Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - The Power of Flexible Dates
One of the best ways to score amazing deals on flights is to be flexible with your travel dates. While it's tempting to lock in specific dates for a vacation, having some wiggle room can open up a world of money-saving options.
When using Google Flights, make sure to toggle on the flexible dates calendar view. This lets you see at a glance when prices spike and dip over a large range of dates. You may find that shifting your trip by just a few days earlier or later can slash hundreds off the fare.
Don't be afraid to play around with the calendar extensively, clicking through 6 months or more of potential travel dates. Moving beyond the typical Friday to Sunday or Saturday to Saturday booking periods is a go-to trick for finding dirt cheap airfare.
Aim to travel midweek when possible, as Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays are generally the cheapest days to fly. If your schedule allows, departing on a Wednesday and returning on a Tuesday can result in massive savings.
Consider booking an open-jaw ticket, where you fly into one city and depart from another. This gives you added flexibility to shape your itinerary around the best fares. For example, you could fly into London and back from Rome, taking advantage of a cheap one-way fare on one or both legs.
If you have no time constraints at all, setting up a Google Flights price alert for your preferred route is the way to go. You'll get notifications when fares drop, allowing you to jump on a deal and then plan your vacation around it.
Being spontaneous and booking last-minute flights can also yield great finds, as airlines work to fill empty seats. Use Google Flights' explore tool to uncover budget-friendly destinations with cheap fares available to depart within the next few weeks.
What else is in this post?
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - The Power of Flexible Dates
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Mix and Match One-Way Flights
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Use the Explore Tool to Find Cheap Destinations
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Set Price Alerts for Your Ideal Trip
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Leverage Incognito Mode for Unbiased Results
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Check Nearby Airports to Uncover Savings
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Master Advanced Search for Complex Itineraries
- Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Maximize Mileage Programs to Book Awards
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Mix and Match One-Way Flights
One overlooked strategy for scoring amazing deals is mixing and matching one-way flights. While roundtrips are often cheaper, sometimes piecing together a trip from two separate one-ways can unlock huge savings.
Google Flights makes this easy to do. Simply search for one-ways on your outbound and return dates separately. You can instantly see if it's cheaper to book two one-ways instead of a roundtrip.
For example, say you want to fly from New York to London and back. The roundtrip fare may be $800. But when you check one-ways, you find New York to London is $500 for the dates you want, while London to New York is only $300. Booking two one-ways would save you $100 compared to the roundtrip.
The key is having flexibility. Airlines sometimes file discounted one-way fares on routes where roundtrip prices are high. By breaking up your trip, you can capitalize on imbalances like this.
One-way flights also open up possibilities for open-jaw trips. You could book New York to London, then Dublin to New York a few weeks later. This lets you visit multiple cities for potentially far less than a roundtrip ticket.
If you'll be traveling for an extended period, look at booking multiple one-way flights. For example, fly into Bangkok, then book separate one-ways to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. You can shape your itinerary around wherever has the cheapest fares.
Sometimes booking two one-ways is the only option for complex multi-city trips. For example, if you want to visit Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, a roundtrip likely won't work. Separate one-ways give you maximum flexibility.
In some cases, booking two one-ways may involve a layover airport you want to avoid. But if the savings are substantial, it could be worth the inconvenience. You'll have to weigh the pros and cons.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Use the Explore Tool to Find Cheap Destinations
One of the most useful but overlooked features within Google Flights is the Explore tool. Tucked away in the sidebar, this allows you to uncover amazing airfare deals to destinations you may have never considered. Instead of locking in a specific trip, you can browse budget-friendly options and let Google Flights inspire your next adventure.
After entering your departure airport, use the map to toggle between price graphs for different regions of the world. You'll instantly see when fares are lowest to areas like Europe, Asia, South America, and more.
Zoom into continents and countries for an even more precise view. You can uncover red-hot flight deals departing in the next 3, 6 or 12 months. Don't limit yourself to searching only a single month—expanding your flexible date range exposes sales you'd otherwise miss.
The Explore tool removes the blinders and challenges you to think outside the box. Maybe you've always dreamed of Italy, but flights to Croatia are half the price for your dates. Consider spending some of your trip in the dazzling Dalmatian Coast before hitting theAmalfi Coast. Or book that bucket list Australia trip when airfares plunge, forcing you to finally pull the trigger.
Beyond cost-effective destinations, keep an eye out for mistake fares that look too good to be true. These can occur when airlines file the wrong prices, leading to impossibly cheap deals—think $300 roundtrip flights to Hawaii from the West Coast. They disappear fast once caught, so if you spot one, book it immediately.
For inspirational wanderlust, you can't beat browsing the Explore tool map and drilling down on cheap flight deals. But don’t get overly focused on a single region. Sometimes the cheapest fares may be to less obvious destinations like Colombia over Peru, or Kenya versus South Africa. Avoid preconceived notions and go where the deals take you.
The Explore tool also lets you filter by travel season, helping you pinpoint the best time of year to visit your target region. Focus on shoulder season months when the weather is ideal and you’ll avoid peak crowds. This strategy typically yields the lowest fares, ideal sightseeing conditions, and a perfect dose of adventure.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Set Price Alerts for Your Ideal Trip
One of the most valuable tools for scoring amazing airfare deals is setting up price alerts on Google Flights. This allows you to bookmark a specific route and be notified anytime prices drop. Instead of endlessly searching over and over, Google Flights does the monitoring for you.
Say you want to fly from Los Angeles to Maui this fall. Fares currently hover around $500 roundtrip, which is a bit outside your budget. Simply enter your desired dates and route, then toggle on the “Track Prices” switch. This automatically sets a free price alert.
Now Google Flights will email you anytime prices dip below a threshold you define. Set your target price at $400 and you’ll only get notified if fares reach this ideal number. No more wasting time checking prices that haven’t budged.
The key is giving yourself flexibility. Maybe tack on surrounding airports to include LAX, SNA, LGB and ONT for maximum options. Extend the date range out several months to capture more possibilities. Select “+/- 3 days” to expand your window on both departure and return.
You never know when a flash sale or mistake fare might hit at the last minute, so a wide net ensures you catch any plummeting deals. With patience, you could score a $250 roundtrip through a price alert you’d otherwise never find searching manually.
Beyond flights, take advantage of price tracking for hotels. If your dream trip involves New York City, set alerts for hotels dropping below $200 or $150 a night. You’ll pounce when prices hit that magic number.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Leverage Incognito Mode for Unbiased Results
One sneaky Google Flights trick involves using incognito mode to gain unfiltered access to the lowest fares. See, like other travel sites, Google Flights shows you personalized search results based on factors like past search history and login location. This makes it harder to find the true rock-bottom deals.
By opening an incognito browser window and searching Google Flights there, you essentially get a blank slate without any algorithmic bias. You're searching as an anonymous user would, revealing cheaper fares Google might otherwise filter out.
It's like shedding your cookie trail and bypassing the filters. You gain raw, unbiased access to airfare deals at their purest level. No more results skewed by where you live or what you've searched before. It's just you and the most bare bones basic fares out there.
This incognito mode strategy really pays dividends when researching complex itineraries. Say you want to fly from St. Louis to Bangkok with a stopover in Tokyo. If you’ve searched this route before, Google Flights may omit lower fares they already showed you. But in incognito mode you often uncover options previously hidden.
The same goes for exotic long-haul routes you’ve never searched prior. With no search history attached to your session, prices can be dramatically different versus a logged in search. I’ve seen $500+ differences just by clicking that incognito icon. It's like accessing a parallel universe of untouched bargain fares.
Beyond unfiltered pricing, incognito prevents tracking that could lead to fare hikes. Some airlines hike prices if they detect you searching a route repeatedly. By blocking cookies and data gathering, incognito stops this in its tracks. Signing out also resets your location, which can lower fares targeted to your home city.
Of course, the trade-off is you lose access to flight options linked to your frequent flyer accounts when not logged in. Having your mileage programs on file lets Google Flights incorporate award availability. So weigh carefully when to go incognito versus staying signed in.
But for straightforward cash bookings, an incognito search should be your first move. See what prices look like through an anonymous lens before any other factors come into play. You can always log back in later if needed to access your full flight options. Just beware that incognito doesn't mean 100% invisible—Google still customizes some results like currency.
It’s quick and easy to open an incognito window in Chrome, Firefox or Safari. The option is right there in your browser’s menu. For serious privacy, use a VPN along with incognito to mask your IP address and location entirely. This cloaks your search to unlock the lowest possible fares.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Check Nearby Airports to Uncover Savings
One of the most overlooked ways to save big when booking flights is expanding your airport options. Most travelers fixate on only their closest hub, but looking at nearby alternatives can unlock major savings. Google Flights makes this a breeze with its “Nearby Airports” feature.
Simply check the box to add airports within 100 miles of your departure and destination. This instantly casts a wider net that exposes airfare deals you’d otherwise miss. Suddenly cheap nonstop flights may appear from that secondary airport an hour away that wasn’t even on your radar.
Don’t limit yourself to just big hubs either. Smaller regional airports often have low-cost carriers like Allegiant offering rock bottom fares without the hassle of connections. For example, flying Southwest out of Chicago Midway instead of O’Hare could chop $100 off your trip.
Alternate airports are especially useful for budget airlines like Spirit that skirt major hubs. While you’d never find them searching just LAX flights, see what bargains turn up departing from Ontario Airport 60 miles east. That quick puddle jumper over could save hundreds.
Maximize your chances by selecting both “Nearby Airports” and “Multiple Destinations”. Now you get price options not just for LAX, but also Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and John Wayne Airport in Orange County. Multiple destination airports around your final stop expand possibilities even further.
Having a car rental or willing to Uber is key to taking advantage of nearby airports. But don’t let a slightly longer drive deter you—the savings often outweigh the inconvenience, especially on longer flights. Even tacking on $50 in uber rides each way is nothing compared to the $300 you saved by shifting airports.
For international trips, look across border cities for alternate departure points. Fares from Buffalo or Detroit to Europe can be far cheaper than NYC or Chicago airports just a few hours away. With airports abutting the Canadian border, you get low fares plus a quick test run through customs before your real journey.
Google Flights makes it effortless to filter and compare prices across all nearby airports at a glance. Don’t anchor yourself to preconceived notions about which one is cheapest or most convenient. Let the hard numbers determine the best option based on your dates and destination.
Avoiding tunnel vision is crucial. Savvy travelers are flexible, keeping an open mind about secondary airports that might offer an incredible deal. Spending a few extra minutes checking nearby alternatives pays massive dividends in savings you’d completely miss otherwise.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Master Advanced Search for Complex Itineraries
When planning a multi-city or open-jaw trip, Google Flights’ advanced search options are indispensable for crafting the optimal complex itinerary while saving big. Instead of piecing together flights legs one by one, advanced search allows you to input your full journey in one go to unlock discounted bundle fares.
After entering your first leg departure and destination, select "Add another flight" to keep building your journey. Continue adding segments for up to 7 total legs covering multiple destinations. Mix and match one-way flights or roundtrips to construct any routing imaginable.
With all segments added, Google Flights will automatically price out the complete trip as one booking. This reveals discounted bundled fares that individual one-ways would not. Essentially, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts when booked together.
For example, say you want to visit Denver, Austin and Miami from Los Angeles. Pricing these three separate one-ways may total $800. But using advanced search to bundle the itinerary often yields a single ticket price of just $600. Huge savings from letting Google Flights re-price the full journey.
When building complex itineraries, leverage Google Flights' flexible date calendar view for each leg. This reveals days when prices spike versus dip lowest. Aim to depart each segment during valleys in the graph to optimize savings across your entire route.
Mix and match departure dates across cities to capitalize on daily fluctuations. Depart LA on a Tuesday when fares are cheap, Austin on a Wednesday when it drops lower there, and fly back from Miami on a Thursday if that's the bottom. Total trip cost gets minimized via strategic date picking.
For open-jaw trips, set your final destination as a different city from your starting point. Google Flights will piece together the cheapest option between them based on your stops. Maybe LA to Denver to Austin to Miami then back to San Francisco is cheaper than returning to LA. Let Google find the ideal combo.
When searching multiple destinations, click "Nearby airports" to expose alternatives that may offer huge savings on a leg. Flying out of LAX is likely pricier than using Ontario Airport on a journey involving several flights.
Advanced search also allows mixing cabin classes across legs at no extra charge. Fly to Asia in economy, then book business class for flights within the region. Google Flights bakes this variable into your single fare.
Finding Flight Nirvana: How to Master Google Flights and Unlock Amazing Airfare Deals - Maximize Mileage Programs to Book Awards
One of the lesser known tricks for unlocking incredible flight deals via Google Flights is leveraging your airline and hotel loyalty programs. While most travelers focus solely on cash fares, keeping an eye on mileage redemption rates can score you free flights and hotel stays.
See, major carriers like American, United, Delta and Alaska publish award availability to partners like Google Flights. This means while searching for a cash fare, you may also spot options to book the same flight by redeeming just miles. I’m talking perks like a 50,000 mile nonstop award from NYC to LA when rates are $400+.
Similarly, hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt release award night redemptions to Google Flights. Instead of paying cash at the beachside Wailea Marriott in Maui, you could book 5 nights for just 240,000 Bonvoy points. Considering how these same nights cost $300+ each in peak season, that’s an incredible value from rewards.
The key is logging into your frequent flyer and hotel loyalty accounts before searching Google Flights. This links your memberships so eligible award options appear alongside regular fares. You’ll see cash and points prices side-by-side, letting you instantly choose the best value.
Expanding your points balances maximizes opportunities. Apply for the airline and hotel co-branded credit cards that align with your favorite programs. Meet minimum spend for sign-up bonuses and you could have enough miles banked for two or more free trips.
Never pay cash again when you can book the same flights and hotels for free with rewards. Transfer flexible points from Amex, Chase and Citi to airline partners to top up accounts. Sites like CardRatings help you pick the right card for your needs.
Redeeming points through Google Flights is fast and hassle-free. They build the ideal itinerary mixing cash and award seats for you. Just be sure to call and confirm bookings, as availability can fluctuate. Check award calendars to target dates when redemption rates are lowest.
In some cases, booking awards as one-ways and cash for the other leg may get you better value than a roundtrip award. Google Flights empowers you to mix and match. Always weigh transferring points to airline partners versus using credit card portals which may offer cash discounts on redemptions.