Sharing a bottle of champagne near the Eiffel tower or touring the Roman Colosseum are experience that top many of our bucket lists. Given how expensive flights to Europe can be though, we often end up scrolling through other people’s Instagram feeds, enjoying vacations vicariously through them. Data from flight price tracker Hopper found that if you’ve been on the fence about booking a European flight, your time is now.
“Our team analyzed our historical archive of flight prices and found that prices to Europe are the cheapest they’ve been in three years,” said Liana Corwin, consumer travel expert at Hopper. “Flight prices from the U.S. to Europe are currently averaging $637 roundtrip, which is 15 percent cheaper than last year.”
That’s great to hear, but given the shifting nature of flight prices, it’s important to know exactly when to book. After analyzing 351 million flight fares, CheapAir found the best time to book international flights to Europe is approximately 99 days before your departure date.
Here, expert-backed tips to guarantee you still have a few extra euros, francs, pounds, kroner and rubles left for a daily wine and cheese.
1. Travel during low season
Almost everyone gets summers off, so beat the crowds — and soaring flight prices — by traveling during the winter. Justine McDonald, travel expert at CheapTickets, said “We’ve seen some rock-bottom deals on quality airlines to parts of Europe, London and Nordic countries January through March. In fact, London, Barcelona and Dublin were on our list of cheapest places to travel to in the New Year because of their low airfares and vacation package prices in the first part of the year.”
Can’t get the winters off? (Or want to take a trip a little sooner?) Try to make do with a summer staycation, and instead book your trip to Europe in the spring, which is also considered low season. “You can save 20 percent on flights by traveling in the spring in March, April and May rather than the summer in June, July and August,” said Corwin.
2. Head east
If your sights are set on Paris or London, be prepared to spend a pretty penny. Instead, use this opportunity to see Eastern Europe for at least part of your trip. According to McDonald, “Starting or ending your trip in Eastern European cities like Budapest or Warsaw can also be a great way to save on the international fare part of your budget since prices tend to trend lower.”
According to the 2019 Europe Backpacker Index, Eastern European cities are considerably cheaper than their western counterparts while still rich in cultural offerings. A day in Krakow, Poland will cost you approximately $31, while a day in Venice, Italy will cost around $115.
3. Avoid major airports
Do a little digging, and you might just find another cheaper airport outside the city center. “When it comes to touching down in some of the world’s larger destinations, it’s likely that there will be more than one airport on offer,” Corwin said. Beyond London’s Heathrow, you have Gatwick, Luton and Stansted, and beyond Charles de Gaulle, Paris offers Beauvais-Tillé and Orly Airport.
She recommended that before you book, check all the available arrival points and include the cost of transfers into town in your final calculation. In-house data from Hopper found that you can save an average of 10 percent by going the alternate airport route.
4. Take advantage of intra-Europe flights and trains
When we think of Europe, the most iconic big cities might come to mind, like Paris and London. But those routes all contain markups. Another way to save on entering a major European city, according to Corwin, is to choose an airport in a city that’s a little more under the radar. Think, for example, flying into Nice instead of Paris or Manchester instead of London. To get to your final destination, cut down on costs by taking advantage of intra-Europe flights or trains. Look into flights from European budget airlines like easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling, and budget train rides from HappyRail, Rail Europe, and Eurail.