Consumers planning to visit Europe this summer are no doubt busy making their plans. One of the priorities in trip-planning should be booking airfare, which most likely will be the most expensive part of the trip.
CheapAir.com, an airfare booking site, has completed an analysis of Transatlantic fares and found several ways consumers can save money.
Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir.com, says the company looked at over 190 million fares, covering 75 origin cities and 29 destination cities across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
“Summer travel to Europe stood out as one of the few types of tickets that, the sooner you buy it the better,” Klee told ConsumerAffairs. “That differs from domestic flights, where the worst thing you can do is buy too late but the second worst thing you can do is buy too early.”
Time is money
That means if you haven't already booked a flight you shouldn't wait much longer. Klee says the company's analysis found the cheapest fares were to be found when you booked 319 days in advance.
When you visit Europe will also make a difference in the price you pay for airfare. Airlines only set aside a small number of low fares per flight. Picking a time when fewer people are traveling means you have a better chance of snagging a low fare.
“Late summer tends to be the least expensive and the early summer is close behind,” Klee said. “Right in the middle of summer is the peak of the travel season and will have the highest fares.”
Pick the right travel days
Just as on domestic flights, travel days are important. Some are more expensive than others.
In the U.S., for example, traveling on a Saturday will usually save you money. Not so if you're traveling to Europe. Weekends tend to be more expensive days.
“A lot of times, when you're planning a trip, if you want to go for a week or two, the natural thinking is to start the trip on a Saturday,” Klee said. “But if you can go Wednesday to Wednesday you can often save a good amount of money.”
That's because Tuesdays and Wednesdays generally offer the lowest Transatlantic fares.
“If you can be flexible in your travel, check a bunch of different dates,” Klee said. “It's very common that there is one day in a given week that's much cheaper than the rest, because there's a certain low fare that's sold out on most days but happens to be available on one day. You'd be surprised how much a fare could fluctuate from one day to the next.”
Finally, where you land will be important to your budget. In years past, London was the most affordable destination. Klee says that's no longer the case.
“Right now the least expensive city is Dublin,” he said. “I think Aer Lingus has a lot to do with that. They have some pretty low fares that other airlines have matched.”
The second cheapest destination is Moscow. In fact, Klee says you can fly to Moscow with stops in London or Paris and it would be cheaper than flying directly to those cities.
Jumping off place
If Dublin isn't on your itinerary, you might consider flying to Ireland, then picking up a discount fare to your destination on the Continent.
“Sometimes that does work,” Klee said. “There are a number of low-fare carriers in Europe that have incredibly low fares. They're kind of like Spirit Air in the U.S.”
Popular travel destinations aren't necessarily going to have higher air fares because that popularity means there will be more flights to choose from. But you might find an unexpected bargain to a popular country – likely Italy, for instance.
“Milan is a city where fares have really fallen this year. Milan tends to be a lot less expensive than Rome or Venice.”
If you’re going to visit multiple countries, pick where to begin and end based on the cheapest international fares. You can usually fly into one city and out of another without paying a penalty for doing so.
He who hesitates pays full fare
And if you happen to come across a killer deal, Klee advises to not hesitate for a second.
“Never assume you have time to talk it over with your family or friends,” he said. “Be ready to pull the trigger if you find something good.”