Behind its basic search boxes and playful logo, Google Flights uses arguably the most robust airline software in the business, known as the ITA Matrix. With all that power, you have the ability to find exactly what you’re looking for at the best price possible—you just need a little know-how to tap into its best features.
If you’ve got a rigid schedule, use Google Flights when you book. Their calendar tool allows you to set very specific parameters, including dates, flight times (and lengths), and airlines. The lowest fares are always highlighted in green, so you’ll know what days have the best deals. And for future vacations, you can set alerts to monitor when prices drop.
Use “destinations” for spontaneous trips
Google Flights knows you may just want to get away—today, tomorrow, September. It gets it. While on the site, you can enter your departure city, and scroll down to “destinations,” where Google will show you a map of the world, complete with prices for specific dates or a general time range of your choosing. Who knew Rome was cheaper than Raleigh in August? This is the perfect wanderlust tool with visual prices on a map.
Be flexible and save cash
If you’re willing to leave or arrive to a location near your intended departure or arrival point, you may be able to pay a fraction of the price. Google Flights allows you to enter up to five departure points and destinations at once, saving time, effort, and hopefully some cash with each search. Simply enter up to five airport codes for the departure field and an additional five for the destination field, separated by commas. If you’re going to Europe, flying into nearby cities can often save a fortune, since travel is cheap once across the pond, thanks to a competitive travel landscape ripe with budget airlines.
Get all the legroom, Wi-Fi, and entertainment details
No need to grab a ruler or start Googling airline cabin layout plans. Google Flights offers information on in-seat power ports, Wi-Fi, and legroom alongside every flight search. You can find it when clicking on any specific flight, a crucial tip when comparing deals, since that $37 saved may not seem quite as worth it when you accidentally forgo Wi-Fi, power ports, and an additional 2 inches of legroom on that other flight you should’ve booked. Pro tip: Google automatically creates a list of “Best Flights” based on connection times and amenities.
Search once, set alerts, rejoice in savings
Not quite ready to buy, or just want to see how fares change? Although searching exhaustively for the greatest deal of all time offers a certain thrill, it’s far more practical to have it pop into your inbox automatically; just tap the “track prices” button. Google Flights will search for your flight request hourly and daily and let you know if things change, up or down. The platform has even developed smart tools to warn you when the fare may increase or decrease, along with the percentage of certainty behind its thoughts. (This is similar to Hopper’s price predictor, and both reportedly work comparably, with roughly 80 percent success rates.) Not only will you find out if there really is a magic day to buy, you’ll likely score savings when it notifies you of a price drop. Plus, who doesn’t love a good graph?
Use the multi-city tool
You may not like connections, but you’ll love them if you know how to use them. If you find a flight using the standard round-trip search, with a layover in a city you want to explore, you can attempt to extend that layover by switching from a simple round-trip to “multi-city.” Using the multi-city tool, you’d search from your departure point to the connection city as your first segment, and then attempt to enter a later date, from the connection city to your final destination. Not all tickets will allow for this flexibility, but many will. And hey, turning a six hour-grinding layover in London into two nights in an amazing city on the way to your destination sure beats the alternative.