A New Google Flights Tool Tells You When Is the Cheapest Time to Book Your Flight—Here’s How It Works

Should you book now or later? This feature may have the answers.

Airplane taking off at sunset

This may be the end of analysis paralysis—at least for some flights.

Photo by Shutterstock

Google Flights has introduced a new feature to help travelers answer the perennial question: “Should I buy my flights now or wait and hope the price decreases?” The tech company has long offered users insight into whether the airfares they’re looking at are low, typical, or high compared with historical price averages for that particular route. Now, Google is offering users data on what time frames have traditionally been the cheapest for the route they’re searching so travelers can make more informed decisions about their booking.

“These insights could tell you that the cheapest time to book similar trips is usually two months before departure, and you’re currently in that sweet spot. Or you might learn that prices have usually dropped closer to take-off, so you decide to wait before booking,” Google said in a statement. “Either way, you can make that decision with a greater sense of confidence.”

How the new Google Flights feature works

Let’s say you want to fly from New York to San Francisco for Labor Day Weekend (a period that traditionally sees high levels of travel).

Screenshot showing that the cheapest time to book is usually earlier, up to five months before takeoff

Courtesy of Google

After inputting the departure and arrival cities and preferred dates (Friday, September 1 through Monday, September 4, 2023, for this example) on the Google Flights homepage and hitting submit, you’ll be taken to another page that lists all the possible departing flights. If you scroll past the best-departing flights section (based on price and convenience), there’s now a section that gives the price history. In this case, Google points out that the ideal time to book was five months before take-off and that you’ve missed the boat on a low-priced ticket, so you better book now because the prices aren’t going to get any lower.

Screenshot of a  phone with New York to Miami flight landing page on Google Flights

Courtesy of Google

In another example, if you’re looking to visit Miami from New York over the Christmas holiday period (another high-demand time for travel), Google says it’s a good idea to wait—prices are typically at their cheapest from September 13 to December 7.

Note that the feature isn’t available on all flight paths—only those that Google has enough data on. The tech company wasn’t able to share a complete list of routes for which the service is offered. Travelers will have to play around with the search tool to see if the additional information will crop up.

This is just the latest tool Google is offering to help travelers zero in on the most affordable airfares available. In April, the tech giant rolled out a “price guarantee” pilot program. On flights departing from the United States that Google is confident won’t decrease in price, Google shows a “price guarantee” badge. If users click the badge and book through Google (as opposed to through the airline’s website), Google will refund the difference if the price drops after the ticket is purchased. The funds (up to $500) are paid to the purchaser through Google Pay.

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at AFAR. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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