For the average person looking for cheap airfares in the United States, Google Flights is probably the best tool to search for flights. Google Flights offers a combination of powerful search features and ease of use that make it my go-to site for searching for airfares. Here are the basics.
Note: I searched for these flights on October 6, 2014, so these specific flights may no longer be available at these prices. What you see in the example is actually the first city pair I tried searching for. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Searching for flights
The simplest thing that you can do is to go to Google Flights an enter your origin and destination like any airline website.
Google flights will search for your flights and display some airfares.
For a simple round trip between Houston and Miami, departing October 22 and returning October 26, Google Flights found flights on American Airlines for $382. Not too bad. If we have some flexibility, maybe we can find a better deal…
Searching from alternate airports
In the search box, next to either the origin or destination, click on the + icon. This will pull up a list of alternate airports near your selected airport. If you’re able to fly out of (or into) one of these alternate airports, you can tick the box by that airport. Several airports near your chosen airport may be displayed, with flight prices that match the rest of your search. In our example, it looks like flying to Fort Lauderdale can save us $100. If we tick the box by Fort Lauderdale, airfares between Houston and Fort Lauderdale will be displayed, in addition to airfares between Houston and Miami.
Searching for flexible dates
So we saved some money by being flexible with our airports. What if we’re flexible with our travel dates? If you click the bar chart icon in the lower right corner, under the return date…
…Google Flights will bring up a calendar than showing airfares on various travel dates. The prices displayed are the lowest prices available for travel originating on each date. The boxes around specific dates are your currently selected travel dates. Let’s say we’re flexible and can travel on the 21st of October. If we click on that date…
…the calendar changes and shows us airfares for different return dates, based on an outbound travel date of October 21st. Click on a date to select a return date and see your flight options.
In this example, moving our trip forward one day, going to an airport that we didn’t think of initially, and flying a discount carrier saved us more than $200 per ticket.
Google Flights does contain a number of other features, but the above should get you started.
Readers, what successes have you had with Google Flights? How much money have you saved?