How to Find Cheap Airfare to Europe

Finding cheap airfare to Europe can seem like a daunting task, even in spite of the plethora of Internet travel search engines promising you the “best deals.” These search engines can certainly help, but finding cheap airfare to Europe requires a little more effort than merely that. In order to accomplish this goal, you must plan ahead, but you should also remain flexible on travel dates, carriers, and additional flight details.


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    Plan ahead. At minimum, you should try booking your flight two to three weeks before you plan on leaving to lock in the best price, but booking between six to eight weeks in advance is ideal. Rising oil prices mean that airlines are also raising their fees, and ticket prices are more likely to go up than down as more time passes.
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    Go during an off season. Major holidays are busy travel seasons, and August tends to be the busiest vacation month for Europeans. As a result, airline tickets increase in price around these dates. The cheapest prices to Europe tend to fall out in the middle of winter, excluding the gap of time between Christmas and New Years, with moderate prices falling out in the spring and fall.
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    Depart and return in the middle of the week. Most people fly over the weekend, so weekend tickets cost a lot more than tickets with departure dates set in the middle of the week. The lowest prices generally fall out on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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    Fly to London first. From London, fly to your final destination. Flights to London are cheaper than flights to other European cities and countries, and flights from London to another European destination are also significantly cheaper than flights to that destination from the United States or Canada. You can usually save money by making these two separate flights instead of flying direct to your final European destination.
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    Shop around, but focus on travel websites that make their money through advertising. Travel websites that allow you to compare airline prices can help you find the lowest price relatively quickly, but some search websites are better than others.
    • Some websites have an affiliation with certain airlines, making their results biased.
    • Travel websites that make their money via bookings charge airlines a booking commission to display results from their company. As a result, these websites may not display budget carriers that refuse to pay such a fee.
    • Websites that make their money through advertising have no reason to filter out results and generally offer the most reliable, honest search results.
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    Search through a wide range of booking websites, especially international ones. Booking websites based in the United States do not often have listings for all the small airlines scattered across Europe. International booking websites will probably include more of these airlines, especially websites based in the region of Europe you plan on visiting.
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    Check out an airline's European websites. Prices for the same flight can vary depending on where you book it, and you can book a flight from another country's website. If your favorite airline has a website based in your destination country, start there. Otherwise, you can simply search British versions of an airline website and plan on making two separate flights.
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    Try a charter flight. A charter airline leases an airplane for a specific date and route. They charge a low price, which often dips even lower as the flight date gets closer, but the flight can be cancelled at the last moment if they do not sell enough seats to make a profit.
    • Since flights rely on a large number of passengers, this option works best if you plan on flying to a major destination, like London, Paris, or Rome. You may not be able to find a charter flight to a less common European destination.
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    Buy a consolidator ticket. Wholesalers sometimes purchase large sums of tickets for flights predicted to sell out. In turn, they usually sell these consolidator tickets to travelers at a reduced price and still manage to make a profit doing so.
    • Like charter flights, consolidator tickets are easier to find for popular European destinations but harder to find for smaller locations that do not attract much tourism.
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    Book with secondary airports. Secondary airports are smaller than primary airports and charge smaller landing fees. As a result, low-cost carriers are more likely to fly from a secondary airport.
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    Consider a frequent flier program. Even if you do not fly "frequently," joining an airline rewards program is a good idea as long as you plan on flying more than once in your life. You earn points with each flight involved in the program, and with enough points, you can earn discounts and free tickets. Many of these programs can be used with international carriers, as well, including many European ones.
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    Sign up for e-newsletters and mailing lists to find last minute deals. Airlines and travel search engines that have e-mail mailing lists often send their subscribers information on last-minute travel deals. Many of the available discounts are only offered for a limited time, and individuals not subscribed to the mailing list risk not hearing about them in time.


  • Set your ticket budget and stick to it. Determine how much of your overall travel budget you can afford to spend on airfare and search until you find a price that meets your needs. You can still continue shopping around for lower prices afterward, but having a set figure in mind can focus your initial efforts.


  • Know who you’re dealing with when you purchase airfare at a discount. Scammers exist in nearly all fields of commerce, and travel purchases are no exception. While airfare scams are not necessarily widespread, you should still do your research on a company offering you a deal before making the purchase.
  • Know who you’re flying with. While low-cost carriers may be able to offer you a great price for a ticket to Europe, they may not always be reliable. Many low-cost carriers are of fine quality, but many others are not. Look up reviews and records before booking with a carrier, especially if you have never heard of the carrier before.

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