Jun 22, 2014

Fly in Europe on a Budget

How to: Fly in Europe on a Budget

Because we all need to tighten our belts.



We have all fallen for it at one time or another: misleading ‘FLY TO (insert big city) FOR €12,99’ ads promoting flights that turned out to be a little less promising than expected. Still, we shouldn’t be complaining. Due to the emergence of competitive no-frills airlines, flying in Europe has never been cheaper. Although flights for the price of pint are pretty rare, you can still find decent fares if you take the time to look into offers of several airlines.

But… where to start? Type in ‘cheap flights Europe’ and guaranteed you will be bombarded with tons of 'search and compare' websites. Besides the fact that it's easy to get lost in an endless flow of information, these websites often only compare legacy airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM and Virgin, whilst ignoring budget carriers like WizzAir and Easyjet. Since we're looking for the best deals, I compiled a list of tips for you that can help you next time you’re looking for online flights.

What are the cheapest airlines in Europe?
The low-cost carriers I travel with most often are Ryanair and EasyJetwhich also happen to service the most destinations in Europe. Don't expect any hot, wet towels or space for your legs: we're talking back to basics here!* Other companies I have frequently travelled with and offer good deals are Wizzair, mainly flying in Central Europe; Transavia, chiefly operating scheduled and charter services to leisure destinations; and Vueling, concentrating on the Iberian Peninsula and Western Europe.


I have found all companies very reliable and, most important, dirt cheap: most offer flights in the €10–€30 range. Just to give you a few examples: I've travelled to Larnaca (Cyprus), Prague (Czech Republic), Trieste and Milano (Italy) from Eindhoven (the Netherlands) for just under €50 return.

* Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to pay for using the loo on Ryanair flights. ;-)


View from a plane ©Maaike

How to book the cheapest flight?
During the course of a day, prices fluctuate frequently, which means that 5 hours can really make a difference – sometimes in your favour, sometimes not. Either way, there are several insider secrets to booking the cheapest flight:
  • Book 4–6 weeks in advance, because airlines generally tend to make valuable deals available ±40 days prior to departure.
  • Fly mid-week. Most people travel during the weekend, which makes Wednesday the cheapest day to fly.
  • Buy your ticket on a Tuesday morning. Because airline pricing goes through a weekly cycle, most airfare sales are are filed late Monday, whilst sales prices are pulled late Thursday. I don't know if this is necessarily true for all low-cost carriers, but experience has taught me that it is cheaper to buy a ticket in the morning.
  • Fly low-season, i.e. between January and May.
  • The earlier or later the flight, the cheaper. Yes, this means getting up at 5 a.m. Horrid, I know.

Are there any pitfalls to flying with low-cost carriers?
Unfortunately, yes. Many budget airlines try to squeeze the money out of you in every possible way. Most sell their tickets exclusively over their websites rather than via travel agents, which means you are bound to use your credit or debit card to confirm the booking. Expect as much as €20 added to the total bill! Add to that overpriced food and drinks on board, baggage restrictions, non-refundable tickets and extra money you'd have to spend on travelling to and from faraway airports. (Little did I know that, when flying to Stockholm with Ryanair, I actually flew to a place nowhere near Stockholm and had to buy a €30 bus ticket... Such fun!)


Narita Airport, Tokyo ©Maaike
Do traditional airlines offer cheap tickets as well?
When taking all the above points into consideration, traditional airlines may offer cheaper alternatives in some cases. I therefore suggest going to Skyscanner (my personal favourite) 
or Cheapflights.com, passenger flight search engines that allow you to browse and compare flights via price and location. Competition from budget airlines have forced traditional carriers to cut their fares too, which means that even cheapskates like you and me could be flying in a quality airplane (with in-flight entertainment!).

Credit to thebackpackblues.blogspot.com

1 comment :

  1. Aggreed.. Book a ticket at least a month before departure...

    ReplyDelete

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