Categories
Planning

Booking Flights

Of course the best way to travel to Europe is to fly and it is recommended you fly non-stop whenever possible.  Eliminating connections is the best way to avoid delays and spend more time doing the things you want to do rather then sitting in an airport terminal. Flying over long distances can delay your arrival because of bad weather, strong headwinds, etc. This may cause you to miss your connecting flight and then the challenge of getting a flight to your final destination could result in a day’s delay. Remember, unless it’s the airlines fault for your delay they do not pick up the tab for the hotel. Then there is always the possibility of your bags not making the connection and waiting a day or two for them to show up at your final destination.

Airlines will sometimes run good specials out of east coast cities like Boston, New York, Washington DC, etc. However, they may not be into your European city of preference. The other issue is the additional cost of flying into the east coast from the rest of the US. Some low cost fares can also have two or three connections,  saving you some money but taking a lot of time. The extra money is well spent if you get to have more time at your destination, So…rule of thumb…use non-stop flights whenever possible.

Searching for Flights…

Finding Your Nearest Airport
  • You’ll want to fly out of a international airport nearest to you to find non-stop flights to Europe. If at all possible try to fly non-stop into a European airport even if it is not your final destination. Say you miss your connection out of Chicago to Europe, that next flight will not leave until the next day, if you’re lucky to get a seat. You’ll have a greater opportunity connecting on another flight from a European hub that same day. Even if you cannot get a preferred seat, you will only have a 1 to 2 hour flight left to your final destination.
  • Departing closer from home also means you may better options to get transportation to and from the airport so you can avoid the cost of parking your vehicle. Options like taking public transportation, taxi, shuttle or Uber and maybe a friend or family member to drop you off and pick you up. Go to the NON-STOP FLIGHT page and find all non-stop flights into European airports and the airlines that provide service.
The time of year.
  •  In the summer months, mid- June to August, airlines know they will have more travelers buying tickets so the rates will be higher. In the off seasons airlines will be looking for customers to fill those seats so they will lower cost to stimulate buying. Spring April to mid June and fall late August to mid October typically have the lowest rates.
The your day of travel.
  • Weekends are typically busier travel days than the middle of the week. Tuesday to Thursday will have the best rates and may be the only days you can cash in your mileage points for free tickets . Mondays and Fridays are busy with business travelers.
How far in advance you book your ticket.
  • Most airlines start booking tickets around a year in advance however that may not be the best time to book. For sometime finding the best prices started at roughly 120 to 60 days prior to your departure date. That may only be true as the your departure date nears the airlines are looking to fill every seat and you you may find one at a lower the price. However, more and more people are traveling to Europe and additional airlines and flights have been added to cities who just 5 years ago had no service to Europe. In increase in passenger volume means the airlines are hitting seat capacity earlier on flights. We suggest to start looking 6 to 8 months in advance and watch prices very closely. The minute they inch up in price you may want to book. As the plane seats are filled, the ticket prices will go up so do not wait to long.
Getaway-Map

Farecompare has a very handy tool on their web site called a “Where-to-Go Getaway Map”. Simply click on the link below and open the page. When the page opens you will first see a map. Go ahead and enter your nearest departure airport on the top of the page in the box on the left. You may also use airport codes like, LAX for Los Angeles or ORD for Chicago O Hare. In the next box to the right scroll to the month you want to travel. In the last box enter a currency you want to use to purchase. Use the sliding bar to enter a dollar amount you do not want budget over. You can also apply filters to the type of activity,a specific airline, popular destination and price per mile. Use the inactive map to navigate over Europe and view your cities of interests. You can zoom in or out by using the plus and minus buttons at the lower right of the page. Click on the rate amount above the city and box opens with the lowest rate featured. Click on compare airlines and a drop down box appears with other airlines comparisons. You can shop their rates, numbers of stops. farecompare.com Where-to-Go Getaway Map

Flight Alerts

You can go to web sites like Kayak.com and Airfarewatchdog.com and set up flight alerts. If you know your exact route and when you are traveling, set up alerts and when their is a change they will notify you immediately.

You can use one of many online aggregate web sites that search multiple airlines at one time. Just type in your departure city and date along with your destination city for a round trip or one way ticket. Some web sites allow for multi city searches, this allows you to search for an “open jaw” ticket, described below. Whatever you do make sure you read everything carefully. Some low cost tickets can have several stops before you arrive at your destination. Don’t spend 2 ½ days of travel on your vacation just getting there. When you make a selection on some of these sites they will take you right to the airline web site where will you finish booking your ticket. Others will book your ticket for you just like a travel agent.  Be mindful that some discount carriers may not appear on these web sites. Once you have found an approximate date and destination you can also check on the airlines web site and compare if they have a lower price. If you do not book your ticket at an airline’s web site you may be losing some benefits on any program you are enrolled in as member, whether it is an airline

, hotel, car rental, etc. Make sure you read everything careful and confirm you’ll be receiving credit on your airline miles, etc. when booking through a non-airline site.

Flight Strategies…

Stitching…

Stitching is when you fly through another airport to get to your final destination. Certain routes on airlines can be more costly because they are more heavily traveled than others. An example is finding a flight from Atlanta to London. The non-stop fee is $1275  but, it is only $825 from New York a difference of $450. Fly a low cost airline to New York for  $328. and save$122.   You need to decide if flying into New York is worth saving the money for the extra time. Stitching also allows you to lay-over in a city like New York a few days for extra enjoyment. This can also come into play when flying in and out of Europe. Flying into Milan may be less than flying into Rome. If you plan to fly open jaw reverse the arrival and departure cities and see if the fare goes up or down. If it is less than your original plane think about reversing your trip agenda. Are the dollars worth saving?

Codesharing

This is where two or more airlines share the same flight. Each airline publishes it’s own cost and flight number. As an example you may book a flight with American Airlines to fly to London but, it is an actual a British Airways plane and operated by them. When you arrive at the airport you will check in and board at British Airways not American. Sound a little confusing, it’s really not. Make sure you compare cost at each airline because one may be less than the other, even though it is the same plane flying to the same destination. You can also redeem or collect your American mileage with this flight, even though it is British Airways, as long as you booked it through American.

Open Jaw

You may also want to fly, what they call “open jaw”. Let’s say you’re going to Italy and you fly into Venice.  After visiting Venice you go onto Florence then and Rome. Instead of going all the way back to Venice, just fly back home out of Rome. This will save you time and money by not traveling back to the arrival airport. In fact it may even save you money on airline ticket. If you shop wisely a that return flight from Rome may be less then the return from Venice. Try reversing your trip by flying into Rome first then outbound from Venice. Amazingly one may be less then the other.

Most web sites have options to select a round trip, one way or multi-city ticket, when searching for flights. Select the multi city option and type in your departure and destination city first, then make another entry for your for your return city back home. It will search and provide you with your choices. Remember to try several choices for your inbound and outbound flights.

Layovers

You may not be able to find a non-stop flight from your nearest airport to your European destination or a return non-stop flight home. In that case you will have to make a connection or a layover and preferably in a European city. Why, because with International flights you can have a layover in the city of your connecting flight for as many days as you wish without increasing the cost on the same ticket. It is possible that the cost may even be less if you layover in a city, especially with an airline that operates its home hub. This works out great if you’re connecting flights in London, Paris, etc.

Let’s say you’re going to Berlin from San Francisco and there aren’t any non-stop flights available. You’ll need to fly through a connecting city, most likely London or Paris. Whether going or coming back, you may layover for a day or more.  Claim your baggage at the airport as you normally do and depart into the city. Stay over a few nights for some rest before your long flight home or see some more sights. 

* In 2014 several International Airlines stop offering tickets with layovers while booking tickets. When searching a flight use the multi city mode and you may find a ticket with a layover. If you want to layover make sure you can book it with the airline carrier otherwise you will have to book separate one way segments, which could be more costly.

Arriving in European Airports…

Most of the time you will be flying into one of the major European airports listed below.  Even it is your not final destination city, you will most likely be flying into one of these airports where you will make a connection to your final arrival city. The following are Europe’s largest and busiest airports that serve as hubs for the major international flights.  While some fights from the US arrive at other airports those listed below, by far have highest amount of flights to and from the USA.

Airport & LocationHub Airlines
London Heathrow – U.K.British Airways – Virgin Atlantic
Paris Charles De Gaulle – FranceAir France – Delta
 Amsterdam Schiphol – NetherlandsKLM
Frankfurt Intl. – GermanyLufthansa – Condor Airlines
Istanbul Atatürk – TurkeyTurkish Airlines
Madrid Barajas – SpainIberia – Air Europa
Barcelona El Prat Airport – SpainIberia
London Gatwick – U.K.British Airways – Virgin Atlantic
Munich Strauss Airport – GermanyLufthansa
Rome Fiumicino – ItalyAlitalia
Copenhagen Intl. – DenmarkSAS – Norwegian Air Shuttle
Dublin Intl. – IrelandAer Lingus
Zürich Intl. – SwitzerlandSwissair – Edelweiss
Oslo Gardermoen – Norway Norwegian Air Shuttle
Stockholm Arlanda – SwedenSAS – Norwegian Air Shuttle
Reykjavik Keflavik. – IcelandIcelandic – WOW

You can find information for arriving at European Airports by reading Upon Arrival at our
Transportation Page.