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Living near a major tourist destination, I have the opportunity to talk to a lot of travelers. Sometimes it seems like they come in waves from particulars locations. One week, there are a ton of people from Boston. The next week, it seems like every other person on the street is from Toronto. Sometimes that may be due to coincidence, I’m sure, but more often it seems to be a result of cheap airfares. When there’s a bargain, the people will follow it.
Although many of these people I bump into belong to the travel savvy crowd, just as many of them apparently benefited from some blind luck in finding a cheap fare. In many cases, they already had their destination in mind and winds of fortune happened to be blowing their way when they booked a flight. A surprising number of travelers, in my observation, really don’t have a system for finding good deals.
Now, my personal system has changed over the years, as resources and technology shifts occur. Sometimes it’s been, admittedly, convoluted, but I usually have some functional frame work that gets the job done. These days, though, I find it as easy as it’s ever been. If I have the time and inclination for a trip, my go-to resource is Google Flights. I continue to be surprised at the number of people who don’t know about this.
You can play around with Google Flights and see the different ways it lets you search airfares and explore travel options. In the meanwhile, I’d like to share my favorite way of using the site, which some people I’ve spoken to were unaware. Go to the “explore map” option and you will see a Google maps interface, marked with numerous red dots and city names. Zoom in, or out, and you will see cities all over the world displayed. The image below is a screen shot I did, as an example.
As you can see in the above screen shot, there is a dollar figure beside many of the city names. If you were to zoom in further, more prices would appear. These numbers represent the lowest airfare to that city, for the dates selected. In my example, I have used Atlanta as the point of departure, but you can use any city you’d like. As you can see, I entered specific dates for travel, but I left the destination blank.
Using this method, I can find the cheapest place to fly for any given time period. So, if I know I want to take a trip during a specific week, but am open exploring different possible destinations, I use this method to find the best flight bargains.If I do have a specific destination in mind, though, this is a quick and easy way to see if other regional airports may have better fares. Sometimes it’s worth it to fly into a different city and rent a car, driving the last leg of the journey.
Of course, if you are pretty set on a destination, but flexible on dates, simply change the date parameters to zero in on the best, budget friendly time frames. Actually, once you click on a city, it will take you to the specific flight options, but it will also make recommendations to achieve a lower fare. For instance, if it will lower the fare to leave a day earlier and return a day later, Google Flights will tell me that.
So, there you have it. I have successfully used this tool to plan family vacations that were easy on the budget and have recommended it to numerous others, so they could do the same. If you’ve found great deals, or embarked on unexpected adventures, using Google Flights, leave a comment and share your story.