Have you noticed lately that the cost of flying to Europe seems higher than ever? With the downfall of many of the low-cost carriers, the continuation of never-ending inflation, and the post-pandemic rebound of travel, it feels like finding cheap flights to popular destinations on the other side of the pond is becoming impossible.
While finding cheap Europe flights has indeed become more difficult, it’s not impossible. Great deals are still out there and available to travelers who know how, where, and when to look.
In order to find cheap airfares, it’s more essential than ever to be familiar with the best tools and tricks. Travelers looking to snag a cheap Europe flight should be signed up for a fare finder like Going and perform manual searches on a site like Skyscanner. Plus, there are loads of other facts to know and tricks to try in order to secure the cheapest flight possible.
As you plan your dream getaway to the continent of old towns, picturesque countryside, and idyllic Mediterranean beaches, follow these tips to ensure your wallet isn’t empty upon landing. You’ll appreciate having the extra Euros on hand when the server asks if you’d like another Aperol Spritz.
1. Sign Up for a Flight Deal Finder
To begin, let’s make sure you are signed up for the simplest and least time-consuming way to find flights at the best price; deal-finding services.
Rather than sit in front of your computer for an unknown amount of time to run endless searches, wouldn’t you rather someone else do it for you? That is a reality, and it really is one of the best ways to get the cheapest ticket with the least effort.
Flight deal finders have real people working around the clock with the sole task of finding amazing flight deals. Here are some of the best:
Here’s how it works – when you sign up, you tell them which airport or airports you are able to depart from. Then, you simply wait. When there’s a deal that’s notably great, they will send you an email immediately with the information, which you can use to take a look yourself and take action if you want to buy it.
If you’re too anxious to wait, Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) has a great feature that allows you to go on and see the best deals they’ve been finding lately. You can also input a specific destination and see the average price they’ve been finding.
They find flight deals to European countries quite often, especially from the east coast, particularly from John F. Kennedy International Airport. I find that the majority are roundtrip flights, but one-way options do appear from time to time. If you want to receive all the Europe flight deals that you can, make sure you are signed up for one of these.
2. Use a Flight Search Engine
Now that the tip requiring the least effort is out of the way, let’s move on to the tools needed to actually put in the work. Flight search engines are especially important when going to Europe, as there are more potential airlines serving the route and airports in the region, and you are less likely to know who they all are.
Rather than going to your favorite airline’s website and plugging in some dates and a route, head straight to a flight search engine and search way more in a lot less time. With one click, you’ll see prices for every airline operating the route, the lowest price possible, and much more. These sites are some of the best, in no particular order:
- Momondo and Kayak (same company and similar layout, although I typically prefer Kayak)
- Google Flights
Each of them allows you to find flights without knowing which airlines fly your route, immediately showing who can offer you the best deal. If you have specific needs like a departure or arrival time, a maximum number of stops, baggage needs, and more, you can also add filters to see only what applies.
There are a ton of other functionalities, like using flexible travel dates and alternative airports, which we’ll elaborate on further below. I have one important tip for using flight search engines, though: when it comes time to book flights, go straight to the airline’s website and make the purchase there. The search engine is great for finding a deal, but as for actually buying your plane ticket, you don’t want to be dealing with a third party.
See Related: Best Skyscanner Alternatives to Book Travel
3. Set Up Deal Alerts
As you probably know, airfare fluctuates unpredictably, and Europe flight prices are no exception. The flight search engines mentioned above all offer deal alert notifications that can keep you informed when the lowest prices are found.
The difference between this and services like Going is that you need to configure the alerts manually rather than receive all the best deals from your airport. You’ll need to set a departure point, destination, and, depending on your preference, some dates. Then, the sites can let you know when there are significant price changes.
Another major difference is that you won’t only receive low price alerts, but rather all major price changes. If your preferred flights to Europe go up in price, you will receive that (unfortunate) notification, too. This can be equally as useful.
How you use these deal alerts will depend on the specifics of your trip. You may have the dates and destination already set with no major changes possible, in which case your deal alert is simple.
If you aren’t decided on a destination or are quite flexible on dates, you have more to set up and more potential deals to be found. Either way, this is a highly useful trick.
See Related: Best Ways to Get Cheap Flight Alerts
4. Search With Flexible Dates
Sometimes, your vacation time is set in stone and there’s no way to change it. But if that’s not the case, try to have any degree of flexibility with your travel dates. Opening the door to more flights on more days only increases your chances of finding cheap flights to Europe.
Your flexibility in dates can range from extreme to limited, and either way can have a significant impact on your results. At one extreme, you may have no dates at all in mind and simply want to find a cheap time of the year to go to Europe – in this case, sites like Momondo and Kayak can show you the cheapest month to travel and even the cheapest days within it.
At the other extreme, you might be able to leave a day late, return a day early, or otherwise adjust your schedule slightly. The same sites can show you a grid of departure and return dates with every combination in between, yielding the lowest price of them all. The same is possible with one-way flights.
You never know what could be causing an extremely high price one day but a significantly lower one just the next day – things like holidays, special events, and other things happening at your destination can cause this. Another factor is that airlines don’t fly every route every day. For example, TAP Air Portugal only flies to San Francisco a few days per week – try to search for yourself and see just how much that can impact prices from one day to the next.
5. Don’t Filter for Direct Flights Only!
One thing that surprises many travelers is that a direct flight is NOT always the cheapest – in fact, it’s often the most expensive. While most people prefer to just get on one plane and not have to worry about connecting, filtering your search results for direct flights only is not a good way to find cheap flights to Europe.
The reason is simple: airlines know that travelers prefer to fly direct and will charge a premium for it. They also know that business travelers are less sensitive to prices and more likely to travel based on convenience, and therefore set these prices higher. That’s why this rule holds especially true on business-heavy routes.
For example, take a look at flights from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow. My results show that a number of airlines offer convenient nonstop flights, including United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, and American Airlines. However, I could save almost $300 by choosing to fly with Aer Lingus and having a stop of under 90 minutes in Dublin – that’s enough to cover 2-5 hotel nights in London.
Therefore, as tempted as you may be, try not to check the “direct flights only” box on your flight search engine in order to severely constrain your potential deals. If it happens to be that the cheapest routes are nonstop, then all the better.
6. Consider the Destination’s Low Season
If the most important part of the trip is truly the price of your plane ticket, traveling in the off-season is an easy way to get a deal. The peak seasons around Europe are not all the same, and the cheapest month for one destination is not necessarily the same as another.
For Greece and the Mediterranean, the high season is between June and August, when there’s pleasant weather for swimming and sunbathing under the hot summer sun. If these activities aren’t important to you, and you’re just interested in seeing the ancient treasures of Athens or Rome, you can get a serious deal in the fall and winter months.
Northern countries are more expensive in the summer, too, as tourists can explore in the warmth. However, the height of winter isn’t the cheapest in some places – it’s peak ski season in the Swiss Alps, for example, and prime Northern Lights viewing season in Iceland and Norway.
As a general rule, remember that Europe is most expensive in the summer, but always do your research for other seasonal peaks. My best tip is to travel in May, June, and September, as you’ll get perfect weather and great deals. The picture above is from the famous Fyriplaka Beach in Milos in June – nearly empty.
7. Use Alternative Airport Choices
Don’t ever forget to include all possible nearby airports in your searches and alerts. This includes checking the appropriate box on flight search engines, as well as adding multiple airports to your profile on Scott’s Cheap Flights and similar sites.
Using a nearby secondary airport can have a huge effect on your search results. Some major airports are simply more expensive for airlines to operate from, and nearby alternatives might be cheaper and offer a wider range of carriers. They also usually open the door to low-cost carriers.
This is especially important in western Europe. For example, we all know Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport – but the smaller Orly Airport is usually much cheaper to fly into. Budget airline French Bee operates from here, and Air France has a daily flight to New York, too.
It’s even easier to enter a special city code for the destination, eliminating the need to check the box. Enter PAR to search all airports in Paris, or NYC to search all of New York City. My favorite example is LON, which includes not only London Heathrow, but Gatwick Airport, Stansted, Luton, London City, and even Southend. That’s six airports for three letters.
See Related: How Early Should I Arrive at the Airport?
8. Search with Multiple Airports
Yes, this is different than the above tip. Most flight search engines, including Kayak and Google Flights, will allow you to specify more than one airport manually, and they don’t even need to be related. It’s a great feature if you plan to visit multiple cities and your final destination is flexible.
To use this function, click on the little plus sign in the destination field on the search form. You can continue adding airports to however many are applicable to you, and your results will include the cheapest of them all!
For example, let’s say that in your two-week trip, you plan to visit Madrid, Barcelona, and Rome, but you don’t really care about the order. It makes sense to determine which is the cheapest city to arrive and depart from like this. Or maybe you just want to be on any Greek island eating pita and gyros – plug in the airports for all the Greek islands you can think of!
Note that this also works with the full-city codes mentioned above, so you can plug in LON and PAR together if you want the cheapest city escape you can find. You won’t believe how quick it is to see the cheapest routes to nine different airports.
9. Try Searching for One-Way Flights
Sometimes, it pays off to search for your departure and return flights separately rather than standard round-trip flights. However, in my experience, this method is only valid under certain circumstances when it comes to flights to Europe.
On trans-Atlantic flights, flying one-way is far less common than round-trip. Airlines that fly these long-haul routes also want to be sure that the seats they fill on the outbound route are also filled on the return to avoid lost revenue. Therefore, you’ll find one-way flights to Europe on legacy carriers, like British Airways, Brussels Airlines, and United Airlines, to be far more expensive than flying round-trip.
There are ways to take advantage of the cheapest one-way flights, however. I’ve found that searching well in advance (as in six months or more) can, for whatever reason, return low fares on legacy carriers. Recently, I found a one-way ticket from Paris to New York for just over $200 on American Airlines – an excellent deal.
The other way to consistently find cheap one-way flights is to fly on a budget airline. These airlines don’t follow the logic of the full-service carriers and are happy to sell you a one-way ticket for a low price at any time. To get across the pond, your best bet is the newly-formed Norse Atlantic Airways, which flies to popular airports like London Gatwick and Berlin from major US cities. Within Europe, you’ll find a huge variety of low-cost options that most definitely have cheap one-way flights – more on those next.
See Related: Ways to Get Free Flights and Airfare
10. Consider a Budget Airline
When you don’t need a specific seat, an in-flight meal, a checked bag, or even a full-sized carry-on bag, you should absolutely consider flying on a low-cost airline. These airlines base their business on customers only buying what they really need, with an extra charge for everything possible, and this opens the door to some potentially ridiculously-low fares.
Before the pandemic, we had a number of these carriers flying across the Atlantic. But nowadays, there are far fewer long-haul low-cost airlines. As mentioned, one of the newest is Norse Atlantic Airways, which is expanding quickly and recently announced a new route from Paris. There’s also PLAY Airlines, connecting the eastern US to Europe via Iceland, and Air Europa, with their main hub at Madrid Barajas Airport.
With round-trip fairs as low as a few hundred dollars, you can find some serious deals on these airlines. However, keep in mind that you will be charged for anything more than the bare fare – changes, seats, bags, water, and more. If you add even one or two of these things, it is very much worth it to compare prices with full-service airlines. You’ll often pay a similar price with fare better service in the end.
When it comes to getting around Europe by air, low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Easyjet are lifesavers. My personal record is paying 1 Euro (yes, one Euro; about a dollar) for a flight from Italy to Greece. Keep in mind that they, too, charge for everything, and Ryanair even has a fee if you don’t print your own boarding pass. But it’s still unbelievably cheap, so don’t be so quick to buy a rail pass.
11. Time Your Purchase Properly
Most travelers should know that buying a plane ticket at the last minute is a great way to guarantee a high price. However, what’s a bit lesser known is that buying your ticket too far in advance can actually be a bad idea, too.
Airlines know that smart travelers are planning in advance. When it comes to flights to Europe, those smart travelers are planning even further in advance than usual. Planning a trip on another continent is a lot more complicated than planning a few days in Florida, and most visitors to Europe want to avoid headaches and stress by booking far ahead.
The airlines take advantage of that and often charge higher fares for trips more than six or eight months out. In my experience, you can save up to hundreds of dollars by waiting until the calendar moves a bit closer to your travel dates. Everyone’s experience will vary, but experts say that the prime period is around three or four months before the flight – and I’d have to agree.
So, if the warm weather is fading and you’re eager to plan your Mediterranean getaway for next summer, don’t be discouraged by high prices so far in advance. Follow our other tips, like signing up for a fare-finder and price-change alerts, and wait it out.
See Related: Is It Possible to Buy Bulk Airline Tickets?
12. Check Out Vacation Packages
Sometimes, the prices of flights can appear low but become scary when you do the math – you still need a hotel, rental car, tours, and food. Bundling two or more of these together in a package can sometimes yield great savings. Plus, many travelers are happy not only to see one price for everything but also with the simplicity of not having to plan as much.
Many of America’s favorite airlines offer vacation packages, eliminating the need to go through a travel agent. For example, Delta Air Lines has Delta Vacations, offering packages for all budgets to stay at some beautiful resorts around Europe. Plus, each person booked on the package receives at least 1,000 bonus miles, depending on the price paid – meaning your next trip could be free.
British Airways Holidays is a hugely popular package provider for destinations all over the continent and beyond. You can even search by the type of vacation you’re looking for – adults-only, all-inclusive, beach holidays, cheap destinations, and Christmas markets are some of the categories.
Prices for package vacations are usually displayed per person and are based on two adults, so solo travelers may not benefit from a deal. As always, you should compare prices with booking à-la-carte to be sure you aren’t spending extra money, too.
13. Use Loyalty Points or Miles
This is my favorite method of all to get cheap flights to Europe – or even free flights to Europe. The best flights are the ones you don’t pay for, and it’s not as hard as you think. You don’t have to be a business traveler who constantly flies to rack up miles.
The best way to quickly get frequent flier miles is to use the right credit cards. There are loads of airline, hotel, and general travel credit cards out there, and they all offer huge sign-up bonuses. Your normal monthly expenses could be enough to net you thousands of miles and have you flying across the pond for free.
Therefore, make sure you have the right credit cards in your pocket and that you are using them to make purchases wisely – every dollar you spend should be at least a point or mile earned. Don’t forget that airline miles are usually usable on their partners, too. For example, if you’ve got thousands of United miles, you can spend them on Lufthansa, Swiss, and Austrian Airlines, as well as on Singapore Airlines’ daily flight from New York to Frankfurt.
We love The Platinum Card from American Express for its extensive benefits and the fact that American Express points can be used to book nearly any flight. There’s also the Chase Sapphire Preferred, which has a similarly excellent general travel program. Every major airline offers a co-branded credit card, like the Delta SkyMiles Platinum American Express Card.
See Related: Best Credit Cards With Lounge Access (Ranked!)
14. Save Money Before You Leave
Whether you find an amazing deal or not, your airline tickets are bound to be a big component of your vacation budget. If you think of your trip as one total expense, there are a few more things you can do to help shave a few dollars off:
Get Your Passport Early
If this is your first trip overseas or your passport has expired, don’t waste time applying for one. You will definitely need a valid passport to leave the country, and waiting too long can cost you hundreds.
Standard US passport processing time is six to nine weeks at the moment, but delays are not unheard of. An expedited service can cut that time in half but will cost you $60 more. Even more urgent requests are possible, but the price only continues to rise – so get your passport as early as possible.
See Related: Cheap Places to Visit in Europe
Plan Your Route Carefully
Many visitors to Europe try to see several cities and countries during their time on the continent. This is a great idea, as movement between places is so easy and there’s a whole host of sights and cultures among them.
However, planning each place in a misguided order or on the wrong days can cost you a ton of unnecessary money. While Europe has loads of cheap flights and trains among its countries, not all of them operate daily. Being sure you fly to the right places on the right days can save you hundreds.
For example, if you’re trip starts in Nice, and you want to visit Munich and Vienna, you might decide to fly first to Munich Airport, as it’s closer to Nice and connected to Vienna by rail. However, that flight costs $150, while Wizz Air offers a route from Nice to Vienna three times per week for $20. By experimenting with the order and days of your trip, you’ve saved about 750%.
15. Save Money At Your Destination
Again, if you’re looking at the various costs of your trip as one combined expense, minimizing your spending on the ground in Europe will help bring that total expense down and will make it easier overall to spend money on a flight. Here are a few tips and tricks:
Consider the Bus
For shorter distances within Europe, long-distance buses can be a comfortable way to travel for a fraction of the price. Coach buses travel not only between major cities but also smaller towns and villages that might not even be accessible by air.
The biggest bus operator on the continent is FlixBus, with thousands of weekly routes and free wifi onboard. In the UK, you can make long-distance coach trips with National Express.
For European bus travel, I use Omio.com to see all of the options for routes. Prices are pretty favorable, to begin with, and can be seriously low if booked in advance. Plus you’ll never pay extra to bring your luggage!
Save on Accommodation
It’s no secret that big cities in Europe are not cheap to stay in. London, Paris, Berlin, and Rome have been known to charge tourists hundreds of dollars per night for a basic hotel room. If you want to see Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, and the Coliseum, you’ll have to be smart about it.
For starters, don’t look in the areas around the city center and the top attractions for hotels, as these will be the most expensive. European cities have exceptional public transport systems, and staying several miles away from it all costs exponentially less. A quick metro or tram ride can have you in the center of all the action for a few dollars at the maximum.
See Related: Best Websites for Cheap Flights and Hotels
Use Cash Wisely
Restaurants (with the exception of Germany), shops, and attractions in Europe usually accept credit cards for payment, sometimes with a minimum purchase. In that case, be sure to use a card with no foreign transaction fees. I always try to use my cards when it’s possible because it conserves cash and earns me points.
However, there will be situations when you need cash (including to use the bathroom). I recommend withdrawing a large amount of money from the ATM in order to avoid having to do it again and therefore minimize the transaction fee that your bank will surely impose. Remember to never accept the ATM’s currency exchange rate, as it is never better than your bank’s.
16. Visit the Cheapest Destinations in Europe
Finally, one of the best ways to find cheap flights and have a cheap vacation in Europe is to visit the cheapest destinations on the continent! You’d be amazed at how much a vacation to some of these cities cost in comparison with the most expensive places.
Plus, most of these destinations are hidden gems compared to cliched European destinations like Paris, Madrid, or Venice, meaning fewer tourists to compete with.
See Related: Cheapest Places to Fly Around the World
While it was a hidden gem for years, Croatia and its Adriatic Sea coast have been discovered by the masses. However, that hasn’t driven up prices as badly as other destinations, and this is still one of the cheapest places in Europe to visit.
The small city of Zadar is beautiful and historic and provides close access to the amazing Plitvička Jezera lakes and waterfalls. Further south, Split has an ancient past as well, along with a lively nightlife scene. Dubrovnik is Croatia’s crown jewel and should be on any trip to the country.
Greece can be made a very expensive vacation – but it really does not have to be that way. Flocking with the rest of the crowds to vacation hotspots like Santorini and Mykonos or cultural centers like Athens can cost you hundreds, if not thousands, per day.
For equally-amazing views, beaches, and food at a fraction of the cost, head to lesser-visited islands. Paros and Amorgos are two incredibly beautiful Cyclades just a short ferry ride away from Athens. Don’t forget about the Ionian Islands, like Kefalonia and Zakynthos, either, especially if you are looking for beaches.
See Related: Italy vs Greece: What’s the Difference?
If you don’t need islands and beaches, Poland is a place to discover a huge piece of Europe’s history and experience a fascinating culture. This large country has major airports all over and is well-connected by train both internally and to its neighbors.
Warsaw, the capital, has a rich history and is known for its indestructibility, surviving war after war. In the south, Krakow has a wonderfully-preserved medieval center and walls with both fascinating and frightening stories spanning centuries. In the summertime, the colorful Baltic Sea city of Gdansk comes alive with beachgoers and partiers enjoying the sand.
The biggest draw for me in Poland is the Polish. They are some of the friendliest, most welcoming, and endearingly cheeky folk I’ve ever met.
I just came back from a trip to Budapest, and I can confirm that Hungary is an outstanding European vacation destination for just about anyone, but especially for budget travelers. Prices for food, accommodation and transport are far lower than you’ll find in western Europe. Plus, this country is also becoming very popular with digital nomads.
Budapest is incredibly charming, with a fascinating history, and a ton of things to do, like the Szechenyi Thermal Baths and Buda Castle. A metro, bus, or tram ticket costs less than one Euro. To make your Hungary trip even cheaper, get out of the capital and visit places in the countryside like Lake Balaton or Debrecen.
This eastern Balkan country is a member of the European Union that is far too underappreciated by non-European travelers. It’s also possibly the cheapest country in the bloc for just about anything. Best of all, Romania is a gorgeous, fairytale country, with breathtaking landscapes, and incredible historic architecture – not to mention a storied history.
The capital of Romania, Bucharest, is lively and beautiful, as well as an operating base for ultra-low-cost airline Wizz Air. Bran Castle, known as the real Dracula castle, is just to the north in the scenic hills of Transylvania. On the coast of the Black Sea, calm water and golden sand are a secret that locals nearly have all to themselves every summer.
If European road trips are a thing you’re considering, it’s also home to the Transfăgărășan (or Transfagarasan Highway). This mountain highway (also known as Ceaușescu’s Folly after the Romanian dictator), is dubbed by some as the greatest driving road in the whole world!
See Related: Best Places to Get Married in Europe
Northern Europe, specifically Scandinavia, is known as one of the most expensive parts of the continent to live and travel to. The exceptions are in the small former-Soviet republics on the Baltic Sea: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
These countries have a fascinating past that mixed Russian architecture, language, and culture with local identities, creating a wonderful travel experience for the curious visitor. Riga, Tallinn, and Vilnius are quickly gaining reputations for their young and lively atmospheres. You’ll be shocked to see just how much a few nights in each of them will cost.
I like to refer to Montenegro as the Croatia that hasn’t been discovered yet. With an amazing Adriatic coastline, vast mountain ranges, and a unique Balkan history, Montenegro is the unobvious European destination that belongs on your itinerary.
This tiny country is even cheaper to visit than its already-cheap neighbor, Croatia. Don’t miss a few summer days on the shores of Budva and explore the ancient city of Kotor. To get to Montenegro, I recommend flying into Dubrovnik or elsewhere in Croatia and either taking a bus or renting a car to get across the border.
How much does it cost to fly to Europe nowadays?
Asking “how much are flights to Europe?” is about the same as asking “what’s the weather like in the United States?” – it depends on where, when, and much more! Performing a quick, random search will probably return round-trip economy fares in the $1,000 range while putting in the work to find the cheapest flight can bring that down to as low as $300.
Will flights to Europe get cheaper?
The average flight cost to Europe has been at an all-time high in recent travel history. While experts expect Europe flights to get cheaper down the road as competition increases and economic conditions shift, the inflated prices we’re seeing are here to stay for now.
Is winter a good time to find cheap flights to Europe?
The winter months are the low season for much of the continent, and this is often when the lowest fares can be found. Of course, if you’re searching for cheap flights to Europe, Christmas and New Year’s Eve will inflate flight prices quite heavily during their surrounding weeks.
What is the most important trick to finding the best Europe flight deals?
While it’s important to use as many of the above tips as you can, if you are short on time, signing up for Going (aka the travel service formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights) is your best bet. This low-fare finder has real people working behind the scenes to find the cheapest flights from everywhere to anywhere, and their job is to email you the moment they find something you might like.