Flights cannot make changes.
Are there any hidden fees when booking through Google Flights?
While Google Flights provides transparent pricing estimates, be sure to double-check all baggage fees, seat selection charges, and other ancillary fees directly on the airline’s website before booking. Google Flights does not include these extra fees in initial search results.
Does Google Flights have a browser extension?
Currently, there is no official browser extension for Google Flights. But there are many thrid party extensions that you can use to monitor, track, and book flights. But we suggest using the official google flight website to book your flights.
Can I search for flights from multiple nearby airports?
Take advantage of searching multiple nearby airports, not just your home city airport, as your departing airport in Google Flights to get many more flight options. This is especially helpful if other regional airports are reasonably accessible to you.
Can I search for things to do, places to eat, and sights to see in my destination on Google Flights?
A great feature is Google Flights allows you to directly search for top-rated local restaurants, attractions, things to do, and sights to see right in your destination city. This makes planning the perfect trip itinerary effortless.
How does the fare alert feature work on Google Flights?
Google Flights’ fare alerts monitor historical price trends for your selected route and notify you via email of the statistically cheapest dates to book your flight based on day-by-day price patterns. Flight prices are often lowest when first opened for booking before gradually rising.
Is Google Flights a useful tool for booking airline tickets with cash?
Google Flights makes comparing cash ticket prices across a huge variety of airlines and dates quick and easy. This allows you to efficiently narrow down the absolute cheapest flight deal and save time searching for yourself.
Do I need an account to use Google Flights?
While a Google account isn’t required, having one unlocks handy extras like saving searches and price drop alerts when tracking flights. Super valuable for snagging deals!
How do I access Google Flights?
Accessing Google Flights is a breeze – just open any web browser and go to the https://www.google.com/travel/flights site. No app or login is needed, which makes jumping in simple.
How can I refine my search results on Google Flights?
Google Flights has tons of filters to customize your search – stops, times, airline, price range, etc. Tweak to your heart’s content to find that perfect flight.
How does the “Flexible Dates” feature work on Google Flights?
The “Flexible Dates” calendar vividly shows price changes across dates. Easily pick cheaper days shown in green to save money. Clever!
How do I complete a flight booking on Google Flights?
When you find your dream flight, click through to the airline’s site to enter info and pay. Review everything carefully, confirm booking, and you’re set! The process is smooth.