It is often a cheap ticket that triggers one of our trips. For example, $196.20 round trip for Austin Texas to New York City. Or $985 to Vietnam, about 18,500 miles. How do we find the bargains? Google Flights.
There are many ways to approach the Google Flights site – it seems different each time I use it. So start this way…
- Enter your starting airport
- Enter the dates you want to consider – don’t anguish over the dates – they are easily changed. If you are bargain hunting, start at least a few weeks out.
- Default is Round Trip, Economy, 1 Adult, any number of stops, any Airline. At this point I select One World airline – American Airlines and it’s partners, but if you have no loyalty, don’t worry, it will show results for most airlines (but not Southwest).
- You will see a map with dots and numbers – that is the lowest round trip fare on your chosen dates to that city. If it is a tiny map, click on it to make it bigger. You can zoom into a country or scroll around to any part of the world. Click on a city and that becomes your destination.
Now get the focus off the map and onto the flights, by clicking on the menu at the top (just under the word Google). Click on the little calendar next to your departure date. Under each date is the fare if you departed that date for a trip the same length as your original departure and return dates. You will often see a different price for various dates – pick a different departure date if you wish, then click on the calendar near your return date… again the round trip prices appear under the date in the calendar for your choice of return dates (with the departure date you just chose … this could change the length of your trip).
Near the calendar is a “price graph” button. You can skip this step, but it will give you the prices for each departure date on the graph and your specified length of trip. Note there is also an option to change the length of the trip. Below the day-by-day graph is another graph that shows how the prices vary over a longer time (would it be better to go in the fall?).
Another feature as you are getting close – click on Flexible Dates. Google will create a chart with possible departure dates across the top, and possible return dates down the side, with the price for each choice of departure and return dates – in green for the lowest price, and in red for the highest.
Close the price graph or choose dates on the flexible dates chart, and it will show you some suggested outbound flights for your selected dates and city. Would you pay a little more to not leave at 5:30 in the morning? To only have 2 stops instead of 3? Make a choice – you are still just playing.
Once you have chosen, it will show you the details – flight numbers, layover times, etc. If you don’t like your choice click the “X” by the Outbound Flight title, to choose again.
When you are happy with your outbound flight(s), you can choose your return flight the same way.
When you have something interesting, you can save or share (by email) the itinerary, or you can just try another trip. If you are really serious, you have the option to book the flight. If I click on “Book with American” it takes me to the American Airlines web site with all the flights and dates entered, ready to log in and enter the passenger names.
Don’t wait too long – if you come back days or weeks later, the prices will probably have changed. I just had a trip that went from $217 to $290 overnight. Looking at a longer trip, the price has varied from $951 to over $2,000, and if I bought it today it would cost $1,451, or down to about $1,200 with minor date changes. The price can change until you buy your ticket.