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Flight Booking

Google Flights vs. Kayak: How to Use Both to Find Cheap Flights

Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes

August 6, 2023

5 min read

Table of Contents

Along with Skyscanner, Priceline, and Momondo, Google Flights and Kayak are among the search flight engines we most often send members to for finding and booking flights. But while some people prefer to use one over the other, there are pros and cons to each, and we recommend using them together to find the best deals.

For example, Google Flights is very fast and is great for searching multiple dates and locations. The downside is that Google Flights doesn’t search smaller online travel agencies (OTAs), so once you narrow down your dates, go to another website like Kayak (and/or Momondo, Skyscanner, or Priceline) to find the cheapest price.

Here, we go through the good and the bad of Google Flights and Kayak and how to use each one to your advantage to find the best deals on airfare.

The good and bad of Google Flights

As we already mentioned, Google Flights has a lot to love about it, including:

  • Speed: Google Flights is super fast and allows you to find flights in seconds.
  • Multiple date search: The calendar view is simple and shows you the cheapest fares. The speed of the search engine is also helpful here because it updates as you scroll through the calendar. (Kayak, on the other hand, takes 15-plus seconds to update.)
  • Multiple location search: Google Flights also allows you to search up to seven origin and seven destination airports without slowing down, and you can check out a map view to find the cheapest destination in a given region for your travel period.
  • Deal indicators: Google Flights is rolling out a new feature that tells you if you’re viewing a good deal, as well as the average price for your specific trip and dates.

But, Google Flights isn’t perfect, especially in terms of finding the absolute best price. A few of its drawbacks are:

  • Limited sources: Google Flights only uses airline data to find prices, but many times, the cheapest fares and mistake fares only show up on smaller OTAs, so Google won’t find them.
  • Ghost fares: Occasionally, Google Flights will show a fare for a certain rate, but when you click on it to book, it’s not available or you are told to call the airline. Don’t bother calling the airline—you’ve been ghosted by Google.

>> Read our complete guide to using Google Flights here.

The good and bad of Kayak

Kayak may lack some of the bells and whistles of Google Flights (particularly around searching multiple dates and locations), but it’s still a powerful tool. Some of the things it does well include:

  • Finding a lower price: Once you’ve found the cheapest dates in Google Flights, use Kayak to find the best deals on those dates since it will search the smaller OTAs. Sometimes, Kayak will show fares that Google couldn’t find.
  • Offering advice on when to buy: Kayak uses its historical data to tell you whether you should buy now or wait and also shows whether or not prices are likely to go up or down in the next week based on trends.

That said, Kayak lacks in some important areas, including:

  • Speed: Kayak is slow, especially when compared to Google and there are lots of advertisements. It’s fine to have ads, but they get to be a bit much.
  • Limited searching options: As mentioned above, Kayak is better suited to searches once you’ve narrowed down your location and dates, as it doesn’t have very robust capabilities for open-ended searches.  

>> Read our complete guide to using Kayak here.

How to use Google Flights and Kayak (or another search site) together

We recommend starting in Google Flights. If your dates and locations are relatively open, start with the map feature. You can select specific dates or choose a weekend, week, or two-week trip in a specific month.

choosing destinations on Google Flights.

You can then move the map to view the prices for a specific region, such as Europe. The map will populate with the cheapest fares for your selected date range. If you zoom in on a specific country, you’ll see more options for smaller cities, too.

choosing a region on Google Flights.

If you know where you want to go but your dates are slightly flexible, check out the calendar view, which shows two months of availability at a time. The lowest prices are highlighted in green and you can easily change the trip duration or select different dates to see how it affects the price.

selecting dates on Google Flights.

Once you know the cheapest dates for your trip and have a price on Google Flights, head over to Kayak and do the same search. In some cases, the price might be the same, but in others, the price found by Kayak could be significantly less if you book with a smaller OTA. There are some pros and cons and things you should know about booking with OTAs, but depending on the savings, it could be worth it.

The bottom line: Both Google Flights and Kayak have their good points and some areas for improvement, but both work best when paired with one another (or another flight search site). We typically recommend starting your search on Google Flights to refine dates and location and then moving to Kayak (and/or Momondo or another metasearch site) to check prices on smaller OTAs and make sure you’re getting the best possible deal for your flight.

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Scott Keyes

Scott Keyes

Founder & Chief Flight Expert

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

Published August 6, 2023

Last updated December 21, 2023

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