Whether you’re looking for a family vacation, romantic trip, or backpacking experience, Europe is tough to beat as a summer destination. The trouble is, airfares can be crazy expensive. In order to help get you there a little more cheaply, we’ve done a  deep analysis of summer air fare patterns to Europe using both 2013 and early 2014 data. Here are some tips we’ve uncovered:

1. Book Early

Unlike most domestic routes where booking too early can be almost as big a mistake as booking too late, the dynamic for summer flights to Europe is different. From 2012 to 2013 we looked at  over 190 million  fares, covering 75 origin cities and 29  destination cities across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. We analyzed fares for flights departing between June 1 and August 31 booked between one and 320 days in advance. To our surprise, we found that the best time to book was 319 days before departure on average – about ten and a half months in advance! As the graph below shows, fares stayed reasonably flat until about 7 months in advance, but then started climbing. From that point on, they just got higher and higher and really never looked back.

Summer Europe flights chart

2. Be Flexible on Travel Days

Like with all trips, the exact travel dates you pick can make a really big difference. That’s especially true to Europe where the fares are so high that a 5% savings is significant and a 10% drop can be well over $100 per ticket. Saturdays are generally the most expensive days to fly, followed by Friday and Sunday, and then Monday and Thursday. Tuesday and Wednesday are the cheapest. But there are all sorts of anomalies. Some days flights might be more expensive to your destination because there is a big group on board taking up all of the lowest fare seats. So don’t assume that the fare you see for the first set of dates you check is the fare you have to pay. Check as many combinations of dates as you can, you’re likely to see big differences.

3. Consider Alternate Airports

Sometimes the cities that you fly from or to can have a big impact on your fare. On the U.S. side, try to fly from a major city, if you can. You typically pay a premium on Europe flights when you fly out of a small airport. If you live near a small airport but there is a larger airport within driving distance, the drive may be worth it.

At the other end, bear in mind that some cities in Europe tend to be less expensive than others. Where the best deals are vary every year, but we’ve looked at fares found in the last month and here are the average low fares by destination:

City Avg. Low Fare
Dublin $1,183
Brussels $1,340
Madrid $1,353
Milan $1,387
Barcelona $1,410
Budapest $1,425
Manchester $1,431
London $1,447
Paris $1,457
Frankfurt $1,464
Zurich $1,471
Amsterdam $1,513
Rome $1,536
Athens $1,538
Munich $1,546
Venice $1,559

Another point to consider: Europe has some great low cost airlines. If you are going to a particularly expensive city, once in a while you will come out ahead by buying a ticket to a major gateway, like London, and then buying a separate ticket on a European carrier to get to your final destination. These low cost European carriers, that only fly within Europe, are not available on CheapAir.com or most U.S. web sites, so you typically have to go to them directly. Two examples are RyanAir (www.ryanair.com) and Easyjet (www.easyjet.com).

4. Go Early or Go Late

As of now, there is a big difference in prices depending on which part of the summer you travel in. The best fares available are for travel in the later part of August. (September would be even better, but that’s outside of our study.) If late summer doesn’t work for you, very early summer isn’t too bad, either. By very early, we mean the early part of June. Prices are at their peak from about mid-June to mid-August so if you can avoid those that will be great. Of course, we realize that’s the bulk of the summer, so for many of you that won’t be possible.

5. Fly Into One City, Out of Another

If you’re planning to travel to multiple countries, sometimes it makes sense to pick where to begin and end your trip based on the cities with the lowest air fares. Also, keep in mind that you can usually fly into one city and out of another without paying a penalty for doing so – the fare ends up being just an average of the two prices. So if you are planning a trip across Europe where you start in London and end in Rome, don’t feel you need to buy a round trip ticket and then get yourself back to London. You can buy an “open jaw” ticket that goes into London and out of Rome which will save you time and money in the long run.


  1. Hi! We are planning to go to milan in august..i found just today a price of $4660 for the whole family..we are family of 5 with 3 kids: 7,5 and 2..its the lowest price ive seen so far so im wondering if its the best time to book..please help me..and i hope you can reply asap..thank you so much! We are flying from winnipeg..aug2-15..i tried searching for the ave flighg price and its 1260..

    • Hi Kay, is that the Canadian price or the U.S. price? I see a price of $1185/ticket USD which translates to $1528/ticket CAD. Are you planning on having the two year old fly as a lap child? To be honest, it’s a little early to buy but if you want to assure the lowest fare and have the family all guaranteed to sit together, you might consider buying sooner rather than later. August is high season for north Americans traveling to Europe. If these fares have seemed static for a while, you might wait until just after the holidays when any sale fares are likely to come up. Otherwise, if you’re seeing incremental increases, you should plan to buy soon.

  2. Excited to be planning a trip to Ireland the first eeek of August. What is the best time to purchase tickets on a very limited budget?

  3. Hi,

    We are going fromToronto to Rome for an August vacation. When should we book? The price of flights seem to be fluctuating. Up, down, up. The flight prices seem to follow the Canadian dollar if the dollar drops the prices increase. What do you think?

    • Hi Ali, It’s good you’re looking right now though it’s difficult to say exactly when the best time to buy will be this year. Last year, the best prices to most European cities from North America were obtained about 120 days out, on average. Of course, the summer months are more expensive so you should buy sooner. Keep an eye on the fares and be prepared to buy as soon as the fares EITHER dip or start a small, incremental climb.

  4. Hi,I’m planning to give my family a surprise by arranging 1st class air fares and bookings in the best hotels of at least 5 countries in Europe for a month and a half.I want to avail the best and maximum money saving opportunity for this.

    • Hi Maryam, The trip sounds wonderful! Do you have any idea on cities you’d like to visit and how long you would like to stay in each place? This could help us provide you with some good recommendations. It would also be helpful if you could share the time of year you would like to travel.

  5. Hi! My family and I are planning a European cruise for either this July or August. When is the cheapest time to book the airfare for a trip to Europe?

    • Hi Arlene, You’re going to Europe in high season, so unfortunately the really good deals are going to be few and far between. If you REALLY want to explore your options, search on a ticket from the new York area to your destination and then back in your domestic travel to get you to the New York area. Sometimes you can get $400 fares from New York, even during high season just because they do so much volume. It’s worth it to look. But don’t wait too long. July is high season and prices will continue to climb.

  6. Hi! We are a group of 17 (2 flying from Chicago, the rest from Miami, FL) flying to Venice on either July 11 or July 12 and returning July 23rd. When would you recommend we book our flights?

    • Hi Isela, The sooner the better! Flights to Europe in July are going to be expensive and popular so start the search early. We recommend the group form Miami booking a group ticket to get the best fares (direct with the airlines), but all of you should plan to start the search soon. July is a popular and expensive month for North American travel to Europe and Venice is, of course, a very popular destination.

  7. Hi, i am going to europe in summer 2017 im on a tight budget and i just want to get the absolute cheapest flights. i have to leave sometime between june 26 and july1 and return in the second or third week of august. i need to fly in to either munich or vienna but i can leave from pretty much anywhere in europe. From what i have found just by looking up prices on expedia and other places is that the tickets seem to be cheapest like 2 or 3 months out. the prices for tickets in late june and august is about $200-$300 dollars more than in march. Is this because it is longer away in the year or just because its more expensive to fly in the summer and will it go up in price as time goes on? When should i book? And my flight dates and airports are pretty flexible so when and where would it be the cheapest for my Trip? Thanks so much

    • Hi Johny, Tickets in from late May to August are going to be more expensive (often by 2 to a few hundred dollars) because North Americans travel to Europe in the summer. You’re not likely to see the fares you see now going down the closer we get to your travel dates, but you’re very likely to see the fares go up. I wouldn’t even start looking until you’re ready to pull the trigger though, because it will only stress you out. With very few exceptions, you should plan to buy as soon as possible. Exceptions: If you’re flying from the New York or Los Angeles areas (where VERY occasionally you might see sales to Europe because of the volume of flights departing daily). As for what cities to fly into – it’s hard to say. London, Barcelona, Istanbul and Athens are all good starting (and ending) points for the budget traveler. Sometimes Berlin, Paris and Milan offer decent fares. Scandinavian countries are usually more expensive, as are smaller, popular destinations like Venice and Krakow. Not to muddy the waters further for you, but another good strategy for budget travelers is to fly in and out of a large city like London and then use one of the low cost european carriers to get you back there before you fly home. RyanAir and easyJet are all well-connected to London and offer quite cheap fares pretty much year round. Good luck to you.

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