You’ve spent most of your time daydreaming of the perfect European vacation but used most of your money on necessities (your tattoo guy stopped taking IOUs and you really needed to finish your sleeve) and unforeseen expenses (hey, you didn’t plan to buy that Hoverboard). If you’ve made it a goal to travel more this year but don’t have the cash, don’t wait for your lucky numbers to do you proud in the lottery—take the trip you want before you hit retirement age. Follow these tips to work the system and enjoy international travel for less than the price of your weekly bar tab.
If you want to get as close as possible to a $100 price tag, discount airlines are the easiest way to go. Budget European airlines that have long operated within that continent are setting their sights across the Atlantic.
Some of the competitors vying for your cold hard cash run offers like $99 flights to Reykjavik, Paris, and Amsterdam from eastern U.S. cities. There are budget airline hubs all over Europe, including London, Barcelona, and Rome, and it’s easy to fly to any of these for less than $200. Meals and baggage cost extra, and there are few amenities, but when you consider that taxes—which usually add a few hundred dollars—are included in the cost, you’ll forget about manspreading just to score extra legroom and rejoice that your adventure has begun at a price that didn’t drain your fashion fund.
The near future is bringing in promises of stiff fare competition, with airlines offering one-way tickets to smaller cities, such as Edinburgh and Bergen, for around $70. In North America, East Coasters have the West beat when it comes to discount flights to Europe. However, some airlines have advertised trips for as little as $189 from Oakland, Calif., to Stockholm, Sweden, for instance. There have also been murmurings that cheap transatlantic flights for perhaps as low as $15, are on the horizon starting in 2020.
Tips and Tricks
You know how to haggle sweet deals at the swap meet. Just channel your inner savvy boss, and it’s possible to find super cheap flights to Europe. When it’s all said and done (meaning after fees and taxes), you might not find flights to Europe under $100, but you can get pretty close if you play your cards right and keep your winner attitude sharp.
Be flexible with your dates, and opt for fall and winter, when fares are cheaper. Mid to late October can still see mild temperatures, but you won’t have to fight off summer tourists’ selfie sticks just to get a glimpse of what the David is working with. If you insist touring the sites that come with a side of suntan, try last-minute booking during peak season, and note that fare sales are usually released midweek. Another easy way to find international flight discounts is to start searching 8 to 10 weeks in advance, as this is typically the time frame that sees the best fares.
Open-jaw flying (into one city and out from another) is a perfect option to add to the bag of tricks if you plan to visit more than one city. With adaptable destinations, you can even search the cheapest routes out of Europe and plan to end your trip there. Fly out on a Tuesday or Saturday (when it’s cheapest), pack light to avoid baggage fees, and let the savings add up.
Rewards and Miles
Optimizing rewards and air miles is all about playing the game—your Beer Pong game is strong enough, give something else a shot. For instance, consider signing up for a credit card through an airline. Many cards give huge air miles incentives just for signing up, some enough for a roundtrip flight to Europe. You’ll only be left paying the tax, which is usually near $100.
You might also want to finally sign up for that rewards program and watch those pretty points stack up. After a while, you could have just enough to fly to Europe and back like it’s NBD.
Historically, low cost flights to Europe from North America have been elusive—a hard-won mix of fare sales, luck, and a lot of time and effort that still leave you in the $500 range. Today the question remains: Are $100 flights to Europe even possible? The answer is rapidly becoming, yes.