Mastering Google Flights is actually really easy…

People either don’t care about flight deals until it’s too late, or they book way too early. With a little bit of help from Google, you may change that, or at least know you’re making the right move when you do.

Tracking, filtering and jumping on the best flight deals really couldn’t be easier, and there’s no excuse not to. It’s free, after all, and the good news, like price drops can come right into your inbox.

Google Flights is a simple but powerful way to search for flights, allowing you to use all the flight deal tips you’ve read on the internet, without the dumb ones like changing your location with a VPN.

Here’s how to become a legendary flight deal hunter with Google Flights, or at the very least, be someone who knows all the best tricks to save on airfare, and get results…

Step One: Use Google Flights Early And Often

People come up to me all the time and say “oh yeah, i know all the cheap flights tricks, I book on a Tuesday at 6AM”. I smile, nod and think to myself “mmm cool, that’s good for you, but there’s no reason to, and you can learn why so easily”.

Why? Because for a start, one single day, like a Tuesday being the day that all the deals drop is a myth, and also, because Google Flights gives you so so many tools to know all you could possibly need before booking.

I start my flight searches long before I expect to book anything and I play around with things every few days, but even searching once properly is all you need.

Using other sites like Expedia or Skyscanner to comparison shop once you’ve found a great price is smart shopping, but only when you’re ready to book. It’s the simple tools Google offers which make it the one you want to spend time with.

The simplest and best way to actually find flight great deals is Google Flights. In case you’d heard that the ITA Matrix is actually the best, Google Flights is basically a less clunky of ITA Matrix, and works on more real time flight availability, whereas the ITA Matrix may show outdated results.

Step Two: Use Your Google Account

If you’re logged into your Gmail account, Google Flights takes on new levels which really improve search. It also makes it really easy to get destination notifications, if you’re traveling internationally.

With international travel restrictions changing so frequently at the moment, Google can let you know exactly what tests or documents you may need before you book.

But back to flight deals.

We’ll get to that more in a second. All it takes is the flick of a switch, or realistically speaking – the tap of a button at the top of your search. There’s nothing quite like waking up to savings in your inbox.

Step Three: Open Up Possibilities

If you’re going somewhere far, the more flexibility the better. Maybe Boston has $260 round trip flights to Spain, but New York is over $500. This is where Google Flights shines.

You can enter up to seven (7!) departure cities and seven (7!) destinations for a single search. You’ll see the lowest price from all possible outcomes. Yes, in one search you can see if it’s cheaper to fly from Paris, London, Manchester, Amsterdam, Dublin, Rome or Budapest.

Is it worth the savings and effort to leave from somewhere else? That’s up to you, but it never hurts to compare…

Do note: if you want to set price alerts, you can generally only search 5 departures and destinations, rather than 7. It’s not a big deal…

Step Four: Set Multiple Google Flights Alerts

Alerts are free, alerts are easy and you should 100% be using them.

Yes, you!

Whenever you search on Google Flights, you have the option of pressing a button which will track prices for your desired flights and email you when prices change. Just wait until the search appears to be completely finished and the button will pop up.

If you have any flexibility, like maybe leaving Tuesday instead of Wednesday, set alerts for each possible date of flexibility to improve your chances of getting in on a flight deal to remember.

For reasons too random to explain, the same trip leaving on a Tuesday instead of a Monday could be the savings of hundreds, or in the case of business or first class, even thousands. You only know, if you track prices for every date you could actually travel on.

You should also set alerts for premium economy or business class, because hey, you never know! I’ve proven countless times that first class is occasionally priced cheaper than economy.

Step Five: Get Inspired

Here’s a really cool feature for those of you who struggle on picking a place, or have a budget and just want to know where it can take you. You’re not alone!

Without setting a destination, you can see flight prices to places all over the world, just by telling the search where you are. Just enter let’s say… New York, and then press search. You can then refine the map based on price, stops, ticket type and more.

This can be a really cool way to inspire your next trip, or find out that it’s a lot cheaper to fly from Los Angeles to London, than Los Angeles to Louisiana. That’s yet another strange, but often true case.

You can set criteria like “non-stop only” or only flights with a certain airline, or airline alliance, like Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance and you don’t even need to put in dates! If flexibility is on your side, you can just see what all the best prices are for the whole year.

For those trying to maximize their travel bucks, or trying to see if they can fit business class into the budget, you can indeed set a budget filter, to name the highest price you’re willing to pay, and see where it can take you by moving the map! As noted, Just leave the destination field blank and Google Flights will do the rest.

You can just scroll and scroll around the world, getting a geography lesson while finding super deals.

Step Six: Get Picky With Google Flight Preferences

You can’t help but want what you want. Maybe you’re traveling as a family and only want direct flights, or are obsessed with Virgin Atlantic and only want to fly with them.

Using the easy toolbar above flight results, you can exclude certain airlines, only select others, choose the amount of connections you find acceptable and also if you get hand luggage. You can then set price alerts with these preferences to ensure you don’t get any false excitement!

Step Seven: Find A Date

Nope, not prying into your love life – just your fly life.

Google Flights also has a really useful “dates” tool, which allows you to see a matrix of the lowest prices within a few days of what you searched for. In one click you’ll see the prices for every nearby date, which can help determine if that dinner with an old friend is really worth it, or if it’s better to save $300 on your flight by leaving earlier.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to use Google’s two newest features, which help you get a feel for whether something is a steal, a deal, or no big deal.

When you select flights, before you go to any booking screens, Google shows you a thermometer based on historical flight data, to tell you whether that price is lower than normal, normal, or worse than normal.

What’s your favorite Google Flights tip?

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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12 Comments

  1. Thank you. Can you please add at what point the airline is made aware of demand for a flight based on Google Flights vs. ITA Matrix vs Expert Flyer vs other OTAs?
    Are all hits/searches captured/known immediately by the airline, or is the airline completely unaware until exactly what point? How can perceived demand affect prices?Are we shooting ourselves in the foot setting alerts?

    1. Ryan air have definitely done that trick, regularly noticed prices increased the more we searched and it saved the search…

  2. While I pretty much detest Google, I do use their Flights program, simply because there’s nothing that can do remotely the same things. The one area that is surprisingly lacking is in the maps. While you can easily show prices *to* just about anywhere on the map, you can’t do the reverse by listing a destination for the map and see the best prices *from* anywhere.

  3. I like using google flights to search the cheapest route by region. So set a search like NYC-Europe and it will show a map of Europe with prices for the dates you want to various cities. I also like the option for “Bags”. Select it to include a carry-on to weed out basic economy or alert you to LCC’s that upcharge for that feature.

  4. Just stumbled upon this blogpost by chance!
    I actually never thought of using Google for flights and after reading this I’m a bit ashamed of myself 🙂
    I’m one of those only relying on Skyscanner for flight-research – what a mistake!
    Definitely going to save this post somewhere I have easy access to!
    Thanks for sharing!

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