A European summer vacation is a dream trip for a lot of people. The only problem these days is that it seems everyone in the U.S. has the same idea. Flights and hotel rooms can be more costly in the summer months, and crowds in city centers are off-putting.
Never fear. We have a few hacks up our sleeves at CheapAir.com that will help you enjoy Europe without added stress and cost.
1. Flexibility is Your Friend
Unless there is a specific reason you need to be in Copenhagen (or wherever) on July 7th, we recommend keeping your flight dates as open as possible to capitalize on any sales and deals that pop up. Likewise, trying to get the most convenient flight time or connecting flight schedule is fine – but since everyone else is also looking to optimize convenience those flights can be even pricier. Bottom line: if you can keep your travel dates and flight preferences open, you’ll likely be able to snap up a good fare.
2. Fly into a Major Hub
London and Paris are great options for inexpensive flights because of the sheer volume of flights they support. Both cities are also very well connected with the rest of Europe via discount airline – meaning you could get a super cheap flight into London on United and then add on a flight to Vienna via one of these low cost carriers for hundreds less than a ticket straight through to Vienna might cost you. Keep in mind some of the discount European carriers fly out of other airports (London is serviced by three regional airports – Gatwick, Stansted and Luton). This may mean you have to plan to stay over a night in London or hustle from Heathrow to another airport around the city. Some travelers are more than willing to make this adjustment for the deep savings – and it offers you the opportunity to see another city as well!
3. Avoid the Weekend
Flying mid-week is generally more affordable than the weekend. Again, this is true mainly because more people prefer to travel on the weekend, which drives up demand and subsequently, the prices. Other perks of flying mid-week? Less crowded flights and airports.
4. Make “Mix it Up” Your Mantra
On Cheapair.com, we offer a unique way to buy flights that often gives you the lowest price ticket. You can “Mix and Match” fares so that your outbound flight may be with one airline and you return on another. Our data shows that the best fares are often available when you book this way.
5. Late Summer Saves
The most expensive summer months to travel are June and especially July. Airfares to Europe start to drop off in August and September, when college students go back to school and when most Americans don’t travel to Europe. If you can swing it, late August and September are great times to see the continent at a better price and with fewer crowds. What’s not to like about that?
Once you’ve made it onto the continent, there are also a few ways to minimize spending and maximize the fun.
6. Take a Break from the Big Cities
To keep costs down on your accommodation budget, we recommend spending three days in a big city, and then taking a breather of a day trip or overnight into a smaller town nearby. Prague is now on everyone’s “must” list and in July especially it can really feel like half of Europe and the U.S. is trying to visit the tiny old town at once! But if you build in a side trip to the charming little village of Cesky Krumlov and get out into the countryside for a city break, you’ll likely find yourself refreshed (not to mention cheaper prices found in little towns are much easier on the wallet).
7. Go Deeper
A lot of people come to Europe and try to cram in three, four even five countries or more in a slim amount of time. Instead of spending your two-week vacation rushing from one city and country to another, we recommend focusing on one city or region. This will save you on transportation costs and also allow you to really get to know a particular place. You can either choose a small country like Ireland, so that you can make the capital your home base and spend your time visiting the smaller places all around the country, or visit a larger country like Spain where you can explore a particular region, like Catalonia.
8. Be Thoughtful About Dining Options
Lunches are always a better deal in a restaurant, so if you’re a real foodie, we recommend making lunch your biggest meal of the day to save on pricey dinners. In some destinations like Italy, you’ll pay more for a meal if you sit down at a table rather than ordering from the counter and taking your lunch to go. Finally, when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery, why not grab a bottle of local wine, and whatever local cheeses and breads you can find in the supermarket. Europe is a food lover’s dream – you can find many local favorites in the shops without ever stepping foot into expensive dining establishments.
9. Sleep by a train station
Wait a minute. Hear us out! If you’re on a budget, the low cost hotels are generally going to be located near the airports and train stations, not city center. And while we understand the pull to be “central,” as long as you’re near a metro line in most cities worldwide, you’re going to be easily connected to downtown.
10. Skip the cab
These days you really shouldn’t feel funny about going a different way on transportation from the airport. Taxis are the most expensive option and most airports offer cheaper shuttles and trains straight into the center of town. If you still feel the pull toward a more personalized experience (or you just have a lot of bags) Uber is found in many cities across Europe.