Imagine what it would be like to always know how to find cheap long haul flights for each of your trips. Now imagine you can find them quickly and easily, without the confusion and frustration of spending hours searching website after website.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The good news is that with the right tools it’s easy to achieve.
I’ve been searching long haul flights for more than 10 years and in that time I’ve optimized the search process to make it as efficient as possible, whilst making sure that I don’t miss a great deal.
The way I do this is by using a combination of just a few websites and focusing on the power of each site to get the most out of it.
In this article I’ll share my flight search process with you, so you will also be able to find the best value flights out there.
The Websites and the Process I Use
I use a simple two-step search process to find cheap flights for all my long haul fare searches (by long haul I mean flights from the UK to places outside Europe).
I start off on Google Flights to find the best dates for my trip. Then, when I have the best dates I move over to Momondo, Kayak or Skyscanner (or sometimes all three) to find the best prices.
This strategy works no matter where you are based but my examples are all for flights from the UK.
Why a Two-Step Process?
I use this two-step process instead of a one-step process because it allows me to use the strength of each website while ignoring the shortcomings they each have.
Google Flights is really good at quickly finding the cheapest dates for a trip but falls short at finding the actual lowest fares.
On the other hand, Momondo, Kayak and Skyscanner are great at finding the actual best fares once the dates are known, but fall short when looking for the best dates to travel.
In short, to make sure I always find the best fares possible I use the power, speed and flexibility of Google Flights to find the cheapest dates. Then I use Momondo, Kayak and Skyscanner to search a large number of Online Travel Agents (OTAs) for the cheapest price.
Step 1: Finding the Cheapest Dates with Google Flights
Head over to Google Flights and enter your departure city and destination city in the search boxes.
Tip: You can add up to five departure airports and up to five destination airports to your search. Just click the + in the starting/destination fields to add another airport.
This is useful if you’re flexible about where you leave from or go to. The more flexible you are, the better your chances of finding a great fare.
When you’ve entered your departure point and destination, click on the departure date to get to the Google Flights calendar.
The Google Flights Calendar
I love the Google Flights calendar! It’s the most powerful part of Google Flights and allows us to see the cheapest dates for a trip very quickly and easily.
The calendar shows the cheapest prices for return flights departing on each date. By default, the prices are for 4-day trips and you can check this by looking in the bottom left of the calendar. It’s likely you’ll want to change the length of the trip, especially for a long haul trip.
The easiest way to do this is to click on the arrows either side of the trip length in the bottom left of the calendar. As you do this, the prices on the calendar update.
Top tip: The length of your trip can make a big difference to the price of your flights. Play around with the trip length to see how much you can save.
You can scroll through the months in the calendar using the arrows on the left and right. As you scroll you’ll see the lowest fares highlighted in green.
The power of the Google Flights calendar comes from its speed. There’s no need to wait for a search to finish or to change your dates to hunt out the cheapest days to fly. You just scroll through the calendar, play with the trip length and instantly see the dates with the best value flights.
Seeing the Flight Details
At some point you’ll want to see the details of the flights, and that’s easy too.
Simply click on the departure date on the calendar, click on the return date and then ‘Done’ and you’ll see the flight details.
By default Google Flights orders flights by what it calls ‘Best flights’.
This is a combination of the best price and shortest flights but it sometimes hides some of the cheaper flights. I always change the sort order to ‘Price’ so I see the cheapest flights at the top of the list.
Google Flights Filters
For some searches, you might see flights that you aren’t interested in. For example flights with too many connections or with connections that are shorter or longer than you’re comfortable with. This is where the filters come in.
There are some very useful filters here. I use the Stops and Connecting Airports filters the most. It’s not obvious, but Connecting airports is where the connection time filter is, which is great for filtering out long connections between flights.
As you change the filters you’ll see your search results changing. The filters also update the prices in the calendar.
So, if you only want to show non-stop flights, for example, then you can add a filter for non-stop flights, go back to the calendar search by clicking on the departure date and the calendar will show prices for non-stop flights only.
You can (and should!) play around with the filters and the trip length in the calendar as much as you like to find the best dates for your flights.
Filters have saved me hours of going backwards and forwards during my flight searches and they are another very powerful feature of Google Flights.
Booking from Google Flights
Now you know how to use Google Flights to find the cheapest dates for your trip. If you want to book with the airline or a travel agent in from Google Flights, choose your outward and return flights, check the details and click Select to go the airline or travel agent’s booking page.
I mentioned earlier that Google Flights is great for finding the cheapest dates but not so good for finding the lowest fare. So, to make sure you find the cheapest flights, I strongly recommend you continue with the second step of my flight search process to see if you can get a lower fare.
Step 2: How to Find Cheap Flights Using Momondo, Kayak or Skyscanner
Searching on Momondo, Kayak and/or Skyscanner will often give a lower price because of the large number of online travel agencies (OTAs) that they show in their searches.
The prices on Momondo, Kayak and Skyscanner are usually within a few pounds of each other so if you want to save some time and only search one rather than all three you’re still likely to find great air fares.
I’m going to use Momondo for the example search below. Skyscanner and Kayak work in a very similar way and you should be able to do the same searches there without any problems.
The Momondo Flight Search
Enter your departure airport, destination, departure date and return date in the search boxes, using the cheapest dates you’ve just found using Google Flights.
Click Search and Momondo will start to show the flights as it searches the OTAs. Searching on Momondo is much, much slower than Google Flights and can take as much as 30 seconds. I frequently see cheaper fares coming up at the end of the search, so it pays to be patient and wait until the search has finished.
Flight Details in Momondo
To see the details of any of the flights simply click ‘Details’. You’ll see the full flight details, including the connection airports and how long each connection is.
By default, the fares in Momondo are sorted by price. Momondo also has a set of filters you can apply to your search results. The most useful filters for me are the number of stops and Stopover duration.
There is also a hidden but very useful filter which removes flights where you have to change airports in the same city during a connection (e.g. fly into Paris CDG and fly out of Paris Orly). This type of connections is a lot of hassle and is rarely worth the money saved. The exception is for an overnight connection when you have plenty of time to get from one airport to another. To get to this filter, go to the bottom of the filter list, click on Flight Quality then untick ‘Show flights with stopover airport change’.
Comparing and Booking Your Flights
Now you can compare the fares on Momondo with the fares on Google Flights. Occasionally the fares in Momondo, Skyscanner and Kayak are the same as the fares in Google Flights, or within a few pounds. If this happens, go back to Google Flights and follow the links to book directly with the airline.
Most of the time you’ll see a price drop in Momondo/Skyscanner/Kayak.
The OTA with the lowest fare is shown under the price and you can start the booking process with that OTA by clicking ‘View deal’. You can see a list of all OTAs and their prices by clicking on Prices.
You’ve probably never heard of a lot of the OTAs on Momondo. If you’re concerned about booking with one of them, I recommend you take a look at my post where I explain why flights are cheaper through these OTAs and what to watch out for when booking with them.
So that it! You’ve done it! Congratulations on finding the cheapest flights for your trip.
To find cheap long haul flights you need to combine the best parts of Google Flights and Momondo/Skyscanner/Kayak.
This leads to my two step flight search process:
Step 1: use Google Flights to find the cheapest dates
Step 2: use the information from Google Flights and search on Momondo/Skyscanner/Kayak to find the best prices.
I use this method to find cheap flight deals every week and I’ve saved hundreds of pounds on my long haul flights this way.
Now I have a challenge for you: use this process to find a long-haul flight and comment below how much you saved.
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