Google Flights is one of the best invented online tools for looking up flight information. I use it on a weekly basis, if not more frequent, to compare flight options, track pricing and get inspired on where to go next. 

Here are a few powerful features that can vastly open up options for your next trip:

1. Use “Explore” to look for the cheapest flight to a particular region

2. Construct a multi-city itinerary to take advantage of stopovers

3. Find the most affordable date combination 

4. Search for alternative airport 

5. Track flight pricing 

First things first: Learn to use all those filters!

Google Flights’  power lies in the filters that would allow you to filter flights that meet certain criteria: 

  • Stops (e.g. non-stop, or up to 1 stop)
  • Airlines or alliance (e.g. Air France, or all Star Alliance alliances)
  • Layover time (e.g. no more than 5 hours)
  • Price (e.g. “no more than $800″)
  • Connection (e.g fly via Los Angeles, or not fly via Vancouver)

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1. Use “Explore” to look for the cheapest flight to a particular region 

     Link: Google Maps Explore

Let’s say I am interested in going anywhere in South America sometime next year. I picked the dates and the following map shows up.

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In this example, I want further refine the results to flights that require no more than 1 connection, cost under $900 and operated by Star alliance airlines. The results narrow down to either Bogota, Colombia for $426 or Lima, Peru (with a connection via San Salvador) for $658, which are pretty good deals.

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2. Construct a multi-city itinerary to take advantage of stopovers

I notice that this itinerary from San Francisco to Lima has a connection in San Salvador. I wonder how much it would cost to stay in San Salvador for a couple days, rather than doing a 2-hour layover.

I switched over to multi-city mode and added San Salvador as a stop, which only adds $38 to the itinerary for a total of $696.

This trick is a great way to visit more places with low additional costs since you are passing by that city / country anyway.

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3. Find the most affordable date combination 

If your travel dates afford some flexibility, it is worthwhile to check whether prices within a few days are significantly cheaper. If you click on the date box and select “Flexible dates”, you can see a grid that shows pricing for +/- 3 days outbound and inbound date combinations. Unsurprisingly in this example from New York to London, weekend departures are the most expensive. 

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4. Check for alternative airport

Alternative airports can sometimes mean big savings, especially if you are departing from or arriving at cities with multiple airports (such as Haneda and Narita in Tokyo, or Heathrow and Gatwick in London). 

As an example, the cheapest nonstop option from San Francisco to Copenhagen is on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which costs $1,120.

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But if I add Oakland International as another departure option (by hitting that plus sign), the search results come back with an option on Norwegian Airways, which is significantly cheaper for only $481.

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5. Track flight pricing 

If you are undecided or you want to wait and see if price is going to drop, you can hit the “track price” button at the bottom of the page after you have selected an itinerary.

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After tracking a flight, you can then see the price trends for all the saved flights by accessing the menu in the upper left of the page. You will get email notifications whenever the price of your saved flights change. This information should arm you with additional data points to decide whether/when to pull the trigger low point (don’t wait until it’s too late!)

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Conclusion

Google Flights is fast and easy to use compared to many other travel sites. The combination of filters, multi-city / multi-airport search and pricing tracking on should give you the tools to find an itinerary that most fits your needs and budget. I have used these techniques and learned about routes / airlines / places that I didn’t know about. Above all, it has made travel planning a lot more fun!

Do you know of any other Google Flights tricks? 

Author

Travel blogger @ travelblob.com. While working full-time as a consultant, I'm constantly planning for my next trip and taking advantage of my weekends and time off to see the world. I have managed to visit more 100+ cities in over 25 countries, and am looking forward to visiting another 25 countries by 2020! I hope the travel tips, reviews and guides on this site will spark travel ideas and help you plan for the next trip!

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