Travel Planning: Getting the Most From Google Flights
If you’ve ever done a random search for flights on Google, you’ve probably come across Google Flights. It’s in that grid near the top of the results page, letting you directly search flights without going to Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak or one of the other travel booking sites out there. It’s fast, with a clean and ad-free interface, and with no annoying popups or uninvited tabs opening in your browser. It also displays more flight options.
For budget-minded planners, it’s a great tool for gauging flight costs. If you have specific travel funds you absolutely can’t exceed, Google Flights allows you to search for flights within a range of times and prices, then shows you destination options that fit those criteria. If you’re flexible on dates, Google Flights shows you the current price for each day over a 12-month period. You can also specify airlines or alliances if you have miles you want to earn or redeem.
Google Flights also has lots of fun features you won’t find at other travel sites. For example, instead of choosing a city for your destination, you can type in a state, country, or continent. Enter in “Florida” as your destination and Google Flights comes back with 19 destinations in the state, the best price to each and the estimated travel time. Type in Mexico, and you’ll get everything from Acapulco to Mazatlan.
Or, click on the map that also appears with the results, and you can scan virtually every destination in the world. From there, you can narrow your options down by interests. For instance, choose “beaches” or “winter sports” and Google Flights only shows those destinations that offer that feature. Click on a destination, and it’ll even show you the arcing route the airplane will take. Though travel junkies should be warned, playing around on Google Flights can be addicting.
Search results default to a calendar grid, but you can also view them on a price graph to more easily spot the best deals. Play around with the trip length or travel dates to see what prices pop up, or move the entire two-month window to another part of the year. And once you find a flight you like, you can save the itinerary and Google will send you alerts for fare changes.
Another nice feature of Google Flights allows planners to get an overview of a destination’s attractions and activities. Do a general search, and a list of destinations appear with links to their highlights. For San Diego, you’ll see links to zoos, beaches, parks, surfing, shopping and whales. Click on “whales” and Google brings back a list of companies that offer whale watching tours. Hit “surfing” and you’ll get surfing schools and popular surfing locations.
For planners on the go, Google Flights has the same easy-to-use interface for smartphones and tablets. With so many online options at your disposal for putting a meeting together, Google Flights offers another excellent tool for your planning toolbox.