Do You Use Google Flights?
Do you know about Googling for flight bargains? A lot of people use this handy travel tool by Google, but I find that a lot of people still do not know about it. Living near a major tourist destination, I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of travelers. Sometimes they come in waves from particular locations. One week, there are a ton of people from Boston. The next week, it seems like every other person on the street is from Toronto. Sometimes that may be due to coincidence, I’m sure, but more often it seems to be a result of cheap airfares. When there’s a bargain, the people will follow it.
Although many of these people I bump into belong to the travel savvy crowd, just as many of them apparently benefited from some blind luck in finding a cheap fare. In many cases, they already had their destination in mind and waited for a low fare to become available. Quite of few of them just got lucky when they booked a flight. A surprising number of travelers, it seems, really don’t have a system for finding good flight deals.
Googling Flights: A Method to the Madness of Finding Cheap Tickets
My personal system has changed over the years, as changes occur in resources and technology. Sometimes, admittedly, it’s been a bit convoluted. Nevertheless, I usually have some functional frame work that gets the job done. These days, I find it is easier than ever. If I have the time and inclination for a trip, my go-to resource is Google Flights. I continue to be surprised at the number of people who don’t know about Googling for flight bargains. So, here’s a quick crash course on how to use Google to find cheap flight deals.
There are different ways you can use Google Flights to search out airfares. I will walk you through the basics and offer a few helpful tips. By the end, you should be able to find cheap flights on your own. Once you finish reading, play around with Google Flights and see the different ways it lets you find flight deals. Let’s start off by going to the Google Flights landing page.
Googling for Flight Bargains – Let’s Get To It
In the screen shot above, you’ll see that I entered Nashville. That’s my home airport, but you should put in whatever city you want. Most often I use my closest airport. Sometimes I want to know the price of tickets leaving from somewhere else. Either way, the functions are the same. For now, enter your departing airport, but leave the destination blank. If you want to check flights for specific dates, go ahead and enter those. You can put ballpark dates, if you’d like.
Go to the “explore destinations” option. I have circled it in my screenshot. This will bring up a screen that should look similar to the one below. You will see a Google maps interface, marked with numerous red dots and city names. Zoom in, or out, and you will see cities all over the world displayed. On the left-hand side, you’ll see cheap flights recommended by Google. If you are flexible on destinations, you may find something there that interests you. Otherwise, you can play around with the map and see what kind of flight deals are available.
Drilling Down Into Your Flight Choices
The prices listed on the map are the lowest fares for that destination. The default is to show round trip flights, but you can change this. Look at the upper left, above the departure city you entered. The drop-down menus let you change to one way, if you prefer. From the main Google Flights page, you can also select multi city, if you wish. The number of passengers and class of service can also be modified from the drop-downs. Whatever criteria you have selected, the prices shown will be the lowest available. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are flights that you will like. To find out what airlines fly a particular route and the actual itineraries available, simply click on the city and price that interests you.
In my example, I have chosen to fly from Nashville to Chicago Midway airport. You will see a section called “best departing flights”. This will typically represent the itineraries with what Google determines to be the best combination of flight times and prices. Most of the time, I agree with their picks, but sometimes I may not. There are times I may want to connect through a specific city. Other times, I may want a long layover, because I plan to leave the airport in my connecting city. As you can see in my example, you have the option to make more criteria selections. These drop-down menus are just below the city locations and dates. Number of bags, number of stops, connecting airports and more can be selected.
Google’s Pick vs. Your Picks
Scrolling down, you will see a list of “other departing flights”. Sometimes I find flights I prefer in this section. Also, you see right above this a blurb telling you how prices compare to the average. For my chosen itinerary, it says that prices are currently low. In fact, it says they are $82 cheaper than usual. Not bad. What you will also notice in my example, are flights listed for Southwest airlines. The times are listed, but it says “Price unavailable”. Southwest uses a proprietary booking system, which does not share prices with other booking systems. You can find prices for all the usual suspects, such as United Airlines, American Airlines, etc. If you want to know the prices for Southwest, though, you have to check directly with them.
Using this method, I can find the cheapest place to fly for any given time period. If I want to take a trip during a specific week, but am open to exploring destinations, I use this method. If I do have a specific destination in mind, though, this is a quick and easy way to see if other regional airports may have better fares. Sometimes it’s worth it to fly into a different city and rent a car, driving the last leg of the journey. I can simply look at the map, or I can check the “Nearby airports” link above the “Best departing flights” list. If I have some flexibility with dates, the “Price graph” and “Date grid” will show me if different dates might lower my fare.
Now That You Know, It’s Time to Go.
If you are pretty set on a destination, but flexible on dates, simply change the date parameters to zero in on the best, budget friendly time frames. Actually, once you click on a city, it will take you to the specific flight options, but it will also make recommendations to achieve a lower fare. For instance, if it will lower the fare to leave a day earlier and return a day later, Google Flights will tell me that.
This is my primary means of finding cheap flight deals. It works for anywhere in the world. I have successfully used this tool to plan solo travel and family vacations. I have made itinerary changes that were easy on the budget, based on information from Google Flights. Have you saved big on Google Flights? Have you made travel plans based on Googling for flight bargains? Leave a comment and let us know about it.