These days you have endless options for how to book your airfare. Whether it’s on one of the many travel booking websites or mobile apps, directly through the airline or through your credit card rewards portals-- there are so many options it becomes difficult to decide where to start and what’s going to give you the best deals. You're probably already familiar with Google Flights and at a glance, it has the same functionality as other booking sites: locate flights by time of departure, time of arrival, overall duration, number of layovers, etc. But recently it's become my go-to site for researching and booking flights. The biggest reason for this is that it's EASY. It has great features, the site is quick and responsive, it eliminates the noise of ads and other offers, and it is great for flexible dates and desitinations. Here are some reasons why I use it and some tips on how to take advantage of the features:
Set Price Alerts & Track Flights
If you are searching for airfare far enough in advance, it's helpful to set alerts and track prices before commiting. With Google Flights, it's very easy to Track a Flight route once you've searched it by clicking one button. Once set up, you can view Tracked Flights side by side or set up email notifications to let you know of increases or decreases in the price.
Less Ads and Noise of Other Offers
One of my biggest pet peeves when seaching for travel is being berated by ads both as pop-ups and on the search screen itself. On top of that, many search sites that book for flights, hotels, and car rentals constantly offer you packaged deals when all you really want to do is book the flight itself. I've found Google Flights to be the cleanest in terms of cutting out the ads and noise and just showing you want you want.
Google Flights=clean and easy!
Give me the Best Flight Option
Often times, flight search engines auto-sort by price. Of course I want the cheapest flight, but it's frutstating when the cheapest option has a significantly longer overall duration because of many or long layovers. You then end up scrolling forever or having to filter to find some a flight that is reasonable for total travel time.
See here when searching on Expedia for Dublin->Florence in August. The first option doesn't even tell me the price (another annoyance of trying to get me to bundle flights+hotels) and it's almost 21 hours long in total duration. A few options futher, you'll see CityJet for a mere €1 more, but has a duration of under 6 hours.
On the other hand, Google Flights will auto-select the "Best" flight options by comparing price with duration time to give you your best options. No need to set additional filters or to scroll further to find these better options. Below the few recommendations, Google Flights will serve up remaining options based on price so you can check your decision vs all options.
When you know the destination, but are flexible on dates, I've found Google Flights to be the easiest to find the cheapest time to fly. By simpily entering the Orgin and Destination and then clicking the date box, a calendar will appear to show you the price based on which day you pick. If you've selected a One-Way flight, it'll show the One-Way price. If you've selected a Round Trip, it'll show the RT price. When I go home to Boston in August, this is a great way for me to decide on dates without doing seperate searches for all the date variations.
Use Price Graph to get best RT Flight
Similar to the Calendar Feature, the Price Graph takes one click to show you the different RT comibinations of Departure and Return dates. After entering your Orgin, Destination, and starter Dates, click "Flexible Dates" to see the Price Graph populate. From there you can see what your best options are and Google Flights will also highlight the most expensive options in red and the cheapest in green.
Discover Destinations by Region
The Calendar and Price Graph are about searching one Destination by flexible dates, but what if your destination is also flexible? If you're someone like me, you have a long list of places you'd like to go and you don't care where exactly you go next. Google Flights has great features to "Discover Destinations" when you don't have a place in mind. If you have a bank holiday weekend coming up, or you're considering taking a trip if you can find something cheap enough, these features are great to see what your options are when your destination is still unknown.
To do this, enter your orgin and then you can either select specific dates or select a month for travel. From there you can click "everywhere" or a specific region like "Europe" and Google Flights will list your options by price.
The "where can I go" Map Feature
Similar to the search above, you use the Map feature if you have set dates, but don't have a destination. Enter your orgin and dates, and then click on the map under the results. It will bring you to a full map with dots marking all of your options. You can filter by stops or duration, set a max price, and then see visually all your options for those dates with your filters in mind.
I've used this before when I thought of flying into one city, but saw another city close by was much cheaper. In situations like this, you may choose to fly into a different city or airport and find alternative transportation between them.
Hope this helps for the next time you plan a trip-- or to give you inspriation once you see how cheap it can be to go to so many different places on the map!