Sharp-eyed members of Scott’s Cheap Flights are familiar with one of our favorite flight search engines: Google Flights. Nearly every cheap flight alert we send to members includes a Google Flights sample search.
Google Flights is one of the most powerful flight search engines on the internet, both easy to use and with a multitude of features to make airfare hunting easier.
In 2018, Google Flights unveiled a major design overhaul, adding some features and reconfiguring others. This guide will help you get the most out of Google Flights, and, hopefully, find even more cheap flights.
Google Flights has a number of specific advantages:
Google Flights isn’t perfect. Here’s where it lags a bit behind:
When you get to the homepage, type in where you want to fly from and where you want to fly to, along with your preferred dates. Here’s an example:
Remember that you can put up to seven airports in each box, separated by commas. If you’re looking for a cheap trip to anywhere Europe, for example, you might put as your destination “LHR, CDG, AMS, CPH, BCN, FCO, MXP” to see where the cheapest flight is from Chicago to either London, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Rome, or Milan.
Remember that some cities with multiple airports have city codes. These include NYC (New York City) or WAS (Washington DC), which count for 3 each because NYC = JFK, LGA, EWR and WAS = DCA, IAD, BWI.
In order to find the cheapest dates, click the departure date box. When you do that, prices for 2 months will pop up, with the cheapest dates in green, like so:
Important: Google Flights only takes into account prices in the months you’ve told it to look at. So in the above example, the green dates are the lowest in September and October. However, there could be cheaper dates in future months that Google Flights will only find if you click the right arrow to scroll to later months.
Once you’ve looked at the calendar of lowest fares, click on the date you want for your departure, after which you’ll click on the date you’d like to return.
At this point, Google Flights then gives you a big list of possible flights, like so:
Notice that Google Flights lists a few up top that they consider to be the “Best departing flights” taking into account factors like price and routing. It can still be worth taking a look at the “Other departing flights” to see if any of those work better for your schedule.
Once you’ve decided on a good departure flight, click on it. You’ll then be prompted to choose a corresponding return flight (assuming you’re booking a roundtrip fare) and your screen will look like this:
If you want to go back and change the departure flight, all you do in the above example is click where it says “ORD-VCE Tue, Sep 18” towards the upper left.
Note: the price shown is not the cost for each direction, but rather the entire roundtrip price, including taxes.
Once you click your preferred return flight, you’ll be taken to your booking options, like so:
Click to book either through KLM or Delta and you’ll be taken to their checkout page where you’ll enter passenger and payment information.
On occasion, Google Flights will initially tell you a cheap fare is available, but when you try to book the fare either jumps in price or is unable to be booked altogether.
We refer to this as “ghosting.”
In each of these cases, there’s no way to book those specific flights on those specific dates at the original cheap price.
Here are some ways to see if a ghosting fare can still be booked:
None of these routes are guaranteed; sometimes a ghosting fare is unable to be booked anywhere.
One of the handy, hidden features of Google Flights is the ability to pull up a map and see cheap flights across an entire country or region.
To pull that up, click the three lines in the upper right corner and select Explore Map. When you do so, Google Flights will switch to a map view like so (You can zoom in anywhere on the map to pull up more fares):
You can even enter entire continents like Europe or Asia rather than specific countries.
One important factor to keep in mind is the initial map view only shows you the fares on the specific dates you entered.
If you have flexibility and just want to find the cheapest fare anytime, you can click the dates and switch to the “Flexible dates” option like so:
One of Google Flights’ most powerful features is the ability to set an array of filters to ensure you only get search results you’re interested in.
You can find those filters just underneath the date boxes: