Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Hop Across the Pond on a Budget
Europe has an undeniable allure for many travelers, with its historic cities, quaint villages, and stunning natural landscapes. But the high cost of transatlantic flights can make visiting feel out of reach, especially for budget-conscious travelers. The good news is that with some savvy planning, you can find surprisingly affordable airfare to Europe, even during peak seasons.
The first step is being flexible with your travel dates. Airfare fluctuates constantly, and you're likely to find the lowest fares by flying mid-week instead of weekends. Avoid school holidays and major events that drive up demand. Use Google Flights or Momondo to view a full calendar of fares at a glance. Aim to travel in shoulder seasons like September/October or March/April to catch decent weather and smaller crowds.
Consider flying into a hub like London, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam, then catching a budget flight around the continent. Norwegian Airlines and easyJet offer cheap intra-Europe fares to tap into. And don't forget to check full-service airlines like Lufthansa and Air France. They run regular fare sales you can take advantage of.
Another budget trick is flying into a different city than you depart from on an open-jaw ticket. For example, fly into London and back from Rome. This gives you the flexibility to see more of Europe without costly extra flights. Mixing budget airlines with trains and buses is an affordable way to connect the dots.
Keep an eye out for airline mistake fares that occasionally pop up. These are ridiculously low fares that airlines unintentionally file. They don't last long once discovered, so be ready to pounce. Sign up for airfare deal alerts so you never miss out.
Consider redeeming miles and points for your flights instead of paying cash. Many programs allow you to book partner award seats at reduced rates. Aim to open a travel rewards credit card with a hefty signup bonus that can offset the cost of flights. Just be sure to pay it off each month to avoid interest charges.
What else is in this post?
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Hop Across the Pond on a Budget
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Scrutinize those Departure Dates
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Be Flexible with Destinations
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Mind the Airline Sales Cycles
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Use Miles and Points for Free Flights
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Try Budget Airlines
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Travel in the Off-Season
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Pack Light to Avoid Fees
- Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Consider Open Jaw or Multi-City Itineraries
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Scrutinize those Departure Dates
One of the most important factors in scoring a cheap flight to Europe is carefully selecting your departure date. Fares can fluctuate wildly even from one day to the next, so you need to meticulously analyze the options to find the lowest price.
Google Flights makes this easy with its intuitive calendar feature. Simply enter your route and dates, then click on the calendar icon to view fares month-by-month. You'll see color-coded prices showing the cheapest travel days. Shoot for mid-week departures, typically Tuesdays through Thursdays. Weekend travel is almost always more expensive.
You'll also want to avoid dates that align with major holidays or events. Flying around Christmas, New Years, Easter and Thanksgiving drives up airfare. The same goes for big events like Oktoberfest in Germany. Booking 6-8 weeks before or after these peak times can yield major savings.
School vacation periods also bump up prices, so steer clear of traveling when kids are off. European airlines release their schedules 330 days in advance, so mark your calendar to start searching as soon as flights open 11 months prior to your departure target. This gives you the maximum window of opportunity to capitalize on sales and snap up cheap mistake fares the airlines may file.
Be attentive to how length of stay impacts pricing as well. Sometimes airlines charge more for quick getaways versus longer vacations. Play around with return dates to uncover where the airline draws that line. You may discover it's cheaper to tack on a few extra days than initially planned.
Finally, don't forget to check fares departing from alternate nearby airports if you live in a metropolitan area. Sometimes a flight from a smaller regional airport can be significantly less expensive even after accounting for ground transportation and parking.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Be Flexible with Destinations
When it comes to scoring amazing deals on flights to Europe, flexibility is key. While you may have your heart set on Paris or Rome, limiting your search to a single destination is likely to drive up costs. Savvy travelers know that leaving the destination open and browsing prices to various European hubs can unlock substantial savings.
Take London for example. A vast array of airlines fly into one of the five airports serving the UK's capital. Competition keeps fares relatively low, especially when carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW Air get in on the action. London also doubles as a convenient jumping off point to access budget airlines shuttling around the continent. RyanAir, easyJet, Eurowings and others connect London to cities across Europe for sometimes as little as $20 a flight.
Consider flying into Dublin as well. Aer Lingus, Icelandair and newcomer Norwegian Air have expanded transatlantic service in recent years. With its proximity to the UK and the rest of Europe, Dublin gives you flexibility once boots are on the ground. Amsterdam is another wise choice. In addition to KLM, Delta and United fly direct from points across the US. Trains and short flights efficiently distribute travelers onwards.
Munich and Frankfurt are easily accessible thanks to Lufthansa's extensive stateside network. Both airports link travelers to German and neighboring destinations like Prague through dense rail and bus networks. And you can now hop the pond cheaply on carriers like Condor and Eurowings. Also look at flights into Zurich. Switzerland's largest city sits within an hour train ride of Milan, Venice and the Alps. Scandinavian Airlines, Edelweiss Air and Swiss all fly direct.
Never limit your search to western Europe though. Budapest, Warsaw and Prague in central Europe offer exposure to emerging destinations at attractive price points. LOT Polish Airlines and Czech flag carrier Czech Airines have aggressively expanded service to the US, driving down costs. Try Istanbul as well - Turkish Airlines flies direct from 9 US cities and often runs sales.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Mind the Airline Sales Cycles
When it comes to finding cheap flights, timing is everything. Savvy travelers pay close attention to airline sale cycles, which can provide access to major flight discounts if you know when to look. Sales pop up with some frequency, but each carrier runs promotions on their own calendar. By understanding the patterns, you can pounce when deals emerge.
Most airlines launch seasonal sales in the first quarter of the year. After the holidays have passed, demand softens. Carriers entice people to book spring and summer getaways with fare sales from January through April. Look for the deepest discounts if you can travel mid-week instead of weekends. Southwest runs low fare sales year-round, but January, February and September are peak periods.
As summer approaches, keep an eye out for airfare sales in May and June as kids get out of school. These target last minute vacationers and families looking for a final summer hurrah before the new school year starts. Come August and September, fall sales rev up for October through December leisure and holiday travel.
End of year sales heat up in October and extend through mid-January. It's a great time to book winter getaways and visit friends or relatives. Monitor Virgin America and JetBlue specifically in October – they reliably drop prices this month. Most other airlines join the fray in November and December.
Sale fares aren’t always applicable to every destination though. Carriers will discount certain routes to drive demand. For example, American might run a Chicago to Dublin sale while United focuses on New York to Frankfurt. So stay flexible and track fares across multiple city pairs. Sign up for email alerts from your favorite airlines and flight deal services so notifications drop when sales go live.
Check airline social media too – sales are often teased there first. And don’t forget to compare discounted rates across nonstop and connecting flights. Sale fares sometimes apply to one but not both. Connecting itineraries in the past used to be more prone to sales, but in recent years direct flights get discounts too. Just be sure to account for add-on costs like checked bags and seat assignments that basic economy fares may exclude.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Use Miles and Points for Free Flights
One savvy way to slash the cost of flights to Europe is by redeeming miles and points instead of paying cash. Loyalty programs offered by airlines and credit card companies provide access to free flights, discounted award seats, and perks when traveling. With a little strategic planning, you can take your dream trip for a fraction of the standard fare.
I’m obsessed with extracting maximum value from my miles and points. Over the years I’ve flown business and first class to Europe and beyond without laying out a dime. Here are some of my proven tips for leveraging rewards:
Sign up for a new credit card that offers a hefty signup bonus. Many cards give you 50,000 points or more just for meeting an initial spending requirement. Put your regular household expenses on the card, pay it off each month, and you’ll hit the target spend before you know it. Some sweet spots include the Chase Sapphire Preferred and Amex Platinum.
Before applying, make sure the card’s points transfer to the airline you want to fly. Programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards allow transfers to multiple partner airlines. British Airways Avios points are extremely useful for short haul flights around Europe on their own metal or partners like Aer Lingus.
Do the math to confirm the value - some programs offer fixed “award charts” with set redemption rates while others tie pricing to cash fares. Transferring points from Chase to United cost me only 60,000 miles for a roundtrip business class award to Europe, an amazing deal. Always compare transfer rates and redemption costs across programs.
Look for partner award availability that might not show up when searching the operating airline’s own site. United opens partner business class awards on Lufthansa, Swiss, SAS and others to members of its MileagePlus program. Many people are unaware these seats even exist.
Sign up for frequent flyer accounts with multiple programs across alliances. This diversifies your options for earning and redeeming miles. Credit your flights accordingly and you can amass points quickly. Aim to have stockpiles in 3 or 4 programs at any time.
Never pay full price to accumulate miles. Look for promo fares that offer bonus miles at a fraction of the typical cost. I only buy miles when programs run promotions like “buy miles, get a 100% bonus” - essentially half price miles. Set up alerts so you catch these short-lived deals.
Consider redeeming miles for one-way flights. Roundtrip awards are scarce, especially in premium cabins. But one-way awards on separate tickets can piece together an open-jaw or multi-city European itinerary. I’ve lucked into one-way first class awards other travelers overlook.
Transferring points between programs can lead to outsized value. Study award charts and determine where your points are most useful. 100,000 Amex points could score a business class award to Europe transferring to ANA instead of Aeroplan. Always run the numbers.
Never assume you don’t have enough miles. Top programs offer co-branded credit cards that make it easier to earn rewards fast. A few strategic applications can accrue hundreds of thousands of miles within a couple years. Even better - take advantage of bonuses to buy miles at a discount when needed.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Try Budget Airlines
Budget airlines have transformed the affordability equation when it comes to European travel. By unbundling amenities and operating stripped down service models, these carriers manage to undercut full-service airline fares significantly. While you'll sacrifice some comforts flying budget, the savings can make it well worth the tradeoff. I always check ultra-low cost carriers when planning European trips. You might be surprised just how cheap the fares can get.
My go-to budget airlines in Europe are RyanAir, easyJet, Vueling, Wizz Air, Eurowings, and Norwegian Air. These carriers cover extensive networks across the continent with bases in all the major hubs. I’ve flown them to destinations as far flung as Israel and Morocco for under $100 roundtrip – simply astonishing prices. You can sometimes snag flights between European cities for less than $50 one-way during sales.
Just know that these rock bottom fares usually exclude any checked bags and seat assignments. You’ll pay extra fees for those conveniences. Pack light or master the personal item only route when traveling budget. And don’t expect roomy legroom or premium cabins – all budget airline seats are configured economy. But the new generation of jets many budget carriers fly nowadays do have modern conveniences like USB charging and WiFi.
My strategy is to position into Europe on a full-service airline using miles, then tap budget carriers to hop between destinations. Out of London, I can reach 90% of Europe on a RyanAir or easyJet flight costing barely more than a tank of gas. This frees up serious cash to prolong time on the ground. I’ll gladly endure a few hours crammed into a budget seat knowing my hotel and dining options are significantly upgraded.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Travel in the Off-Season
European cities take on a whole different vibe outside of peak tourist season. The crowds thin out, hotel rates drop, and locals reclaim their neighborhoods. Savvy travelers know that visiting Europe during off-peak months means less jostling for position at crowded sights and more room to breathe. You’ll enjoy a more authentic experience without battling long lines everywhere.
One of my favorite times to visit Europe is November through March, excluding the Christmas holidays. Airfares and hotels are significantly cheaper than high summer rates. Sightseeing requires no advanced reservations, and you can leisurely enjoy museums minus hordes of visitors. Bundling up to stroll lively Christmas markets sipping hot spiced wine makes for magical memories.
Cities like Paris, Venice and Amsterdam take on a relaxed local character in winter. You’ll find cozy cafes and plazas where regulars gather. With tourist numbers down, service staff have more time to chat and don’t seem constantly harried. Locals are happy to share dining and sightseeing tips when not overwhelmed by peak season crowds.
Ski resort towns also offer great off-season value for non-skiers. Rejuvenate yourself with spa treatments, shop the quaint downtowns full of boutiques, and enjoy evenings people watching from a sidewalk cafe bundled in your warmest sweater. Many mountain lodges offer wonderful low season rates if you can handle chilly temps.
Depending on your interests, target locations known for vibrant festivals or events in shoulder seasons. Visit Munich for Oktoberfest in the fall or Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo and Festival Fringe in August. New Orleans Mardi Gras kicks off in February, while Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival runs just before Lent.
Even sunny beach destinations see deals in Europe’s late spring and early fall. The Mediterranean comes to life in May before peak summer crowds descend. September still means warm days to laze seaside after the August vacation rush. And you can find rock bottom rates if willing to travel in the dead of winter to Spain’s Canary Islands or other southern havens.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Pack Light to Avoid Fees
Budget airlines ushered in the era of a la carte pricing, where fees get tacked on for services that used to be included. Checked bags, seat assignments, onboard food and drinks – they all come at an additional cost now. These ancillary fees add up quickly, sometimes eclipsing the base fare itself. The only surefire way to avoid them is by packing light and avoiding checked bags altogether.
As an obsessive budget traveler, I mastered the art of the carry-on only wardrobe years ago. Restricting yourself to a personal item forces creativity when it comes to efficient packing. I stick to quick-dry synthetic fabrics that enable washing clothes in sinks. Multiple wears between washes stretch a handful of tops and bottoms far. Capsule wardrobe adherents cite the ability to mix-and-match a few versatile garments for multiple stylish outfits.
Choosing multi-purpose pieces also aids the one bag cause. Look for shoes equally at home strolling cities or hiking trails. My trusty blazer pulls quadruple duty for everything from dressy dinners to airport lounging. And don’t forget the magic of layers. A lightweight fleece lets you bundle up for chilly evenings then tucks away compactly in your daypack. Accessorizing with scarves, jewelry and other accents turns the same clothing components into wholly different looks.
When it comes to gear, I pare down to bare essentials. My compact packable daypack stuffs inside my larger roller carry-on bag. Tablets and e-readers replaced heavy books and magazines. Noise-cancelling headphones provide entertainment without bulk. Inflatable travel pillows, packing cubes, and multi-use toiletry bottles are other space-saving gadgets I swear by. Choosing a roller bag instead of a backpack also enables cramming more in. Just be sure to adhere to size limits - budget carriers commonly restrict carry-on dimensions more severely than full-service airlines.
Travelers worry about the carry-on only approach limiting wardrobe versatility for longer trips. For multi-week adventures, I schedule laundry days at accommodations or laundromats midway through the journey. Washing clothes rolls into my regular routine. Some road warriors even rely on portable handheld washing devices forsink laundering on the go. When planning extensive travel, I book at least one hotel stay offering washer-dryer in-room to handle heavy-duty refreshing.
Slimming down your luggage has advantages beyond skirting fees. Breezing through airport check-in and security lines allows maximizing downtime in lounges instead. Onboard, just stowing a single bag in the overhead bin takes seconds. Upon arrival, make a beeline for immigration and transportation instead of lingering at the baggage carousels. Traveling light equals traveling efficiently.
Scoot Your Boots to Europe: Finding Amazingly Cheap Flights This Spring - Consider Open Jaw or Multi-City Itineraries
Roundtrip flights between two cities are so passé. Savvy travelers know that open-jaw and multi-city bookings unlock opportunities for broader European exploration without tacking huge costs. I’m obsessed with piecing together complex itineraries at bargain fares.
The classic open-jaw flight means arriving in one city but departing from another. For example, into Dublin and back home from Rome. This builds in a one-way flight within Europe to connect the dots. One summer I scored an open-jaw into Amsterdam and returning from Munich for only a bit more than a basic roundtrip ticket. That allowed me to traverse Germany by train in between at my own pace.
Multi-city ticketing takes open-jaws further by adding stops in multiple destinations before heading home. I once snagged a deal from Toronto to Dublin to Rome to New York for barely over $500 roundtrip. That amounted to multiple one-way hops for less than a direct flight! The wanderlust possibilities are endless if you don’t limit yourself to standard roundtrips.
The key to crafting these complex bookings is identifying airlines that publish fares inclusive of all segments. Legacy carriers like Lufthansa frequently file these combinable fares via their hub cities. But low-cost airlines advertise them too – I’ve discovered amazing multi-city fares on Norwegian Air and WOW Air.
Always price out your dream itinerary segment by segment before assuming it’s unaffordable. Look for deals out of major hubs like London that knit together the full trip. Google Flights makes visualizing the flow on a map simple. Don’t forget to check dates across an entire calendar month – sale fares may be available specific weeks.
I tend to start searches from my home airport to anchor both ends of the journey. But look at reversing the flow as well. Fares don’t always price symmetrically in both directions. And remember you can fly open-jaw between continents too if dates line up. I've flown into Europe and back from Asia overland for surprisingly little.
Partner award options also unlock more complex routings for fewer miles on occasion. Last fall I scored a multiple stop United itinerary at a huge discount by booking individual one-way legs on a mix of United and partner carriers. The call center agent pieced it together after I mapped the segments.
Budget extra time when routing this way in case of delays that risk misconnections. I generally allow at least 90 minutes between arriving and departing flights when booking multi-city itineraries. And always confirm baggage will checked through if your connection involves switching airlines.