Google Flights: What to Know Before You Book

Are you looking for cheap flights? Happily, for travelers, there are lots of ways to find discounted airfares. One way is with Google Flights, a powerful tool for searching out the best deals on flights. Let’s take a look at how it works, how to save money with Google Flights and the different ways to maximize it. 

How to use Google Flights

On the surface, Google Flights seems pretty simple to use — and it is. Anyone can navigate to the site, input their search information and receive results. For example, we used Google Flights to search for a round-trip ticket in economy class from Orlando to New York. But you can also search for one-way or multi-city itineraries on Google Flights, as well as business class tickets. 

When you do this, Google will show the flights it thinks are best, whether that means they’re the fastest, the cheapest or some other combination of factors. 

You can stop there if you’d like. Once you’ve selected the flights you prefer, Google will either take you to a booking site or allow you to book directly within its platform.

But there’s so much more to customize, including departure times, luggage policy and airlines. 

Filtering by price

Perhaps the most useful feature of Google Flights is the ability to set your price point. 

If you’re especially price-sensitive, filtering out expensive flights can show you exactly what’s available within your budget.

Searching for nonstops

Are you the type of flyer who simply wants to get there? Are connections the bane of your existence? 

The stops filter on Google Flights allows you to set how many layovers you’re willing to tolerate, whether that’s one stop, two stops or no stops at all.

Selecting departure times

If you have an early-morning meeting or you’re looking to leave a little later, you’ll want to filter out the flights that don’t fit your needs. To do so, hit the “times” button on the search page. 

From here, you can edit and search for the time your flights will take off and land for both legs of your journey. 

Choosing your airlines

Are you a Star Alliance loyalist? How about a fan of SkyTeam? If you’re trying to stick with an airline alliance — or even a specific airline — Google has that covered. 

You can use the “airlines” filter to show different airlines on the route that you’re searching. Depending on your needs, you can opt to show results from different alliances or by individual airlines. 

This can be especially helpful if you have a travel voucher to spend or you’re looking to earn elite status on an airline.

Include your luggage in your search

Whether you’re an overpacker or a light traveler, Google Flights gives you the option to choose how much luggage you’d like to bring. 

The “bags” filter can show you flights that include luggage — so you don’t have to worry about additional fees. 

Setting your layovers

Some savvy flyers enjoy the ability to take a few stopovers en route to their destination. Others, well, not so much. 

If you have to stop over, the “connecting airports” filter allows you to select where your layover will be. Have you been wanting to check out the SkyDeck at the Delta SkyClub in New York-JFK? Well, you can filter out other airports and choose how long you’d like your layover to be with this option. 

Limiting the length 

Combined with the ability to pick your layovers, limiting the duration of your flight allows you to pick the fastest routes. This is especially useful when Google presents options that can take 30 hours or more.

Conversely, you can also choose to keep this toggle unused, thus letting you build in some free city-break layovers on the longest flights. 

Saving the environment

It’s no secret that air travel produces some serious carbon emissions. If that’s a concern, Google has a filter to show you which flights have a lower impact on the environment.

Although the filter isn’t robust, you are able to see the emissions in your search results. 

Saving money with Google Flights

So we’ve explored all the different filters available during a standard search with Google Flights. These give you the ultimate in customization, so if you’d like a flight from New York to Paris featuring two stops, a layover in Frankfurt and two checked bags — that’s an option. 

However, there are also ways to maximize Google Flights to save money. Here’s how. 

Check out the fare calendar 

When you start out your search, you’ll notice that you pick your dates from a calendar. However, if you hover over the calendar long enough, you’ll start to see prices appear. 

Google Flights displays ticket prices for a two-month window. If you have flexibility on your travel dates, it’s worth taking a look around to see when flights are the least expensive. Google even helps you out by highlighting the cheapest fares in green.

Search multiple airports

Google Flights doesn’t limit you to searching from a single airport. This handy feature allows you to check out flights from neighboring airports, as well as those which you’re willing to depart from. 

To search for multiple airports, start typing in the search bar. 

In this case, adding multiple airports allowed us to find a flight for $176 rather than the $228 in the original search.

Allow separate tickets

This is actually a type of filter, but it’s a bit more advanced than your usual options. When searching, you have the option whether to allow separate tickets or not. It’s found at the very bottom of the little “all filters” tab on your search results page. 

Allowing for separate tickets means that you may need to book two one-way flights rather than a round-trip flight, though Google will only highlight these results if they’re cheaper than a single-ticket itinerary. 

Set a flight alert

Did you know that Google Flights can send you emails? If a flight you’re looking for is too expensive, you can sign-up for alerts that’ll let you know when the price drops. 

Along with this, Google will also let you know whether the price for your flights is appropriate. This little graph won’t show up on all searches, but if Google has data for the flight you’ll see this pop up when you’re scrolling through the search results. 

Use the Google Flights Explorer

Do you have flexibility on your travel? Are you just trying to figure out somewhere to go? Perhaps the most underrated part of Google Flights is the Explorer option, which can be found on the left-hand side when on the Google Flights page.

This incredibly useful tool allows you to set extra flexible parameters for a trip. Say, for instance, you’d like to take a week-long vacation within the next six months. You only want to fly business class, however, and you don’t want to pay more than $2,700 round-trip. 

Input all this information and a Google Flights map will pop up, showing you all your available options. 

Like standard Google Flights, the Explorer tool also has a variety of filters. This includes the ability to sort by airlines and airline alliances, making this a powerful instrument for those looking to earn elite status with airlines. 

If you want to use Google Flights

Google Flights is a robust search tool for those looking to book flights.

Although it’s easy to use, don’t be fooled by its simple appearance. It contains a wide variety of filter options allowing you to design your perfect itinerary and save money while doing it. 

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