How to Book the Cheapest Flight to Europe this Summer
As the euro falls against the dollar and the weather warms, now is the time to book a trip across the pond. But a favorable exchange rate alone won’t help you get there for less. SmarterTravel shares seven tried-and-true booking strategies for nabbing the absolute cheapest flight to Europe.
Depart Wednesday, Return Tuesday
We’ve all heard this sage advice before, but now we have solid proof to corroborate the claim. Kayak’s 2015 Travel Hacker Guide cements what was once just a theory: Hop across the pond on a Wednesday and return home on a Tuesday for the absolute cheapest Europe flight.
The OTA giant employed a year’s worth of search data to tell us that the least popular days to travel are indeed the cheapest. Debate over. Travel from Wednesday through Tuesday for the biggest savings (and since no one’s traveling then, you’ll possibly get an empty seat next to you).
Related: When Should I Buy My Flight?
Use Flight-Prediction Tools
If your sole goal is to get to Europe this summer regardless of a specific destination, use one of the many flight-prediction tools out there. One such application I recommend is Momondo’s handy Trip Finder. Select the departure city, vacation type (city, shopping, nature, nightlife, beach, etc.), continent, month, and your budget, and you’ll get trip suggestions based on your settings. For example, NYC travelers seeking city life during August will learn that the most affordable flight to the Continent is to Milan. In addition, the Trip Finder tool details the specific days with the cheapest fares, the major carriers with the largest presence in said airport, and the overall most/least expensive times to travel on your chosen route.
Use Hubs as Launchpads
Milan not at the top of your bucket list? If the cheapest route to Europe isn’t to your preferred destination, well golly, consider it anyway. Get to Europe by way of a major gateway city, then take an intra-Europe flight to your final destination. Do the math and you’ll find that this is often quite cost-effective. Consider RyanAir, easyJet, and the like, but beware of the carriers’ plentiful fees for everything from carrying on bags to printing boarding passes at airports.
Related: Best European Hubs for Connections
Book Six Months Out
Here’s another helpful tip from Kayak’s annual Travel Hacker guide: Europe flights are cheapest when booked six months out. While that’s not necessarily true for off-peak seasons, it’s especially sound advice for flights during the destination’s peak season—in the case of Europe travel, summertime, specifically July and August.
And remember, flights are refundable when canceled within 24 hours, so keep a vigilant eye that day after booking.
Travel During the Tail End of Summer
Speaking of peak season, avoid it whenever possible—at least for your wallet’s sake. This is a general tip that applies to all travel, regardless of destination, including to costly Europe.
If you absolutely must go to Europe during summertime, however, aim for the tail end of the season, say, a few weeks before or after Memorial Day and Labor Day, though not directly during those holiday weekends. This sweet spot is still peak season, yet it’s a wee bit more reasonably priced—and less crowded than primetime in July and August.
Follow the Lowest Fare, but Buyer Beware
Ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant changed the game in the airfare world. They not only created competition, which automatically lowers fares, but they also introduced the pricing model of offering dirt-cheap flights by making bank with ancillary fees. Following a similar model to this is Icelandic low-cost carrier WOW, which drastically discounts popular transcontinental flights from the East Coast to Europe. For example, WOW recently offered flights from Newark to Paris for $322 each way in May.
If the routes are a fit, peruse foreign low-cost carriers like WOW for Europe travel, but proceed with caution. The savings gained in airfare may be lost in fees. Round-trip fees for a single bag range from $134 when paid during the airfare-booking transaction to as much as $248 at the airport gate—ouch! Then there are fees for seat selection, oversized bags, and so on.
Get Two Vacations for the Price of One
What’s better than a vacation to a European city? Why, a vacation to two European cities or even three, of course! Get the biggest bang for your buck by booking Europe flights with flagship carriers that offer free stopovers, even for multiday layovers. Features Editor Caroline Costello details the various airlines that offer free stopovers; among them are Icelandair with stopovers in Reykjavik, Turkish Airlines with stopovers in Istanbul, Air France with stopovers in Paris, and Finnair with stopovers in Helsinki.
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Read the original story: Secrets to Booking the Cheapest Summer Europe Flight Ever by Patricia Magaña, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.