TAKE OFF WITH GOOGLE FLIGHTS (PART 1) – 10 TRICKS FOR GETTING THE BEST AND CHEAPEST FLIGHTS

DISCLAIMER DISSCHLAIMER

First off, this is NOT a sponsored post. I’m just a big fan of how Google Flights looks, feels, what it does in the background and the possibilities it provides to a travel- and planning-addict like myself. What used to take me hours and sometimes days to figure out, GF does in a matter of seconds. (GF – that’s my acronym for Google Flights, not ‘girlfriend’ by the way. If my girlfriend could do all that work in the blink of an eye I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this, now would I?) No more comparing the ‘middle man’ booking agency versus twenty-six airline websites. Fifty-plus tabs open on your browser and inputting that in an Excel-file (including flight times and durations and whatnot), just to find your computer freezing when you’re about to hit that SAVE or BOOK NOW button. (Are your palms sweating as hard as mine thinking back to this way of working? No? TMI? Sorry.)

And I can hear you thinking “Dude, there are more flight comparing websites than there are Taylor Swift songs about her exes”. Very astute of you, my friend. Right you are. For example: SkyScanner, CheapFlights, Momondo,… All great websites, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. But none of them are as well-rounded, data-driven and user-friendly as Google Flights. And let me say once more, that’s just the opinion of this rambling travel geek.

So without further ado, here are:

JANDERLUST’s 10 TRICKS FOR GETTING THE MOST OUT OF GOOGLE FLIGHTS

  1. “BEST FLIGHTS”

  2. FILTERING FOR DUMMIES

  3. GOOGLE TIPS

  4. GET CHEAPER PRICES WITH MULTIPLE DEPARTURES

  5. A MAP SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS: EXPLORE DESTINATIONS

  6. LET GOOGLE DO THE TRACKING FOR YOU

  7. BAGGAGE FEES ARE THE BEES KNEES

  8. IN-FLIGHT SERVICES? YES PLEASE!

  9. SAVING MONEY AS YOU BOOK: GOOGLE DISCOUNTS

  10. JANDERLUST TOP TRICK: PRICE EVOLUTIONS

I’ll jump into each trick below, including step-by-step instructions, screenshots and more bad puns. And if you continue reading, you’ll see that a few simple tips will save you HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS and HOURS OF FLIGHT TIME!

Like the title implies, this is only PART 1 of 2, where I’ll cover the first five tricks. So stay tuned at JANDERLUST: I’ll put up the last five hacks including my JANDERLUST TOP TRICK next week!

I’m ready for take-off when you are, fellow cloud-seeker!

1.      “BEST FLIGHTS”

As a starting point, I’m going to look for a round-trip flight from BRUSSELS, Belgium (BRU) to HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (SGN) with departure on Saturday 2 DECEMBER 2018 and return on Saturday 16 DECEMBER 2018. (The website I use is my local version of the .com one: google.be/flights). “Best Flights” is defined by Google as “We chose these itineraries to give you the best trade-off between price, duration, number of stops, and sometimes other factors such as amenities and baggage fees.” So you could say that “Best Flights” is kind of a default setting which gives you a trade-off between money and time. Pretty neat!

1

So, as we can see, the benchmark price we’re trying to beat is 712USD for a 16h flight. And it’s an Emirates flight, one of the top airlines in the world. Let’s not forget: December is prime season to visit this beautiful country! (I’ve been, I should know). I can already taste that ‘pho bo’…

2.      FILTERING FOR DUMMIES

This is by no means the great ‘USP’ of Google Flights, since filtering is a standard functionality in 99.999% of (not only) flight comparing websites. GF allows you to filter on:

  • number of stops
  • price range
  • airlines you can include/exclude
  • departure and arrival times
  • flight duration (under the ‘More’ button)
  • stop-over airports you’d like to include/exclude
  • JANDERLUST PRO TIP: I find the “Separate Tickets” a very nice added value in case you don’t feel comfortable booking connecting flights between different airlines, or don’t want to bother checking if the airlines offer check-through luggage, etc…

    On JANDERLUST.com there’s already a useful post on “the pro’s and con’s of booking separate tickets”.2

    PS: I wasn’t calling you a dummy.

3.      GOOGLE TIPS

DATE TIPS

No, this is not some data-driven Google experiment run amuck to help you get more Tinder matches. (Fingers crossed, single travelers!). It’s actually even better! Google Flights will automatically search for flights close to your departure and arrival dates, and check if there are any cheaper “best flight alternatives”. In this case, we could save a whopping 113USD if we depart/arrive on Sundays instead of Saturdays. That kind of money goes a long way. (Come to think of it, it’ll buy you around 100 ‘bia hoi’ (fresh beers) in Hanoi. I’m not saying you should – I’m just saying you could.) And even better: this is a flight on Qatar Airways with only a 14,5h flight time. So cheaper and shorter…High fives all-round!

New price to beat: 599USD – 14.5h flight time.

3.1

AIRPORT TIPS

And what’s this? Google Flights will also search for airports in the vicinity of your departure/arrival airport for better deals. In this case, we’d save 180USD if we’d leave from Schiphol (Amsterdam) instead of Brussels. Jackpot! (In all fairness, Amsterdam is a 3 hour drive from Brussels or 1.5h by train.) But let’s not cheer too early: it’s a flight with China Southern and a duration of 33,5 hours, which is almost double the travel time. I’m going to go ahead and say you aren’t going to sacrifice 16h for 60 bucks. Unless you fancy a super-quick stopover in Peking; then it’s really not a bad deal.

3.2

AIRLINE TIPS

Google Flights also provides tips based on airline ratings. I mostly don’t take this into account because airline classification is a tricky business, and unless you’re really flying with a not-so-popular carrier (I’m not going to mention any names but it rhymes with ‘Elta Airlines’. JK. Love you, Elta.) I wouldn’t pay too much heed.

4.      GET CHEAPER PRICES
WITH MULTIPLE DEPARTURES

A very nice feature of Google Flights. It’s related to the AIRPORT TIPS in the previous section of this post, but I like being able to play around with the settings myself. For example, I know for a fact that a very small airport in Belgium (Ostend-Bruges, which is only 15 minutes from my home) only operates in high summertime season, and sometimes slips through the bits and bytes at Google.

For this example, I’m manually adding a couple of airports close to Belgium (within a 3h radius around Brussels): Amsterdam, Paris and Dusseldorf (if you’re from Belgium and reading this, DUS is a great new airport with a lot of cheap flights. Be sure to check that out!).

4.1

You can use the ‘ + Nearby airports’ in the ‘departure airport field’. Let’s see where that gets us.

4.2

OK, interesting… I can’t see a cheaper flight with better flight time, but I CAN find a more expensive flight that is non-stop for only 80USD more. So if money is not that big of an issue, starting from CDG (Paris) will save you a stop-over (and 4h in flight time) for 80 dollars.

New price alternative: 802USD – 12h flight time

JANDERLUST PRO TIP: you can also add destination airports (and even combine them with multiple departure points) if you want to go all-out on a many-to-many query. You could, for example, add Hanoi (HAN) in the north of Vietnam to HCMC and check the impact on the prices/duration.

5.      A MAP SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS:
EXPLORE DESTINATIONS

This is THE feature for you dreamers and free birds out there, and my personal favorite. Suppose you were thinking about Vietnam, but aren’t that ‘hooked’. You’re basically just looking for a destination in Asia where the weather is nice and you get a lot of bang for your buck. This is THE tool for exploring your possibilities!

5.1

Just click the map ‘Explore destinations’ in the upper right-hand corner to open up an interactive Google Maps view. (You can also get there by clicking the ‘Menu’ icon in the upper left-hand corner and selecting ‘Explore map’)

Look at ALL those options! Don’t you just love it? Where do you want to go? Ever been to Bangkok? No? A quick Google search tells me December is a good month to visit Thailand. Might be cheaper… who knows… Only one way to find out: simply click ‘Bangkok’ on the map and BOOM!

5.2

On the left-hand side, there are Aeroflot flights starting at 608USD, which is more than 100USD cheaper and only a 14h flight time (shaving off two hours compared to Ho Chi Minh City).

New alternative: Bangkok – 608USD – 14h

What’s even better is that major airports, such as New Delhi in India, are automatically displayed. On the map we can see that Delhi would set you back only 464USD for a flight with one stop-over of 11h.

New alternative: New Delhi – 465USD – 11h


I’m well-aware that Delhi is a cheap airport to fly into to start with, and also a lot closer to Europe than Bangkok
😉

SUMMARY of PART 1

ALRIGHT! So we were able to shave off some hard-earned dollars PLUS flight time (which can be spent usefully in the Duty Free store to nurse your chocolate addiction).

STAY TUNED! Because this was only PART 1 of 2… See you next week with my JANDERLUST TOP TRICK!

– Jan

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