How to Get the Best Flight Deal to Europe | How to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

How to Get the Best Flight Deal to Europe

Many of our readers have posed questions to us related to how to get the best flight deal to Europe. Other FAQs include which European cities are best to fly into and when the best time is to buy tickets to Europe. Well, we’ve made an honest attempt to gather some all-encompassing answers from some of the most knowledgeable individuals on the subject. We went out and spoke with 5 travel industry experts and bloggers and asked them how to go about getting the best flight deal for travel to Europe. Through a kaleidoscope of viewpoints, there seems to be one bottom line…

Timing, Flexibility and Clever Travel Planning is Key…

Keri Anderson of Boarding Area’s Heels First Travel

Be flexible on dates and locations and start tracking flights now!
If you want to get the most bang for your buck, be willing to sacrifice the perfect itinerary and weather. Travel during the shoulder seasons (April through mid-June and September & October) and be willing to fly into any of the major European airports — London, Paris, Milan, etc — and take a low-cost carrier like RyanAir or EasyJet to the cities at the top of your list.

And let the fares determine your dates, be willing to jump as soon as you find something in your budget. You can use Google Flights to see the cheapest fares for several months and see less expensive options at nearby airports. And/or follow sites like Airfarewatchdog, The Flight Deal, Fare Deal Alert, and Exit Fares to be notified when great sales pop up.

I actually don’t suggest using miles, unless it’s using 17.5K Virgin Atlantic miles each way to get to London from the East Coast during peak times. Otherwise it’s usually an exorbitant number of miles with limited dates and you have to pay taxes and fees. For instance, an economy saver award ticket to Europe is 40-60K miles plus $400 in taxes and fees.

If people are earning most of their miles based on credit card spend, they’d probably be better off with a cashback card that earned at least 1%. For the trip above they’d have $400-$600 + what they would have spent on taxes and fees to travel on the dates they want.

How To Get the Best Flight Deal to Europe | When to Buy Plane Tickets to Europe

Lori Zaino, Madrid-based European Correspondent for ThePointsGuy.com & Life and Style Madrid

Don’t discount low cost. You can get some great deals flying Norwegian, WOW Air, even Aer Lingus and then Ryanair and EasyJet after you arrive.

Depending on what airport you plan to fly out of, get a co-branded card that works with the airline that hubs there. For example if you live in ATL, go with Delta. If you’re near SFO, United. Make sure to check and see if you can also a get a credit card with transferable reward points that could help like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, one for Citi ThankYou Points and Amex Membership Rewards.

It’s good to diversify but if you know you plan to fly Delta you can go at it from all ends with a co-branded card. One that transfers to that program and then also use shopping portals as much as possible to rack up points for your ticket.

Travel at random times for deals. You probably won’t get good fares around Christmas and Summer and award availability may be scarce and pricey. Traveling in March, November, etc. can be great times to get to Europe and you can probably find off-peak awards too.

Daraius Dubash of MillionMileSecrets.com

Flexibility is key, keep an open mind to where you fly into.

Be flexible on both the location and date of travel. Can’t find flights to France? Well, there may be flights to Italy or other wine destinations.

European Travel Tip from Greig: Once you’ve arrived in Europe, keep in mind that many countries have high-speed trains that offer affordable and efficient access to a vast network of cities. Just because you were forced to fly into a country that may have been your second choice, don’t feel restricted and remember there are other ways to make it to your preferred destination on a budget.

Best Time to Buy Tickets to Europe

Rene DeLambert of Boarding Area’s Rene’sPoints.com

Plan way ahead and use points to pay for 70-90% of the trip.

Also diversify (meaning leverage status, points and rewards program benefits to get the best deals for different aspects of your trip). When you can let points pay for air, hotel, car AND driving you are way ahead!

Why pay out of pocket when you don’t have to?

Buying Cheap Flights to Europe | Where to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

Chris McGinnis, former travel correspondent for BBC & CNN, current author of Travel Skills and travel advisor for SFGate

My #1 piece of advice would be to avoid the “peak of the peak” summer season if at all possible. Peak of the peak summer generally runs from June 15 through August 15. Squeeze in your trip before or after that and you’ll save 30% to 50% on dollars or miles spent. A lot of folks don’t realize that there are windows of opportunity in early June or late August… they think summer peak is the full 3 months of June, July and August.

Chris also notes that Summer 2016 may simultaneously be both the worst and best Summer in recent history to travel to Europe. Given the emotional state of the continent following the series of terrorist attacks by ISIS in Paris, Istanbul and now Brussels, he says advanced bookings to Europe are taking a hit. This is evident based on recent hotel occupancy (down 15-25%) in major European cities and significant drops in flight and hotel searches for Europe across major travel search engines.

It’s going to be the least expensive summer in recent memory.

Just as the industry was recovering from the Paris attacks, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for Americans traveling to Europe from now through mid-June. While Americans will likely take trips that are already booked, it’s less likely that they’ll book new trips to Europe until time heals those wounds and we see the return of some sense of security. It’s not just Americans who are skittish about European trips– the big Asian market, especially first-time Chinese travelers, are probably holding off, too.

Europe is likely going to be very inexpensive– even during the peak July-August period. Prices for everything from transatlantic airline tickets and hotel rooms to t-shirts and cappuccinos will decline significantly for two reasons: weak demand and the strength of the U.S. dollar. Currently the exchange rate is hovering at around $1.10 per euro, down from around $1.40 two years ago. A weak European economy means weak demand for transatlantic airline tickets from the other side of the pond– and that could translate into bigger airfare discounts for Americans. Plus there is new low-fare competition from the likes of Norwegian Air and WOW Air. Keep an eye on summer fare sales on transatlantic flights, which usually start this month- I predict we’ll see some very steep discounts. It could get easier to redeem frequent flyer miles on European itineraries, too.

Best Way to Travel Europe | Which Airport to Fly into Europe

John DiScala of JohnnyJet.com

One of my tricks is:

Buy two separate tickets to Europe.

If you are traveling to a secondary destination like Sardinia in Italy it might be wise to break up the trip up into two separate tickets. Several years ago, I needed to get from New York to Sardinia. When I priced out the tickets directly to Olbia (Costa Smeralda Airport), the airlines all wanted around $2,000 and I couldn’t afford that. I then figured out that by buying two separate tickets — the first to London on a major airline and the second to Olbia on a low fare carrier, I saved over $1,000! Just make sure to leave plenty of time between flights (preferably a day), because most low-fare carriers usually depart out of secondary airports. And don’t forget to pack light because they have crazy baggage fees.

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13 Comments

  • I like the solid info and speculation from Chris of Travel Skills. However, I wonder why it might be the worst of times to visit Europe. He lists great reasons why it is best of times.

  • Some very valuable tips here. I used the last on my recent trip to Europe. Flew into London and took Swiss Air to meetings in Geneva. Great savings.

  • These are some very practical tips. I had the same experience of paying tons of money to fly from the US to Sardinia, and if I had planned more in advance, I could have taken your tip to break up the flight into 2 short trips, with a day between, to take advantage of low cost local airlines. We’ve done that several times on flights from the US to London, then taking Ryan Air to the ultimate destination somewhere else in Europe. Like packing in an extra trip to London too, such a pleasure.

  • Great practical tips. It’s always good to be reminded that traveling in the off season does reap rewards. Flexibility is another great tip. Sometimes just flying a day or two different from your original travel dates, looks to be a $$ saver. I love that you also recommend two separate tickets- great tips!

  • Great tips for the beginner looking to get cheap tickets. Do whatever you can to save money on tickets I think. The money is better off being spent on the ground having an experience. the only experience you will get flying is a seat, bad sleep and an average meal if you’re in economy

  • Love these and completely agree. We fly where the deals are, hop around using discount airlines (Wow and Norwegian are current favs) and we track flights all the time and strike when something amazing comes around.

  • So helpful especially with the discounts and strong dollar this year. I so love learning about strategies to make my travel dollars go further.

  • Great tips! One of the things I’ve started doing in recent years is instead of picking a place to vacation, I let the sales pick for me. I’ll have a general time of when I’d like to go and then just see where the flights go! It makes for more interesting adventures.

  • Sheena

    wow! Thanks for these valuable tips!

  • Great tips! Especially the first one about being flexible. I work in the tourism industry in Ireland and I noticed last year that we weren’t as busy in the museum as we were the year before. Hopefully Chris is right and Americans will take advantage of the low cost fares.

  • This is awesome! I think if I spend more time in Europe the flexible rates and dates would be super helpful. Canadian airlines are brutal with their ridiculous fees, I found the buying tickets where I get to the actual point of destination is way cheaper. Hopefully, there will be travel hacks for the ridiculous Canadian outbound flights to pretty much ANYWHERE.. lolt

  • These are great and valuable tips. We generally use the flexible search options on Skyscanner to book all of our flights, and gather some airline miles through different credit card offers.

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