How to Use Google Flights – in Pictures

There are a lot of different things you can do with Google Flights. You’ll get the most from it when you’re very open to different trip options, but if you already have a pretty good idea of where you want to go and when, it can still be helpful. I love it because I can look at several different routes and dates at the same time without having to do a bunch of separate searches, which saves a lot of time. I’m going to explain some of its different tools and what they’re good for here.

When you open the first page, it’ll look something like this:

Google Flights Homepage - Google Flights How-To

Don’t feel like you have to fill in the destination field, and the other fields can easily be changed later as well. You can see some suggested trips from your nearest airport on the bottom left, which could be great trip inspiration itself! Let’s look at the Explore tool first. If you know where you want to go and when, skip down to the Selecting a Flight section.

Explore

From the main page, click “Explore destinations” on the right, above the map. There are a lot of different options from here, so let’s go through some of them.

Google Flights Explore Tool

First, let’s add some departure airports. The further I’m traveling, the more I’ll add, and the more airports that are added, the lower the prices on the map will get. I’m open to the Akron-Canton airport and the Cleveland airport for just about any trip, so I’ll do those two for now. If I was going to travel further, I’d add more like Columbus, Pittsburgh, and when I’m planning to leave North America, I’ll add Toronto as well.

Add multiple departure airports.

Next, you can adjust your dates. You can choose specific dates or be a little more open. The more open you are, the cheaper the prices will get.

A few optional things you can specify at the top left of the map are how many stops you are willing to make, what airlines you want to fly on, how many bags you want to have included in the price of your flight, and up to how many hours you’re willing your total trip to take. I usually don’t specify these, but if any of this criteria is very important to you, add it in.

Above the dates, you can also decide whether you want to buy round trip or one way tickets, how many passengers will be going, and what class you want to fly in.

Decide on the dates of your trip - be flexible or specific.

Now that you’ve got things set up, you can start to explore the map.

You can see that there are several suggested routes that are already showing the prices. You can also hover over a specific city to see its name, then click on it to see its lowest price.

Under the dates on the left, you can use the price scale to block out flights that will be more than you’re willing to pay.

Look around at the different destination options on the map.

Zoom into a specific area if you know what region you want to travel to.

Zoom in to a region.

Zoom out or drag the map to another place to see the prices there.

Move the map to another continent.

Once you’ve selected a city, click on it. For now, let’s look at Google’s suggestions for 1-week trips to Buenos Aires, Argentina. (FYI, I’d never take a 1-week trip that far away if there way any way around it because I don’t think it’s worth it, but that’s another topic.)

Select the city you'd like to go to.

Selecting a Flight

This section will be the same, whether you have found your flight through the Explore tool or you’ve started out by putting in the dates and airports yourself. Click “View Flights” from the map if you’re using the Explore tool, or do a search from the Google Flights homepage if you want to be more specific. Either way, it’ll take you to a page that looks like this:

Flight selection

From here, you can see different options for your flights. Google will highlight the best ones at the top, and you can scroll down to see more. There are a lot of differences between these flights, so don’t just jump on the cheapest one first; there’s a reason the cheapest flight is not at the top in the best flights section. In this case, the cheapest flight is also nearly 26 hours long, versus less than 17 hours in the Best Departing Flights section. By clicking on that cheapest Air Canada flight, I can see that it’s actually suggesting a 10.5 hour layover in Toronto, a city that’s 6 hours from my home. Because of that, I would try adding Toronto to my departure airports. This is just the way this particular flight works out, so most of the time I’d skip this step.

If it’s a flight you’re confident you’ll eventually book, turn on the Track prices option above Best Departing Flights and you’ll get emails when pries change.

Extra step – adding another airport: When I add Toronto, you can see that I now get much cheaper options. This is because I’m driving to a major airport to fly to a different continent rather than leaving from a medium-sized airport.

Take into consideration layovers, costs, and total flight times.

Next, check the Date Grid, Price Graph, and Nearby Airports, as shown below. This will show you if you could make some minor changes to save money. The ones you see here are fairly consistent, but sometimes there are big differences between dates.

You can see that on this particular flight, there aren’t a lot of options that will benefit me to change, so I’ll stick with the flight I already chose. If you’ve found your flight through the Explore tool like I just did, it should be suggesting the best dates, times, and routes to you automatically. If you’ve just searched for a flight by putting in the date and airports yourself, you’ll be more likely to get better options than I was.

One Final Example

See below for an example of how leaving either a day earlier or a day later and changing airports could save me a lot of money on a Las Vegas flight. I started with Akron-Canton to Las Vegas for a Sunday-Sunday trip. Initially, my price is $412 (which is ridiculous for a flight like that), so when I click on the date grid and price graph, I can see there’s a lot I can do to make my flight cost less.

I have a couple of options – I could change my dates, and get down to $282 by going Tuesday-Tuesday. Or, I could select Cleveland and see what options are available there.

On the Price Graph, I found Saturday-Saturday flights the following week for $167 out of Cleveland. So, if those dates work for me too, I can go from paying $412 each to leave from Akron-Canton to $167 each to leave out of Cleveland a week later and fly on Saturdays instead of Sundays. That’s a $490 difference per couple, which is completely worth it if you’re able to be flexible!

One More Feature

This feature isn’t available on all flights, but there will sometimes be a little scale showing whether you’re getting a good deal or not. See the picture below for what it looks like. It will show up between Best Departing Flights and Other Departing Flights if it’s available for your route.

Good luck on your future flight searches! As always, contact me if you need more clarification or help booking.

Travel is never a matter of money, but of courage.

Paulo Coelho

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