Planning trips can be confusing to the inexperienced. But if there is only one thing that you take from this post let it be this: “Booking your flight is the absolute first thing that you must do when planning your vacation.” Why? Because airfare will arguably be the most volatile expense that you will incur. The cost of gas (as of this writing) is steadily declining, so airlines are offering fantastic bargains as a result. However, these great fares aren’t available for all destinations.
That makes it all the more critical to plan ahead, monitor flight prices, be flexible with your departure dates and destinations as much as possible because sometimes are better than others.
Once you’ve decided where you want to go, my suggestion is that you start with “Google Flights“. Much like its search engine counterpart, it allows you to search for the best flight deals to any destination.
Here’s how it works:
Once you have reached the Google Flights homepage, you will see a search box. The first screen will give you the option of selecting a round trip (where you travel to one destination and take a return trip back to where you started), a one way (is just as it sounds, you go to a destination with no plans to return or if you’re not exactly sure when you will, you can purchase a return one-way ticket at a later date) or you can choose the multi-city option if you are planning on visiting several locations during the course of your vacation.
Next, select the number of people in your travel party.
Key in your city of departure, then tab over and key in your destination(s).
Lastly, select your dates. You will now see a list of flight possibilities that will include the participating airlines, available flight times, the length of flight and number of stops – all sorted by price. The best price will be highlighted in green.
Google Flights will also offer a suggestion (highlighted in gray) of booking the flight at another time in order to secure an even lower price. Once you have selected the flight that’s most appealing to you, go directly to that airline’s website and key in the specific info found on Google to find that deal and book it. Again: You can not book flights directly on Google Flights, you must go to the airline’s own website to book it.
If I could offer a bit of caution: Once you find an incredible deal, do not hesitate in booking it. Exceptional fares never last long and can disappear within the span of a few hours! Don’t worry about where you will stay, what you will do, you will have time for that later. #BOOKITNOW!! Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
For those of you who know that you need a vacation but have no idea where you’d like to go, try this:
Select the Round Trip tab, your departure city, and your preferred travel dates.
DO NOT KEY IN A DESTINATION
You will see a map with red dots labeled “Popular Destinations”. Click on the map. You are now looking at a list of destinations and their respective prices for your stated travel dates. You can scroll up, down, right or left to get a view of destination options from around the world.
Click on the destination that piques your interest. A dialog box will pop up showing your departure city and destination city and the flight prices, click on the red “show flights” button.
Available flights will be shown. Go to the airline’s website to book that flight. I am hoping that one day Google Flights will link directly to the airlines, that will make things simpler, but the downside is that it could potentially hurt smaller online travel agencies.
Pro Tip: If you click directly on the date during your search, a two-month calendar will pop up. You will see prices underneath each day indicating the various price fluctuations from day to day. I chose a four-day span for the example trip from Atlanta to Bogota, Colombia below. If you move your cursor over any date, you will see the price for that date which covers the same number of trip days. Your flexibility will lend itself to lower fares, so be open to the possibilities.
What trip have you longed for that you will now use Google Flights to search for the best fare? Do you feel more empowered to book flights on your own?