Planning a trip? Google Flights may be the next best thing to a travel agent. It combines some of the best features of services like Kayak and Hopper, including the latter's analysis of historical data to help you determine when to book a flight.
Here are six reasons you may want to check out Google Flights before your next trip:
1. It's stupid fast
Plug in your dates, departure and arrival cities. Google Flights will return airfares almost instantly. Want to see how the airfares change if you make slight tweaks to your dates? Just click the left/right arrows inside each date selector. Again, the fare data updates almost instantly. That's in sharp contrast to most travel sites I've used, where even the slightest changes require all-new searches and comparatively slow updates.
2. It identifies the best deal
While perusing the airfares, look for the one in green. That's the flight Google has identified as the single best deal. It's a small thing, but also a handy time-saver. Note, however, that this flight won't always be contained in the "best flights" box, which represents the best combination of price and flight time.
3. It finds money-saving alternatives
After plugging in your trip details, look just below the big blue box instructing you to choose an outbound flight. You may see an option for saving money by choosing a different date or airport. Click the little pull-down to see all the available tips for this trip. (Not all of them are about saving money: You'll often see the price of upgrading to first class as well.)
4. It can track your trips
If you're not ready to book just now, Google Flights can keep an eye on your selected dates, route and other parameters, emailing you whenever there's a price change. Just click the Track prices toggle. That's about as simple as it gets. To manage the various flights you're tracking, click the Menu icon, then Tracked prices.
Google recently extended this capability beyond the desktop, as it's now available on your phone as well.
If you're really into the trip tracking element, you should probably also check out Google Trips.
5. It can tell you if it's a good time to book
Like the aforementioned Hopper, Google Flights now analyzes historical pricing data to help you determine whether you should book now (or, if not now, soon). For example, if you're looking at a route but haven't chosen a specific flight yet, Flights may show a little pop-up notification indicating an expected price jump -- and when it's likely to happen.
6. It helps you fly regionally
Suppose you want to take a trip to Europe, but you're not particular about which city. Use Google's Explore destinations option, which brings up a map and shows the airfares for your selected dates. You might discover that it's cheaper, say, to fly into London than Paris.
Have you found any other cool ways to use Google Flights? Or a travel tool you like better? Spread the word in the comments section!