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Google Flights Guide: How to Find the Cheapest Flights

Google Flights is a recent tool developed by Google to optimize a user’s experience for searching, checking, and booking cheap flights. More specifically, Google Flights isn’t only a tool, but a metasearch engine that allows the user to see all information for returning flights, departing flights, the price of all airline tickets for most airlines; etc. and allows the user to streamline and customize this extensive information to fit their specific needs. Google Flights has created an amazing user-friendly website that streamlines the process of searching individual airline websites to give the user the cheapest flights, which cheap flights are most convenient, and even the user’s preferred flight through any airports between your location and destination.

The following information will serve as a guide to help any user navigate Google Flights to find their preferred airline ticket for the cheapest flight possible. However, before we go any further, it is important to note that Google Flight does not have airline ticket prices for Southwest Airlines.

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In the first screenshot provided you will find the homepage for Google Flights. You are able to put in your place of departure (e.g. Lexington) and your destination (e.g. New York). Google Flights will automatically default to a 4-day trip, starting on the next day.

1. Check the Dates Surrounding Your Trip to Find Cheaper Options

If the dates of your trip are flexible, you can change your trip dates to get the best deal. When you input the dates of your trip, a two-month calendar will pop up showing you the average prices for tickets on the dates within your chosen two-month period.

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The prices of the flights available are listed below the date and are color-coded: prices in green are the cheapest available flights, while red represents the higher priced flights. At the bottom of the window, you can see the duration of the trip that the prices represent, this can be changed for your specific needs. The highest price for an airline ticket lies in the lower right-hand corner of the window. So, if you want to find a cheap flight, you would want to stick to the dates with the prices listed in green.

Additionally, you should check the “dates” section under the Flight Insights menu. This is the first section seen in the flight insight category, and this feature allows the user to explore cheaper flight options for other dates than the one you provided. Very similar to the “dates” filter for the entire trip, this section is also represented by a color-coded graph that depicts the average price for the same flight destination for all dates close to your trip time.

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The departure flights are on the x-axis; the dates for the departure date spans from Monday, August 13th, and ends on Sunday, August 19th. The return dates are seen on the y-axis and span from Friday, August 17th to Thursday, August 23rd. The dates for this section are dependent on the specific duration of your trip, which you can change at any time on the original search box that is on top of every page. The price highlighted in bright blue shows your specified date to leave and return. For our own purposes, this is shown as the price that is intercepted between Thursday, August 16th, and Monday, August 20th.

The prices listed in this graph have three color codes based on the relationship of each individual price with its average price: prices written in red are much more expensive than the average prices of the graph. There are two prices listed in red for the example image- Departing on Monday, August 13th or Tuesday, August 14th, and returning on Friday, August 17th or Saturday, August 18th. The ticket price for these two trips is $471 each, making it much more expensive than the flights surrounding your trip date. Prices in green are the cheapest airline tickets for sale, as they are much lower than the average price of a ticket. In the screenshot above, all green prices are also in slightly shaded boxes underneath your given trip departure and return dates. For this example, the green prices are all $287. This tool is invaluable for those users who are searching for cheap flights!

Related: 20 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Travel Dollars

2. See the Results You Want, in the Price Range that You Want by Filtering all Results Based on their Prices

There is a filter for the results called “prices” and it controls the price range that you want your results to be in. This section starts with the lowest price at $330 and the maximum price at “any”.

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3. Always Stay Up to Date with the Cheapest Flight Options through the Track Prices Feature

One cool feature in Google Flights is that you can toggle the “track prices” switch under the “best departing/returning flights”. If you turn this feature on, it will send you an email when prices for your trip go up or down, and shows you a line graph of the previous price patterns, so you will always be aware of a price drop which will guide you to airline tickets for the cheapest flight possible.

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4. Receive Google Alerts for Price Changes on your phone

If you don’t want to receive price changes through your email, you can choose to opt for the alerts to go straight to your phone. This way, you will always have the cheapest flight options and best airline tickets directly at your fingertips.

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5. Check Out Different Airports on the Way to Your Destination

“Airports”, a heading under the “Flights Insights” menu shows you a much more detailed map of your destination and what other airports are close to your default destination airport.

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This insight also shows the location of the nearest destination airports and the average price per ticket, how many stops the departing flight will have on its way to the destination, and the average connecting time in between flights.

Related: The Safest Seats on an Airplane During a Crash

6. See Just How Much You Can Save by Traveling Through Different Cities

Google Flights allows you to save money by filtering out results that are based on your connecting flight preferences.

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“Connecting Airports” is a drop-down menu that controls layover duration, and all connecting airports from your departing location to your destination. The layover duration has a slider that allows you to filter the results based on the number of layovers you want for your flight. The shortest layover time is 1 hour, and it increases in 30-minute increments until you reach the longest specific time of 15 hours. The final amount of layover time after 15 hours is “any”.

In this menu, you can also toggle the “all connecting airports” switch: when it is switched on, all connecting airports in the drop-down menu will be checked; when it is off, none of the connecting airports in the drop-down section are checked — which then allows you to check the connecting airports you want for layovers and the ones you don’t. With these results, you can see what connecting airports have cheaper ticket prices, allowing you to find the cheapest connecting flights on the way to your destination.

7. Cut unneeded expenses through Booking your Flight with Separate Tickets for Other Members in Your Party

This secret is the second filter under the “more” drop-down menu. This filter allows you to show or hide any separate tickets for the flights provided. Google Flights explains that “it may be cheaper to buy flights as separate tickets from one or more partners. But you must book the separate tickets individually”. This essentially means that individually booking airline tickets separately for individuals in your party could be cheaper than booking the tickets all at once.

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8. Utilize Google Flights’ Tip Menu to find Advice on What You Can Do to Save Money.

One of the best tools to make sure you are getting the best price possible in your search for cheap flights is the “tips” section under the Flight Insights menu. This section has a variety of tips to help save you money and time, along with providing you with a link to view an actual travel guide.

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Related: Top 20 Travel Tips to Save Money

9. Utilize the Price Graphs

You can analyze the ticket price patterns through the price graph, which is the second header under the flight insights menu.

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This tool is amazing at saving you money, as it is a valuable visual aid that can expand your viewpoint of the best dates to pick when searching for cheap flights. The graph spans a full month and a half and details the average price for each of these months. You can use the price graph insight to compare any trends in the pricing of airline tickets. In the example graph, it is easy to see that the month of August has the most expensive flights on average than September and part of October. So, if you are wanting a cheap flight, you will want to book a flight during the month with the lowest average ticket price and the month that is the most consistent in pricing. For our example, cheaper flights and ticket prices are lower in September going into October.

10. Choosing Google’s Top Pick

The concluding section that we will go over in this guide is the best departing/returning flights versus the other departing/returning flights. The first section listed on this page is the “best departing (or returning) flights”. Google Flights explains that the flights listed under this heading refer to “the flights that have the best trade-off between price and convenience based on factors such as duration, number of stops, and airport changes during layover”. So, flights under the best departing/returning headings are the best deals you can get for your trip. In the upper right-hand corner of the best departing/returning flights is a toggle button that allows you to sort the results of your search by price (default), departure time, arrival time, and flight duration.

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The flights that are under the “other departing/returning” flights have more expensive prices, longer layovers, and more airport changes. The “other departing/returning flights” is an extensive list of all the flights you can possibly book to get from your departure location to your destination.

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One extremely helpful feature for this page is the drop-down menu that each airline ticket has. In this drop-down menu, you can see your departure and arrival time (including the actual travel time in the air), the average legroom space (for the example flight the average legroom is 31 inches), if the plane has Wi-Fi, and if you are able to stream media to your device for in-flight entertainment. While the drop-down menu may not directly help you save money, it is a tool to give you reassurance that you are getting the best bang for your buck.

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In your quest for cheap flights make sure you are happy with your ticket prices and baggage fees with the helpful “trip summary” page.

Once you select your departing and returning flight, you are then shown the “trip summary” page.

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The trip summary page details your selected departing and returning flights; such as the price, date, and time. After the departing and returning flight section, you are also shown your baggage information such as what perks are included in the baggage fee itself (personal item and carry-on) and the estimated prices for your first checked bag ($50) and your second checked bag ($70).

Related: The Top 10 Translation Apps for Travelers

11. Always be Prepared for Baggage fees through the Trip Summary Page

Personally, I find the “baggage info” section on the trip summary page to be extremely helpful when saving money.

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With this section, you immediately see how much baggage will be for your flight, both your checked bags and if a carry-on bag and personal item is included in your ticket price. This can help you be prepared for luggage fees and allows you to know if you have a personal item and carry on a fee that came with the ticket booking. With this feature, you won’t be blindsided with extra fees if a carry on or personal item is not included in the ticket.

The bottom line is that Google Flights is the best tool at the user’s disposal when comparing and booking flightsand locating cheap flights. It streamlines all the actual work of finding, searching, and comparing flights based on your needs and compiles it all into an attractive, user-friendly website. Google Flights also is filled with secret menus and add-ons that can help you save money and book the cheapest flight possible that fits your needs and preferences.

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