How to find cheap flights using search platforms

International airfare may seem expensive, but there are deals to be found if you know how to look, says an industry expert.

Travelers can save money on flights if they know how to search intelligently Richard Holden, vice president and general manager of travel at Google, told Travel + Leisure.

Over the years, travel search engines like Kayak or Google Flights have helped travelers find and book plane tickets at the best price.

If people know the right techniques and tools, Holden says, they can maximize their savings.

1. “Explore” your options

If you want to travel and really don’t care where you’re going, the “explore” tool will use your home city or airport, then specific or flexible dates, to find the best prices for the destinations around the world.

Use the function
Use the “explore” feature on Google Flights to find the cheapest airfares to different destinations. Photo/Google

Being flexible on both destination and dates will get the best deals, Holden says, but freedom on just one of those will automatically open up more (and cheaper) options.

Those planning a vacation in Europe, for example, may have specific dates they need to fly, but could determine the cheapest cities to fly to or from.

2. Be alerted

Flight prices fluctuate constantly, so it makes sense to book a flight when they are cheaper than usual. The question is, how do you know when the price is right? Set an alert.

Platforms like Google Flights allow you to set an alert for very specific flights and more general routes. So when they forecast a big price change, you can be alerted.

3. Consult the price list

Flight comparison websites can often display the price of a flight in a grid format, which shows you how prices go up and down depending on the day or week.

If you’re fixed on one destination but flexible on the date, the Fare Sheet is a useful way to quickly compare prices for a dozen different dates at the same time.

Use the date chart feature to quickly compare multiple dates in terms of cost.  Photo/Google
Use the date chart feature to quickly compare multiple dates in terms of cost. Photo/Google

4. Plan ahead

According to Holden, the earlier you can start planning your flights, the better.

Naturally, as the departure date approaches, places become more limited, people are more desperate and prices increase. However, when you book a few months in advance, you’re more likely to get a bargain while the competition (and prices) are lower.

5. Split your ticket

If your flight requires multiple stopovers, it may be easier to book a single ticket with the same airline, but it is not necessarily the cheapest option.

Typically, a search engine will try to find partner or alliance airlines, which means you can travel on one ticket. However, it may be cheaper to purchase different legs of a journey via different carriers.

The only caveat here, according to Holden, is with checked bags, which could make layover times tight as you’d need to double-check your bags for a new carrier.

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