When it comes to leisure travel, Europe is the most visited region in the world, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO); in fact, in 2019 it hosted just over half of the 1.5 billion international tourists traveling that year. While it is possible to travel across Europe on a small budget, getting there consumes a large part of the travel budget. The good news is that there are times of the year, and even days of the week, when flying costs less.
Key points to remember
- The late fall and winter months of mid-October through mid-March are often the cheapest to travel in Europe (although fares can spike in December).
- It is often cheaper to fly to Europe in the middle of the week, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
- Sometimes it’s more economical to fly from the US to London, the busiest route, and then take budget airlines to mainland cities.
Choose a low season
Like most leisure travel destinations, Europe has peak seasons – when airfares are highest – and off-peak periods, when it’s possible to find better deals on airfares (and , possibly on your other holiday expenses as well). The summer season, which runs from late May or early June to late August, is when many families are available to travel. As a result, this is the most expensive time to visit Europe.
The late fall and winter months, from mid to late October to mid/late March, are often the cheapest to travel. The cold weather, of course, is partly to blame, but a winter vacation in Europe has its perks. In addition to cheaper airfares, Europe has some of the best ski and snowboard resorts in the world (Méribel, Zermatt and St. Anton am Arlberg, to name a few). Leave the ski resorts behind and discover Europe’s other top attractions without the company of thousands of other tourists.
December is the exception, of course. Families reunite or travel together for the holidays, so you can expect to pay a premium for flights at this time of year.
Do not fly directly
The busiest air route between the United States and Europe is from New York to London (yes, we know that Britain is technically not in Europe or, as of January 31, 2020, in the European Union , but most Americans group it with other places across the pond). Sometimes it is more economical to fly from the United States to London and then take budget airlines to mainland cities.
Here again, however, seasonality matters. In April 2021, a search on Kayak.com of return tickets from New York to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) shows that fares for a seven-day trip increase steadily from May, from a low from $711 in mid-May to $1,123 in July. They then start to drift down to around $705 in early August.
Of course, airline ticket prices fluctuate constantly and you may not be able to replicate those results when buying tickets, but that’s the general trend.
choose your days
Trying to save money by traveling on a certain day of the week can be hit or miss with flights to Europe. It’s often cheaper to fly midweekTuesdays and Wednesdays especially, but sometimes you can get the same midweek rate on a Saturday. The length of your stay can make a big difference in price. Plan a stay on Saturday evening to benefit from the best rates.
If you are flexible, you may be able to save some money by adjusting your departure and return dates. Google Flights, as well as some other online airfare aggregators (including Kayak and Travelocity), have flexible travel date searches, so you can see fares for a specific date and see fares for surrounding dates.
Europe and Covid-19 restrictions
As of May 2021, most of Europe is currently banned from unrestricted travel from the United States, but these rules may soon be relaxed for those who have been vaccinated and tested negative for coronavirus before travel. . Check country-specific Covid-19 travel policies before booking flights.
How far in advance?
Plan ahead, but not too far. If you wait until the last minute, rates tend to be high, but they can also be high if you book too far in advance. Since airfares to Europe fluctuate wildly (often, it seems, quite randomly), it may be worth signing up for price alerts which send fare updates via email. mail or SMS for the routes you specify.
You’ll probably pay the most if you fly to Europe during the summer when everyone wants to go. You can find cheaper fares by traveling during the winter (except December) and having flexible dates. Fares to London are sometimes among the lowest fares to Europe.
Once you’ve crossed the Atlantic, you can book flights from the UK on discount airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair to hop from town to town, or buy a Eurail pass, a ticket that lets you travel by train in 33 European countries.