an airplane flying over a city

In a funny way, flight deals can be a bit like the people who nod along in a meeting as if they know what they’re talking about. Anyone can shout “deal” at any time and airlines often do. But is it actually a deal, or is it just someone saying it is, with people nodding along in excitement?

Without a shadow of a doubt, one of the quickest and best ways to answer this for yourself is to use Google Flights. Google Flights allows anyone to track prices on routes all over the world, with just a simple tap.

Whenever prices change for better or worse, they come directly into your inbox, and after a while, you stop nodding along, and know with a higher level of certainty when something is worth pouncing on.

The only pitfall has been the manual work in really making it work. Who wants manual work during the stresses of planning a vacation?

an airplane wing and a body of water

Google Flights Adds Flexible Alerts

Until recently, when you added an alert on Google Flights, the alert was date specific. If you wanted to account for any flexibility you had, and were trying to use to your travel advantage, it meant setting multiple alerts for different dates.

For something like New York to Los Angeles on February 25th, for around a week, it meant plugging in alerts for each potential date on either end of the trip. That manual action was enough to make most people give up and over pay.

Google — being Google — has now made things so much better.

If you’re looking for a trip in a certain month, you can now press the “any dates” slider on price tracking and Google will track not just the specific dates you’ve already been searching for, but anything similar within around a month.

a screenshot of a flight schedule

It’s also worth noting that if your first search yields high prices, Google Flights pops up a little window inviting you to use the “date grid” to see if similar date combos offer a better deal.

You can also see a grid of prices for the quarter, which will give a guide as to whether you’re traveling at an expensive time. If you have flex, sometimes it’s nice to know. If you don’t, maybe just don’t look?

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Using Google Flights ‘Any Date’ Tracker

Google isn’t dumb — obviously. They know if you’re looking for a 3-5 day trip in May, you probably aren’t all that excited about bargains for February with a duration of two weeks.

After some testing, it’s pretty clear that Google’s AI gets the gist of what you’re looking for, and only alerts to prices which somewhat fit the search query you entered when you hit ‘Any Date’ for the tracker.

Searching for a 3-5 day trip in May will likely bring options for similar length trips in May, but also potentially the tail end of April, or early June.

Now, there’s a downside, but the hope is that it’s temporary. In all our searches, the new “any date” filter does not work for business class or first class. If you want to fly in comfort, you’ll need to set multiple alerts for specific dates.

Google has taken this approach in the past, and in every case, the trackers did eventually make it to cabins up front. We’ll definitely update when they do, because that’s an amazing feature to have.

an airplane window with a view of the sky

Best New Feature In Air Travel?

If you don’t have any flex, don’t use this feature. But if you do, and want to get the best price sensitive flight deal, it’s a perfect way to use flexibility to your advantage.

Just tap the specific date tracker if you don’t have flex, or “any date” if you do.

With just one tap, any compelling deals will flow directly into your inbox, alerting you of the possibilities that await. Since Google’s filters allow you to weed out airlines, flight times or flight connections you’re not interested in right from the start, you’re in total control of the possibilities — and alerts.

The only more compelling option out there is Capital One Travel, which offers price drop protection, if the app recommends it’s time to book, but the price does down. If that happens, users get a partial refund.

For a free service used by everyone though, this new Google Flights feature keeps this platform at the top of the game.

HT: Thrifty Traveler

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. How do you get the “any dates” slider? I tried using Firefox, Edge and Chrome and none of them have that slider when I do a search for flights to Cusco.

      1. I tried economy, premium economy and business. The any date slider doesn’t show up on any of them for international flights. It only shows up on domestic economy.

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