If you're going on vacation, there's a good chance you're going to fly. It's still the fastest way to go long distances, at least until Elon Musk comes through with a finished Hyperloop, or Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic gets sub-orbital rockets up and running.
Unfortunately, flying is expensive. That's why you go to great lengths to get the cheapest flight possible. And there are plenty of ways to do that.
You can book your flight early and make sure you're buying on the right day of the week. And you can make sure you fly on a day and time that traditionally costs less. You can also make sure you know which airline has the cheapest tickets. Click here for more on the best days and times to buy and fly.
However, in your rush to save, you might find that the "cheapest flight" isn't always the "best flight." I've seen this happen to many of my friends and family.
What I mean is that those dirt-cheap tickets you bought might have you flying in the wee hours of the morning and making three five-hour layovers. Not to mention that you might end up losing the savings in paying for checked bags.
In contrast, the "best" flight takes off at a reasonable time for you, makes the fewest number of stops possible and might not have baggage restrictions. I can tell you from experience, I'm much happier after this kind of flight, and to me that's worth paying some extra money.
Of course, you can go overboard and end up paying way too much for the "best flight" when it isn't too much better than a cheaper flight. There has to be an easy way to find a good balance. And there is.
Google has done an overhaul on it's already excellent Google Flight Search. It's now simply called Google Flights, and it's even nicer to use.
Right on the front page Google Flights gives you some popular destinations and the best deals available for them. That means it works much better for people who aren't quite sure where or when they want to travel.
Instead of entering a specific airport as a destination, for example, you can just type in "Europe" for an instant look at the best deals on flights to major European cities.
Go ahead and pick a city. Then instead of typing in specific travel dates, just click the date area to bring up a calendar. It will show you the daily prices for the next few months of tickets so you can see at a glance the cheapest days to fly.
You can filter the information to look for number of stops, price range, airline, preferred flight times and more. As an example, I looked up Phoenix to London and found that for a four-day stay, March 9 and 29 had flights $500 less than the prices on any other day.
Once you make your selection, you'll get the list of airlines making the trip. At the top is a box that lists what Google thinks are the best flights. These are ones that combine low cost with reasonable departure times and the fewest stops.
After poking around, it turns out that those were really the flights I would have chosen. So, before you finalize your vacation plans, give the new Google Flights a look and see if it helps you save, or at least have a more enjoyable flight.