This content is not sponsored. The following is my opinion from personal experience.
Some people get overwhelmed when searching for flights. Others think its easy but end up spending too much time searching. Of course searching for flights is easy, but finding the right one is not. Finding the perfect flight requires the right tool, and I have found Google Flights to be the best.
Google is the king of search, and that remains true for flights. Google Flights is fast, easy to use, plus has the best options for filtering and multi-city itineraries. It looks simple upfront but like the internet search engine, provides a variety of tools for willing power users.
Why Google Flights?
Flexability and speed. It takes a long time to research all the options when planning a trip. Google Flights is my go-to because it has the most flexibility to explore all possible options which makes the search far faster. The site is also the fastest out there when it comes to returning results so you can change your search query without waiting for minutes. In web design terms, this provides a ‘frictionless experience for the user’. When searching isn’t such a hassle, you are able (and more willing) to keep hunting for the best deal.
I am assuming you can figure out the basic search. Set your origin, destination, dates, and off you go. Great. Always start with a basic search using your preferred airports and date. This way you know the cost of the best case scenario.
Going forward we will look at different dates, airports, even destinations, but to know if any of those are better and worth doing we need a frame of reference to compare against. You may find that other options don’t save enough money to be worth the extra hassle. While being flexible is the best way to get a better deal, identify any dealbreakers for your search.
With all that in mind and some basic results in hand, it is time to expand the search. You can do these in any order or not at all depending on your priorities but I find this is the best flow for me. I do recommend looking at different dates last.
Simple yet powerful addition to the search to guarantee you get the best overall price. If you know you will be bringing carry on or checked bags, add that upfront to include the baggage fees with the price shown. Bags are often an afterthought, but since the fees have skyrocketed, especially on budget carriers, it can have a big impact on the final price.
This is especially true for carry on bags; all airlines allow a “personal item” such as a purse or backpack that can be put under the seat, but that is different from a carry on bag that goes in the overhead bin. Most of the big airlines include a free carry on, but some charge you for this privilege if you buy the cheaper “basic economy” fares. Budget airlines will almost always charge you, up to $70 per person on a round trip flight!
I rarely use this filter as I tend not to care when I travel so long as I am traveling; but if one of your dealbrakers is, say, leaving after work or arriving before an event, then you can use this to exclude all others so you only see prices for flights that fit with your schedule.
Adding nearby or alternate airports to the search is the best way to get more options into your results. This can help get cheaper tickets, better departure or arrival times, and more choice in airlines for those that don’t fly to your preferred airport.
For example, I was searching for flights to Miami recently, but JetBlue doesn’t fly there. By adding Ft Lauderdale to the search I was able to get results from another airline plus more options from the big three who have additional flights there.
You can add additional airports to both the origin and destination fields to get the most options. Keep in mind that while it is rare, you may get results leaving one airport and returning to another but Google will warn you of this in the results.
Now that your search has the most options possible it is time to look at different travel dates if your schedule allows. Thisshould be your last step and can take the longest if as every day is a new option. Just like flexibility in destinations has a big impact on options, dates can have the biggest impact on price. That is why there are multiple ways to compare different dates for the search you have open. Each one has a different use to meet different needs.
The date selector is the box you already used to select the initial dates. You can use it to set specific dates and search again, but you will also notice that there are prices shown for each day. For that is the price for round trip airfare departing on that day for the same duration that you are already looking at.
Yoy can also see prices for return flights by clicking on the return date.
This is great if you have a set number of days you will be away and want to check different departure days. I use it most often when looking for weekend trips. It will always be a one day trip and lets me see what flights will be leaving on Saturday for months instead of needing to search each one individually.
You can use the arrows next to the selected dates to move days without having to select both again.
This is the most flexible view but also the most intimidating for some. It shows you the price for a variety of departure and return dates and lets you see what the price would be for adding or removing a day all at once.
This lets you see the prices for a trip of X duration by departure day similar to the date selector. Personally, I rarely use this view.
There you have it! With this understanding you can now be a power user of what I would argue is the most powerful travel search tool out there.
If you use any of this advice to score a great deal I would love to hear about it! Leave a reply in the comments or tweet me @montitravels.