4 Powerful Ways To Use The Google Flights Travel Tool [2017 Updated]

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Life is busy. Sometimes, we just don’t have the time and energy to go to a website like the ITA Matrix or Kayak.com and research cheap flight tickets.

Luckily, a small startup named Google came along and built a tool to make looking up flights a tail-wind (I couldn’t resist!).

This simple, powerful, and incredibly time-efficient Google travel tool is called Google Flights.

Below are our best tips for using Google Flights to find cheap tickets, along with almost anything else you could want to know about the tool!

4 Powerful Ways To Use The Google Flights Travel Tool [2017 Updated]


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Table of Contents

How Google Flights Airline Search Tool Works and How To Use It

Basic features of the Google Flights tool are actually really easy to use and understand, but a few of the features fall under a more advanced category, mostly because they’re just not that well laid out.

Despite its list of features, you can tell Google Flights is a bare-bones project, as there is not a lot of fluff and most screens don’t have navigation between each other.

Regardless, we move step-by-step through every little detail of what you can do with this program, and make it as easy as possible for you to find and book the flight! It’s like having your own online travel agent at your fingertips.

There are four different ways to use Google Flights:

  • Basic Flight Search
  • Discover Destinations
  • Destination Explorer Map
  • Saved Flights

Hot Tip: Before booking any flights, make sure you’ve learned all about earning points for flights using our Beginner’s Guide, then sign up for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

The Four Functions From the Home Screen of Google Flights

Google Flights Home Screen
The home screen of the Google Flights website. Notice that it has filled in “Austin,” the city I live in, automatically. It detects this based on your internet connection.

Before getting into the four ways to use Google Flights, let’s talk about the layout so you understand how to navigate the tool.

On the home screen, you’ll see a simple box for selecting your destination and your departure city for Basic Flight Search. It likely already knows your departing airport from your internet connection and will fill this information in.

If you’re looking for flights from other cities, be sure to change that.

You can also see different options for flights including round trip, one way, and multi-city. Fare class is also an option (economy is the default), and number of passengers is right next to these buttons across the top.

Below the travel search area, you will see a section called “Discover destinations,” which we will discuss separately in a moment.

While the first two tools are quickly visible from the home screen, to find the other two you will have to click the little three lines (a “list” icon) in the upper left-hand corner of the page.

Google Flights Home Screen Additional Options
When you click the “list” icon in the top left hand of the screen (the three lines next to the word “Flights”), you will find these additional options for Google Flights: Explore Map, Saved flights, and more.

Note that you are in the “Flights” area of the tool. The additional main options available are “Explore map” and “Saved flights,” which we will also explain soon.

Additionally, you can change the currency in which you want to see prices or purchase flights, view the site in a different language, get help, or send feedback!

Now, onto the main four features.

Hot Tip:  Before you book a flight, you need to make sure you have the right documents in place, including getting a passport and a credit card to book it with. Great cards to start with are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or The Platinum Card® from American Express.

1. Using the Main Google Flight Search Tool

This section will be brief. When you just want to search for a point A to point B flight, Google Flights will give you a result instantly. So if I wanted to search Austin to Portland (the brother city of “weird”!), then I’d simply pop that in and add in a travel date:

google flight search 1
Put your flight departure and destination into the section highlighted in red above. You will instantly begin seeing results.

In the Google flight search tool, data will update instantly and as you click on a travel date you will actually see prices for alternative date options:

google flight search 2
Once you have your airports selected, you can click on the dates to modify them and see what the difference in prices would be for all the different dates on the calendar.

Here you’ll see a bunch of different flight options for an A to B trip. Great for quick research and finding flights to both earn lots of points or redeem your hard earned miles!

We’ll go more into detail on how to use the results and other filters later in the article.

2. Discover Destinations: The Open Ended Travel Feature

Using_the_Google_Flights_Discover_Destinations_Tool
The “Discover destinations” tool in Google Flights can be found below the main search area of the home page of the tool.

Also found on the home page, the “Discover destinations” tool has lots of powerful features you may not be aware of. There are three different ways to search that can be used in any combination:

  • Dates
  • Places
  • Interests

When you change any of the search variables above, the “cards” that display below the tool will update for your new desired variables. This is an incredibly smooth and dynamic tool that allows you to instantly see exactly what you search for.

Note that by default, you can see the “Explore destinations” map in the upper left of the “cards” area. If you click anywhere on that map, you will be redirected to this tool, which we will discuss in its own section below.

Using the Three Search Variables in Discover Destinations

Using Dates allows you to select whatever dates make sense for your trip. For instance, you can search for an entire month (try clicking the name of the months below the three search variables), a weekend, a whole week, and so forth.

Let’s say you’re interested in traveling any weekend in October. In the above screen, you would click “October” and then “Weekend.” The search tool will then update with new data below.

Google Flights Discover Destinations Weekend Trip Any Month
In this example, we chose to look at flights for “any weekend in October.” To do this, you select “October” and “Weekend” in the areas indicated above, and you will instantly see updated results in the “cards” below!

Using the Dates feature this way will give you ideas for options on whatever weekends in October have good deals, and then Google will try to guess what’s best for you. Thus, I imagine the results are different for everyone based on whether they are logged in.

You can then also modify these results with the Interests variable. Using this, we can find any destinations, still on any weekend in October, that cater to our particular interests.

For an October trip, I’d probably be most up for travel that caters toward the Adventure, Culture, Ecotourism, Nature, or Outdoor recreation categories. Note that you can only select one option at a time.

Looking through those options, I noticed that there isn’t always data for everything (nothing came up for me in “Adventure travel”), but you may find some gems.

I finally landed on “Nature,” and you can see that the cards updated with new ideas for ways to “Discover your destination:”

Google Flights Discover Destinations Using Interests
Using Interests, you can find additional options even after you have selected your dates. In this example, I had already selected “Oct weekend,” and now I added in “Nature” as an interest.

I must admit that when I think of Nature I do not think of Tokyo, Dubai, or Taipei, so at least in this case I have to heartily disagree with Google’s choices. But hey, they’re trying to be helpful, and it may work better for you.

Finally, you can use the Places variable to hone in on particular areas of the world. For instance, you can choose any of the six continents you want to fly to, and you can even type in a more detailed region or even country if you wish.

In this example, I decided to click “South America,” and my results were updated as follows:

Google Flights Discover Destinations Using Places
Using “Places,” you can find an additional filter to add to your “Discover destinations” search. Simply click on one of the six main continents you can fly to, or even type in your own country or region.

These travel search results were a little better, as they at least had the right continent. I will admit that the results say “Near City,” and then list other cities near those cities that likely cater to the Nature interest.

I was captivated by Buenos Aires, because I’ve always wanted to go there and Google displayed a beautiful photo, so I clicked on that. Doing so now brings up a bunch of information about the destination:

  • Activities available
  • Hotels available
  • Flights available
Google Flights Discover Destinations Clicking on a Destination
After clicking on a destination, you will see example activities, flights, and hotels that you can research and book through the Google Flights tool.

You can see just below the “Hotels” heading that the results are tailored toward Nature destinations, which I had previously selected. For instance, Colon is 162 miles away from Buenos Aires, and Victoria is 167 miles away.

Now let’s talk about navigating all those results!

Navigating the Results of Destination Discovery

Destination discovery gives you a set of “pre-results” where you can filter down to your result. We will discuss these here and then talk about the final result (i.e. your flight) in a later section!

When you click on the desired “card” that has a destination you are interested in, you get a screen like the photo shown just above this section. From here, you can click on any of the Activities, Flights, or Hotels to learn more.

Let’s look at Flights first, since that’s what you’re probably most interested in finding. I clicked that area of the card, and I was taken to the Flight Results screen:

Google Flights Flight Results Screen
Whether you click through from the “Discover destinations” tool or simply search for a flight specifically from the main screen, you will come to a Flight Results screen like this one.

As you can see, there are options for “Best flights” and a bunch of information about the flights themselves. We will go over these options in detail in the “Using and Filtering Flight Results” section later in this guide.

Next, let’s take a look at Hotels. I clicked on “Victoria” (see above) since it appeared to have results, and I was brought to a page within Google that offers a map and a listing of hotels in the area. (This may well be an initial version of a Google Hotels tool coming in the future!)

Google Flights Hotels Results Screen
The Hotels results page found from clicking through from the “Discover destinations” tool. While Google doesn’t have an official “Google Hotels” tool yet, this could very well be a precursor.

You can scroll through those results and navigate around on the map to find different hotels in different locations, and then click on any you like.

The search giant will then bring up an additional card that will offer you more details and options to book the flight (Booking.com, Priceline.com, etc.).

Notice at the very top in the Google search bar that the phrase “Hotels Victoria Argentina” is filled in. You could have simply typed that into a normal Google search to see this same results page. This is the power of Google!

Finally, we can click on any of the Activities to find out more. I’m a lover of all of those things, but I especially enjoy a good dance.

Tango is a world famous dance from Argentina and Uruguay, and this is something I would love to learn one day.

Clicking, then, on “Tango” brings up a Google search about the Tango in Buenos Aires. There are some cool photos and videos of the dance (which you can be sure I checked out!), and you can review all this information during your search to see if the activity looks interesting to you.

If you want to look at another activity, just go back to the results tab and click on something else. Note that any time you click on a result, it will automatically be opened in a new tab so you won’t lose your results.

Now that we have covered all the options for using the “Discover Destinations” tool, let’s talk about the best way to use it!

The Best Ways to Use the Discover Destinations Tool

There are a few different reasons you may want to use the “Discover destinations” tool in Google Flights. In general, it should be thought of as a research and inspiration tool, but you can absolutely go through the full booking process with it!

One of the most helpful uses for this tool is the semi-open-ended travel feature, where you select the destination or region, but leave the dates flexible using the “weekend,” “1 week,” or “2 weeks” feature.

You may also be looking for a specific place to go via Interest. If you’re interested in taking a ski trip, for example, you could leave Places set to “Everywhere,”  choose “Winter sports” as an Interest, and then play around with the dates to find options.

Finally, you may simply just want to go anywhere for a getaway. In this case, you could leave Places and Interests blank, and just play around with the travel date until you find some options that work for you!

When you finally know where you want to go, you can do even more powerful things, like search for all fares over a two month time span, or filter by a ton of other variables.

These will be discussed in the “Using and Filtering Results” section below! For now, we move onward to learning about the Explore Destinations Map Tool.

Hot Tip:  You can find additional inspiration for travel in the Use Miles section of our site!

3. Google Flight Explorer Destination Map Tool

google flight explorer 1
The main screen of the Explore Map section of the Google Flights search tool. Here, you can visually search for a flight anywhere in the world based on a number of filters.

As mentioned above, you can navigate to the “Explore Destinations” or “Explore map” section of the tool either from the top left “list icon” button, or by scrolling down from the main landing page and finding the map in the upper-left corner of the “cards” section.

In the Google flight explorer you can see flights all over the country while dragging around and zooming in and out on the map, just like you would in the normal Google Maps (or MapQuest if you’re old school).

If you know a general area you want to visit, like Europe, you can scroll to that area of the world on the map and utilize the “Explore Map” function to see all the flights available for a variety of times and many different filters, like Interest and Airline.

google flight explorer 2
One way to use the tool is to just scroll over to the area of the world you want to visit, and you’ll see prices for any destination in the viewable area! Make sure you update your departing city if it’s not correct.

Using the Destination Explorer Map is pretty self-explanatory. Once you have found a fare you want, you can click on that city to get a more detailed view based on the dates you selected.

You’ll get both Flights and Hotels, just like the Destination Discovery tool.

google flight explorer 3
After you find a city you like, you can click on it to see the options available. Change your dates if you need to by clicking on the calendar in the top left. Berlin is a personal favorite of mine!

Once you have decided on dates, you can click through to the Flights or Hotels section in the fashion we described previously on Destination Discovery. From there, you will be able to further filter your results (info coming up!).

The Best Ways To Use Google Flight Explorer

Map exploration is a great visual way to determine where you want to go, and is sort of a mixture between the inspirational goals of Destination Discovery and ease and speed of Basic Search.

Use this tool if you like to “see” where you’re going, or if you don’t really care where but like to look around quickly at options.

The difference between this and the Destination Discovery is simply the map. You can do all the same filtering on this screen, except it won’t list the detailed Activities you can do in that area.

It’s a great way to search without actually having to type anything in, and you’ll get to view a bunch of options at once!

4. Using the Saved Flights Feature (“Google Flight Alerts”)

google flight alerts 1
The Google flight alerts tool will help you find the same fares across multiple devices (useful for finding on a phone and to booking later on a laptop!), and track fares so you can see if they get cheaper over time.

While the “Saved flights” tool in Google flights isn’t exactly a flight search tool, it can help you utilize your search results either on multiple different devices or track fares over time and notify you of better options, i.e. a “Google flight alerts” type tool.

Unfortunately, the notification settings are only available on Google Now, but it’s better than nothing!

Besides saving and tracking, the third option for using this tool is sharing your flights with family and friends to help coordinate bookings. If you’re trying to find an easy way to organize the planning of a trip, this could be useful.

google flight alerts 2
With the Google flight alerts feature, you can save researched flights for future reference, track your fares over time with Google Now, and share those flights with friends and family to make planning easier!

As you can imagine, to use this feature you will need your own Google account. Google flights will utilize that account to save your flights and integrate it with your Google Now.

To actually save a flight, one caveat you should know is you can only save specific flights once you find them. So unlike a Kayak.com or some other sites, you can’t save a “search” and get all the updated fares: you will have to choose a specific itinerary.

After you’ve chosen a flight, you can scroll to the bottom to find the “Save” button (as long as you are signed in to your account). It will look like this:

google flight alerts 3
Only after you have chosen a specific flight will the “Save” button be available at the bottom; remember you must be signed in to a Google account to save.

You can view and share any saved flights from your “Saved Flights” screen, which can be found using the “list icon” navigation in the upper-left of each screen in the tool.

google flight alerts 4
Here’s an example of the “Saved Flights” main screen (notice the red star in the “list icon” in the top left). It’s a basic layout and the price will update as it changes!

How To Get the Most Out of Google Flight Alerts

To make this tool useful, you would want to quickly search for some potential upcoming trips and save them to your account so you can start tracking the data. This is simple to do following the instructions above.

If you want to know data for multiple flights in the same travel search, you’ll unfortunately have to select multiple individual itineraries and save each of them. This type of task would probably be much quicker using the Kayak Search Save Tool.

However, if you just need some quick data points for a bunch of different destinations, this is a great tool to use!

Hot Tip:  Save even more money on flights in the long run when you use a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express. The more points you earn, the more opportunities you will have to book flights with points in the future!

Filtering and Using Results From Google Flights

At this point, you’ve done your searching and are now on the search results screen. So what’s next? You will want to choose your flight, and you can do this via filters. Here, we’ll take you through that and discuss how to make your choice.

There are a bunch of different filters available in Google Flights, and you will want to utilize them if you really want to get cheap airline tickets.

Different filters include price, airline or alliance, flight times, flight duration, airport, number of stops, and more.

You can find all these filters at the bottom of the search bar in the normal flights mode, and they also appear when you’ve found a destination in “Destination discovery” and “Destination Explorer Map”

Google_Flights_Results_Filtering_Options
Your available results filters are just below the options for airports and dates.

For this example, we’ll look at a flight from LAX to DEN, as if you were thinking about heading to the mountains over the weekend of October 7th to 9th. With this initial search, you will see these results:

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Example_Trip
Results show under the search bar at the top. Shown are the “Tips” and “Best Flights” sections, but below that are many more individual flights.

Hot Tip:  Learn more about the airlines in our airline loyalty guides or at each airline website.

Filtering by Number of Stops

Number of Stops is the first filter available. This allows you to choose whether you want no stops, up to one stop, or up to two stops.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Number_of_Stops
Click on the “Number of Stops” filter on the far left and select your desired filter. In this example, “Up to 2 stops” is grayed out because there are no options that have two stops.

In this example, there were no two-stop results. There are a few one-stop results, such as a flight from LAX to SLC and then SLC to DEN. The rest of the results are nonstop, which you can see on the right hand side of each of the results:

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Number_of_Stops_Flight_Options
Check the far right hand side of each result to see if it’s labeled as Nonstop, 1 stop, or 2 stops.

Filtering by Price

The next available filter is Price, which you can change using a slider to choose the amount you are willing to pay for your fare.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Price
“Any Price” is the default position for the “Price” filter, but you can slide it to the left by clicking and dragging your mouse to lower the price you are willing to pay.

Only want to pay $200? You can check to see if there are any options by dragging the slider down to $200:

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Price_$200

Filtering by Airline or Alliance

Airline and Alliance are the next filters available for narrowing down your flight options. Note that you can filter by either airline or alliance (Oneworld, Sky Team, Star Alliance), but not both. So, there’s no searching for specific airlines within an alliance.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Airline_and_Alliance
Your “Airline” filter is next in line, and it allows you to filter by Alliance or Airline. You cannot filter by both simultaneously, i.e. you can’t choose specific airline within an alliance.

To filter, you click one of the three alliances, select the checkmark to “include” an airline, or use the “X” to “exclude” an airline. You don’t have to check both; it will filter automatically by whatever is selected.

So if you just click the checkmark next to Alaska and American, it will be the same as if you selected them both and then also selected the “X” for the rest:

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Airline_and_Alliance_Side by Side
You can filter by airline using either the checkmarks or Xs, but these two screenshots will give you the same results.

In the end, it is easiest to just select the airlines you really do want, or those that you really don’t want while leaving the rest blank.

Filtering by Times

Up next is the “Times” filter. This filter also has a slider function, which you can use for both departure and arrival to/from each city.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Times
You can slide-filter the departure (“Dep.”) and arrival (“Arr.”) times for both the outbound and return flights. I know what you’re thinking, but no…”Arr” unfortunately does not refer to pirates!

Say you wanted to make sure you arrived in Denver between noon and 4pm so you can still get some decent sleep and not arrive too late. In this case, you’d want to depart sometime between 10am and 2pm on the way back.

Drag the filters to your selection, being sure to click on “Arr.” for Arrival times (not “Arr!” as in pirates) on the outbound flight while leaving the default “Dep.” for departure times on the return flight.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Departing_and_Arrival_Time_Example

More Filtering: Duration, Separate Tickets, and Connecting Airport

Finally, the last filters available under the “More” heading allow you to change trip duration, show separate tickets (if multi-airline), and find a connecting airport.

(Note that if you choose multi-airline, you can buy all the tickets together from an online travel agency, or each ticket separately on any applicable site.)

The same slider function is also available for trip duration, which is the total amount of time spent traveling. This counts time from leaving your departing airport until arriving at your destination airport, including any stopovers and waiting time.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_More_Filtering_Options
The last available filter under “More” allows you to filter by total trip time (known as duration), show the tickets as “separate” if they are multi-airline, and choose specific connecting airports if applicable.

Filtering by duration is actually another way to “choose” how many stops you make during a trip.

For instance, because a direct flight in this case (LAX to DEN) would take just over two hours, filtering the total trip duration to under three hours you will automatically give you only nonstop flights.

Google_Flights_Filter_by_Duration
Notice that filtering the duration of the trip to under 3 hours and 30 minutes returns only nonstop flights. This works similar to the number of stops filter in this instance since a direct flight takes just over 2 hours.

One thing you can’t filter in Google Flights is a “minimum” traveling duration.

This is a somewhat sneaky way to ensure you get some long stopovers in cities while you are traveling, and you can use the ITA Matrix to do this type of search using advanced routing codes.

Because this example does not have multi-city options, we won’t show a photo of that. However, showing separate tickets is a great way to do a little research into some individual flights.

Using this method, you may find a more efficient or a higher quality route.

Finally, you can use the connecting airport feature to force results that only connect through those airports. So if you really want to fly through Dallas (a pretty decent option for layovers), then you’d want to click the checkmark next to Dallas (DFW).

Google Flights Filter Results Connecting Airport
Use the connecting airport feature to force the results to show only trips that go through your specified airports. Great way to plan your trips!

Hot Tip:  Using a connecting airport filter is a great way to plan your trips if you are looking to check out specific lounges on the way to your destination! Lounge access is available through cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN.

Additional Filtering Choices: Filtering from Explore Map and Destination Discovery

When you’re using the flight explorer map or Destination Discovery tools within Google Flights, you can “pre-filter” your results in the same ways as described above, although they are laid out a little differently than in Basic Flight search.

Google_Flights_Filter_Results_Explore_Map
Note that the same filters are available before you even go to the results screen when you are in the Explore Map tool. There is also one additional filter: “Interest.”

However, there is also the additional option to filter by “Interest,” which we mentioned above and will discuss below in detail.

Google_Flights_Destination_Discovery_Filter_Options
You’ll notice that the filters used to search for “Discover destinations” are very similar to those you would utilize in any Basic Search results screen. Think of this discovery mode as a “pre-filtering” search.

Filtering by Interest

In both the Explorer and Destination Discovery views, you can filter by “Interests.”

Both modes also suggest hotels, which will then be viewed in the Google search screen (not a separate tool yet); we won’t go over those here, however, in order to focus on flights.

The Interests feature allows you to search via a set of interests the search giant has deemed popular. You can click on any of them, and it will help you find a destination. Be warned that not all interests are populated, so you may not see results.

Google_Flights_Filter_by_Interest
Note that while we only show the Explore Map view here, the interests shown are the same ones available in “Discover Destinations.” There are 12 total interests, although not all of them will provide results.

Currently available Interests in Google Flights: Adventure travel, Beaches, Culture, Ecotourism, Food, Honeymoon, Islands, Nature, Outdoor recreation, Shopping, Wildlife, Winter sports.

For instance, if you click on “Honeymoon” for the LAX to DEN trip, you will notice that there are some slight changes to the map.

If you look closely, you can see that some of the smaller red dots on the map go away (check just to the right of “Honeymoon”), as those don’t satisfy that interest.

Google_Flights_Filter_by_Interest_Honeymoon
Notice when you click on “Honeymoon” that fewer destinations are shown on the map. Some are very subtle, but you will notice the change once you click the interest.

No matter what, you’ll always end up with a list of flights on the same looking results screens as seen before.

Since the Interest filter is more about discovering potential destinations, once a specific one is chosen, you will no longer see this filter on the results screen.

Using Google’s “Tips” and “Best Flights” Results Options

You will also want to be aware of are the “Tips” and “Best Flights” options. Google boxes these in at the top of the results list to make them easy to find.

“Tips” can include “Date tips,” “Cabin tips,” “Time tips,” “Airport tips,” or “Airline tips,” and there may be even more depending on your results.

These tips are essentially giving you a heads up that there may be cheaper flight tickets available based on the type of advice. Not all tips are available for all trips.

In the LAX to DEN example, you can see both a “Date tip” and a “Cabin tip.” The “Date tip” helps you save $20 if you can leave and return on different days, and the “Cabin tip” suggests you can fly in a higher class of service for a slightly higher price.

Each tip will have an associated cost next to it, so you know exactly what you’ll pay to take that option. To see all the options, you may have to click the “down arrow” on the far right of the box.

Google_Flights_Results_Tips
You’ll see the “Tips” section at the top of the search results if there are any tips available for the flight searched. In this example, there’s a “Date tip” and a “Cabin tip” along with the associated cost, savings, or “value” of the tip.

Just below the “Tips,” you will find what Google considers to be the best results, and they call this “Best Flights.” This section is listed in its own box as well.

Underneath this are all the rest of the results, which may or may not be hidden and require you to click to see more.

Google_Flights_Best_Flights_Results
Below the “Tips” section, you will find Google’s suggested “Best flights.” These are the best prices, times, or whatever else could be considered a high value flight.

“Best Flights” are not just those with the best price. They are the “best” trade-off between price, duration, number of stops, and other factors.

Google will display their top pick (i.e. lowest price in most cases) highlighted in green letters (see the Spirit flight in the above photo).

(NEW!) Using Google’s “Fare Expiration” and “Price Predictions” Tips

Google has added a new feature to its results as of September 2016. With this new feature, when you search for flights Google will tell you if the fare will expire soon.

Note that if you don’t “see” this feature yet, you may not have found a flight in which a fare was expiring. This feature will not apply to all flights.

You will see feature once you have selected your flights and are on the final fare results screen. Also included in this alert is a “Price Prediction”. This feature tells you what Google thinks the price of the fare will be once the fare has expired.

It includes the new price as well as a predicted percentage of how likely the new price will be what Google expects.

There isn’t much information about how this is calculated, so take it with caution. Google of course has untold amounts of data on prices of flights that it can use to predict these. However, airlines prices are set manually (in general), so there is a human element that will always be unpredictable.

All in all, it is a useful tool for making decisions on your upcoming flights.

Book the Flight: Cheap Plane Tickets with Google Flights

It’s easy to book your flight using Google Flights as well. Once you’ve chosen your itinerary, Google will present you with the option to click through to book it on whatever website would make sense.

To choose your itinerary, simply click on any flight you liked from the search results. In the same LAX to DEN example we used earlier, you might like to take the Spirit flight since it is cheapest.

When you hover your mouse over the box that describes the Spirit trip, you’ll be able to click anywhere to select that option. Note that the first click might bring up multiple options available for that airline at the specific price point.

Also note that you will separately choose outbound and inbound flights, so after your first click you will be brought to a screen with the return flight options. However, the total prices will always be shown in round-trip (if that is what you selected in your original search).

Google_Flights_Choose_Return_Flight
Once you have clicked the flight you want, you will discover that you book the departure and return flights separately. Prices always show whatever option you selected in the original search (round-trip, one-way, or multi-city trip).

Let’s say you want to choose the early flight on Spirit on the way back. Once you click that, the booking options show up below your chosen flights. Note also that the “Save” and “Share” itinerary options are available.

Google_Flights_Booking_Options
For the Spirit flight chosen in the LAX to DEN example, you have the option to book on Spirit’s website, or on four different online travel agency sites: CheapOair, Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia.

Depending on which one you click, you’ll be taken directly to that site to book your flight as you normally would! We won’t go into that detail, so just select the option you want (in this case, Spirit.com has the cheapest tickets), and follow the steps to finish booking a flight.

Note that clicking the option will not clear your search results, and the website will open in a new window. Therefore, if you aren’t satisfied with that site’s results, you can go back and choose another.

Just follow through with the payment, and you’ll be all done (just like you’d book a flight anywhere else)!

In the end, Google Flights is simply a research tool, and you’ll book the majority of flights through another website. There are rare exceptions where you will book through Google’s tool; this occurs in certain travel agency listings.

Which Airlines Can You Book Through Google Flights?

When you’re ready to book a flight, you might be curious as to which airlines you can book directly through the tool and which you will have to redirect to each airline website to book.

Currently, only two airlines allow you to book directly through Google Flights. The first is Lufthansa, which was added previously and before this article was first written.

book_directly_on_lufthansa_with_google
For a sample flight we researched, you have the option of booking directly on Google for the Lufthansa flight, booking with United via their website, or calling to complete the booking.

The second, and latest airline to be added is Virgin America, which was added in December of 2016. This is the first step to making this an all-in-one travel tool that people can use to quickly book their flights. Stay tuned for more additions!

book_directly_on_virgin_america_with_google
To book a Virgin America Flight, you can do it directly through Google, on the Virgin America website, or even through Alaska!

If you discover any additions to the direct booking feature of Google Flights, please contact us!

Before You Book a Flight

Make sure you have everything that you’ll need before booking a flight.

This not only includes your best travel rewards credit card, but also your passport number (if international), Known Traveler Number (if you want to use Global Entry), and much more. Here are some quick references:

How to Search for Cheap Tickets Using Google Flights (Search Examples)

If a cheap ticket is what you’re after, there are actually two main ways you can utilize Google Flights, although both options will eventually end in the same place. The first is by going directly to the tool on Google’s domain.

Alternatively, you could simply use the Google search interface to find flights; this way is usually much quicker. We’ll go over an example for each.

Searching Google Flights From the Tool

When you search for flights within the tool, you will be able to quickly find results and book flights if you need to.

Let’s assume you want to take a flight from Chicago ORD to Seattle SEA for the weekend of November 11th, 2016 to visit a friend. Here is how you will complete this search.

1. Go to the Google Flights home screen.

Enter “Chicago” as the departing airport and “Seattle” as the arriving airport. Then, click on the calendar field below “Chicago” to find the 11th of November and select to return on the 13th.

Search_Example_Chicago_to_Seattle
For the example flight of ORD to SEA, you simply put in the two cities and choose your dates.

2. Navigate the results that show up below.

At the bottom, you’ll get your quick results, some tips on finding better fares, and the opportunity to purchase your flights.

Search_Example_Chicago_to_Seattle_Results
Be sure to check out all your results, especially the “Tips” section at the top. You can get a “Date tip,” “Airport tip,” and more!

Searching for Flights Using the Google Search Bar

To find this same flight using the Google Search Bar, you can simply type in a search query.

In any Google Search Bar, type the following query and press enter to search: “ord to sea november 11th to november 13th.”

You will get these results returned:

Google_Search_Bar_Search_Example_Chicago_to_Seattle
Using a query of keywords, you will get the same results as you would using the Google Flights tool to input the data. Try out a number of flight keyword searches!

However, it appears that searching this way won’t necessarily get you the best results. We would only recommend doing this if you want a quick reference point, and you should always check the prices elsewhere to verify.

Google_Search_Bar_Search_Example_Chicago_to_Seattle_Results
The results using this search method did not return the Frontier flights shown in the example above, despite being the same search. Also, notice you don’t see the “Tips” section here.

You should be able to figure out how to search for anything else via the above sections on Searching and Filtering/Using results!

Just so it is mentioned, you can also find cheap international flights with Google Flights using the same techniques shown throughout the article. The discount airfare doesn’t stop at domestic flights!

10 Hot Tips for Using Google Flights

Now that you have a thorough understanding of how the Google Flights search tool works (or if you’re just a Quick Tip lover), we now have 10 tips for using the search tool.

Tip #1:  Use the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button to discover destinations.

While the other two tools for finding destinations are great, “I’m Feeling Lucky” is a quick and easy way to find a place to go if you just can’t decide. In fact, the lucky button is available within the Explore Map.

To find it, just go to a new Google Flights page, and it will be available based on the default settings.

Sometimes, I have experienced this button missing if I have a cache of previous searches in the browser, so you may need to close and reopen to see the button.

Google_Flights_I'm_Feeling_Lucky
Have Google randomly choose a destination for you based on your departing airport and dates by using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button.

You can expand the map from either the Destination Discovery tool, or by finding it in the top left navigation icon.

In this example, I clicked the button after changing my dates to October 7-9 (the same from the above scenario), and I got Washington, D.C. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it!

Google_Flights_I'm_Feeling_Lucky_Results
I got lucky with a suggestion to go to Washington, D.C.!

Tip #2:  View nearby airports with the “+” button.

Another search option we didn’t discuss above is the “+” button. This allows you to select multiple airports in a city, which is useful if you want to try to find the cheapest flights and aren’t too worried about which area of the city you fly into.

Google_Flights_+_Search_Option
Use the “+” button next to either airport to bring up a list of alternate airports within that region. D.C. has three different main airports, and you can select any or all of them.

Tip #3:  You can search a Round Trip, One Way, or Multi-City Trip Fare.

Though we did discuss it above, this is a great point to remember. You don’t have to look at only round-trip ticket options, and many times it pays off to view flights in terms of one-ways in order to find the best price.

Also, do not underestimate the power of the Multi-City search, as this can help you find stopovers and open jaws if you’re an advanced flight searcher!

Google_Flights_Multi-City_Search_Open_Jaw
Here’s an example of an advanced Multi-City search, using an Open Jaw from ORD to STL.

Tip #4:  You can search by class (Economy, Business, First) and number of people.

Another important tip that was mentioned before, but bears repeating: don’t forget you can search different fare classes! Not everyone is only interested in the cheapest flights, although I imagine most people take price into account.

Similarly, you can search for a ticket for more than one person. This is obviously important if you are considering a travel partner.

Tip #5:  Use Google Flights as a quick-start planning tool for a trip.

While you can definitely find great fares in Google Flights, you can utilize other tools like Skyscanner or ITA Matrix to find more advanced options.

However, if you just want to do some quick research on a trip, start with Google Flights! It’s super simple to just type in a quick query from the search bar and get immediate results.

Say, for instance, that you want to go to Europe in May 2017, but you’re not quite sure where you want to go. You can query “austin to europe flights” to get some quick results on potential prices and ideas for cities.

Google_Flights_Trip_Planning
A simple query can bring up some great options in Google Flights, which you can then use to research trips in more detail (either in Google Flights or a more powerful search tool)!

Tip #6:  Save multiple flight options to your desired destination to track details on pricing.

Though you can’t save a full search in Google Flights (try Kayak for that), if you want to “hack” it and track several options for flights to a desired destination, you can simply select and save multiple different itinerary options.

This may be easier than having to sign up with Kayak and check your email to find updated results; Google’s tool is seamless when you are signed in, and you can quickly switch over to the page to check prices.

Tip #7:  You can use Google Flights as a decision maker for last minute flights.

There are those who like to travel without much regard to where they go. In this case, Google Flights can be a great decision tool to quickly decide where you’re going next!

Just go to the tool and use the “I’m Feeling Lucky,” “Discover destinations,” or “Explore Map” tools, and you’ll be able to find flights quickly and easily. Less than 5 minutes between searching and booking to find last minute flights!

Tip #8:  You can use Google Flights like SkipLagged or Cleverlayover for hidden layover flights.

While we don’t recommend this technique as a matter of principle, if you are the type who blurs the moral line of these hidden layover sites, you can utilize Google Flights to do similar searches.

However, it may not be as efficient.

With your final destination in mind and using “Discover destinations,” simply search “Everywhere” in Places and add up to 2 stops to the Stops filter. Find any cheap flights in the potential destinations, then click it to bring up flight options.

Finally, go to the More filter and see if your real destination shows up in any of the connecting airport options. If so, select it and see whether it appears on a one- or two-stop trip, and compare that to the direct flight cost.

If this option is cheaper, you can book the one-way ticket, get off at your destination, and skip the final leg of your flight.

Again, you may be scrutinized by the airlines if you utilize this technique, so use with caution!

Tip #9:  Use Google flights in other languages or countries.

Google Flights isn’t just available in America since they’ve released it on a number of their international platforms. While it would take a bit more research for a flight, you could potentially find different or cheaper flight options when viewing in different languages or countries.

In this case, the flights will be displayed in the local currency, so you can do your own calculations and see what the differences are between flights!

Google_Flights_from_the_UK
An example of a search using Google Flights UK. Note that all prices are in their local currency, the pound.

Available countries:  Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom.

Tip #10:  Try advanced queries in Google to find flight options.

Our last tip: your search queries don’t have to be super specific. In fact, you can search just about anything flight-related, and Google Flights will try to find results that work for you.

This will give you a chance to see how powerful Google’s algorithms really are!

For instance, quickly find results using queries like “cheap flight to london;” this works for advanced searches too like “flights from Austin September.” The latter is a great way to open up “Discover destinations” past the weekend, one week, or two week filters!

Google_Flights_Use_Search_Queries_to_Expand_Open_Ended_Travel
Query Google Flights with “flights from Austin september” and you’ll be able to search a whole month’s worth of flights within the Destination Discovery tool!

Note, however, you may not get the best results. During spot checks, we found that some results were omitted when you used a query versus searching in the tool, even if it displayed the same flight in the end.

Final Thoughts: Is Google Flights the Best Search Tool?

Is Google Flights the best search tool? As it stands, that is a hard question to answer. For starters, you’ll have to ask yourself what you are looking for.

Are you looking for the convenience of keyword query-type searching? – Google definitely wins in this category.

Do you need a tool that can find flights quickly because you’re just doing some initial research? – Google also wins here, as you can just search straight from your browser in about 5-10 seconds.

Time spent here literally just depends on your typing speed and your search query savvy. If you want the latter, check out some of the tips above. The former…well, probably something that should have been learned in school!

Are you looking for the most powerful search tool out there? – While you can find a lot on Google, some the other search engines are more powerful in their versatility.

Using ITA Matrix, for example, I can find ridiculous routes that I would never get with Google Flights.

Are you looking for something with a price guarantee? – While there are some flights booked through Google’s interface that they will protect with their Purchase Protection insurance, you may be better off with an online travel agency.

All in all, Google Flights is another favorite tool to use to find flights and ideas, especially when I want to find some general pricing lightning-quick that will help me discuss a trip or make some decisions on future vacations.

With all the same basic features as the ITA Matrix (such as one-way, round trip, multi-city trip, flexible dates, and flexible destinations), you’ll be able to do most of your flight shopping with the tool.

Of course…don’t forget to use your travel rewards credit cards to book so you earn points! You don’t want all your hard work to go to waste, now do you?

Hope you find some great flights!

Some Additional Useful Resources:

The Express Beginners Guide to Earning Points and Miles >>

Airline Credit Card Reviews >>

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FAQ

How do you use Google Flights to find cheap flights for vacation?
You can query Google’s search bar with your travel ideas, utilize the basic search tool, explore the “Discover destinations” tool, or utilize the Explore Map view in order to find cheap flights for your next vacation!

Be sure to use the available filters to really sort through the results and find something that works for you.

Who powers Google Flights?
When Google purchased the ITA Software company, the owners and creators of the ITA Matrix, they were able to utilize this technology to create their own tool for searching flights.

It runs on Google’s own domain and servers, but it is very much linked to the software created by ITA.

When did Google Flights start?
Google Flights was created in late 2011 after they purchased the ITA Software company in April of that year.

What airlines does Google Flights search?
Google Flights searches all airlines except for Southwest, which doesn’t allow anyone to utilize their flight data outside of the company.

Why are Google Flights so cheap?
This is of course relative. Google does a good job of providing as many of the cheapest airfares it has access to, but that does not mean they are the cheapest.

You could, in fact, search for those same prices on each of the airlines websites and likely find the same price.

So Google is able to pull and sort a lot of data from a lot of places, which makes it appear to have the cheapest prices, but not necessarily the best at all times.

Is there a Google Flights app?
There is an app called OnTheFly that is sort of a hybrid ITA Matrix and Google Flights search app. There is no separate Google Flights app, however.

You can simply search for flights on your mobile device through Google, and you’ll get a mobile-ready page.

What is Google Flight Simulator?
Google Flight Simulator is a neat feature that Google added to the Google Earth program. You can fly a number of airplanes around the world to explore places!

Why is Google Flight Simulator so difficult?
Because you’re not a pilot, silly! Try watching this video for tips.

Can Google detect what flights are overhead?
If you want to track flights, you can search Google to find a number of programs that specialize in this. The most popular is called Flight Aware.

There are also a number of apps for your smartphone that can do similar things! Try utilizing the Google Now voice search or Siri on Apple phones to find out what flights are overhead.

Does Google have a Google Hotels tool, similar to Google Flights?
While you can find both cheap flights and hotels within Google Flights, Google has not released a separate tool for hotel bookings.

However, it appears they could in the future, as they seem to be putting in lots of effort to collect results.

Does Google Flights have an API?
The API for this data is handled through the QPX Express API.