After visiting 92 countries and booking more than 350 flights since 2012, I would like to call myself an expert at finding the best flight deals online.

I’ve used just about every flight search engine out there, and Google Flights is the most reliable when it comes to prices and airline options due to its massive database of information.  Kayak and Skyscanner are my 2nd and 3rd options, respectively.

 

Now, I know there are dozens of blog posts out there for “how to find cheap flights,” such as Nomadic Matt’s Guide or Thrifty Nomad’s Tips.   While many of the resources and advice overlap, I’m going to give to you my ultimate tips and methods for how I manage to find cheap flights using Google Flights. I will take you through the entire process step-by-step, so you can get on your way to saving money and traveling happier.

Here are a few tips before you open up Google Flights and start your flight search:

– Get a travel rewards credit card, so you can accrue points and get heavy discounts on flights. I just switched over to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, and I love it so far. Once I spend 4K in the first 3 months, I get 100,000 points that are redeemable no flights (the value of that is about $2.5K).
– Have flexible travel dates & times.   The more flexible you are, the cheaper the flight deal you can find. Keep this in mind as you are searching.
– Always use a secret browser like Google Chrome’s incognito mode.  Using incognito mode deletes cookies every time you open up a new browser, so you can start a fresh search.  Flight prices may increase based on the cookies in your browser or when flights are searched several times.

How to Find Cheap Flights on Google Flights

Please refer to the step-by-step process below when booking all flights, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions!

1. Open Google Flights and type in where you want to go.

In this example, I want to fly from Los Angeles to Osaka in January 2017.  I am searching for one-way flights only.

2. Click the date line and Google Maps will open a calendar which displays the cheapest prices for every day of the month.

Going with the same example from LA to Osaka, I opened up the monthly calendar and I see that the cheapest flight in January is $411 and most flights are upwards of $500.   That is too damn expensive!!

la-osaka

3. Look for separate flights to a layover city

Since $441 is out of my budget to fly from LA to Osaka, I look for big Asian hub cities like Tokyo, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing or Manila so I can book 2 separate legs and make a side trip out of my layover city.  About 50% of the times I’ve done this, I’ve been able to save money and it’s a bonus because I get to see another city/country! It’s also a great way to break up your long flights when flying overseas. I’ve had some awesome long layovers over the last year like Tunisia, Tokyo, and Shanghai.

After searching flights from LA to a big hub city, the cheapest I found was from LA to Shanghai nonstop for $308 during the same time in January.

la-shanghai

Let’s go with January 10th as my travel day, so I click on the 10th to see which flight options pop up.  The first flight (American) arrives in Shanghai at 3:55PM on Jan 11th, and the second (United) gets me in at 6:35PM on Jan 11. Both are $308 and nonstop.

l-a-shanghai

Next, I look for flights from Shanghai to Osaka on either Jan 11th or 12th (depending on how much time I want to spend in Shanghai).   I found tons of flights on these days for as low as $60.

shanghai-to-osaka

CAUTION: Do not book a layover with less than 4 hours time in between flights.   Just in case your first flight is delayed, you could miss your second flight and the airline will not back you up beacuse you booked both flights individually.

In this case, I’d like to stay a full day in Shanghai, so I am going to book a flight from Shanghai to Osaka on Jan 13th.  I can see there’s a flight on Peach Airlines for $76 that leaves at 6:05AM.

So essentially, I am paying $384 ($308 + $76) instead of $441 to get from LA to Osaka by booking 2 separate legs (LA – Shanghai and Shanghai – Osaka).  By doing this, I get to explore another city and break up my long flights! Not a bad deal to explore another city/country and save $57. 

I know that $57 doesn’t sound like a lot of money to save in this example, but keep in mind that I’ve saved more than $200 by using this method on several other flights.  Trust me, it works!

4. Look for budget airlines to book separately

Sometimes, Google Flights and other big search engines don’t show all the budget airlines.  As a result, you need to do a separate Google search to find out which budget airlines fly to your destination, and then search directly on the budget airline’s website.

Perfect examples of this in Asia are Cebu Pacific Airlines and Air Asia.  Both airlines offer extremely cheap flights around Asia, but usually don’t show up in search engines.

I just booked a flight yesterday from Manila to Hanoi on Cebu Pacific for $76, but on Google Flights, the cheapest one I could find was $219.

Refer to the below screenshots to see what I am talking about (3,900 Philippine Pesos = $76USD).

manila-hanoi

manila-hanoi

What are the other budget airlines around the world?

I have put together a list for you of the best budget airlines that you can find around the world. Please refer to this list before booking any flights!

*Beware that many budget airlines have hidden fees (baggage, checking-in at the airport, etc) so always read the fine print on the website before booking.  Also, check the location of the airport, as some budget airlines fly into far away airports which aren’t convenient (like Air Asia’s hub airport in Kuala Lumpur).

Budget Airlines in Asia:

– Air Asia X
Air Asia
Cebu Pacific
Scoot
Peach
Jetstar
Tiger Air
Jeju Air
Vietnam Airlines

Budget Airlines in Europe:

Ryan Air
Easy Jet
Wizz Air
Wow Air
Air Berlin
Air Lingus
Norwegian
Transavia

Budget Airlines in the Middle East:

Fly Dubai
Air Arabia
Jazeera Airlines
Nas Air
Bahrain (Gulf) Air

Budget Airlines in Australia/Oceania:

Jetstar
Virgin Australia
Tiger Air

Budget Airlines in USA/Caribbean/Latin America:

Frontier
Spirit

South America and Africa don’t really have budget airlines.

Thanks for reading my flight tips, and please let me know if you have any further questions!!

Drew Binsky

A graduate from The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Drew Binsky has visited 120+ Countries since 2012.He first caught the travel bug while studying abroad in Prague, then taught English in Korea, and now he's on a mission to visit every country on earth.Follow his journey on Facebook & Instagram @drewbinsky 🙂

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14 thoughts on “How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights

  1. Drew, I don’t understand why you have mentioned Air Asia hub in Kuala Lumpur is far away. The hub which is called KLIA 2 is only 3 mins away by train from the main terminal KLIA 1. Can you please explain. On another note I prefer Malindo Airlines as they are based in KLIA 1. Their delays are minimal compared to Air Asia.

  2. Great tool from Google, we used this many times just to check the different prices, which gives an idea. Also a tip is to use the different filters.. And when you don’t know when to leave you can check which day the best price is.

  3. Beware of the indication to call IBERIA to book a flight. The agent tells you that the indicated price is not available in their system.
    Example: Flight MUnich to Tampa business indicated by google flight for two 4600 euros, When you call IBERIA, they cannot find the flight and offer a price of 6600 euros for two/business with two stops on the wy back. A joke.
    I do not want anything to do with Iberia again.

  4. Malindo is another budget airline in SE Asia. I flew them from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur where I we got drinks and snacks gratis. Tiger Air not the case. I highly recommend Malindo Airlines when one is in SE Asia.

  5. Hey Drew, have you gotten to use your new card for booking flights? I have that credit card and I know that they have “special” offers when booking with them but I don’t know if you can get better deals than by looking through Google flights…. have you seen differences between these two ways of booking?

    Thanks.

  6. How come you are flying one-way only? Are you staying in Japan for a long time, or is it because it is cheaper? I was just trying the idea, just from Copenhagen instead of L.A., and I found that it was actually more expensive doing a lay-over in Shanghai and doing one-way tickets than return tickets. So why are you doing one-way? What’s the trick here? Thank you!!! 🙂

    1. I always fly one-way, beacuse I can find cheaper flights that way by booking alternate routes. Shanghai isn’t always the city to have a layover. From LA to CHP, look into Iceland!

      Drew

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