How to Find a Deal to Europe
The summer of 2011 is an expensive one for those traveling to Europe; we’re seeing most round-trip airline tickets in coach above $1,200 (and many close to $1,500). You can chalk this up, in large measure, due to fuel surcharges and taxes that add more than $500 to an airline ticket.
What’s a traveler to do?
As I point out in my latest Airfare Expert column for USA Today, think Switzerland.
For one thing, the Alps are nice and cool while much of the rest of the continent is sweltering. Even better, there are deals to Switzerland: relatively cheap flights compared to the rest of Europe (a word of caution: to avoid sticker shock, remember that Switzerland is not on the euro; its currency is the Swiss franc).
How do I find airfare deals to Switzerland?
Look at Zurich (ZRH) and Geneva (GVA) which have 18 non-stops a day from the U.S.; this isn’t much compared to the 118 nonstops to the United Kingdom each day, but fewer flights can mean cheaper prices. Here’s why:
Fewer nonstops flights to Switzerland mean you’ll probably be on a connecting flight, which is typically less expensive, often $300 or so cheaper.
What will airfare to Swiss cities cost?
We’re seeing some flights for under $900 from cities like New York and Boston. I also looked at dozens of smaller U.S. departure cities (east of the Mississippi) and we’re looking at roundtrips under $1,000 in mid-July. This year, especially this summer, that constitutes a deal.
What’s the best way to compare airfare prices?
Three little words: Shop at FareCompare. We make it easy to compare prices with multiple sites so you can shop with confidence, knowing that you’re getting the best deal possible.
When is the best time to fly to Switzerland?
For summer travelers, the second and third week of July is looking good right now, but if you can be flexible, prices to Europe drop again later this summer. In fact, September is a great month for travel to Switzerland (and other European favorites).
Switzerland is okay but I’d rather fly to London or Paris. Am I out of luck?
No. Lucky for you, Europe has many discount airlines including EasyJet which has been referred to as the “European Southwest”. It operates numerous flights from Geneva and Zurich to a variety of European cities; from there, if you like, you can hop on another low cost carrier (such as Ryanair or Wizz Air, to name just a few) and go just about any place on the Continent your heart desires.
Any last words of advice?
Yes. Pack lightly, especially if you plan to get on a low cost European carrier; these are notorious for unusual airline fees. Don’t be blindsided; research any airline you might want to travel on before you step on-board.
Finally, check the price of rail travel throughout Europe; it’s not quite as cheap as it used to be (at least not like it was back when I was a student), but it may save you some money depending on your itinerary.