Sunday, June 23, 2024

Google Flights: Everything you need to know about the Best Way to Book Flights

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Google has a product for everything, including booking travel. Google Flights has really evolved over the past few years, and it’s now the first place I look when I need to book a flight. Google makes it easy to look at and compare flights, as well as other methods of travel. So, in this article, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about Google Flights and why you should use it to book your next flight.

What is Google Flights?

Basically, it is a search engine for flights. What really sets Google Flights apart is that it is not an online travel agency like Expedia, Orbitz, TripAdvisor, or Kayak. So Google isn’t pushing specific airlines or routes, nor getting a kickback from whatever flight you purchase. In fact, with Google Flights, you aren’t even booking through Google. Once you select your flight, you are taken to the airline’s website to actually book your flights.

Google Flights isn’t perfect, as you might expect. One big caveat for Google Flights is that it does not show Southwest Airlines. That might be down to the fact that Southwest still uses a very old computer system – heck, they can’t even schedule red-eye flights. Google Flights does, however, show Spirit, Frontier, and Jetblue. Airlines that a ton of other sites don’t actually include.

Update: On April 17, 2024, Google Flights is also adding trains in 38 countries and long-haul buses in 15 countries. So you can get a better travel experience, where sometimes taking a train or bus might be faster and/or cheaper.

Trains in Search

How to use Google Flights

To get started, you can either search for “Google Flights” or head to this site.

Once you’re on the Google Flights search page, this is where things will look familiar. Search for the flights you need, including your dates and whether it is a round trip or one-way. For this example, we’re going to do New York City to San Francisco. With Google Flights, you can pick actual cities, so those like New York City and San Francisco, which have multiple airports nearby, will appear in your search results.

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On the search results page, you’ll get a list of the “Best departing flights”. These are going to be ranked on price and convenience. So, in this list, we see options from Jetblue, American, Alaska, and Delta airlines. Google does a good job of showing you the travel time, as well as any layovers you might have. For example, the JetBlue flight has a layover in Los Angeles for 2 hours and 36 minutes, and Google will also show you how much emissions your flight will have. Interesting, Alaska airlines does a really good job with that.

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If you scroll down a bit further, you’ll be able to see a graph for prices for this trip. Google will also tell you when the cheapest time to book typically is. Apparently, for this trip, that’s three to six months in advance. But the pricing is currently “typical”.

This is a really useful feature, and Kayak offers something similar. This lets you know if you’re going to be paying to much for your flight, or if now is the best time to book. It’s beneficial if you have some flexibility.

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Of course, further down, you’ll see even more options for your flight. If you hit the down arrow to the right of each flight listing, you can easily see more details about your flight, including the legroom. That is a really nice feature to have, especially with each airline having different names for premium economy, or comfort plus with more legroom. In this example on a Frontier flight, you’re getting 28 inches of legroom. Which is a few inches less than bigger airlines like American or Delta.

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Now, once you’ve found the flight you want, click on “Select Flight” if it is expanded. If not, just click on the flight. You’ll then be taken to returning flights, and repeat the process. After you’ve chosen your flights, you’ll be taken to a sort of check-out page. This page shows your flights, as well as bag details for both flights.

Here I’ve chosen Jetblue to go to San Francisco, and American to fly back to New York City. So as we can see, Jetblue does not include a carry-on bag, and charges $35 for your first checked bag. While American gives you a free carry-on bag and the first checked bag is $40.

Further down, you will see how you will book these flights, which is with JetBlue and then American. Tap on “Continue” and from there you’ll see a pop-up with links to go to each airline to book your tickets. Once you’ve done that, you’re all set. You’ve successfully booked your tickets through Google Flights.

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How to search by cheapest dates

You can also search for flights on the cheapest dates. Obviously, if you’re traveling for something specific, this might not be an option. But if you are flexible, then you can move your travel around a bit to save some cash. Typically, Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest days to fly.

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To do this, just click on the date-picker, and it’ll show the prices for flights on each day. For the week of May 20, we can see that it’s $365 on May 20, but the very next day it is just $274. And May 22 is $291. So this can be very useful.

How to set up a price alert

With Google Flights, you can also set up a price alert for your trip that you’re planning. If you’ve got some time to wait before you need to book your flights, this can be a very useful feature. Google will email you updates when the prices change. That includes cheaper and more expensive prices.

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To do this, search for your flights as you would normally. Now, right above the “Best departing flights”, you’ll see an option for “Track prices” click that toggle. Now you’ll get emails for that trip, should prices change at all.

Organizing your travel with Google

Google actually does much more than just flights. You can also search for and book hotels and vacation homes right from Google’s Travel site.

To do this, click on the “Hotels” icon at the top of the page or the “Vacation rentals” icon. Then, search for your hotel. If you’ve already searched for a flight, Google will automatically put that destination and dates into the search field for hotels and vacation rentals, making it a bit easier. You also have the ability to filter your hotel list based on amenities, prices, and much more. You also have the ability to ask Google where to stay. For San Francisco, it recommends Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and North Beach. It also gives you an idea of what to do around there, and how much hotels are in that area.

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Further down, you can see a list of sponsored listings, which you can ignore. Below that are the actual results for the city you’re searching for. Google says that some of these results may be personalized bas on your browsing activity and recent searches in Google.

Google does a good job here of giving you plenty of details about each hotel or vacation rental. As well as telling you if it’s a good deal or not.

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Much like with Google Flights, you aren’t actually booking through Google. So when you tap on “View Prices”, you’re taken to a page that will show you options to book this hotel. For example, with Hotel G, it gives me options for Expedia, Hotel G’s website, Hotels.com and Booking.com. It also provides the pricing for each one. Just click on “Visit site” to book your hotel or vacation rental. And that’s it.

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Sort hotels by price

To sort hotels by price, click on the “All Filters” on the top left. From there, you’ll see a section for sorting, you can choose Relevance, Lowers Price, Highest Rating or Most Viewed.

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This makes it incredibly easy to book and get a great hotel without going to a bunch of different sites. You can do it all right there in your search engine. What’s easier than that?

The Bottom Line

Unless you are loyal to a single airline, we feel that Google Flights is the best way to book travel these days. Google makes it so easy to see what options are available, as well as prices and whether you should wait to book. The same goes for hotels and vacation rentals, too, which is incredibly cool.

It’s a tool that I use quite often for both work and personal trips that I take. I generally check out Google Flights, and also Costco Travel, which is a really good tip for finding cheap hotels, and rental cars.

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