I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but flights have gotten…expensive. As the world makes up for lost travel time due to COVID-19, it’s beginning to seem like jet-setting is equally impossible thanks to the travel industry taking advantage of everyone’s FOMO. But, I’m here to tell you that it’s NOT impossible, thanks to this awesome Google Flights hack.
With travel prices skyrocketing faster than a Boeing 747, I know what you must be thinking: “how can you afford to travel all the time?” Well…I can’t afford it. So I’m going to show you one of my best money-saving secrets so you know how I do it!
Everyone always asks me about my favorite travel resources, and when it comes to flights, Google Flights is my go-to. While I have multiple apps listed on my Resources page that I like to use, I find Google Flights to be easy, reliable, and user-friendly.
This blog post will show you step-by-step (with pictures!) exactly how I use Google Flights to find cheap flight deals. In fact, I recently discovered a $217 one-way flight to London using this exact method! ONE WAY TO EUROPE FOR $200???? Cue Jack Harlow’s “First Class.” **starts packing**
- re: First Class – I’m kidding. $217 is the basic economy ticket. But I DID find a one-way flight to London for this price! Maybe Jack Harlow would put me in first class…
Google Flight Hack Tips
Do NOT request your time off work before doing this flight hack! This hack only works if you do it in advance.
Also, while this flight hack can absolutely be done on your phone, it is easier if you do it on your computer.
Why Use Google Flights?
Although this entire post is dedicated to my love for Google Flights, here are some reasons that I love this website in a nutshell:
- It allows you to search across multiple airlines -> Google Flights is able to pull flight information from a lot of popular airlines, which helps you find the best price.
- It shows you the price of flights during different days of the week -> when you click on the calendar to select dates, you can see the price for every day during the month you have selected.
- You can apply filters to get exactly what you want -> you can filter your selection by airline, # of stops, bags, price, time…I could go on, but basically, it’s your world, Google’s just living in it.
- The multi-city option could help you save even more money -> this is usually something I only use in Europe, but it’s one of my all-time favorite hacks (and something I explain further down in this post!)
- The “Explore” feature -> also referred to as the “Anywhere” feature, this is my favorite travel hack for flights and what this post is all about. Keep reading…
How to Use the Explore Feature in Google Flights
The easiest way to get to Google Flights is to type in flights.google.com in your Internet browser. From here, select your departing airport of choice, and then in the destination airport, type in “Anywhere.”
In the example below, I have selected Pittsburgh as my departure airport. I am currently writing this blog post in June, so Google has auto-populated the dates of June 24-June 30 as my leave-and-return dates. To get the most out of this feature, leave these dates alone for now. We will change them later.
After you are done this step, click the blue “Explore” icon.
After you type in “Anywhere” and click on the “Explore” icon, it brings you to this next screen that shows you flight costs worldwide for the dates selected.
But…what if you don’t want those dates? In fact, what if you aren’t tied down to ANY dates at all?
That’s where the Flexible Dates option comes in. (Remember how I said don’t request time off before doing this hack??)
To get to this screen, click the calendar icon in the “Sat, Jun 24” block as if you were going to change that date. You should see the option for Flexible Dates come up.
Once you select Flexible Dates, it brings you to this screen here. You are now able to search by MONTH to see the cheapest flights for that time period.
Let’s say I choose September and leave the time frame as one week. The map now shows me the cheapest flights throughout the month of September that I can pick from worldwide.
Comparing this map below to the second photo in this post with the set June dates, you can see that a lot of flights are significantly cheaper!
You can also click on the plus(+) sign in the lower right hand corner and use your mouse to zoom in further on a certain region.
For example, I zoomed in on Europe, and now you can see more flight options than what was shown in the original photo. Note that I still have my timeline set to “1-week trip in September.”
Lets say I look at the $722 flight to London and decide that sounds like a good time. I can click on the London $722 icon and it brings up a list of flights on the left hand side for me to choose from. with an option to “View Flights” at the bottom. You can select any one of the flight options and it will take you to this next screen.
Notice how my destination now says Pittsburgh to London and has dates populated by Google as to when the flight is the cheapest. You can also see at the bottom where Google tells you that prices are currently LOW and shows the cheaper prices in green.
- Pro Tip: Even if Google tells you that the prices are HIGH, it will still show you the cheaper prices in green, as if to say, “this is the best of the worst.” In the name of saving money, I don’t ever book when it tells me that prices are high. I either change my dates or pick a different destination.
Flight Hack Tip: “Why Isn’t the Above Photo Showing Me the $722 Flight?”
- In the photo above this one, it shows where the price to fly to London is $722, but Google has its results organized by “Best Departing Flights.”
- If I scrolled down past these flights, I could see where the $722 flight was listed. However, this flight has 1 stop and a longer layover, making it a 13 hour + 30 minute flight. This is why Google prioritized listing these other flights first, because they are the best options overall in terms of time AND price.
BUT WAIT – what if September 25th isn’t a good day for you to fly out? What if October 3rd isn’t a good day to return?
Click the calendar icon in the first date box, and you can see the flight prices below the numbered dates in the calendar. The cheapest prices will still be listed in green. Even if the above dates DO work for you, this gives you even more options in terms of looking at dates, flight times, and prices.
Taking Advantage of Google’s Multi-City Option
If you’ve been to Europe, you know how cheap it usually is to travel in between countries. That’s why I always advocate for seeing multiple countries every time I hop across the pond.
For example, if I use the above flight and click “Multi-City” and add Dublin as my return flight to Pittsburgh, you see where the flight prices drop to $655.
Now, one could argue that “you still need to get from London to Ireland, and that’s going to cost money!” And yes, you are correct. But have you seen how cheap Europe flights are in between countries?
In the below example, I have changed “Multi-City” to “One Way” and selected a date in the middle of my Sept. 25-Oct. 3 date range. You can see that one of the best AND cheapest flights costs only $22!
Wait, what? Two countries for less than the price of one? Your friends are jealous that you’re flying to Europe for less than $1,000? You have more money to spend on activities/souvenirs/hotels? Toss your hair and prepare to do some main character shit, honey. It’s happening. 😘
One Limitation to Using Google Flights
The major limitation to using Google Flights is not all airlines show up during a search. In the United States, one of the main ones I can think of is Southwest. When booking flights, I will almost always check the Southwest app in addition to checking Google Flights.
- Pro Tip: Another great way to save money on flights is to invest in an airline credit card. I have the Southwest credit card and use my points to fly for free all the time. This is why I always check Southwest’s prices in addition to Google Flights!
If you intend on going to a country in Asia, there are several large Asian airline companies that don’t show up either. Thai Airways, Air China, and China Eastern are 3 that I can think of that are absent. However, there are still plenty of airlines that show up that will take you to Asian destinations.
Recap of This Google Flights Hack
This flight hack is TRULY one of my favorite ways to book airline tickets. If you have a job with flexible PTO, you can really use this to your advantage. Even if your job requires you to request PTO in advance, this flight hack will still work for you as it has to be done in advance to be effective. (Keep in mind: the further out you book airline tickets, the cheaper they tend to be!)
Don’t forget about the Multi-City option if you are flying overseas. This is the best way I have found to visit multiple countries while spending less money.
For more of my favorite flight, hotel, and transportation resources, be sure to click the “Back to Resources Homepage” link at the top of this post.