Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Hop Across the Pond with WOW Air's Rock Bottom Fares
For budget-conscious travelers, Iceland's WOW Air offers some of the cheapest transatlantic flights around. The low-cost carrier is known for its bare bones Basic fare that gets flyers from North America to Europe for as little as $99 one-way. But even WOW's upgraded fares, which include a carry-on bag, checked bag, in-flight entertainment and meal, are cheaper than comparable fares on legacy carriers.
Flying WOW Air is perfect for flexible travelers looking to explore Europe on a tight budget. The airline's extensive route network links major cities like New York, Boston, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Los Angeles with popular European destinations including London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Dublin and Stockholm. Most flights route through Reykjavik, giving passengers the option to extend their trip with a quick visit to Iceland.
Reviews of WOW Air are mixed, with some flyers raving about the crazy cheap fares while others complain about lackluster service and hidden fees. Seat comfort in WOW's fleet of Airbus A320s and A321s falls short of what you'd find on a full-service airline. And the airline's buy-on-board food and beverage program can quickly drive up costs. Still, many budget-focused travelers say it's a small price to pay for affordable transatlantic flights.
On travel forums and blogs, WOW Air is a popular topic of discussion for deal-seekers planning European vacations and backpackers looking to crisscross the continent on a tight budget. One blogger who paid just $240 roundtrip to fly New York-Berlin said WOW Air was perfect for his short city break and he'd happily fly them again. Others praise WOW's direct flights to European capitals that allow travelers to avoid pricier, inconvenient connections in bigger hub airports.
What else is in this post?
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Hop Across the Pond with WOW Air's Rock Bottom Fares
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Score dirt Cheap Icelandair Flights with Stopovers in Reykjavik
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Norwegian Air: The Low-Cost Long-Haul Leader to Watch
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Basic Economy: A Bare Bones Option for Crossing the Atlantic
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Use Google Flights to Sniff Out Secret Sales
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Consider Alternative Cities to Save Big on Airfare
- Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Maximize Mileage Programs to Cut Costs on Award Flights
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Score dirt Cheap Icelandair Flights with Stopovers in Reykjavik
For a refreshing and affordable way to reach Europe, look no further than Icelandair. This Icelandic carrier built its business model around allowing free stopovers in Reykjavik, its hub city. By tacking a few days in Iceland onto either end of your transatlantic crossing, you can experience two destinations for a single airfare.
How does it work? Icelandair services around two dozen North American airports including major hubs like New York, Boston, Seattle, Denver, Toronto, and Washington D.C. No matter which city you depart from, all flights route through the airline's base at Keflavik International Airport near Reykjavik before continuing on to destinations across Europe.
On your outbound or return journey, you can opt to extend your layover in Iceland from the standard 1-2 hours to up to 7 nights at no extra charge. This allows time to soak in Iceland's incredible scenery, from steaming hot springs and thundering waterfalls to black sand beaches and glacial lagoons. Almost all Icelandair passengers take advantage of the free stopover to experience the Land of Fire and Ice.
Icelandair keeps prices low by offering a basic Economy class with average legroom and amenities. Yet for a minimal upgrade fee, Saga Class provides extra legroom, free beverages, and priority services. On flights between North America and Europe, Icelandair competes favorably on price and service with better-known airlines.
Savvy travelers monitor the airline's website for temptingly cheap promotional fares, especially in the quieter fall and winter seasons. Icelandair frequently runs sales in the $400-$600 round trip range from North American gateways to popular European destinations like London, Paris, Berlin, and Amsterdam. Given Iceland's average hotel and attraction costs, you can easily save hundreds versus a traditional Europe itinerary.
On travel forums, Icelandair earns kudos for facilitating low-cost Icelandic stopovers. Satisfied customers report paying barely more thanultra-low-cost carrier fares while enjoying free stopovers the others can't match. One Seattle blogger raved about her $425 roundtrip ticket to Amsterdam which allowed her four days of exploring Reykjavik's quirky cafes and soaking in the Blue Lagoon. She appreciated the value and convenience versus patching together separate discount flights.
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Norwegian Air: The Low-Cost Long-Haul Leader to Watch
Norwegian Air shook up transatlantic travel when it launched low-cost long-haul flights between Europe and North America in 2013. While WOW and Icelandair connect the continents with creative models, Norwegian went a step further by directly competing with legacy carriers. The airline's expanding fleet of fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliners has grown its US route network to over a dozen gateways. Norwegian now operates year-round nonstop flights to London, Paris, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rome and other popular European destinations for base fares as low as $150 one-way.
For budget-minded travelers, Norwegian Air's mix of low fares and nonstop convenience is a game changer. The airline stripped out excessive amenities and introduced à la carte pricing to drive down costs. Passengers pay extra for checked bags, seat assignments, meals, and other frills. Yet the savings are substantial, especially on sought-after nonstop routes Norwegian dominates. A Denver to London nonstop might run $800+ on British Airways but just $500 on Norwegian's 787. Similarly, Norwegian's $250 Boston to Paris fares force Air France and American to discount competing routes.
Despite growing pains, Norwegian's long-haul footprint keeps expanding with new frugal travelers discovering the airline every day. On consumer forums, Norwegian earns cheers for cheap fares though reviews note the no-frills experience won't please everyone. Yet for budget-focused millennials who pack light and BYO entertainment, stripped-down Dreamliners get them across the pond at a price legacy airlines can't touch. Advice from experienced Norwegian flyers says upgrade to Premium to ease the bare-bones Economy journey. Premium perks like extra legroom, free bags/meals, and premium service ensure a more comfortable long-haul flight.
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Basic Economy: A Bare Bones Option for Crossing the Atlantic
For budget-conscious travelers, basic economy fares can unlock huge savings on flights to Europe. Legacy carriers like American, United, Delta and Air France operate these no-frills fares on select transatlantic routes. Basic economy provides the cheapest way to cross the pond, but leaves out amenities many passengers take for granted. Understanding the trade-offs helps ensure it's the right option for your trip.
On American, United and Delta, basic economy fares differ slightly but share common traits. Don't expect a seat assignment until check-in. Your group will likely be split across the cabin. And basic economy passengers board last, meaning prime overhead bin space will disappear fast. Pack light or pay steep checked bag fees. Inflight perks like movies and meals aren't included either and vary by airline. Pre-departure drink service and onboard snacks offered in regular economy disappear.
Air France's basic fare shows the model isn't limited to U.S. airlines. On most long-haul flights to North America, their "Economy Basic" strips out a checked bag, seat selection, and earning elite qualifying miles. Yet cheap fares as low as $400 roundtrip from Paris to New York make it tempting. Just know you'll pay more on board and land with sore legs after a cramped ride across the Atlantic.
On travel blogs and forums, basic economy earns mixed reviews. Satisfied basic economy flyers praise the rock bottom fares and say the restrictions didn't bother them for a short trip. One budget traveler paid just $320 roundtrip New York to Dublin on Delta and happily endured no seat and last boarding to save over $150.
Yet many others argue basic economy's indignities make even short flights feel endless. Between paying for bags, poor seats, limited service and bare bones planes, some question whether the savings are worth it. One couple flying American's basic fare from Philadelphia to Rome regretted not upgrading after fighting for overhead space and sitting apart. They warned basic economy is only worth considering on the shortest trips.
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Use Google Flights to Sniff Out Secret Sales
Google Flights is an indispensable tool for uncovering tempting airfare sales that typically fly under the radar. While flight deals get shared quickly these days through blogs, newsletters and social media, Google Flights gives you the power to DIY and discover sales tailored to your home airport and target destination. Its genius is the unique ability to rapidly search dates and surface irresistible fares you won’t find plastered on every travel hacking site.
The first step is inputting your airport, destination and dates in the Google Flights search engine. Don’t limit yourself to your ideal travel window, at least initially. Search a wide range, like 2-3 months, to uncover sales outside peak demand periods. Google Flights’ brilliant calendar view lets you visualize prices across seasons, exposing enticingly cheap fares that match your schedule.
Next, pay attention to Google Flights’ tips highlighting when prices are 10-40% below typical fares for your route. The percentage discounts are based on its vast data trove of historical airfares. Act fast, as the tips flag short term sales other sites miss. One crafty couple saved $600 flying Chicago to Paris by booking in September when Google Flights said prices were 27% below average for fall.
You can also filter Google Flights results by price drops in the past day, week or month. Use filters wisely to spot plunging fares as airlines unexpectedly release seats. Set custom alerts and Google Flights emails you when prices sink below your target. Enthusiastic bloggers detail tactics like tracking prices to guess when airlines release premium cabin award seats.
Google Flights also shines for exploring creative routings that unlock major savings versus nonstop flights. Don’t underestimate the value of adding a cheap one-stop connection or an intriguing open-jaw combo. Savvy Google Flights users praise uncovering options like flying Chicago–London–Berlin for hundreds less than a simple Chicago–Berlin roundtrip.
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Consider Alternative Cities to Save Big on Airfare
For travelers intent on exploring Europe without breaking the bank, thinking outside the box with your flight bookings can lead to major savings. Rather than obsessing over nonstop flights to capital cities like London and Paris, run a search on Google Flights using the “Explore Destinations” map to uncover cheaper fares to alternative airports. Cast a wide geographic net across a whole country or region to expose lower prices and intriguing routes.
Savvy Europhiles suggest looking at flights into smaller airports serving popular vacation areas. An example is flying into Nice over Paris to explore the French Riviera. With extensive transport links, Nice conveniently connects visitors to Monaco, Cannes and Provence. Similarly, Portugal’s vibrant capital Lisbon sees far fewer flights and lower fares than rival European gateways. Yet it’s a short hop from Lisbon to the beachy Algarve region Ryanair serves for peanuts.
Don’t forget secondary airports around major cities, which legacy carriers and low cost airlines flock to for lower fees. Paris has two international airports beyond Charles de Gaulle, and London counts five other airports aside from Heathrow and Gatwick. Even Amsterdam has a sleepy airport called Eindhoven with rock bottom fares on Ryanair. Eindhoven sits just 75 miles from Amsterdam, making it feasible for a city break after the quick bus transfer.
Google Flights makes it easy to filter and compare fares across all airports serving a country or region. Travel hacking sites emphasize regularly monitoring prices at secondary airports, which see steeper sales. One Chicago couple scored $150 roundtrip flights into Brussels by targeting charismatic Charleroi Airport over crowded Zaventem. Similarly, a Denver family found nonstop Norwegian Air fares under $400 by flying into London's Gatwick Airport rather than Heathrow.
Europe on a Budget: Snagging the 10 Cheapest Flights across the Pond this Summer - Maximize Mileage Programs to Cut Costs on Award Flights
Frequent flyer miles seem almost worthless these days, with airlines hiking award flight costs and restricting availability. Yet mileage mavens know a little effort goes a long way towards unlocking still-valuable award seats at saver rates. A single signup bonus can cover an entire vacation to Europe, but only if you learn to maximize points programs strategically.
On The Points Guy and MileValue blogs, experts emphasize flexibility as the key to mileage success. Don’t get locked into a single airline or rigid award itinerary. Cast a wide net across mileage currencies and partners to expose the release of premium seats even when your primary program comes up short. Signup for mileage earning cards from Chase, Amex, Citi and Barclaycard to build a stockpile across Star Alliance, Skyteam and Oneworld.
Accumulate miles however possible, through bonuses, flying, spending and transfers from flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards. Then be ready to jump on an award seat the moment it appears. Expert Scott Mackenzie praised United for opening up affordable Business Saver award seats on Europe flights, though only a few at a time. His trick is monitoring availability daily across various partners and using Aeroplan, Avianca or Singapore Krisflyer miles to book when United comes up empty.
Members of FlyerTalk forums highlight leveraging sweet spots where plentiful airline partners overlap. Flights under 700 miles in North America can be had for just 7,500 miles, yet stretch to almost 3,000 miles between U.S. and Canada/Mexico/Caribbean. Look for similar overlapping zones where partner awards cost the same, but cover drastically different distances.