5 Money-saving Tips for Finding the Best Flight Fare, According to Google Travel's General Manager

Tips and tricks from a travel expert at Google to score the best deal on a flight.

Flight searching
Photo: Kittiphan Teerawattanakul/EyeEm/Getty Images

Even though air fares have spiked this summer due to increased demand, there are still ways to make sure you still get the best deal possible when searching for a vacation.

Specifically, Google Flights offers travelers the option to search for deals, explore the map for trip inspiration, and even bookmark flight itineraries to get alerted when there's a price drop. Travel + Leisure caught up with Richard Holden, the vice president and general manager of travel at Google, to get the best tips and tricks on how to make the most of trip planning (and save some money in the process).

"I think people are eager to travel again," Holden said. "I would say in this environment as a consumer, there are a number of great things that we do on flights that can help in that context."

Travelers have seen flight prices spike in recent weeks, increasing more than 18% in the United States in one month alone. Along with that, airlines have canceled flights in droves, due to a combination of air traffic control problems and staffing shortages.

But if travelers are smart about searching, they can still save some money for a much-needed vacation. These are Holden's tips on how to use Google Flight's search tools to maximize savings.

Use the "Explore" Tool

Google's "Explore" tool allows travelers to search a map and put in as little or as much information on a potential trip as they want. Travelers can put in their origin city or airport, and then put in either specific dates or flexible dates like a whole month. Then, move around the map to see prices to popular destinations around the world, zooming in and out of different regions to find the best deal.

Holden said the best way to find a deal is to be flexible on both the dates and destination.

"It's something that allows somebody to navigate… across the world and see what the pricing options are," he said. "If you tried to do that within other tools, you'd have an infinite number of queries you'd be running across various destinations and various dates… It's a very efficient way to figure out where I can go and when I can go to a variety of different destinations."

Holden said most people tend to use the tool to find the best price for a specific region. Someone who wants to plan a European vacation, for example, could use it to find out which city would be the most cost effective to fly into, and then build their trip around that.

Set Price Alerts

Google allows travelers to set alerts for both very general flight itineraries and very specific ones. Travelers can set up an alert for specific days, flexible days, how many stops they're willing to make, and even if they want to fly in economy or business class, Holden said. The only limitations are how far into the future the airline has scheduled its flights.

"Let's say you want a trip to London from San Francisco: We will look out and keep notifying you of any significant changes on a four day trip into the future. Or you can say I want to track for specific dates in particular," he said. "You can have Google send you emails automatically if that flight price changes significantly over time. And we're also using a lot of the compute infrastructure we have, historical pricing, pricing trends, etc. to figure out where we think a flight price might change significantly."

Use the Price Grid

Google has a price graph and price grid feature that allows users to see how prices tend to change over time, which Holden said can be "very helpful."

"So if you go in and you choose an origin and destination, you'll see on the page… a matrix that you can just drag through dates and quickly see — without having to do multiple queries over and over again — what's the best price for any particular combination," he said. "And you can change it on the fly there and see very quickly how the flight changes."

Plan Early

The best way to see how a flight changes is to start planning early. In fact, the "earlier, the better," Holden said.

"The truth is we track pricing data and we help people understand when to buy," he said. "Generally, the prices tend to trend up as you get closer, as inventory becomes more constrained, as people bought seats on those flights… There's variability within that, which is why we're shopping and looking and tracking over time. But shopping earlier is typically better."

Don't Forget About Split Tickets

When searching for a flight, Google will sometimes offer split tickets, or separate itineraries on different airlines.

"We're typically looking for a carrier that has a partner with another carrier or alliance, and we're having a one ticket sell-through the whole way. But sometimes you will find a cheaper ticket or cheaper fare overall by doing a split ticket where you're buying one ticket from one carrier [and] a ticket from another carrier," Holden said, but cautioned checking a bag can complicate things.

"You don't necessarily have baggage handling that gets carried across the two carriers as a result and schedule alignment may not be fully tuned… so there are obviously risks with that," he said. "But yes, there's some good fares to be found."

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she's not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.

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