Here’s a good tip to help cut the cost of flying to many European cities and make your dollar go a little bit further.
With the current high value of the euro, it has become increasingly expensive for Americans to take a vacation in Europe. Since 2002, the euro currency has appreciated over 45% against the US dollar. By buying cheap flights from budget airlines you can reduce your European travel costs considerably.
Rather than getting a direct trans-Atlantic flight to your destination, you can often get a better deal by flying into a hub like London, UK and then using one of the many European ‘low-cost’ airlines to get around the continent. This will give you both freedom and flexibility to visit more places and perhaps save a good few dollars. The great thing about the low-costs is that you don’t have to purchase a return fare, so you can customize your trip as you like.
Southwest airlines successfully pioneered the low-cost concept in the US in the 1970s. In the last few years the number of budget airlines in Europe has grown significantly and you now have a number of major hubs all over the continent. These include Frankfurt (Germany), Dublin (Ireland), Brussels (Belgium), Rome (Italy) as well as London. The main players are Ryanair, Easyjet, Airberlin and Skyeurope but there are many more smaller operators. European budget airlines have had excellent safety records so far.
The network of budget airlines in Europe is quite extensive covering the whole of the continent from both east to west and north to south. Consider that just 10 years ago your only options were to take a very over-priced flight with a national carrier or alternatively sit on a train or bus over very long journeys.
You want to fly from New York to Rome, Italy in the fall. Cost of flying is $575 via Spain with Iberia or $625 direct with Alitalia. However you can also fly the more competitive route to London for $400 and then book a return flight from London to Rome with Ryanair for the special offer fare of $55. Total cost $455 plus free stopover in London if you wish. Thus saving $170 or $120 off the cheapest direct and indirect scheduled flights, respectively.
Please note, flights to London from North America will arrive at Heathrow or Gatwick airports. The budget carriers generally operate out of London Luton or Stansted airports. Both are 1 hour north of the city and can be reached by bus or train.
Expensive to stay in London? Yes, but Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Iannou has now branched out into the hotel business and his easyhotels chain now offer small rooms in Central London from just $35 per night if you book ahead.
To get the very best fares on budget carriers you should:
A caveat about low-cost airlines. Sometimes they will not be cheaper than the full service carriers especially if you are booking at short notice. So do make price comparisons.
Also, check how far the airport is from the city centre. “Frankfurt” Hahn used by Ryanair is actually around 80 miles from Frankfurt. Fine for a leisure trip but possibly inconvenient if you are flying in on quick business.
You should always allow plenty of time for connections. Because of the low cost nature of the business the budget carriers won’t hold your hand if there are any delays or problems. However, most flights are usually on schedule.
In summary, budget airlines in Europe will allow you to both travel around very cheaply and reach some of the more out-of-the-way destinations such as Estonia and Slovakia that you might never have considered before.
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