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Use this Google search secret to score amazing deals on travel

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie whose work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix th...

Google Alerts isn't just for stalking celebrities, use it to score deals when you fly

Trying to save cash on your next vacay? Aren't we all. An often overlooked tool, Google Alerts can help you do it. In fact, used in conjunction with Google Flights and being a little flexible with your travel plans can save you hundreds. Here's how it's done.

What is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is a handy little tool that Google has that lets you save searches and be emailed if anything new pops up. You can choose to be notified immediately or just receive the notifications daily or weekly. So, basically, if it's something you search for on a regular basis (like, say, "Stephen Amell"), you can tell Google to just let you know when something new pops up instead of searching it obsessively, which is pretty useful when there are several things you have to search for regularly.

Setting up a Google Alert

To set up an alert, just go to google.com/alerts. If you plan to use your Gmail address as the account where you get alerts, it's helpful to go ahead and log in by clicking the "Sign in" button in the top-right corner so it will autofill your address each time.

Google Alerts isn't just for stalking celebrities, use it to score deals when you fly

Type in the search query you plan to use. You'll probably want to set up several (more on that later). Click the "Show options" text to the right of the "Create Alert" button (you can hide them again later if you need to).

If you're pretty desperate for tickets, set it to email you as it happens. If you're just browsing, choose the option for once a day. I don't recommend the weekly option as many of the deals may be gone by the time you see the email. I really recommend choosing the option for once a day unless you're desperate (or using an email account you don't use that often).

Google Alerts isn't just for stalking celebrities, use it to score deals when you fly

I also recommend you change the sources to "Web," as that will filter out a lot of the news and feature stories and focus more on the actual deals.

Google Alerts isn't just for stalking celebrities, use it to score deals when you fly

Now type in your email address and click "Create Alert." I recommend setting up several alerts with different key word phrases.

Choosing your key words

This is the part that's toughest. You can't just type in the name of a city or you'll get tons of results that have nothing to do with traveling there. You don't need to know if the mayor threw a fundraiser.

The best thing to do is just type in some key words and see what comes up with the results you want. You can set up multiple alerts. What you choose depends on where you're going and what you need. Try things like "airfare deals to Vancouver," "travel deals Paris," etc. Also, don't forget about coupons or coupon codes. You can set up an alert for "hotel coupons California," or if there's a particular attraction you plan to visit, "coupons Disney World."

Also, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page (it's on the side on some mobile devices) to check out Google's searches related to what you typed in. You may want to set some of those up as alerts, too. If you're going to a less populated or less traveled city, don't forget to set up searches for nearby larger ones where you may find additional deals.

Price-drop alerts

You can also set it to give you alerts when the price drops to your desired range. Just type in your search terms followed by the minimum price, two periods (no spaces), then the maximum price. Like this: "hotels las vegas $80..$150." Then you'll get alerts on hotels that are in those price ranges.

The downside to Google Alerts

Google Alerts isn't a perfect tool. How well it works is based on the quality of your key words and whether or not the key words, or something similar, are found on relevant sites. It could also return things that aren't actual deals. And you only get alerts for new content, so any content that was there before you searched won't be emailed to you.

While convenient, you shouldn't rely solely on Alerts to get your discounts. While they're manual, you might also check Google Flights and Google Hotels in addition to any other deal sites you use.

More ways to save on travel

How to do San Diego on the cheap
Traveling NYC on a budget
5 Ways to save money on a cruise

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