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 Europe, TravelZoo, 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.
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!