5 Tips For Finding Cheap Flights To Europe

Posted in: Budget Air Travel


A Ryanair plane on the runway. Photo: wicho.
A Ryanair plane on the runway. Photo: wicho.

We enjoy spending time researching Europe’s newest discount airlines and perpetuating our love / hate relationship with Ryanair.

However, we often hear from fellow Cheapos “Hey, how do I find cheap flights from the U.S. to Europe?” and thought we’d put together a list of a few of our favorite ways to nab a cheap international ticket. Admittedly, some require more flexibility and planning than others, but we bet that if you test a few of these out you’ll be able to uncover several good deals that meet your budget.

1. First Stop: Meta-search engines

Tired of opening multiple browsers and tabs to search the same route on individual airline sites? Then try out some of the new breed of travel search engines that consolidate prices from many suppliers all within a single search. Some have more filtering functionality and personal preferences than others, but a few of our favorites that we recommend trying out include Kayak.com, Mobissimo.com, Farecast.com, and FareChase.com.

UPDATE – We were contacted by a representative from cFares.com, inviting us to test their meta-search engine against the others we mentioned. While we aren’t as familiar with cFares, the initial flight results we’ve seen for international roundtrips are competitive and are another worthwhile option to consider.

2. Don’t forget about points!

While we love the technical sophistication of the meta-search engines, sometimes the best place to look for decent international airfares is right in your back pocket. Most major credit card companies offer point-based loyalty programs that can be redeemed for discounted airfare, upgrades, and other travel perks. Granted, these programs are notoriously complex and can try the patience of even the calmest Cheapo, but hang in there – it’s worth it! And while you’re at it, do some investigation on the best airfare reward programs out there by using FlyerTalk’s “Miles & Points” forum or listening to the Upgrd frequent flyer podcast.

3. Feeling flexible?

Another helpful way to monitor fire-sale deals from your local airport is to sign up for email alerts on travel sites that actively monitor recently released deals. There are a wide range of alerts that you can sign up for — Cheapo Tip: don’t sign up for too many or you’ll drive yourself nuts — and this is a fine option for the frequent traveler who is always on the hunt for a good bargain. A few of our recommended sites include Airfarewatchdog, which provides discount codes for reduced rates, Bootsnall for cheap flights to EuropeTravelZoo, and SmarterTravel.

4. Why not connect?

Sure, having a connection on an international flight isn’t ideal. But it sure can save a lot of money! By showing just a little flexibility and allowing a single connection (and don’t get us started on two!), you can shave off big bucks from your price. And after all, what’s wrong with spending a little quality time at the Leif Ericson air terminal?

5. Name your price

Who doesn’t like to gamble a bit? On sites like Priceline.com, travelers can set their own bid price for airfare tickets and see if it is “accepted” by any of Priceline’s partners. The catch? You must first enter your credit card information and if your bid is accepted you automatically buy the ticket. Also, the airlines will choose your flight times, not you. Thus, there’s a chance your trip could start at 5am or go as late as 2am the next day. But then again, just like gambling, sometimes the big bets pay off.

Other tips?

What other tips do you use to find cheap flights to Europe? Tell us (and your fellow Cheapos) by adding your suggestions in the comments below – the more the merrier!

About the author

Pete Meyers

About the author: An Ohio native, Pete Meyers was bred on family road trips and the Beach Boys. When not working at EuroCheapo HQ in NYC, Pete likes to be found eating bouillabaisse anywhere in the south of France.

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4 thoughts on “5 Tips For Finding Cheap Flights To Europe”

  1. My recommendation to get lowest airfare:
    1. Start with Cheap Air (use promo code to save)
    2. Search Jet Blue and Southwest Vacations (Southwest gives a significant discount on airfare when booked with hotel).
    3. Check the old-schoolers: Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, HolidayTravel.co
    4. For good measure (and to be sure) check HolidayTravel.co, CheapOair, Hotwire, Priceline, Mobissimo, and Trabber.
    5. If you need to book a hotel with your flight, definitely check Southwest Vacations. They offer some of the best combo deals when purchased with Southwest airline tickets and they’re not available on the other sites.

  2. Kayak.com has a cool feature that can help find cheap flights specifically to Europe. From the Homepage select the “Buzz” option from the lefthand side of the screen. The search option it brings up allows you to put in your home airport and select “Europe” as the destination; you can then specify a month and a max price to search for. Results will display fair options during the month and price range specified to major European cities.

  3. Know your airports. The fact of the matter is that some hubs are cheaper than others. Flying into Frankfurt or Munich is almost always cheaper than flying into Berlin and London will typically save you big bucks over Paris. Headed to Venice or Rome, try flying into Munich instead, spend a couple days in Germany then move on. Of course you’ll have to weigh the cost of transportation once you’re on the ground and on to your next destination but like always in Europe, flexibility is the key. Try out a few airports near where you are going (in the same country or right across the border) and see which might save you a some money. Then, take a look at alternate airports around your departure city (some of those meta-search sites can automatically check this). Trial and error is a fact of life for travelers on a budget but the savings can be well worth it.

  4. Hi Pete,

    http://www.WhichBudget.com is a global budget airlines search engine. We have put together routes flown from the Americas to Europe by budget airlines such as Aer Lingus, Air Berlin, Meridiana/Eurofly, Air Transat and several other low-cost/charter airlines. See http://www.whichbudget.com/cheapflights.php?from=JFK for example.

    We have also compiled a list of other transatlantic airlines (not only budget ones) on our dedicated website: http://www.AtlanticHoppers.travel – also features news and special offers from the likes of American Airlines, BA, Air France, etc.



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