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Getting a Great Fare on Eurfirst Trip to Europe

Revised June 11, 2010

There are many choices for air travel to Europe. What you will pay we be based on

  • When you are going
  • How long you are staying
  • Where you are going
  • Whether you arrive and depart from the same airport
  • How many other tourists are travelling during that season
  • How you buy your tickets
  • Whether you can be flexible on departure and return
  • Whether you can fly on a non-refundable ticket
  • Whether you are a student and can qualify for those discounts

Recent changes in the airline industry have driven up airfares, but if you start looking for tickets a few months in advance and have some flexibility, you can still find some deals. Count on paying at least double the airfare for a business class ticket and roughly three times the price for a first class seat. The additional comfort, service and leg space is certainly enviable, but when I have to choose, I opt for a second trip to Europe over the extra comfort on the trip over. For less than the price of the comfy seat, give yourself an additional day in your arrival city, catch up on your sleep, do a bit of sightseeing and you'll be hundreds of dollars ahead for the rest of your vacation. You may also choose an airline that offers more leg space in coach seats or pay the additional price some carriers are charging for the most comfortable seats in coach. On our most recent trip (2006) to Europe, we flew to Europe on United which had cramped leg space in coach and then continued to Germany on British Airlines which had ample room for our very long legs. If space is truly a concern, get detailed information about space before you book your room.

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Your trip to Europe is a good time to use frequent flyer miles to upgrade to the next level of service. Check with the program to see what levels of upgrade are available. Again, you are trading other possible airline trips for comfort on the flight over. Whether that makes sense depends on your size, your need for sleep and how likely you are to use the miles if you don't use them for the upgrade.

Start your search for airfares at an online travel site:

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This will give you a general idea of the price of the tickets. Be sure to use a date that is close to the date that you would like because prices reach their highest in the summer and are the lowest during the dark days of winter. You may also want to sign up for alerts that notify you if the price of tickets drops.

Generally, you will save money if you leave and return midweek. This is one of the ways the people with flexible travel options can get lower fares.

If you have the option, you can save money on airfare by traveling in the spring or fall when fewer tourists are crossing the Atlantic. Even better prices are available in the winter season but the short days, limited hours at tourist attractions and cold temperatures make it a less pleasant time to visit. If you are committed to a specific season, you may still save money if you have some flexibility in your plans. Summer travelers will get a better deal if they can start their trip in late May or early June rather than mid-June. You may also want to see if you get a better price if you book a trip that returns after September 14, which will typically be less expensive than prime summer travel.

Generally, you are going to pay more if you stay in Europe for more than a month. Current ticket fares usually are based on a return trip scheduled in less than 31 days and you pay significantly more if you stay over a month during the summer. Checking current fares from my home town, air tickets were almost 50% more expensive for a six week stay than they were for a two week stay.

Once you have a general price of the tickets, you may want to search for an even better price with an online travel agent.

If you are going to more than one major city in Europe, you may find that you can save money if you opt for one major city rather than another. For example, if you are going to England and Ireland, you may find that it is cheaper to fly into Dublin than London. Depending on the number of people flying, you may find substantial savings between arrival airports. If you are asking a travel site to check fares, sign up for more than one arrival location if possible.

If you are traveling to Europe on an exchange program or while you are a college or high school student, there are many discounts you are eligible. Start by checking with you college exchange program coordinators who should have names of organizations and travel agents who can get you a great price on the tickets. When our son traveled to Germany for a semester-long exchange, the college referred us to an agent who beat online prices by 30%.

PACKAGE TRIPS:If you only have limited time, you many consider a package which, when the cost of hotel rooms are included, may be less expensive than booking the whole trip independently. It is important to note, however, that many airline travel packages require that you book all of your nights of lodging with them to get the break on the ticket price. That is fine if you are flying to Paris, London or Berlin for a week but if you plan to go wandering throughout Europe, these packages may not meet your needs.

Fare Buzz Military Discount

For more ideas, go to the discussion of recent news about airfares and hotel rates.