I fly to 4 European cities for $700. Here’s how you too can score cheap trips using Google Flights

With most entry requirements for Covid testing lifted and the US dollar roughly equal to the euro for the first time in 20 years, now may seem like a good time to plan a vacation to Europe. People are traveling more now than since the start of the pandemic, but many are facing higher flight costs.

According to travel booking site Hopper, costs for domestic flights in summer 2022 increased by 34% and international flights by 2.5% compared to summer 2019, with the average round-trip fare now costing respectively $383 and $912. Hopper attributes the price increases to rising jet fuel costs, increased demand and lower seat capacity (airlines are expected to fly about 2.4 million people a day this summer, down from 2 .9 million in the summer of 2019). But don’t despair: a cheap getaway is always within reach.

Next month I’m flying from New York to Lisbon, Barcelona, ​​Split, Croatia, Paris and New York all for $712.48. My secret? Google flights.

The cheapest flights appear when you have great flexibility in when and where you want to fly. Here’s how you can also score cheap flights.

If you just want to travel and are flexible on dates and destinations:

When you visit Google Flights on your web browser, you’ll automatically see the standard flight booking format, but the secret sauce is in the “Explore” tab on the left. From there, you’ll want to change from “round trip” to “one way” (trust me, you’ll find better deals that way) and enter the city of departure (if you live in a small town, I I also recommend checking the main airports near you – sometimes the price of the flight is worth the extra trip). The default search parameter is flights within the next six months.

Then click on all filters and scroll down to “price”. I usually adjust the slider up to $300, but that part is up to you and your budget. Under ‘Travel mode’, select ‘flights only’. For your sake, I also recommend that you select “1 stop or less” in the Stops category and filter the flight duration to be less than 15 hours. But these preferences are of course up to you and what you are willing to endure.

Let’s walk through an example. Say you’re departing from New York and want to get somewhere in Europe for less than $200 one way. Using the method described above (including the one stop or less and 15 hours or less filters) you will see several flight options. As you zoom in, more options will likely appear.

Well, look at this. You could fly from New York to Barcelona for just $170 one way. Click on the destination you are interested in, then on “Show flights”. Then it will tell you the date, time and airline of that price. If that date doesn’t work – without changing any of the filters – click on the date shown in the upper right corner and a calendar will appear that will likely show you comparable prices for other dates.

So if the default date of October 17 isn’t working for you, maybe earlier or later in October might. Again, this option is best for the most flexible people.

If your dates are not as flexible, but your destination is:

Obviously, a lot of people can’t just travel when there’s a good deal, so here’s what you can do if you’re looking to travel during a specific month or week.

Follow all the steps above, except click on “Travel in the next six months” (as seen in the first image) and change it to either the month you want to go, or if you have a specific date/week in mind, click on “specific dates ” on the upper left corner.

Let’s review another hypothetical trip. Say you live in Houston, you’re on vacation the week of September 19, and you want to take a week off somewhere.

Departing on that specific date, you can fly to Mexico City for $59, Montego Bay for $87, or New Orleans for $32, to name a few options. You can also fly to New York for $73, where you can then enjoy cheap flights to Europe the next day if you’re up for that many trips. If you flew from New York the next day, you could fly to London, Amsterdam or Geneva for around $200.

If you have a destination in mind but are flexible on dates:

If you want to go to a particular destination, but have flexible dates, I recommend doing something a little different.

Instead of looking at flights departing from your home, look at flights departing from where you want to go. For example, let’s say you really want to go to Santorini, Greece. Fill in the information the same as before, but change your starting location to read Santorini instead of your hometown.

Now you can see that there are usually cheap flights from Santorini to Venice, Rome, etc. (again, more results if you zoom in – this is filtered on flights under $50). Knowing that London and Rome are the biggest hubs of those listed and generally have more affordable flights from the US, you can plan a trip to London and then add a $40 flight to Santorini.

So, let’s say you’re leaving Baltimore. You can fly from BWI to London the last week of September on new discount airline PLAY for $232, then catch a $38 flight to Santorini on September 28 on easyJet.

For inexpensive return flights to the United States, follow the same process. Choose your destination — your home airport or the nearest international hub — and see where it’s cheapest to fly from.

When I booked my trip to Europe, the cheapest flight to New York was from Paris, which is why it’s my last stopover. Much of my itinerary centered around flight prices, and if you’re considering a multi-stop trip, I encourage you to play around with Google Flights and see where you could get cheaper.

Last tip:

Yes, there are very cheap flights, but use the filters to avoid long layovers and flights booked on multiple airlines (rarely worth the risk of a missed connection or flight cancellation). However, when it comes to long layovers, those can actually be fun if you plan for them.

My day in Lisbon is actually a 13 hour layover on the way to Barcelona. If you want to spend a day in a different city on your travels, a layover can be a good way to get there for essentially free. For example, you could fly from San Francisco to Rome on October 12 for around $400 with a one-day layover in Calgary or Lisbon.

Finally, keep in mind that some of these cheap fares will end up charging more for baggage, seat selection, and other options included in the price of other flights. Pay attention to refund and reschedule policies. When it comes to low-cost carriers, it’s usually not worth going with their most basic fare; you want something that will at least somewhat protect you if your flight is canceled or you have to reschedule it.

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