London. Paris. Barcelona. Prague. With so many iconic cities to choose from, planning your first whirlwind trip to Europe can feel like a dream come true… until you start tallying the costs. Fear not! Here are five smart ways to take your first flight to Europe without breaking the bank.
Pay Less with a Low-Cost Airline
There are many affordable airline options available. Flying to another country doesn’t have to cost you thousands of dollars. Budget airlines offer no-frills experiences that get you from point A to point B. You may be able to easily fly to Europe roundtrip for well under $500.
Check out these airlines to get a feel for rates:
- WOW air – This airline flies in and out of many major cities within the US and Europe with a hub in Reykjavik, Iceland.
- Norwegian Air – This airline flies in and out of many major cities within the US and Europe.
- Ryanair – This airline primarily flies throughout Europe should you want to visit multiple cities on the same trip across the pond.
Keep in mind that these airlines charge low fares because they don’t include all the extras that the more expensive airlines do. Plan to pay for baggage, food, drinks, your seat, and more. Always check baggage allowance before you head to the airport to see what’s included with your low fare price and to avoid surprises.
Pro tip: When you’re booking a flight with Hipmunk, you can filter your results to know ahead of time what the airline might charge you for carrying on or checking a bag. Plus, if you don’t need fancy extras and are fine with traveling light on a basic flying experience, this can be a great way to get to Europe at a low cost.
Use Airline Miles
If you already travel a lot domestically, you may have reward miles accumulated if you’re part of an airline’s loyalty program. When you fly, always track your miles with each airline. It’s a good idea to stick with the same airline if you’re flying on a regular basis.
Take a look at award charts to see which airline is the best bet for your needs and goals. By doing this, you can save up your points for your special European getaway. Better yet, earn some airline miles, even while on travel for work, through a business credit card.
Fly to an Alternative Destination
While you may have your heart set on a specific city—like London or Paris—within Europe, it may be a lot cheaper to fly from the US to another European destination. Once you get there, it’s easy to fly or even take a train to another location.
This is one way to keep the costs low, especially if you’re open to exploring a couple of destinations within Europe. The great news is it’s usually much cheaper to fly from country to country in Europe compared to state to state in the US.
Look at airfare prices within Europe on Ryanair, EasyJet, Vueling, and Wizzair. You should also look at train prices when planning to visit nearby countries.
Take Advantage of Credit Card Points
You can also save big with the use of credit card points. There are many airline specific cards as well as travel credit cards available. You can earn points on regular purchases in addition to saving on your travel. Plus, some of these cards come with a big sign-up bonus—giving you the perfect excuse to book a flight to Europe. For example, both Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Sapphire Reserve offer 50,000 bonus points upon signing up.
With Chase Ultimate Rewards points, you can take advantage of these ways of getting to and from Europe in an affordable way:
- Fly Economy on Singapore Airlines. Prices start at 27,500 points each way.
- Fly Economy with a US-based airline (United, American Airlines, and Delta) starting at 30,000 points each way.
When signing up for credit cards with big sign-up bonuses, make sure that you can meet the minimum spend. Many require spending $3,000-$4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Pro tip: Charge your normal monthly expenses to meet that minimum spend in order to get your bonus points.
Travel During the Off Season
While you may be tempted to visit Europe in the summer, know that it’s one of the most expensive times to go. If possible, plan your travel during the off season or shoulder season. Avoid spring break and summer vacation times to get the best airfare rates. It can make your whole trip cheaper—and will make for fewer crowds, too.
With the right planning, a trip to Europe is within reach. By utilizing the above methods, you can keep costs low and have an exciting experience abroad.
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