[Rick Seaney is the CEO and cofounder of FareCompare, and columnist for Investopedia. The views expressed by columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Investopedia.]
Flying to Europe used to be expensive, but there were always a few bargains like Dublin, sometimes Zurich and, more recently, the Scandinavian cities. The Big Three of course were never cheap. Until now. If you want to go to Europe this summer, look at London, Paris and Rome.
Paris has been especially cheap for a while now, while the price of tickets to London began moving into bargain territory in the fall, followed by surprising discounts to Rome. Check out these airfares; all were found on Feb. 20, 2018, for travel in July. Yes, peak summer season.
- London: From New York, $520; Boston, $546; Los Angeles, $570; Chicago, $611.
- Paris: From Boston, $457; New York, $481; Miami, $513; Los Angeles, $545.
- Rome: From New York, $499; Los Angeles, $612; Boston, $621; Miami, $650.
If you are hoping these fares represent the easiest and most convenient trips possible, some do! But most of the deals include some trade-offs, even some sacrifices in comfort. These guidelines on finding cheap flights to London, Paris and Rome will make this apparent. For more, see When Is a Deal Not a Deal?
Fly an Unfamiliar Airline
Sure, sometimes American, Delta and United have the best deals, but increasingly it’s less familiar airlines called Wow Air, Norwegian, Turkish or Iberia. These transatlantic discounters can save you a pile of money, but they also charge fees for everything from carry-ons to a cup of coffee so add those in when calculating your airfare total.
Accept a Longer Travel Day
Only a few of the fares shown above are for nonstop flights and there’s a reason for that: Direct flights cost too much (or can). A good example is the Miami–Paris route, which costs $513 if you don’t mind a stop, and $1,000+ if you do mind.
Fly on Weekdays
Generally speaking, the days of the week matter when you fly. For flights within the U.S., deal days are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. If visiting Europe, the best days to fly are usually weekdays, as opposed to weekends. Use a deal-finding tool that seeks out the cheapest day of the month or season you’d like to fly, but be warned: Others are looking for these "cheapest days in July" deals, so if you do see something you like, be prepared to buy almost immediately. These Travel Days Get You the Cheapest Flights will give you more tips.
And If You Want Another City...
But what if you don’t want to go to London, Paris or Rome? You’ve already been and want to visit another part of Europe; okay, try this.
Book two flights
Use that deal-finding tool to see which is the cheapest European city from your town and call that flight #1. Now, look for a deal from there to the city you really want to see; there are loads of European discounters that can make the perfect flight #2. Add them together to see how much the two roundtrip fares will cost you; it could be a lot less than flying directly from your city.
Take the train, rent a car
Fly to a cheap European city near your ultimate destination. Then, take the train, which is an excellent and economical mode of transportation. If you’re the adventurous sort, rent a car. Both options give you a better sense of time and place, not to mention all that lovely scenery.
Forget Conventional Wisdom
Don’t just go to Wow Air’s website to book a flight because it was mentioned here as a "discounter." Yeah, it usually is pretty cheap, but it may not come close to a bargain on your route; heck, it may not even fly to your destination.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Always shop on a comparison search site for airfares. It’s the only way to be sure you’re getting a deal.