Saving Money Travel Planning

How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights and New Cities

I’m excited to share one of my top travel tips: how to use Google Flights to find new, interesting places to go and cheap flights to get there!

With so many dreamy destinations to choose from, how do I find a reasonably priced flight and a cool place to visit? And more importantly, a how do I find a destination that fits within my budget over the dates I want?

Or maybe I don’t have my timing nailed down, but I just want to find the best flight options for a certain city? Drum roll please… Google Flights!

*I typically book my airfare first, then a place to stay. I’ve found that hotels/Airbnbs tend to have more availability and less price fluctuation, unless I’m going over a holiday or big event.

Google Flights is probably my most-visited website (it does get kind of addicting) so let me give you the rundown:

Sailing in San Juan, Puerto Rico
This could be you! Sailing past Old San Juan two days after finding a cheap flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Google Flights Step 1: Search Criteria

Enter whatever you want in the search boxes, as long as you have an origin airport.

Pro tip: You can enter multiple origin airports. For example, I could enter both Miami and Fort Lauderdale to see more results.

Don’t know where you’re going? That’s okay!

Don’t know when you’re going? Even better!

Or maybe you have a rough idea of where you want to go – you can enter “Europe” or “Caribbean” as your destination.

I also like playing around with one-way flights and multi-city flights. For some reason, sometimes it’s cheaper to fly Miami to JFK then on the return flight, LaGuardia to Miami, as an example.

 

Google Flights Step 2: Explore the Map

Click on the map or “Explore destinations” to expand it.

If I could have this hanging on my wall and updating in real time, I would. It’s so beautiful.

What you see there are the cheapest fares from your origin, on the dates you entered.

 

Google Flights Step 3: Apply Filters

Google Flights’ filters make it so easy to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Your filter options are:

  • Number of stops – I like searching only for non-stops if possible
  • Price – set your budget
  • Airline – convenient way to find flights if you have status on a specific alliance or want to redeem miles
  • Times – I use this all the time to only show flights that allow me to leave after work or early in the morning so I maximize my day
  • Themes – great way to discover new destinations! Maybe you want a honeymoon destination in Europe? Or a city with amazing food in South America (my fave: Lima)?
  • Duration – perfect for searching for weekend flights. If you only have two days to spend somewhere, why sit on a plane for more than a couple hours?
  • Separate tickets – taking it to the next level of savviness. Sometimes it’s cheaper to book two separate one-way flights on two different airlines. I’ve done this a few times and saved quite a bit of money! You’ll just need to keep track of your two reservations.

Feeling analysis paralysis? Try “I’m feeling lucky!”

Google Flights Step 4: Flight details

Click on “show flights” to go to the next step.

There are a couple cool hidden features here – starting with getting some advice on the dates you chose. If you’re flexible on timing, you may be able to save some money. Example A:

Fellow Miamians, looks like Paris is the place to be in September!

And for the visual learners out there, a nifty graph view:

I found a non-stop round trip to Paris (on American!) for less than $600! Sweet!

If I’m not quite ready to book, I can track the flight and Google will email me updates if the price increases or decreases.

Google Flights Tracking Feature

Some routes have MANY more options, so the filters are especially helpful at this step.

Google Flights results for MIA to NYC

You’ll also notice some details about the aircraft’s amenities, which can be useful when planning for long flights (might want an outlet or more legroom) or if you need wi-fi. You’ll also see an alert if the flight is often delayed, which is a pretty common trend for afternoon or evening flights.

Flight details with aircraft info Flight details with aircraft info (2)

Google Flights Step 5: Pack your bags and go!

Enjoying dinner in Koreatown just a few hours after finding a cheap MIA-NYC flight.
Enjoying a Friday night dinner in Koreatown just a few hours after finding a cheap MIA-NYC flight.

My favorite time to use Google Flights is sometime between Thursday night and Friday morning. You’d be surprised how cheap some last minute weekend flights are! It’s also a great way to test the spontaneity of your significant other. In the last few months, we’ve gone to Puerto Rico, New Orleans, Mexico City, and New York a few times after finding cheap last minute flights. 

For weekend trips, I usually filter to only show non-stop flights under 3 hours and under $200 round-trip. But Google Flights also works wonders when planning far in advance. You never have to open more than one tab when booking flights again!

If you’re booking a transoceanic flight, check out my guide on how to survive a long haul flight for some tips and tricks!

*Note: A few airlines worldwide don’t display on Google Flights. Notably in the US, Southwest. Google Flights will tell you if there is a Southwest flight that fits your criteria, but you’ll have to search on Southwest’s own website to see prices.

Have you used Google Flights before? Or maybe you’re going to try it now? Let me know your Google Flights success stories in the comments!

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