How to Use Google Flights to Save Big on Your Next Trip

Strategies abound for getting the best deal on airfare—but hours of slogging through websites on the appointed day at the appointed time can be a daunting task. Now, thanks to Google Flights it's easier than ever to find the right seat at the best price.

You may think you’ve found the best deal on airfare until you add in seat choice, checked baggage fees, and whatever else. That’s where Google Flights comes in. The new search tool has a variety of functionalities that make it easier than ever to find the right seat at the best price. “We’ve found Google Flights to be accurate, comprehensive, and convenient,” says Julie McCool, a travel expert and writer with McCool Travel. On the flip side, these are the signs you’re paying too much for airfare.

You can get creative with your searches

Most vacation planners begin the process with a specific destination in mind. Google Flights turns that model on its head by letting you start your search by the fare you want to pay. “This feature is particularly useful for parents working within school vacation dates,” says McCool. For example, if you know you want to go somewhere, anywhere warm over the holiday break, but are working on a set budget, this will help you narrow down your options. Kinda-sorta know where you want to go? Google Flights can also dig for deals on broader searches like “Caribbean” or “Canada.” There’s always a map on the page, so you can keep track of how far you’ll actually be traveling.

Have some flexibility with your calendar? You can also compare tickets costs on various days.

To use these features, open the site then click the “Explore Destinations” tab. Prompts will allow you to pinpoint dates and fares to a variety of destinations.

The bag filter allows you to compare apples to apples

Some fares look fabulous…until you realize you’ll be charged to bring anything larger than a handbag onto the plane with you. Google Flights does the math for you with the Bag Filter, which revises fares based on your luggage preference. “Luggage fees are one of the toughest things to navigate on traditional sites,” notes McCool. Knowing about these hidden fees will also help you keep your bottom line in check.

You can see if your fare is likely to fluctuate

Does a fare look oddly high or weirdly low? Using a series of complicated algorithms, Google Flights analyzes each quoted price and can tell you the likelihood that it will change between the time of your search and the day of departure. You can even set up a Google Flights alert so you’ll be notified if and when the fare does change.

Uncovering super-low fares is simple

With its map and grid system, Google Flights basically draws you a picture of the cheapest way to get to your destination. “We try to plan trips around flexible dates whenever we can because it can literally save hundreds of dollars,” says McCool. “Google Flights lets you see price fluctuations over a range of dates in one place. It’s great for daydream planners who aren’t necessarily tied to specific travel dates and are ready to act when the fare is right.” If you’re a Frequent Flyer and want to increase your mileage balance, you can ask Google Flights to seek out the best fares on specific airlines, too. “Just don’t forget to input your frequent flyer number prior to booking, as adding it later gets complicated,” says McCool. Read on for 16 more strategies to make sure you’re getting the best airfare possible.

Katie McElveen
Katie McElveen is a contributor to Reader’s Digest, where she covers travel, pets and lifestyle. Her work has also appeared on Sherman’s Travel, Travelocity, Islands, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, Virtuoso and other sites and in publications including Global Traveler, AAA GO and Montage Magazine. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, Katie lives in Columbia, South Carolina.