Google Flights explore

How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights Like a Pro

There are plenty of search engines out there to find a cheap flight. Maybe you’ve got a favorite tool like Skyscanner, Hopper, or an online travel agency like Priceline or Expedia. But one option is better than all the rest: Google Flights.

Yes, that’s right, the search engine behemoth is also king when it comes to finding cheap flights. It’s incredibly powerful, with tons of features that will help you zero in on the best price. And it’s got a bevy of filters you can use to narrow down to the flights you really want –  and avoid the ones you don’t. Plus, use this tool to search all airlines and book directly with an airline rather than through a third party.

We’ll show you some of the best tips and tricks to book your next cheap flight at the lowest price. When you’re done, you’ll never use another flight search engine again.


How to Find Google Flights?

This is the easy part. Start your flight search by visiting: google.com/flights.

The homepage is user-friendly and provides immediate updates based on selections you may make in regards to your departure location, travel destination, dates & more.

  • The Menu: in the top left corner (three dashes), gives you shortcuts to Search Flights, Explore (also known as Explore Destinations), and Tracked Prices (where you can track price changes for a flight, more on this later). You can also access your trip information for upcoming travel with Trips, and even search for hotels. 
  • Flight Search: this is where you can enter information to start your flight search in the middle of the homepage. You can provide any of the following:
    • Departure Airport: You can choose up to five departing locations to find cheap flights
    • Destination: You can choose up to five locations to fly to
    • Dates of Travel
    • Type of Trip: Roundtrip, One Way, or Multi-City
    • Numbers of Passengers: Adults, children, infants in seats and infants in laps
    • Airline Class: Economy, Premium Economy, Business Class & First Class. Note that there is not a “Basic Economy” filter to remove those pesky fares from your results. However, you can use this trick to remove most Basic Economy fares from your search.




Filter Down to Fit Your Travel Needs

Sometimes, not just any flight will do. We’ve all got needs and wants, after all.

Looking to take a first-class flight for your honeymoon? Only want to depart out after a certain time? Only want to fly a specific airline? Don’t worry, Google Flights has taken these things into consideration.

Here are all of the things you can filter when searching to find a specific flight:

  • Bags: This feature is a way to filter out many budget carriers and other Basic Economy fares. Add a carry-on bag to make sure your Basic Economy fares that allow free carry-on bags (like Delta or American Airlines) will still be included.
  • Stops: You can select how many stops you’re willing to make during your trip or note if you only want nonstop flights.
  • Airlines: Whether you have airline loyalty or are looking to finally take a flight on a five-star airline, you can use the Airline filter to only see flights for specific airlines or alliances that you seek.
  • Price: Set the maximum price you’re willing to pay for a flight.
  • Times: Need to depart in the morning? Or know you must arrive by a certain time? Use this filter to identify flights that fit the departure and arrival times that work for you.
  • Connecting Airports: Force Google to only display certain results based on which airports you connect through. You can also filter out flights with extra-long layovers. 
  • More: Here you can set the maximum length you’re willing to be on a plane, and also decide whether you want to see trips that are booked with separate tickets (for example, fly out with one airline and return on another).


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Bonus: If you’re using Google Chrome, add the Legrooms extension to your browser. This handy plug-in will automatically show you how much legroom you’ll get on the plane, what kind of aircraft you’ll be on, whether you’ll get WiFi or power and seatback entertainment, and a handy icon showing if a carry-on will be included in your fare or not.


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One of the best parts of Google Flights? You can search all the airlines (besides Southwest) in one place. And unlike an online travel agency or third party search engine like Kayak, Expedia, or Priceline, you can book direct with the airline through Google Flights. At the final page, you’ll be directed to book on the airline’s website.




Find the Cheapest Days to Travel

Finding the cheapest flights is all about flexibility. And part of Google Flights’ power is how easy it makes it to find the cheapest days to travel.

It starts with Google Flights’ calendar view, which breaks down the cost of the flights you’re looking at over a two-month span. Dates in green immediately tell you that they’re your best bet to fly for cheap.


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But Google has recently upped its game even more to help you find the cheapest dates to fly. If changing your travel dates by just a date or two would save you big bucks, Google Flights will give you an alert to let you know.


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Let Google Flights Find the Cheapest Getaway For You

Not sure where you want to go? Know you want to travel somewhere in June but need ideas? Google Flights Explore is a great way to find the cheapest options when you don’t care where you’re heading. Here are some tips on how to use Google Flights Explore:

  • Enter your departure city and a destination as specific (or as broad) as you want to check out. California, United States, Europe, South America – they’ll all work.
  • Select the dates you’d like to travel or select flexible date guidelines. Play around with travel dates, as pricing can greatly fluctuate – and keep it broad if you can.
  • Move the map around to see new destinations and prices.
  • Once you find a destination that you’d like to explore further, click the name of the city, then “View Flights” and it will populate the search information with flight options and additional details.
  • If you see a fare in the color green throughout Google Flights, know that this is showing you the lowest airfare for the dates or duration you are seeking.


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Read our full guide to using Google Flights Explore!


Set Alerts to Track Price Changes on Google Flights

If you’ve ever stressed about the price of your flight increasing (or dropping), Google Flights has you covered. You can monitor changes to airfare with Price Alerts.

Start by searching for the flights you want. You can narrow it down as far as you want, drilling down to just one preferred airline. Or leave it wide open and look for the cheapest fare possible. Then just turn on price tracking with the toggle button below the search bar.


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The one requirement for getting these alerts is that you need a Gmail account. Once price tracking is on, you’ll get emails from Google Flights whenever the price rises or drops significantly. You can also view all your tracked flights from the Google Flights menu bar – just click “Tracked flight prices.”




Read the full guide to tracking flight prices with Google Flights.

Use Google Flights to Book a Flight Featured on Thrifty Traveler Premium

You can find the cheapest flights all on your own. But it’s also the best way to find the absolute best deal on a cheap flight alert we send you via Thrifty Traveler Premium.

We’ll send you a Premium alert when there’s a cheap flight deal (at least $250+ off) from your hometown. This email alert will include information on the airlines, months available, tips for exploring the destination, and more. Follow the Booking Instructions in the flight deal alert to search that cheap flight deal from your home airport on Google Flights, book directly with the airline, and save hundreds.

Here’s a look at how you can use our alerts to book the cheapest flight possible directly with the airline.


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Using Thrifty Traveler Premium with Google Flights


Thrifty Tip: Don’t have Premium yet? Learn more about how Thrifty Traveler Premium works.


Bottom Line

Google Flights should be your go-to tool to book your next trip. We search thousands of flights every day, and it is without a doubt the most robust tool to find amazingly cheap fares.

It’s leaps and bounds better than any other flight searching tool, with more features that will help you find the best deal every single time.

4 Responses

  • I just found a great deal that was only cheapest through Expedia. I Emma’s very surprised. I got from Omaha to Maui for $492. Minneapolis would have been $700 or $800. All other sites were that high or higher as well!

  • i’ve often found cheaper flights on expedia than google flights. google flights is a good starting point, but it’s best to check a couple of flights after that

  • I love Thrifty Travel Premium! I took a bucket list trip to Paris France in March of 2020 for 525$ et from Seattle! I am learning how to use Google flights. I have had too many complications using sites such as Priceline and Expedia. Keep up the good work Thrifty because I have the travel bug. ❤️

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