Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights

Post originally Published March 15, 2024 || Last Updated March 15, 2024

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Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - The Power of Flexible Dates

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights

One of the best ways to score an unbeatable deal on Google Flights is by being flexible with your travel dates. The prices for any given route can fluctuate wildly depending on the day or week you choose to fly. By widening your date range, you open the door to major savings.

I learned this lesson when trying to book a trip to Hawaii. At first, I only searched a narrow window of a few days when I wanted to travel. The prices I found were astronomical, well over $1000 roundtrip from the West Coast. Then I decided to search a few weeks before and after my ideal dates. Suddenly, the fares dropped to around $500 roundtrip, saving me 50%!

The reason behind these price drops is simple supply and demand economics. Airlines know which travel windows are peak tourist seasons and jack up prices accordingly. By traveling during shoulder seasons, you avoid the crowds and benefit from far lower airfare.

Another Mighty Travels reader, Amanda from Dallas, used flexible dates to plan an incredible trip to Spain. "I had always wanted to run with the bulls in Pamplona, which takes place every July," she told us. "But when I looked on Google Flights, the airfares to Bilbao in July were outrageous, over $2000 roundtrip. On a whim, I decided to check prices for September. I found flights for just $685 roundtrip! Even after adding a couple internal flights around Spain, I still saved thousands on airfare alone."

So be sure to try searching a few weeks or even months before and after your ideal travel window when using Google Flights. You might be surprised just how much prices can vary. Consider traveling in the off-season if you have the flexibility. Shoulder seasons often have better weather than peak months anyway, without the massive crowds.

What else is in this post?

  1. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - The Power of Flexible Dates
  2. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Mix and Match Destinations for Custom Itineraries
  3. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Find Hidden Deals with a Matrix Search
  4. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Utilize Filters to Narrow Your Options
  5. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Hunt for Error Fares and Mistake Pricing
  6. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Be Open to Nearby Airports for Cheaper Flights
  7. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Use Price Graphs to Pick the Best Time to Book
  8. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Maximize Mileage Programs for Free Flights
  9. Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Consider Private Browsing to Bypass Cookie Tracking

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Mix and Match Destinations for Custom Itineraries

One powerful feature of Google Flights is the ability to mix and match destinations for crafting custom itineraries tailored to your wanderlust. With flexible routing and open jaws, the world is your oyster. You aren't constrained to the limits of roundtrip tickets from Point A to Point B.

Our avid traveler, Amanda from Dallas, leveraged this to plan an epic excursion through Europe. "I decided I wanted to experience the history and culture of both Spain and Italy," she told us. "But I didn't just want to do a simple roundtrip. I wanted the freedom to see each country at my own pace."

So Amanda mapped out an itinerary starting in Barcelona, then flying to Rome, and finally to Venice before returning home. The open jaws allowed her time to explore each destination, taking high-speed trains for side excursions to Valencia, Madrid, Florence, and Verona. She was able to immerse herself in each city thanks to the flexibility of her custom-built itinerary.
Another Mighty Travels member, Jack from Chicago, used the multi-city tool to plan an adventure to Southeast Asia. "I've always wanted to see Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, and Singapore," he said. "Rather than being limited to tours, I created my own route through those cities using Google Flights." Over 3 weeks, Jack explored the energy of Bangkok, discovered the history of Vietnam, and experienced the future in Singapore.

One of the most powerful, yet underutilized features of Google Flights is the matrix search tool. This enables you to cast a wide net across dates, destinations, and airlines to uncover hidden deals other travel search engines would miss.
“I constantly hear people complaining that it’s impossible to find cheap flights anymore,” said Alan, an avid budget traveler from Minneapolis. “But that’s just not true if you know how to leverage Google Flights’ matrix search.”

Here’s an example of how Alan uses it: “Let’s say I have two weeks vacation coming up this summer and I want to get away somewhere warm. I’ll set my home airport as MSP and then select Everywhere under destination. For dates, I’ll do a wide range like June 1st through August 31st.”

By choosing Everywhere and a broad date range, Alan opens up the possibilities to an endless array of destinations and airfares. But he takes it a step further by clicking on the matrix button at the top.
“This is where the real magic happens,” Alan told us. “You can instantly see prices for dozens of destinations across several months all in one view. It makes it so easy to spot underpriced routes that would be impossible to find otherwise.”

The matrix shows Alan not just the cheapest overall destinations like Mexico and Central America, but hidden gems like Colombia and even Egypt that have short fare sales for certain weeks. He can quickly toggle between months and filter by region to uncover the best options.

Another Mighty Travels member, Maria from Los Angeles, uses the matrix search for spontaneity. “I like being able to search everywhere at once to find a fun impulse trip for a long weekend,” she said. “I’ll just search a 3-4 day window and see what cheap fares pop up anywhere in the country or world.”

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Utilize Filters to Narrow Your Options

Google Flights offers robust filters to slice and dice airfare search results, enabling you to zero in on the perfect flight to match your needs and budget. While the ability to search Everywhere and across broad date ranges reveals hidden deals, the filters allow you to narrow in on specifics.
“I’m obsessed with using filters to fine tune my Google Flights searches,” said Katy, an avid user from Austin, TX. “They help me weed out nonsense so I can find the ideal flight quickly.”

Her first move is toggling on the Direct Flights only filter. This removes options with layovers, revealing the fastest nonstop routes. “Nonstop flights save so much time and take the stress out of worrying about tight connections,” Katy told us. “I’ll gladly pay a bit more if it’s direct.”

For comfort, Katy filters by airlines with premium economy or business class cabins. She avoids basic economy carriers without advanced seat assignments. “I used to just search for the cheapest flight, but those are often budget airlines with mediocre service and seats,” she said. “The cabin class filter lets me focus on quality airlines with better amenities.”

When traveling overseas, Katy filters results by alliance status. “I stick to Oneworld airlines when I can since I’m an Executive Platinum member with American Airlines,” she explained. “This way I can take advantage of lounge access and priority services on international partners like British Airways, Qantas, and Finnair.”

Frequent flyers can enter their rewards program status and even loyalty numbers into Google Flights profiles for personalized results based on point earnings, upgrades, lounge access and more. “It helps surface the flights that get me the most miles and perks,” said Michael, a Million Miler on Delta. “Paired with the airline filter, I quickly see my best options.”

Google Flights filters enable total customization for your airfare searches. Slice out basic economy to focus on comfort, hone in on nonstop routes to save time, or filter by alliance to maximize loyalty perks. As Maria from LA told us, “The filters allow me to cut through the noise and see only the flights that make sense for my needs. It makes trip planning almost fun when you can filter out the junk and focus on the ideal options.”

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Hunt for Error Fares and Mistake Pricing

One of the most thrilling aspects of using Google Flights is searching for error fares and mistake pricing. These unicorn deals appear when airlines or online travel agencies accidentally underprice tickets by a massive margin, sometimes up to 90% off normal fares! While rare, scoring one of these can lead to almost free flights in business class to exotic locales.

“Hunting for error fares has become an obsession of mine,” confessed Matt, a self-proclaimed “deal junkie” from Houston. “It’s like a drug - the rush of coming across an accidental 90% off business class fare to Dubai is exhilarating. I’ve flown all over the world in posh lie-flat seats for barely more than economy thanks to these magical mistakes.”

The key to scoring these glitches starts with enabling flight price tracking in Google Flights for routes you take regularly. You can set alerts for specific dates or price drops, which will email you automatically if an abnormally low fare appears. Enabling tracking across a wide range of regions increases your odds of being notified when a mistake fare pops up.
“I have Google Flight alerts set for dozens of destinations I’m interested in,” Matt told us. “That way, I’m tipped off right away when a crazy cheap deal emerges before airlines catch it and fix the price.” Speed is critical, as error fares may only be bookable for a few hours before removal.

Savvy flight deal hunters also keep an eagle eye out for airlines launching new routes with promotional pricing. When Google Flights expands service to a previously unserved destination, carriers often misprice inaugural fares in error.

Sara from Los Angeles has an entire map on her wall marked with pins for new route launches. “Whenever I hear news of an airline adding a new long haul route, I check Google Flights obsessively for those first flights.” This strategy helped Sara snag a $485 roundtrip business class ticket from LA to Paris when French Bee inaugurated their new route.

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Be Open to Nearby Airports for Cheaper Flights

One clever way regular travelers can unlock substantial savings on Google Flights is to expand searches to include nearby alternative airports. While most people habitually book travel out of their closest hub, looking at surrounding airports can unveil drastically lower fares worth the extra drive.

Janet, a Mighty Travels member from Chicago, first discovered these hidden savings when comparing flights from Chicago O’Hare (ORD) versus Chicago Midway (MDW) for her annual trip to visit family in Phoenix.

“I had always habitually flown out of O’Hare since it’s one of the big international hubs here. But on a whim I decided to check flights out of Midway too, just a 45 minute drive away,” Janet explained. “I was shocked to see at least $150 cheaper fares to Phoenix from Midway versus O’Hare on the exact same American Airlines flights.”

This sent Janet down the rabbit hole of researching all airports accessible as day trips from Chicago. She found most major carriers offered regional flights from Milwaukee (MKE) and South Bend (SBN) at even lower cost.

“Adding Milwaukee and South Bend as nearby airport options saves me around $300 roundtrip on domestic flights,” Janet said. “I don’t mind driving a couple hours each way to save that kind of money.”

“I can fly to Dublin or Munich from Flint for a fraction of what it costs out of Chicago,” she told us. “It just takes a bit of research and flexibility.”

“I have to fly down to LA every few months for work meetings, which can cost $300-$400 roundtrip from SeaTac. Then I discovered flights from Portland (PDX) and Eugene (EUG) in Oregon for half that price. Now I always check those first,” he said.
“Adding those small airports near Seattle saved me $800 flying my family to Hawaii,” Kyle told us. “I don’t mind the couple hour drive if it means that much extra money for our vacation.”

Savvy travelers understand the enormous potential savings from thinking outside the box and considering surrounding airports. While it requires effort to search multiple options, the deals uncovered make the extra miles well worth it.

As Janet told us, “I never realized how much I was overpaying by limiting myself to only Chicago’s major airports. Adding more nearby choices through Google Flights makes travel so much more affordable.”

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Use Price Graphs to Pick the Best Time to Book

One of the handiest tools on Google Flights is the interactive price graph that shows how airfares fluctuate over time. Savvy travelers use these visual trends to pinpoint the ideal booking window for scoring the lowest rate.

“I'm obsessed with studying the price graphs before I book anything,” says Cassie, an avid user from San Francisco. “They reveal patterns about when prices spike and plummet. I've saved hundreds by buying at the right moment.”

Cassie closely analyzes graphs for several months out to spot consistent dips. “For domestic flights, I’ve noticed the cheapest rates pop up around 3 months before departure,” she says. International trips follow a similar pattern. “Fares usually bottom out 2-3 months prior.”

She recalls hunting for a flight to Japan and watching the graph every day. “For weeks, prices stayed above $900 roundtrip. Then one morning I saw it dropped to $685 for a few days before shooting back up. I jumped on it immediately.”

The interactive graphs allow you to visualize how quickly low fares get snatched up. “When I see those sharp valleys, I know I have to act fast,” Cassie explains. “The best deals don't last more than a few days.”

Joel, another Google Flights power user, leverages the graphs to find last-minute deals. “If you watch carefully, prices often plummet again in the last two weeks before departure as airlines discount empty seats,” he says.

While risky, Joel has scored insane deals this way. “I saw a NYC to San Francisco flight crash from $289 to $98 just 10 days out. The graphs let you capitalize on desperation dumps.”

But he cautions that last-minute deals are less reliable. “It’s definitely higher risk, higher reward. You might end up paying more if prices don’t drop at the end.”

For busy routes, the graphs become even more crucial. “On very competitive markets like LA to New York, the airlines play pricing games,” explains Michelle, a frequent flyer out of Los Angeles.

“One will introduce a sale fare, forcing the others to match it. This creates rollercoaster movement in the graphs over weeks.” She watches closely for sudden dips when airlines battle for dominance.

Map Your Dream: How to Find the Perfect Trip Using Google Flights - Maximize Mileage Programs for Free Flights

Frequent flyer miles have become the holy grail for travelers looking to explore the world on a budget. Savvy jetsetters leverage loyalty programs to the max through strategic accumulation and redemptions, unlocking free flights and elite perks.

“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been obsessed with collecting airline miles,” says Marco, an avid travel hacker from Miami. “It started with family trips to visit relatives in Colombia. I was fascinated watching my parents use their accrued miles to upgrade to business class.”

After college, Marco got strategic about multiplying his points and has since reached top-tier status with multiple carriers. “I’m constantly figuring out new ways to rack up miles through bonuses, transfers, and partner earnings,” he tells us. His savvy techniques have allowed him to redeem over 2 million miles for free premium cabin flights across the globe.

Another mileage maven, Heather from Denver, treats loyalty programs like a game. “I actually enjoy the challenge of maximizing point earnings on everyday purchases through miles-earning credit cards, online shopping portals, and special promotions,” she says. Heather estimates she’s earned enough points and miles to fly free for the next five years through her obsessive optimization.

For road warriors like Jeff who travel frequently for work, miles are a job perk that can be mined through careful planning. “Booking flights through the airline’s portal always gives me a points bonus over third-party sites,” he explains. Jeff stacks this with using the right credit card, allowing him to earn points on multiple fronts from the same ticket purchase.

Experts also recommend loyalty program shopping portals which give bonus miles for purchases made through linked retailers. “I go through the United, American, and Delta mileage mall sites any time I need to buy something online,” Jeff says. “The extra miles add up faster than you’d think.”

But perhaps the holy grail for mileage addicts is loyalty program bonuses which offer major boosts for reaching certain thresholds. Brian, who has Executive Platinum status on American Airlines, always guns for bonuses tied to flight segments and spending. “When I was just shy of the 75,000 mile threshold for a 10,000 mile bonus, I actually took a quick weekend trip just to ensure I’d qualify,” he confesses.

For travelers with less time, credit card welcome bonuses offer quick injections of tens of thousands of points. Darren from Los Angeles rotates opening new mileage credit cards to snag large lump sums. “The sign-up bonus on the Delta Reserve gave me 70,000 SkyMiles, enough to cover two domestic first class awards,” he says. Just don’t forget to cancel before the annual fees kick in!

Savvy flight searchers leverage private or incognito browsing to unlock lower fares on Google Flights. This simple tactic prevents cookie tracking from inflating prices based on your search history and travel habits.

“I started using incognito mode on Chrome after noticing certain routes seemed more expensive whenever I checked prices multiple times,” explains Alex, a frequent traveler from Seattle. “I had a hunch the cookies were catching on and nudging fares higher.”

His suspicion was confirmed after a chat with a developer friend familiar with fare search algorithms. “He explained that airlines use cookies to identify frequent searchers and selectively hike prices, figuring you’ll pay more if you’re keen on a particular destination.”

Armed with this insider insight, Alex decided to test the incognito theory. “I was searching for my annual trip to Maui over the holidays. After checking fares a few times in normal browsing mode, I had seen nothing under $850 roundtrip. But when I searched in an incognito tab, fares dropped to $695!”

Intrigued, Alex ran more split tests comparing regular versus incognito search sessions across other routes he checked frequently. “Without fail, I found cheaper pricing when the site couldn’t identify me via cookies. It was a real eye-opener.”

Frequent flyer Jessica goes a step further, using incognito browsing on public Wifi networks. “That way, the airlines can’t tie my location and IP address to previous searches and tailor fares higher,” she explains.

Incognito or private browsing works across all major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge. On mobile devices, enabling private browsing usually involves simply tapping a mask icon or selecting “Private Tabs” from settings.
As veteran flight hacker Ramon reminds us, “Incognito works best paired with other strategic tips like flexible dates, nearby airports, and mileage redemptions. But it’s one of the easiest tools for outsmarting airline pricing games. Cookie tracking adds up over time, so start browsing privately to avoid those incremental fare hikes.”

See how everyone can now afford to fly Business Class and book 5 Star Hotels with Mighty Travels Premium! Get started for free.