Booking a flight is a big commitment. Tickets are expensive and knowing when and where to book can be a challenge. You should consider hopping over to Google Flights. Google Flights is a great way to search for trips and save some money in the process. If you're new to Google Flights, don't worry, the service is easy to use. Here's everything you need to know about using Google Flights to book your next trip.
Getting Started With the Basics
Google Flights is a search engine for flights. It can help you find flights and either direct you to the airline's website or book the flight for you. It is important to note that Google Flights is not a booking site like Hotwire or Expedia. Once you book your flight, you'll have to deal with the airline directly for any changes.
Getting started is pretty straightforward. Head to Google Flights and you'll be greeted with fields to fill out your city of departure and where you're headed. It will also ask for the dates of your trip. Below the search boxes, you will see a list of suggested flights and a map (we'll get to the map in a bit). If you know the specifics of your trip, the search engine's pretty intuitive. Enter the information and press search. But if you want to get the most out of your search, read on.
Know When to Book
As with any airline, booking on certain days of the week will get you lower rates. On top of that, booking well in advance of your trip will save you money. However, don't book too far in advance. According to a recent study, you're more likely to pay less for a trip if you buy two months in advance rather than ten months in advance. The best time to book depends on where you are flying to, but generally, you should book between three weeks and three-and-a-half months before you plan to depart. Most experts agree that the best day to book your flight is a Tuesday. Similarly, you'll usually get the best deal if your flight out is on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
Consider Keeping Your Options Open
One of the great things about Google Flights is that you don't have to know all the flight details to get started booking a flight. With the "explore" function, you can compare different dates and different destinations and let the results page lead the way. To get started, start from the main page and then click "explore destinations," located just below the search boxes. Alternatively, you can leave the destination box empty and press "search." This will open up a map, as well as options to choose when you leave and your departure city.
Play around with the dates and watch as the prices on the map adjust up and down. Zoom out to see options farther away. Move over and then zoom in to see more of a specific region. If you have a certain budget, use the price slider on the left-hand side of the screen to set your limit and Google will only include flights that fit your date and price needs. Don't feel like messing with the map? Simply type the name of a given area such as "South America" or "Asia" in the "Where to?" box.
Be Flexible with Your Airports
It may be convenient to fly out of the airport that is 30 minutes down the road, but being flexible with where you depart or where you land can save you money. In some cases, a lot. We're not suggesting making a five-hour trip to get to a different airport, but if you're willing to drive a few hours down the road, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars each way.
By default, Google Flights only shows you the specific airports that you enter on the initial search result page. But after that, your options open up. Start your search by entering your desired trip details and pressing the search button. Then, simply click "nearby airports" above the list of search results. This will open up a map with all airports that are close to the one that you entered in your initial search and a checklist allowing you to select and compare rates for neighboring airports. If you're unsure whether the given airports are too far of a drive, simply hover over each option and the estimated driving time will appear on the map. Don't forget to choose this option for both your departure and arrival.
Take Advantage of the Search Filters
After you enter a search you will see a set of filters pop up above your search results. This allows you to create a specific list of features that you want on your trip. Available options include flight time, airline carrier, number of stops, connecting airports, and more. The more detailed you make your search, the fewer results you will get. However, using filters is the best way to get exactly what you want from your trip. If you find that the results are too restrictive, simply hop back up to the filters and make adjustments until you get the results you want.
Completing Your Purchase
Once you find the flight you want to take, you will be prompted to choose your departing flight and return flight. In some cases, you will be able to book with Google, but in most cases, you will be directed to the airline's website to complete the purchase. If you book with Google, Google will process your payment but will not be responsible for any further customer service. If you need to change or cancel your flight you will need to talk to the airline directly.
Not Ready to Book? Try the Flight Tracker
Airline tickets are notorious for going up and down in price. A few days can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars. If you know your flight details but aren't ready to commit, the price tracker tool can help you determine the best time to book.
To use this feature, enter your search terms on the main page, such as number of passengers, to and from city, and dates. Then hit search. Once you get to the results page, click the "track prices" button. The search engine will begin tracking prices for your itinerary. To get email updates, go to the main menu (the three little lines in the upper left-hand corner) and select "tracked flight prices." Once there, click the three dots next to tracked prices to view your notification. Here you can turn email notifications on or off.