If you’re like me—impulsive with a hint of wanderlust—you’ve probably used Google Flights. If you haven’t, you’ve probably heard about it. Google Flights is definitely one of my top choices for browsing those last minute flights to, well, who knows where?
Sure, you should always plan ahead. But when it comes to last-minute trips for a crazy good price, sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet. That is, you have some money saved up for it or a remote gig.
First, let’s uncover the mystery that is Google Flights search magic.
Google Rules All
So Google, the intelligent beast that it is, took the most powerful ITA Matrix Software for finding cheap flights and made it better. The Google Flights matrix is hands down the best searching tool out there; most other similar websites and meta-search engines have borrowed their technology. Are we surprised though? I mean it’s Google we’re talking about…
It not only shows you great deals on flights, but Google Trips can help you book your hotels and tours to some really incredible sites.
Now that we’ve uncovered the legacy of Google travel hacks, let’s talk about why Google Flights is my go-to for last minute deals.
What Makes Google Flights Stand Out
First of all, Google Flights is fast. Like really fast. Remember the matrix I mentioned earlier? Well, it pretty much takes into account around a dozen different preferences from data that you input and, boom! After searching through thousands of airlines and online travel agencies (OTAs), you got your long list of flights in lightning strike speed.
One thing I love about Google Flights is when you type in your departure city. Before you even type in your destination, it will automatically suggest specific places to go. For example, I typed New York as my departure spot, and by default the other box read: “Try Hawaii.” I thought to myself in a very real way, Yeah, maybe I should try Hawaii.
It’s like when you have a sweet tooth and someone puts a plate of chocolate brownies in your face. Maybe you were craving a cookie, but the brownie is right there and it looks even more delicious. Ok, it’s not exactly like that. Maybe I’m hungry…Anyway, back to the point. Google suggested something delicious that I didn’t even know I wanted, and for a bargain.
Searches Nearby Airports
Select all regional airport options for both departure and arrival destinations and you can search the whole area for the best option. This is definitely something I do when I know that the bus or transportation from the airport to where I’m sleeping at night is worth the cost. Sometimes I weed out a few of them if I’ve had negative experiences in these airports. Otherwise, I always go with this option. It is usually worthwhile.
Explore the World
Google Flights also has an Explore map view. (You can click Explore Destinations under the flight search bar on the homepage). What appears is a map that shows all cities in the world you can fly to for the cheapest price. You can narrow the search by clicking the calendar search bar; the options are one or two weeks in the next 6 months, or a weekend trip. Or you can search each month separately. Zoom in and out to narrow down the region you want to go (see below).
This is literally how I decided to fly to Mexico City on a whim. I was at work and looking for a last minute weekend trip out of boredom. It was one of the cheapest flights I could find from where I was. It was definitely not my plan when I first pulled up the site, but I had the best time with zero regrets.
A Few Good Tips
Change Region or Currency
I typically use Google Fights USA, but when I’m traveling around, sometimes my computer will automatically adjust currency and region accordingly (if my location services are on). In this case, or for whatever reason, you may need to change your currency, region, or language. You can do so by either clicking on the triple line menu button on the left top corner of the screen. It’s possible to also accomplish this by clicking the Flights tab and scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page (see below).
If you’re not ready to book quite yet, Google Flights will save your info so you don’t have to start all over every time. You can click the Track Prices toggle while you are searching. Once you input some information and want to organize all the flights you’ve searched, you can scroll down the menu bar and click Tracked Prices.
You can get price alerts sent directly to your email. For example, if prices drop or a new flight becomes available with a cheaper option for the specific trip destination you searched, you will know.
Time it Right
Google will sometimes urge you to book soon if prices are expected to jump. So, if you have spotted a great deal and found the best route and everything, you may want to book right away before you lose your chance.
This happened to me once. I was searching for tickets to Berlin from NYC and found one for $350. I saw the alert badge but ignored it, assuming it was just a marketing scheme. I waited a week or so because I figured I’d be able to find a similar price and flight. Nope! They had nearly doubled, and I was devastated. So if you’re last-minute lookin’ for a bookin’, and you find an incredible deal, go for it! Or in the words of Bob Dylan, “don’t think twice, it’s alright.”
So now you have some background on why Google Flights is the champion of cheap flights. Go on and book away! The world is your oyster, waiting for you to explore it.