Choosing a flight these days can drive a person insane. 

There are so many different options and so many different price points that it’s the equivalent of solving a complex puzzle.  And that is just the beginning. 

To truly understand the cost of a ticket, travelers have to take it a step further and sort through the myriad of airline fees that come with every air ticket purchase: Bag fees, early check in fees, priority seating fees, change fees and more. 

The initial step in the airline booking process has become a lot easier with Google Flights, the search giants’ online flight comparison tool that aggregates pricing and destination options, directing you to third party websites for the booking. 

It’s been around since 2011, but recent Google revamped it just in time for the peak summer holiday booking season.   It offers cheapest flights, shows year-round price changes, and potential travel delays.

How it Works

Type in cities you want to fly in and out of and the dates you want to travel and Google Flights will come back to you with options sorted by best travel times and prices.  Those familiar with Orbitz have seen their option of traveling three days before or three days after your specific dates.  Similar to this, Google Flights will provide a “travel tip” at the top of the search results showing you a different travel date option and what it would mean in terms of cost savings.  For instance, Google Flights might suggest returning on April 5 instead of April 7, saving you $184 in the process on a particular flight.

Instead of an online travel agency, like Expedia, where the search and transaction takes place, Google Flights doesn’t take the booking.  In fact, they direct you to the various booking channels from Expedia to Orbitz to Airline’s site.   

Up For Anything?

If you are just looking to get away and are open to some suggestions, Google Flights can give them to you.  Choose your departure airport, pick your travel dates, click on the pricing link and adjust the slider to the highest fare you are willing to pay.  Google flights will display city options that fit into the parameters you have selected.  See a city you like, click on it, and you’ll get a bar graph that shows you the pricing for a ticket over the next month.  It’s a great tool that helps you find the best available fare if you have a flexible schedule. 

Looking to travel to a region of the world, but not sure exactly where, Google will give you the option to do general destination searches.  It will return a map that shows different cities in that region and the starting fares to fly there.  Click into a specific city and you can also see the prices over the next month and the overall pricing trends. 

Just like regular searches on Google, you can utilize the “I Feel Lucky” feature too.  Download the App and you’ll be able to save the flights you research and get notifications when prices drop. 

Where it Falls Short

Despite all of the great features, Google Flights falls short, as do all airfare search engines, when it comes to more complicated itineraries.  Once you go beyond simple point A to point B searches, including multi city searches and stopovers, the process can become overwhelming.  This is where a human touch, called a travel agent, can step in and be a big asset.  You might pay a small fee, but that fee will be worth it in time and money saved. 

Google Flights, with its visual mapping feature, real time fare displays and city names, Google Flights is an overall great tool for leisure travelers searching for the best fares.

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Mark Murphy is a noted travel expert, author and founder of TravelPulse.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @murphytravels.