With most entry requirements for Covid tests lifted and the US dollar roughly equaling the euro for the first time in 20 years, now seems like the right time to start planning a holiday in Europe. People are traveling more now than they have since the pandemic began, but many are grappling with higher airfare costs.
According to travel booking site Hopper, the cost of domestic flights increased by 34% and 2.5% for international flights in summer 2022 compared to summer 2019, with the average round-trip fare now costing $383 and $912, respectively. Hopper attributes the price increases to rising fuel costs, increased demand and lower seating capacity (airlines are expected to fly about 2.4 million people a day this summer, compared to 2.9 million in summer 2019). But don’t despair: a cheap getaway is still within reach.
Next month I’m flying from New York to Lisbon to Barcelona to Split, Croatia to Paris and back to New York – all for $712.48. My secret? Google flights.
The cheapest flights appear when you are very flexible about when and where to travel. You can also book cheap flights.
If you just want to travel and are flexible in terms of dates and destinations:
When you go to Google Flights in your web browser, you’ll automatically see the standard flight booking format, but the secret sauce is in the Explore tab on the left. From there, you should switch “round-trip” to “one-way” (trust me you’ll find better deals this way) and enter the city you’re flying from (if you live in a smaller city, I also recommend checking the major airports in your area – sometimes the fare is worth the extra drive). The default search parameter is flights within the next six months.
Next, click on all filters and scroll down to Price. I usually set the slider up to $300, but that part is up to you and your budget. Under “Travel mode”, select “Flights only”. I also recommend you select “1 stop or less” in the “Stops” category and filter the flight duration to less than 15 hours. But of course those preferences are entirely up to you and what you are willing to endure.
Let’s go through an example. Let’s say you’re flying out of New York and want to fly somewhere in Europe for less than $200 each way. If you use the method above (including the “One stop or less” and “15 hours or less” filters), you’ll see multiple flight options. Zooming in will likely reveal more options.
Well look at this. You could fly from New York to Barcelona for as little as $170 each way. Click on the destination you want and then click View Flights. Then it will show you the date, time and airline of that prize. If that date doesn’t work – without changing any of the filters – click on the date in the top right corner and a calendar will appear, likely showing you comparable prices for other dates.
So, if the standard October 17 date doesn’t work for you, maybe it could sooner or later in October. Again, this option is best for those with the most flexibility.
If your dates are not that flexible but your goal is:
Obviously, many people can’t just travel when there’s a good deal on offer. So here’s what you can do if you want to travel in a specific month or week.
Follow all the above steps, except Click on ‘Travel in the next six months’ (as seen in the first image) and either change it to the month you wish to travel or click ‘Specific Dates’ if you have a specific date/date have specific week in mind top left.
Let’s go through another hypothetical journey. Let’s say you live in Houston, you’re off work the week of September 19th, and you want to take a week’s vacation somewhere.
If you’re departing specifically on this date, you could fly to Mexico City for $59, Montego Bay for $87, or New Orleans for $32, to name a few options. You could also fly to New York for $73, where you could then take cheap flights to Europe the next day if you want to travel that much. If you were flying out of New York the next day, you could fly to London, Amsterdam or Geneva for around $200.
If you have a goal in mind but are flexible with the dates:
If you have a specific destination you want to go to but have flexible dates, I recommend doing something a little different.
Instead of looking at flights departing from where you live, look at flights departing from where you want to go. Suppose you really want to travel to Santorini, Greece. Fill out the information in the same way as previously described, but change the departure city to Santorini and not your hometown.
Now you can see that there are generally cheap flights between Santorini and Venice, Rome etc (again more results if you zoom in – this will filter for flights under $50). Knowing that London and Rome are the largest hubs of those listed and generally have cheaper flights from the US, you could plan a trip to London and then add a $40 flight to Santorini.
So let’s say you’re flying out of Baltimore. You could fly from BWI to London on new discount airline PLAY for $232 in the last week of September and then take a $38 flight to Santorini on September 28 with easyJet.
Follow the same procedure for cheap round-trip flights to the USA. Choose your destination – either your home airport or the nearest international hub – and see where the return flight is cheapest.
When I booked my Europe trip, the cheapest flight back to New York was from Paris, so it’s my last stop. Most of my itinerary revolved around airfares, and if you’re considering a multi-stop trip, I recommend playing around with Google Flights and seeing where you can travel for less money.
Yes, there are some dirt cheap flights, but use the filters to avoid long layovers and flights booked with multiple airlines (rarely worth the risk of a missed connection or flight cancellation). However, as far as long stays go, they can actually be fun if you plan for them.
My day in Lisbon is actually a 13-hour stopover on the way to Barcelona. If you want to spend a day in another city during your trip, a stopover can be a great way to essentially fly there for free. For example, you could fly from San Francisco to Rome on October 12 for about $400, with a one-day layover in Calgary or Lisbon.
Finally, keep in mind that some of these cheap fares end up charging more for baggage, seat selection, and other options that are included in the price of other flights. Note the refund and rebooking policies. With low-cost airlines, it’s usually not worth opting for the most basic fare. You want something that will at least give you some protection if your flight is canceled or you need to reschedule.