Categorized | Airlines

How to shop for summer flights to Europe…

Posted on 07 March 2012

What a difference a few years makes. Back in June of 2009 – in the throes of the recession – our deals blog featured some great ticket prices to Europe, such as Philadelphia to Madrid for an incredible $209 round-trip – including all taxes and fees.


Today, that kind of money would barely get you in sight of the Atlantic Ocean.


Why is airfare to Europe so expensive?


It isn’t, but you’d never know this because of all the taxes and fees and surcharges added into the price of a ticket to Europe. All this ‘other stuff’ comes to roughly $650 dollars – what’s left over is the airfare.


Do I have to pay the $650 part?


Yes. These are not ‘optional fees’ – these are costs that airlines, airports and governments pass along to you for things like security and airport gate fees – but the biggest cost by far is for fuel.


So how can I save?


Three ways: Instead of old standbys like London or Paris, try a cheaper destination like Barcelona, Brussels, Dublin or Zurich. Not coincidentally, these are in the 4 of the 5 cheapest destination countries of Europe— Germany is the fifth.


If that doesn’t work for you, make one of the less expensive cities your Europe hub then fly to your must-see city on one of the continent’s dirt-cheap discount airlines. Many have a wide-ranging network of routes like EasyJet and Ryanair, but watch out for their fees which can be horrendous. This is where it really pays to use a carry-on bag.


Another idea: Make your summer vacation in Europe a late spring getaway or an early autumn trip. Even if you can delay your departure to late summer — say, after August 20 — you will still see some savings. The most expensive time to go is most of June, all of July and the bulk of August.


Are any days cheaper to fly than others?


It’s cheaper to fly to European cities departing Monday through Wednesday. This can vary as some carriers include Sunday and Thursday into the cheaper days, but typically early weekdays are cheaper by $40 to $60 round-trip.


When should I buy my tickets to Europe?


Don’t wait until the last minute, but don’t buy too early, either. The shopping window for international travel is a bit longer than domestic by a couple of months. Five months before departure is the time to start searching, and you better book no later than a month before takeoff, as seats on the most popular routes become scarce, which in turn drives prices up.


If you’re planning on a June trip, you should already be shopping.


Will the Olympics put a crimp in my trip to Europe?


Possibly. A recent study shows late July bookings are picking up – not just for London, but also for cities in close rail distance (Brussels, Amsterdam and Paris via the ‘Chunnel’). So if you are traveling during that time period – even if the Olympics are not on your agenda – higher prices and inconvenience probably await you at nearby destinations.


Anything else I should know?


Yes. Check your passport to make sure it’s up to date, and pay attention to when it expires. Some countries insist that a passport have at least six months left on it before it expires, or they won’t let you in. The State Department‘s website at Travel.State.Gov can fill you in on these and any potential visa issues you may encounter if your excursions take you outside of Europe

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