Fare alerts can be a great tool in a traveler’s toolkit. You can set them up when you’re tracking the price of a specific flight or route so that you’ll receive an email (or notification on an app) when the price of the flight changes—whether it increases or decreases.
These fare alerts are free, and you can set up more than one. They’re especially handy if you’re tracking prices on a specific trip or if you’re undecided about where you want to go for a trip over specific dates. For example, if you’re torn between a long weekend in London or Cabo and the flight to Cabo drops $200, the change in price might make the decision an easy one. But, fare alerts aren’t always a perfect solution. Here’s what you need to know about airfare price alerts and how to set them on various search sites.
If you’re booking a trip to a specific destination during specific dates, setting up flight alerts will let you monitor prices and get a feel for the average price.
Especially if you’ve started watching the price several months in advance of your trip, this puts you in a good position to know when the price drops so you can snag a good deal. You won’t have to search for your flights every day—the alert does all the work for you and notifies you when the price changes.
Price alerts are great when you have a specific destination and dates in mind, but they aren’t great for flexibility, as few sites allow you to set open-ended alerts. If you're loosely planning a trip to Europe sometime in the fall and you’re trying to find the cheapest airfare possible, you’d have to set tons of alerts to cover a wide range of dates and destinations.
For example, if there’s a super cheap flight from New York City to Amsterdam, but you’ve only set alerts for London, Paris, and Rome, then you won’t know about the better deal. Or if you’ve only set alerts for September 1-9 and there’s a great deal with dates of September 2-10, you’ll miss it.
Additionally, there can also be some delays in the arrival of your alert. it's rarely instantaneous, so if it's a short-lived mistake fare, for instance, your fare alert may not get triggered in time for you to snag the deal (or at all).
Plus, because airfare can change often, you might get a lot of alerts. And since you can’t set a certain price threshold, you’ll get an alert when the price changes, but it still might not be a good deal (the price might have even gone up).
Most flight search aggregators and OTAs (online travel agencies) have pretty similar flight alerts. Some alerts are slightly more customizable than others, but mostly they all do the same job. There’s no real “best” site for flight alerts; it depends on your needs.
Google Flights allows you to select multiple departure cities and destinations (up to 7 each), which can be handy if you just want to get close to Paris, for example, but it doesn't always have the best price. You may want to set up additional alerts on a site like Momondo or Skyscanner since they check lots of smaller OTAs.
Kayak is one of the few search engines with flexible fare alert options, so if you do have more wiggle room in dates and locations, it can be a better place to start (more on that below).
Setting up a price alert with Google Flights is easy, and you can track either a specific trip (e.g. NYC to London July 23-31) or go one level deeper and track specific flights on those dates.
Just search for your dates as you normally would, and then hit search. Above the search results is a button to “Track prices,” which will track the prices for all flights for those destinations and dates. You’ll need to be logged in with a Google account to receive notifications by email so if you aren’t logged in, it’ll prompt you to do so, or create an account.
While the example above uses specific airports (JFK and Heathrow), you can actually track prices for “all airports” in both New York and London. If a cheaper flight comes through via Newark or Gatwick, you’ll receive an email about it. You can also set one alert for multiple destinations (up to seven airports), but they have to be the exact same dates.
Finally, if you want to track the price for a specific flight, you can select your flights from the search results and track prices from there. Here’s an example of a flight that’s codeshared among Delta, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France.
When you receive a price alert by email, it’ll show the most recent price and the new price for the route or specific flights you’ve tracked.
The process for setting up airfare alerts on Skyscanner is much the same as Google Flights. First, you search for your flight with specific dates and then you click “Get Price Alerts” in the search results.
Again, you’ll have to sign in with your account (or create a new one).
As you can see in the screenshot above, Skyscanner also makes it possible to search for any airport in a specific city (in this case, New York).
However, although Skyscanner lets you search “Everywhere” (to find the best deals within the specific dates you’re searching), you won’t be able to set fare alerts for this setting. If you’re trying to get to Europe from New York in July, you’ll have to set lots of alerts.
Skyscanner will only send you regular alerts if your travel dates are less than 100 days away, and thus more likely to change. If your travel dates are in the distant future, you’ll get a weekly email instead.
You’ll receive an email that looks something like this:
For Momondo, as with the other search engines, you have to pick the specific destination (or nearby airports) as well as specific dates. Once your results pop up, you’ll be able to set a Price Alert in the top left corner.
You’ll need an account to sign up for the alert, but it only takes two seconds to create one.
Momondo sends you a maximum of two emails per week. This is good for when your trip is a fair ways off and you’re not as likely to see as many fluctuations in price. But if you’re looking closer to your travel dates, a sudden price drop might get snatched up before you get an email alert about it.
Like the previous search engines, Kayak lets you set airfare alerts for just airports using exact travel dates. You start with your regular search and then you select track prices in the “Watch” box in the top left corner of the search results.
Kayak will default to sending you daily email notifications, regardless of whether or not the price is dropping (although you can manage these notifications in your settings). You can also view your ongoing alerts from your Watchlist by clicking on your profile (in the top right corner):
Unlike the other search engines, however, Kayak lets you set flexible price alerts. If you know that you want to visit Buenos Aires from Chicago, and you’re flexible on dates, Kayak will notify you when prices dip lower than normal, however, this is automated and sometimes the deals aren’t all that great.
Here’s how you do it. Go to your Watchlist in your profile, and select “Create a Price Alert.” You’ll get a drop-down menu with an option to search for flights or hotels.
You’ll have three options: Exact Dates, Flexible Dates, or Top 25 Cities (more on this one below). Flexible Dates will allow you to choose your route from Chicago to Buenos Aires, but leave the date wide open.
You can also set the frequency of your email notifications—in this case, every Friday.
Finally, if you know you want to go somewhere (anywhere!), you can search for Top 25 Cities. Here you’ll receive notifications for popular cities around the world (or in a specific area, like the United States).
It all comes down to knowing what you want.
For example, Momondo often returns the cheapest flights, but Kayak gives you flexibility for when you have no particular destination in mind.
Setting up fare alerts across a few sites isn’t a bad idea, but because you can’t set a price threshold and the alerts are automated, you may end up getting a lot of emails that aren’t particularly helpful. For that reason, fare alerts from OTAs and search sites like Google Flights and Skyscanner tend to work best when you have a specific trip in mind.