How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Prices, Discover Destinations (and more)

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Before the Google Flights platform launched in 2011, the process to search for all of your travel needs across a variety of websites was extremely cumbersome. Today, Google Flights has everything you need in one place to easily plan travel — it’s a robust website that helps you evaluate all of your Trip, Flight, Hotel, and Travel Package options.

How Google Flights Can Save You Money

The first thing you might notice is that Google Flights isn’t quite as flashy as some of the online travel agencies like Expedia, Priceline, or Orbitz. Have no fear — it’s still a powerful search engine with lots of options!

Search Multiple Cities

Google Flights Multi-City Search
Google Flights Multi-City Search. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Start by entering your basic search criteria, just as you would on any other site. Google Flights allows you to do multiple searches at once — up to 7 departure and 7 destinations in the search box! — saving you tons of time when you are doing a flexible search.

As an example, let’s say you want to fly from New York City to Europe but without a specific city in mind. In the departure box you can enter New York City, which will search all of the New York Airports (LGA, JFK, EWR) — or you can select the airports individually, including other nearby airports like Islip, Long Island (ISP) or Philadelphia (PHL).

For your destination city, start typing in cities you are interested in visiting like Paris (CDG), Barcelona (BCN), Berlin (TXL), etc. Google Flights will search for the best options all at once, instead of looking up the price of each route individually!

Your results list will display options including all of the cities added to your search. In the example below, we can see the cheapest flight is a nonstop flight from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG).

Google Flights Best Flights
Use Google Flights to search for the best flight options. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Bottom Line: If you have some flexibility in your travel plans or don’t know exactly where you want to go, Google Flights can save tons of time by combining multiple searches into one. You can input up to 7 departure cities and 7 destination cities all in 1 search to see, quickly and easily, what the cheapest option will be. 

Search Multiple Dates

Google Flights Flexible Dates Calendar
Use the flexible dates calendar to find the cheapest flight options. Image Credit: google.com/flights

You now know you can search multiple departure and arrival cities, but how can you find out the cheapest dates to fly?

After inputting your departure and arrival cities, look at the dates to the right side of the search box. Clicking the calendar icon will display a calendar view showing prices for the whole month. Days that offer lower prices will be shown in green. As you can see, the majority of dates for this route in September and October have pricing for business class in green.

Hot Tip: You can adjust the duration of your trip by using the arrows at each side of the calendar box.

Flight Insights

Google Flights Flights Insights
Dive into more of your flight details using the Insights function. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Google Flights has updated its Flight Insights section, found on the right side above your flight search results. A new Prices section is shown below your search results. With this new format, you’ll only see the Prices section when searching between 2 city pairs and not when searching for multiple destinations.

Hot Tip: We always use a rewards card that earns bonus points on travel purchases. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card earns you 2 points for every $1 that you spend with the card on travel or dining purchases. If you’re a business owner, we’d strongly recommend using a rewarding business credit card when making a travel purchase, otherwise you’re missing out on points, miles or cash-back!

Date Grid

Google Flights Date Grid
The Date Grid shows you what dates are the cheapest to fly on. Image Credit: google.com/flights

For deeper insight on the cheapest days to fly, click on the Date Grid. This will open up a grid showing the cheapest days to fly in green and the most expensive days to fly in red.

You can see even more pricing details by using the Departure and Return arrows on the top and right side of the Date Grid section respectively. For those with flexible travel dates, this can be a great way to save some cash!

Price Graph

Google Flights Price Graph
The Price graph shows you a bar chart of what pricing is for the flights within a 2-month time frame. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Price graph shows 2 months worth of prices in a visual graph form to easily see price trends by day. Scroll further in the future with the arrow to the right of the graph or change the duration of your trip using the -/+ buttons by your selected dates.

Airports

Google Flights Airports
Use the Airports tab to show you all of your airport options for the city you are flying to. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Airports tab displays any other airports near your origin or destination airport (you can toggle between origin and destination airport at the top of this section). You will be able to view the airport locations on the map and get information including flight prices on the left side of the screen. Click on any airport to see the distance from the city center.

Tips

Google Flights Tips
The Tips tab is great to use if you need a travel guide for your trip. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Tips section offers a travel guide for the city that you are visiting, including Things To Do, Suggested Day Plans, Flights to Your Destination from the airport closest to your current location, When To Visit, Travel Articles, Travel Videos, See More While You’re There, and Destinations sections.

How to Use Google Flights

Although this tool lets you search for, compare, and purchase flights, it’s not technically an online travel agency like Travelocity or Priceline. Rather, it’s a highly effective metasearch engine that saves you the step of searching each airline and website individually.

How to Book a Flight

Google Flights Flight Search
Google Flights is the go-to source to find the best flights to book. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Scroll through the Best Departing Flights results and click on a flight that interests you. Flights listed in the Other Departing Flights section will typically be more expensive and/or include less than ideal layovers.

When you find the flight you want, you’re prompted to choose your outbound flight first, followed by your return flight (assuming you’re booking a round-trip flight). Keep in mind that the price shown on the initial results screen is the lowest possible price for that itinerary. The return flight you pick could alter the cost, so make sure to pay attention to the prices of each return flight.

When you’ve chosen your flights, Google offers a few options for booking — generally, these are the cheapest options it can find. You’re given the option to book directly with the airline operating the flight (often cheapest), through the airline’s partners, or with whichever online travel agencies offer the best deals.

Click the Select button next to the price of your flight and you’ll be redirected to that website to book your flight. The travel details are already set, so all you need to do is confirm them, enter your personal information, and pay.

Bottom Line: While the other features that Google Flights offers are useful, its basic flight search functionality is the heart and soul of this tool. It’s not quite perfect and doesn’t have full access to every airline — for example, it can’t access prices for Southwest Airlines — but otherwise, it’s the best way there is to search for flights.

Tracking Prices

Google Flights Tracking
Image Credit: google.com/flights

Google has a tool that lets you track flight prices — once set, you’ll receive an email if prices increase or decrease. To set an alert, look above the booking sites after you’ve chosen an itinerary and click the Track Prices button. If you’re logged into Google the alerts will be sent to your Gmail, otherwise enter an email address.

You can access any flight price alert set by clicking on the 3-line menu icon in the upper-left corner of Google Flights and clicking “Tracked Flight Prices.” You can also see a graph with price changes from the day you set the price alert going forward.

Google flights tracking
Track the cost of the flight you want to book using price tracking. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Sharing

Google Flights Share Button
Send your itinerary to yourself or share with family and friends. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Google also has an option to share a chosen itinerary before actually booking the flight. This tool can be extremely helpful when searching for flights for someone else or making group travel plans.

The Share button is directly above the Total Price of your flight with 2 options for sharing — 1) email the itinerary to yourself, or 2) share the itinerary with another person.

To email the itinerary to yourself, click the Send To Yourself button on the left. Similar to the Track Prices feature, the itinerary will be sent to your Gmail if you’re logged into your account, otherwise, you’ll need to enter your email address for the itinerary to be emailed to you.

To share the itinerary with another person, click the Share button on the right. A window pops up with options to share via Email, Facebook, Twitter, or Copy Link.

Bottom Line: Google Flights is one of the most effective ways to search for flights. The platform has powerful tools to help make the flight search process easier than it otherwise would be. 

Explore Destinations

Google Flights Explore Destinations
Use the Destinations function to find travel inspiration. Image Credit: google.com/flights

On the Google Flights homepage, you’ll notice an Explore Destinations button directly below the area where you select the dates of your travel. This tool is very interesting because it’s the perfect way to find some travel inspiration! There are 3 main ways you can search: Place, Date, and Price.

Explore Destinations With Places

Explore Destinations Places
Let Google Flights find destinations by using the Places search function. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Explore Destinations Places section lets you input a place that you’d like to travel, and then populates a map on the right side of the page with markers showing the different places that you can go. You can scroll through the search list under the Price section or search destinations directly on the map.

Explore Destinations With Dates

Google Flights Destinations Dates
Narrow down your search results using Dates. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Another way that you can use Explore Destinations is to search for potential trips by Date. Enter Specific Dates or Flexible Dates and the Explore Destinations map will update the results based on these filters. Similar to Places, when the search results are populated, you can scroll through the list of destinations on the left side or click the destination directly on the map.

Explore Destinations With Price

Google Flights Destinations Price
Using the Price function can be a great way to book flights based on your budget. Image Credit: google.com/flights

If Price is your filter of choice, slide the blue Price circle to the left or right to see what destinations populate based on your price parameters. Once you select the maximum price you are willing to pay, the map and list below the Price section will populate.

Selecting the Flight

Google Flights Destinations Trip Selection
Image Credit: google.com/flights

When you select the flight for your trip, a new section on the right side appears showing you the cost of your different flight options. By clicking View Flight, you will be directed back to the main Google Flights homepage where you can book the flight.

Best Ways to Use Explore Destinations

We have found that the best way to use the Explore Destinations tool is when you want to take a trip and have a general idea of when you can travel, but you don’t know exactly where you want to go. In our experience, results have been more helpful when you keep the search criteria more general — for example, picking a month and duration rather than specific dates.

Hot Tip: For those looking for travel inspiration, check out the “Use Points” section to find all the motivation you need to book your next trip. 

Explore

Google Flights Explore
The Explore tab helps you to find popular destinations based on where you want to go. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Not to be confused with Explore Destinations in the Flights section, Google Flights has a section titled Explore with recommendations of popular destinations. You can also enter a destination in the search tab directly below the word Explore.

When you click on a destination, Google Flights will take you to the travel guide for that city. For example, if you click Austin in the picture above, you will be directed to the Austin travel guide. Once here, you will find Things To Do, Suggested Day Plans, Plan A Trip, When To Visit, Travel Articles, Travel Videos, See More While You’re There, and Other Places To Explore sections.

Trips

Google Flights Trips
The Trips tab helps direct you to the best area of Google Flights to find what you need. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Trips section of Google Flights is another interesting area to check out. When you enter a flight, hotel, or destination, Google Flights will direct you to the Explore, Flights, Hotels, or Packages section of the platform.

Directly below the search area of Trips, Google Flights lists your Upcoming Trips pulled from your Gmail, Potential Trips that you can take, Popular Destinations, and Past Trips that you’ve taken (also pulled from your Gmail).

Bottom Line: The Trips section helps to direct you to the area of Google Flights that fits your search criteria. 

Hotels

Google Flights hotels
One of the best new features of Google Flights is the addition of of the Hotels section. Image Credit: google.com/flights

To book a hotel, start your search with the Hotels section of Google Flights. Simply enter your destination in the Where To? section and your dates in the dates section and you will see both a list and map of hotels for your destination. Narrow down your results using filters such as Number of Guests, Price, Hotel or Vacation Rental, Guest Rating, Amenities, and/or Brands.

Similar to Flights, you can set price alerts to track hotel prices. By setting an alert and entering your email, you will be sent price alerts and travel tips directly to your email.

Packages

Google Flights Packages
For those wanting to book flights and hotels in one place, check out the Packages tab. Image Credit: google.com/flights

The Packages feature is a great tool for those who want to book a vacation package based on a few criteria. You can enter your Origin, Destination, Date, and/or Number of Travelers and Google Flights will populate the Top Destination options based on the criteria entered.

When you click on a destination, you will be redirected to a new page showing Your Trip with the best Hotel and Flight options.

Special Features

Google’s been improving the Flights tool since it launched in 2011 by making it faster, adding new functionalities, and adding airlines and options. Price tracking is just one of those newer features.

Price Prediction and Fare Expiration

In October 2016, Google announced a new tool that would notify people looking for flights if prices were expected to change soon [1].

Airline fare rules and planning are incredibly complicated and hard to figure out, so there’s no guarantee that Google’s prediction will be correct. However, in a few test cases, it is found to be fairly accurate.

The tool only pops up if you’re looking for a flight that’s expected to change prices soon — you won’t see it otherwise. A red flag appears next to the “Best Flights” box or the specific flight and says when prices are expected to change.

google flights price prediction
Know when airfare will likely change using Google Flights price prediction. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Click “Learn more” to see more information, including Google’s reasoning behind the prediction, such as when prices usually change, how often that happens, and by how much.

Flight Delay Notification and Prediction

Google Flights will also predict delays to inform your purchase decision.  In your search results, Google Flights will provide a note indicating flights that are often delayed.

Overhead Bin Access

Google Flights has a flight results filter to show which options include access to an overhead bin for a carry-on bag.

Enhanced by Legroom (Google Chrome Extension)

Google Flights Enhanced By Legroom
Know exactly how much legroom you’ll have by using the Enhanced by Legroom extension. Image Credit: google.com/flights

Google Flights has a free extension for the Google Chrome web browser that adds information about seats to your search results. When you search for an economy class ticket, you’ll see the particular flight’s pitch (distance from the back of one seat to the back of the next seat) on the right-hand side of each result.

Flights with a smaller pitch are highlighted in red, while flights with a more generous pitch are in green. If you search for a premium cabin, you’ll see the type of seat on the flight — for example, a recliner, angled-flat, or lie-flat seat.

This is a fantastically helpful tool! As airlines are still working to make their fleets uniform following mergers over the past few years, it’s helpful to know exactly what kind of seat you’re paying for, especially since it can vary based on which plane is being flown on the route.

Bottom Line: New features continue to be brought into the software tool — whether officially through Google or through third parties.

ITA Matrix

Google Flights is built on software that Google acquired when it bought ITA Software in 2011. That software still powers Google Flights, and if you want complete control over your search — from routing and fare code to the tiniest detail — you can access this software’s advanced interface.

ITA Matrix can be quite complicated, but the tradeoff is that you can search with much more control. If you’re interested in learning more, check out this complete guide to ITA Matrix.

Final Thoughts

Google Flights is a first stop anytime when looking for flights. It includes most airlines, features great prices, and searches various online travel agencies and airline websites to save you time. Even if you plan to book through an online travel agency (OTA), you should always search Google Flights first.

There’s just one catch to be aware of: Google doesn’t have access to pricing for Southwest Airlines flights. Whenever Southwest operates a route, it’ll appear at the bottom of the flight search results, but you’ll have to click it to visit Southwest’s site and see the price for yourself.

For additional information on other OTAs and Metasearch Engines, you can check out this article on which websites are best for booking flights at the cheapest prices.

FAQ

What is Google Flights?

Although the tool lets you search for, compare, and purchase flights, it’s not an online travel agency like Orbitz or Priceline. Rather, it’s a highly effective metasearch engine that saves you the step of searching each airline and website individually.

You can compare routes, prices, times, airlines, and more to find the cheapest, most convenient, or preferred flight between any airports.

How does Google Flights work?

The software tool works by searching databases from each airline and online travel agency to find flight schedules, seats, and prices.

Behind the scenes, it works by using a program called ITA Matrix, which was originally developed for travel agents and reservation managers.

Can you book through Google Flights?

Not exactly as the tool itself is just a search engine. That means that unlike a travel agency, it’s not the one selling you the flight.

However, Google includes links with each result to the cheapest available place to book — usually directly with the airline, but sometimes through an online travel agency or one of the airline’s partners.

That said, there are 2 recent exceptions: you can book tickets on Lufthansa or Virgin America directly through Google Flights.

How reliable is Google Flights?

In theory, any service or search engine can make mistakes. However, the tool gets its information directly from the airlines. That means that if there’s a mistake or something incorrect, that’s because the airline did something wrong.

Are Google Flights reservations refundable?

Because you’re not booking directly through Google, you should be sure to check the policy of whichever website you purchase your airfare from, as well as any restrictions with the particular fare you’ve bought.

Michael McHugh

About Michael McHugh

Michael grew up in Mobile, AL and took his first international trip to the Caribbean in 2013. From then on, he was hooked. After that trip, Michael has continued traveling both domestically and internationally —primarily with constant travel companion wife, Ashlee, who runs her own travel/style and contracts blog.

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31 comments

  1. Dave Hofeldt · May 6, 2018 · Reply

    What currency is used for overseas flights purchased from US browser location? For example, you want to book a flight from Sydney to Cairns, Australia — do you see prices in US dollars, or Australian dollars?

  2. Ines Ligron · June 2, 2018 · Reply

    Hello, I bought tickets online (Norwegian/Easyjet)

    I called the airlines and was told that I must make the change with my travel agent, that I cannot do it directly with them. In this case, it is Google Flights as my ticket was bought using their service as a travel agency.

    But I can not find any way to contact Google Flights to change my reservation.
    Do you have any suggestion please?

    Ines

    • Hi Ines – Google Flights does not directly book any fares. This is likely why you can’t find a phone number to call and address your booking.

      Google Flights is a big metasearch engine which means it aggregates tons of information to give you all of the options you’re looking for. When you select your desired flights and are given a price, Google Flights then directs you either to the airline itself, or an OTA (online travel agency) that is advertising said fare.

      Google Flights has made this a pretty seamless process, so it’s likely you were redirected to an OTA and didn’t quite pick up on that. It happens to a lot of people!

      We suggest taking another look at your official confirmation e-mail for your flights, then contacting the OTA which sent you the e-mail.

      Hope this helps! 🙂

  3. David Earl · June 8, 2018 · Reply

    What has happened to https://www.google.com/flights/explore ? I am not seeing it as of today June 8. I would use this tool to judge places to go in a region and the best time to go. I hope google did not end that page.

    • Michael McHugh · June 8, 2018 · Reply

      Hi David

      Google recently integrated a new Google Flights platform. Here’s the link to the old platform https://www.google.com/flights/?f=0

      • Hunter · July 12, 2018 · Reply

        Are you still able to access the old interface. I tried your link and it sent me to the new site.
        I can’t seem to locate the map with prices to every airport in the new interface. Thanks

        • Christine Krzyszton · July 12, 2018 · Reply

          Hunter, the map with prices can be accessed on the new interface by clicking on the menu which is represented by three short horizontal lines in the upper left-hand corner next to “Google Flights” in the blue bar at the top of the page. There are options such as : Flights, Explore, and Tracked Prices. You will need to eliminate the destination in order for the map to appear. Or, you can type in an area such as “Europe”, “South America”, etc. and the map will appear. (This answer was edited to include the information to remove the destination>) Hope this helps.

          • Steve Miller · November 8, 2018

            As soon as you select Explore Map, the destination airport disappears. If you enter a destination on map view, the map disappears.

            Bummer.

  4. Heather Salber · June 19, 2018 · Reply

    Hello, While I can appreciate the new google flights I believe the older one that used to be accessed through the running man to be more user friendly when searching for other airports and other features. I would love to be able to use that one as well but the option seems to have disappeared. There were other links for awhile but those are gone as well. Can you help? Thanks

  5. Ashamed to confess I have never used Google Flights before. Having read this post, I’ve immediately tried out this tool myself. And here you go—Naples, France will be my first destination chosen with Google Flights. Thanks for a great insight.

  6. Strange error in pricing: I’ve been monitoring a multi-city flight from LAX to Abu Dhabi, via Istanbul on Turkish, one way, then Cairo to LAX, via Istanbul on the return. Google Flights says it’s $6371 on business class, but when I click on the price it then says “from $4971” – it sends me to Turkish airlines with several other options, but the one I wanted on their site is $4971. Not sure why G. Flights is giving me $6371.

  7. I loved the feature of just typing two cities or airport codes in the search bar and get connections between the two cities with schedule. Somehow it doesn’t work since a couple of days….

  8. So here is the thing.

    I used to type in the Google search bar two airport codes or even two cities sometimes and I would get the timetable of the nonstop and other connections. I loved it because I could quickly see what nonstop existed and what airlines would otherwise fly the quickest, although you wouldn’t see anything else. This feature was tremendously useful.

    Since about three weeks it doesn’t work and instead I get the prices directly. But I don’t want that.

    • Christine Krzyszton · August 15, 2018 · Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Paul. I’ve actually had the occasion to need this lately and just used the non-stop filter to give me the flights I wanted to see but unfortunately no actual timetables.

  9. We prefer to have Sri Lankan rupee LKR in your currency list. otherwise, we have to open a separate google currency convert window and needs to check each time to calculate our cost and that is a pain.

    • Hi Saman, please note that we are not Google or Google Flights, so we cannot address this request. We are Upgraded Points, a points & miles based website who publishes information related to points, miles, credit cards, travel, etc.

  10. Laura Cohn · October 15, 2018 · Reply

    I’m trying to book a ticket for my son to return from Portugal. Google flights tells me there’s a flight through Air Europa for $464 and to call the airline to book. When I call the airline, the price with them (and on their website) is >$3,000, not a small difference. I understand that Google Flights is a search tool but in this case, I’m curious where they’re getting the price from that it’s so vastly different.

  11. Thanks for the review. It is very complete and extensive and perfectly summarizes the pros and cons of using the app.

  12. Walter Campbell · November 6, 2018 · Reply

    I use Google Flights frequently. The fare for my date selected used to appear in U S dollars now it is in Mexican pesos. I prefer the US dollars. How can I change from pesos to U S dollars?
    Thanks,
    Walter

    • Christine Krzyszton · November 6, 2018 · Reply

      Hi Walter. That’s a great question because I’m sure others have experienced the same. In the upper left hand corner of the Google Flights page you’ll see 3 straight bars next to “Google Flights”. This is a menu. When you click on the 3 bars menu, you will see “Search flights,Explore map,Tracked prices,Change language,Change country,and Change currency. You can change the currency there. Hope this helps.

  13. I’ve always used Google Flights for my International Travel. Most airlines’ booking sites are so complicated, it is almost impossible to use for what I want. Google flights can filter anything for you as the article has said. Then once directed to the airline website, it is purchase time.

  14. I’m considering a two-leg flight I found on Google Flights that shows Condor as the airline for the first leg and Lufthansa for the second. When I finish selecting the flights and go to book it, it shows me paying the full amount specifically to Condor. Can anyone shed light on how the booking process is supposed to work for trips using multiple airlines? Should I be paying just part of it to Condor, and then the rest separately to Lufthansa? Thanks.

  15. Cynthia · June 29, 2019 · Reply

    Hi Christine,
    When you search Google flights and see a flight with 2 connections using different airlines to get to your destination – is there any sort of guarantee if first flight is delayed or cancelled?? As opposed to booking yourself on 2 different airlines and flights to get to your destination – then i fully understand the risk is all on me.
    I understand that Google flights is not the booking agent – but wondering if when they search they pair airlines that work together in offering the flyer more security when dealing with connecting flights using different airlines.

    • Christine Krzyszton · June 29, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Cynthia. When you purchase the ticket you’re describing, there is one marketing carrier (airline). There may be more than one operating carrier, for example a flight on United and a flight on Lufthansa. The ticket may be marketed by either United or Lufthansa (or yet another airline). Airlines can share the responsibility (depending on the disruption) to get you to/from your destination if you should have trouble during your journey. If your United flight is delayed and you miss your Lufthansa connection, for example, United could book you on another Lufthansa flight. So yes, your ticket is more secure when all the flights are on one ticket (even if more than one operating carrier) than purchasing separate tickets using different airlines. Thank you for your question.

  16. I’m using Google Flights to book a trip on United. I want to track the price for the flight but there’s no “Track Prices” button as you describe. Any idea why that button doesn’t show? Thanks!

    • Michael McHugh · July 15, 2019 · Reply

      Hi Debra!

      You’ll need to select the flights that you want to book and then click the “track prices” radio button directly below the “total from price” shown for your flight.

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