Tips For Getting the Best Airfare to Europe

Europe is a very popular travel destination with a lot of airlines flying into and within the continent. With so many choices it can be easy to do a quick search and book the first thing that you find appealing.  By doing a little research and following some simple tips you can save a lot of money on your trip.

  • Get Over To Europe As Cheap As Possible

Many travelers will only look at their destination and try to get the best price using only that destination.   However you can save a lot of money by looking at other cities and then connect into your destination city. 

Google Flights has an explore destinations feature that allows you to look at a map with prices. Once you find a flight that works for you, search for connecting flights to your final destination.  You can often save hundreds by creating your own layover.

I want to go to Paris, but I can fly into Copenhagen then take a cheap connecting flight to Paris and save around $200. Courtesy Google Flights

Flights within Europe are incredibly cheap.  There is a lot of competition and many budget airlines that have driven down short haul flights between European cities. You may also look at traveling by rail as high speed trains are cheap and fast.  They also drop you off right in the city center as opposed to airports that are usually well outside the city. 

  • Take Advantage Of Budget Airlines

There are a lot of budget airlines that have made airfare much cheaper in recent years.  Norwegian Air has been a leader in cheap transatlantic flights to a growing number of locations.  Icelandic WOW airlines is the new kid on the block with cheap flights between the U.S. and Europe using Iceland has a hub. 

Within Europe budget airlines have pushed airfare downward.  Ryanair in particular is known for flash sales with prices as low as €5 flights between popular cities.  One thing to consider when looking at a budget airline is the fees they add on.  The base price is only a starting point.  You will pay for almost everything extra including checked bags, choosing your seat, and food.  Always look at the final price and compare to a legacy airline that typically includes these extras before booking.

  • Look At The Airlines Foreign Website To Save Money

Often the price is much cheaper in one country as opposed to another due to currency exchange rates or sales targeted exclusively to one country.  If necessary, use Google Chrome to translate the webpage and use a currency converter to compare prices.  You can save hundreds of dollars on this one trick alone.  Be sure to book a flight using a no foreign transaction fee credit card as this qualifies as a foreign transaction.

On the left is the U.S. Norwegian Website. On the right is the U.K. Norwegian website in Pounds for the same exact flight. There is big savings on the U.K. website.
  • Use Stopover’s and Open Jaws

Stopover’s and open jaws are perfect for European travel.  A stopover is a layover that lasts more than 24 hours.  If your ultimate destination is Berlin for example you may have a layover in London.  You can often turn this into a stopover by staying in London for a few days before heading to Berlin.  Airfare may only be slightly higher or even the exact same price.   This allows you to squeeze in another city for little to nothing extra.

An open jaw is flying into one city and out of another.  For example you fly into London, take the train to Paris, and fly home from Paris.  Again this often adds little or nothing to your cost of the flight and allows you to be travel more efficiently.  Stopovers and open jaws are perfect ways to maximize your time traveling throughout Europe.

  • Research The Cost Of One Way Flights

It never hurts to look at booking two one way flights instead of a round trip.  This can especially be a great option for European travel.  This allows flexibility to book your own open jaw ticket and use different airlines to get the cheapest rate.  Airlines often make one leg of a round trip journey more expensive than the other.  Take advantage and use different airlines to and from Europe to get the best rate.

  • Use Frequent Flyer Miles

The best way to get a nearly free flight is by using frequent flyer miles.  Credit card reward programs often allow you to transfer points to an airlines frequent flyer program.  This enables you to earn miles by paying your normal expenses using the right credit card.  A round trip ticket from the United States to Europe is usually 70,000 miles for coach.  The sign up bonus for many credit cards is 50,000 points.  You’re almost already there.

  • Fly During Shoulder Or Off Season

Europe’s high travel season is summer.  Everything is more expensive and the weather is downright hot in Southern Europe.  For a combination of the best weather and cheaper prices, travel during the spring or fall.  If you don’t mind colder weather and fewer daylight hours, winter travel is the cheapest. 

  • Look Out For Sales

Airfare constantly fluctuates.  With so much competition airlines are constantly jockeying their prices to fill their flights.  You can save big by waiting for a sales and striking when the iron is hot.  Websites like Airfare Watchdog and Secret Flying are dedicated to scouring the internet for deals and will notify you as soon they sales hit.  You can sign up for email alerts or follow then on Twitter or Facebook.  Be prepared to jump on these deals as they often only last days or even hours. 

  • Be Flexible

Keeping with the last tip, being flexible about when you go is a sure fire way to save on your trip.  When looking at a price chart, airfare can vary widely from day to day.  Being flexible with your travel plans allows you to grab the best price.

Prices vary widely from day to day and week to week. Courtesy Google Flights

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