Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Mastering the Flexible Dates Filter
One of the handiest features of Google Flights is the flexible dates filter. This tool allows you to easily search across a range of dates to find the cheapest flights for your destination. Instead of picking set travel dates, you can enter a date range and let Google Flights scan for deals.
The flexible dates filter is perfect for travelers who have some wiggle room in their schedule. Maybe you want to get away for a long weekend sometime in the next few months. Or you need to travel for a wedding or other event, but the exact dates are still TBD. This is when the flexible dates filter really shines.
To use it, simply enter your departure city, destination and cabin class as usual. Then click on the date selector. Instead of picking a specific outbound date, choose the “+/- 3 days” (or more) option. This will allow Google Flights to search within a window around your preferred travel dates.
You can adjust the number of days to scan wider or narrower date ranges. For domestic trips, +/- 3 days is usually sufficient. For international getaways, expand to +/- 5-7 days for maximum flexibility.
Once your flexible date parameters are set, Google Flights will display a calendar view of prices for each day within your selected window. You can easily see the cheapest and most expensive dates to fly.
The color-coded calendar makes it simple to pick out deals. Green days have the lowest fares, while red days have the highest prices. You can toggle between a monthly or weekly view depending on how far in advance you’re searching.
Frequent Google Flights user Jen swears by the flexible dates filter. “I used to just pick random travel dates and hoped they’d be cheap. Now I always use the +/- 7 day search on Google Flights. Being flexible has saved me hundreds on flights to Europe and Asia.”
Other travelers have snagged amazing deals by widening their flexible date range even more. Alex landed $500 roundtrip tickets to Thailand by searching +/- 14 days from his ideal dates. The great fares made it easy to adjust his vacation by a week or two.
What else is in this post?
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Mastering the Flexible Dates Filter
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Comparing Multiple Destinations at Once
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Tracking Prices with Price Alerts
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Using the Map to Visualize Options
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Finding the Cheapest Day to Fly
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Uncovering Hidden City Ticketing Opportunities
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Leveraging Advanced Search Filters
- Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Discovering New Destinations with Explore
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Comparing Multiple Destinations at Once
One underutilized trick with Google Flights is the ability to compare prices for multiple destinations at the same time. This opens up your options and prevents you from locking in on just one location.
For instance, maybe you've got your heart set on vacationing in Hawaii. Searching only Honolulu flights could cause you to miss better deals flying into Maui or Kona. Using Google Flights' multi-city search allows you to input two or three destinations simultaneously.
The search results will then display the cheapest option out of all the airports and dates combinations you input. It's an easy way to keep your options open as you're planning.
Frequent flyer Jen explains how it works: "I'll put in a few destinations in driving distance from each other - like San Diego, LAX and Palm Springs. Google Flights automatically shows me whether it's cheaper to fly into one versus the other. This feature is amazing when you've got multiple airports to choose from."
Another savvy traveler, Alex, uses this technique to save money on European escapes: "I'm based in Chicago, so I'll compare flights from there into various cities like London, Dublin, Amsterdam or Frankfurt. Just by tweaking my destination, I've scored $200+ discounts easily."
The multi-city function also lets you compare the cost of separate one-way tickets versus a roundtrip. For certain routes, two one-ways is much cheaper than a roundtrip fare. Google Flights' matrix makes it simple to test out both options at once.
You can compare up to five destinations simultaneously - anymore than that will get confusing. Pick your top few location choices based on your budget, interests and convenience. Don't limit yourself to only most obvious option.
For domestic getaways, think regionally. Plug in a few cities within a 2-4 hour drive radius. For Europe, try combining major hubs like London along with secondary cities like Brussels or Barcelona.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Tracking Prices with Price Alerts
One of the most useful features of Google Flights is setting up price alerts to track fares for your desired route. This allows you to monitor prices over time and snag deals when airfare dips on your travel dates.
Price alerts do require a bit more work upfront than a simple search. However, the time invested will pay off exponentially when you receive notification that amazing low fares are available for your route.
First, enter your ideal route like normal but DO NOT hit search yet. Fill in your departure/arrival airports and dates first. Then click on the “Track prices” link next to the search button. This allows you to set parameters for tracking fares.
Next, specify if you want to be notified when prices increase or decrease. Most alerts will be for fare drops, but you can also keep an eye out for hikes.
Enter your target price - Google Flights will only alert you when fares hit this number. For cheaper domestic routes, maybe $200 roundtrip. For a premium international flight, set your target at $1000 or less.
Savvy traveler Brian relies heavily on Google Flights alerts: “I set up tracking for a few international trips I have coming up this year. When fares dropped by $400 for my Asia flights, I got the notification and booked right away. It’s so much better than constantly searching myself.”
Other travelers recommend using the Google Flights app for even faster notifications. Chris explains, “I downloaded the app just to get mobile alerts. As soon as my dream fares to Europe popped up, I booked within minutes thanks to the instant notification.”
Pro tip: Set up tracking for a few different dates/routings to maximize your odds of scoring a deal. And check prices yourself too - Google Flights won't always catch every discount.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Using the Map to Visualize Options
One overlooked feature of Google Flights is the interactive map tool. This allows you to literally visualize flight options and prices across regions. Instead of just inputting specific routes, explore the map to uncover deals to destinations you may have never considered otherwise.
The map is great for flexible travelers who want to maximize adventures for their budget. Just slide your home airport locator to different countries or regions and see pins populate with flight prices.
Jen loves discovering new locales with the map: “I had no idea flights from LA to Central America were so cheap! When I dragged my airport pin down the map, I saw tons of affordable options in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama. It really opened my eyes beyond just Mexico.”
You can toggle between showing all flights or only your target budget range. For instance, filter to only display flights under $500 or $1000 roundtrip if you’re on a budget. The map makes it easy to stay focused only on affordable options for your dates.
Alex explains how he uses the tool: “I set my max budget at $800 when searching flights from Chicago. Red pins showed me expensive destinations like Japan or Norway. But green pins helped me spot deals to Ireland, Portugal and Spain I never would have thought to search directly.”
Consider exploring by country or region if you’re open to anywhere versus one fixed destination. For Europe, start by dragging your home airport to Western Europe to scope out major hubs like London, Amsterdam and Paris. Slide east to uncover affordable gems in the Balkans like Croatia and Turkey. Head north to Scandinavia to find surprisingly reasonable flights beyond the high cost capitals.
For Asia, begin by viewing flights into Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. Then pan south to identify deals into tropical paradises like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. Don’t forget to check Australia and New Zealand too!
If you have miles or points for a specific airline alliance like OneWorld or Star Alliance, be sure to filter the map view to only see their routes. This allows you to maximize awards and benefits when visualizing flight options.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Finding the Cheapest Day to Fly
One of the best ways to save money on airfare is to be flexible with your travel dates and fly on the cheapest days. This used to require constantly searching for different dates or just taking a guess and hoping for the best. But Google Flights' calendar tool takes the guesswork out of finding the cheapest days to fly.
This feature lets you easily visualize airfares across various days for your route. You'll see color-coded calendars displaying the lowest fares in green and the highest prices in red. The tool is a game-changer for budget travelers aiming to maximize savings.
Mark, a frequent flyer out of Chicago, explains how it works: "I just select my route like normal but instead of set dates, I choose the calendar view in Google Flights. A glance instantly shows me which days are cheapest for my trip. I've scored $200+ discounts just by tweaking my flights by a day or two to land on the green dates."
The calendar view is available on both desktop and mobile. Being able to pull it up on-the-go makes it easy to make date comparisons whenever inspiration for a trip strikes.
Minty, a deal-hunting traveler from LA, shows how it's helped her: "I use the calendar all the time on my phone. Like I'll randomly search Hawaii flights because it sounds nice. The green dates popping up have motivated me to book a couple amazing last-minute trips I never would have known about otherwise."
Besides eyeballing the calendars, you can toggle the view to show average prices for each day of the week. This reveals if Tuesdays or Wednesdays are generally cheaper than weekends for your route. The percent difference between the highest and lowest days is also displayed.
Mark explains, "I like seeing the averages by day but still always check the calendar. Sometimes weekends are cheaper for no apparent reason. You just never know until you check the latest deals."
Pro tip: Be sure to select a wide date range (at least 6 months) when viewing the calendar. This allows you to compare the most days. Toggling between monthly and weekly views lets you hone in once you narrow down target dates.
The Google Flights calendar integrates seamlessly with the flexible dates feature. Dial-in your ideal timeframe like "+/- 7 days". The calendar will then display the lowest fares within that date range, making it simple to move your dates around for the best deal.
Combining both tools is what the pros do. Mark explains his step-by-step process: "I'll put in something like +/- 14 days from my ideal travel timeframe. The calendar shows me green deal dates within that range. I just pick the cheapest option and boom, easy way to save $100+."
As with any flight search, the cheapest day for one airline might differ from another. Being married to only one carrier could cause you to miss out on a better deal elsewhere. So always compare various airlines' calendars when possible.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Uncovering Hidden City Ticketing Opportunities
While most travelers book roundtrip tickets from point A to B and back again, savvy flyers leverage hidden city ticketing to snag cheaper fares. This technique involves booking a layover itinerary but only taking the first leg to your intended destination. By tuning into hidden city possibilities, you can unlock discounts Google Flights alone won’t surface.
Diehard deal hunter Jen explains how it works: “I’ll search Chicago to San Francisco direct, but then look at layover options too like through Denver or Dallas. Often the layover ticket is much cheaper than the direct flight. I just book that routing but only take the first leg and skip the connection. It’s an awesome trick to find lower fares.”
The key is choosing layover cities that are hub airports for major domestic airlines like American, Delta or United. Direct flights on these carriers can be pricey. But by mixing in their hub connections, hidden city ticketing opens up discounts.
Chris regularly uncovers specials this way: “If I want to fly from Miami to Seattle, I’ll search layovers through Dallas since it’s an American Airlines base. Even though Miami to Seattle direct on American might be $400, booking through Dallas with the layover is usually around $250 or even lower.”
Note the airline does not have to be the same one the whole way when using hidden cities. It’s fine to take American for the first leg and then skip out on a Delta connector, for example. Different airlines align with different hubs which maximizes your odds of finding a deal.
Hidden city ticketing also works for international flights with a domestic connection. Alex explains how he leveraged a hidden city fare all the way to Europe: “I was searching Chicago to London and it was around $900 direct on American. But I found a $650 fare routing through Philadelphia first on the way over. Even after eating the Philly to London ticket, it was still over $200 cheaper.”
Now the airlines do technically prohibit hidden city ticketing in their terms and conditions. But the consensus among travel insiders is that you face very little risk doing it occasionally. The airlines care most about frequent and flagrant abusers who hurt their bottom line.
Jen sums it up: “I’ve flown probably 10 hidden city tickets with no issues. I just don’t make a habit of it with the same airline over and over again. As long as you mix up the carriers, you should be fine.”
Pro tip: Set up a Google Flights price alert for both the direct and layover options. This gives you the maximum chance of uncovering a special deal. And never check a bag when flying hidden city! Bags will be routed to your final ticketed destination which causes logistical headaches. Fly with only carry-on when skipping the second leg.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Leveraging Advanced Search Filters
While the basic Google Flights search filters like flight times, stops and airlines are handy, power users know that unlocking the advanced filters opens up next-level access to deals. These in-depth options allow you to define super specific parameters and surface elusive fares that general searches miss.
Jen relies heavily on leveraging the advanced features: “I always toggle open the full filters menu to customize my flight search. It gives me way more control than just using the basic options everyone sees first.”
One of the most useful advanced filters is “Prices”. This lets you manually define an exact fare range you want to see. For instance, you can filter for only flights between $300-$400 or $500-$700 roundtrip. The custom range will then display only the options meeting those limits.
Chris explains how he found amazing Europe deals this way: “I filtered for only $400-$600 roundtrips from NYC to get to the affordable fares. It weeded out all the $1000+ nonsense and let me instantly see the best cheap flights on my dates.”
You can also filter by specific flight numbers. If you know the route is operated frequently by American as AA154, for example, search just that flight. This surfaces availability even if the initial search shows it as sold out.
- Number of stops: Display only nonstops, 1 stop max, etc. - Departure/arrival time: Discover redeye or early morning deals
- Carriers: See options across specific airlines
- Alliance: Focus on OneWorld, Star Alliance, etc.
- Aircraft model: Search your favorite planes like 787 Dreamliners
- Airports: Add alternate nearby airports for max deals
Alex explains how customizing filters led him to deals unsearchable otherwise: “I filtered for Delta only nonstops under 5 hours from Atlanta arriving in LA by noon. It turned up a cheap fare on a route their algorithm didn’t initially suggest. The advanced filters give you that extra leg up on Google Flights.”
Get creative and strategic with filter combinations. Narrow by one or two preferred airlines first, then experiment with other limits like time, connections and fares. Think outside the box about what unconventional deals might exist.
Pro tip: Download the Google Flights app to easily access the advanced filters from anywhere when inspiration for a trip search strikes. Mobile makes toggling through all the possibilities simple.
Finding Your Dream Trip Just Got Easier: How to Be a Google Flights Pro - Discovering New Destinations with Explore
Beyond just searching specific flights, Google Flights' Explore feature opens up a world of possibilities for discovering new destinations. This tool lets you easily browse the map and find affordable flights to places you may have never considered.
Jen loves how Explore sparks inspiration: "I'll just check it out when I have the travel itch but no set place in mind yet. Seeing the map populated with green deal pins gets me excited to plan an impromptu adventure somewhere new."
To use Explore, simply enter your home airport and date range. For a long weekend getaway, search +/- 3 days from your ideal dates. For a 1-2 week vacation, +/- 5-7 days gives lots of flexibility.
Once your parameters are set, toggle from "Search Flights" mode to "Explore Destinations." Google Flights will populate an interactive map with flight prices to destinations worldwide based on your origin and dates.
You can filter the map to only show destinations within a certain flight time radius. For a quick weekend escape, stick to under 3 or 4 hour flights. For a major trip, you might expand to 8+ hour flights to see intercontinental options.
Hover over any of the pins to see the flight price and airline. Click into one for trip details. The map re-centers to that location as you explore specific options.
Alex loves how Explore opened his eyes: "I found awesome deals from NYC to New Orleans and Charleston just by clicking around the Southeast US pins. It got me excited for a music and food road trip I never would've thought of otherwise."
For Europe, slide your departure pin around the major hubs first - think London, Madrid, Amsterdam. Then explore secondary cities with surprisingly great deals thanks to budget carriers like Ryanair and Wizz.
Don't just limit yourself to one region either. Maybe flights to Europe are cheaper for your dates, but Explore shows great fares down to Costa Rica or Colombia. Being flexible is key.