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The #1 Trick to Saving on Flights to Europe

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Attention Thrifty Traveler Premium members:

Attention Thrifty Traveler Premium members:

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Flight prices to Europe can get scary sometimes: Seeing airfare around $1,000 or more a ticket is the norm. But if you think a little bigger, you might be able to book that summer escape to Italy or a trip over tulip season in the Netherlands without breaking the bank this year.

Here's how: The key to saving on flights to Europe is finding the cheapest possible flight to any city in Europe – not necessarily your final destination. Once you make it across the pond, connect where you want to wind up with a cheap flight or even train ride.

While it might add an extra stop on your trip and complicate your travel-planning process, it's the easiest way by far to save on flights – and save a lot. Plus, there are many tried-and-true cheap destinations throughout Europe that you can target to cross the Atlantic Ocean for less.

Here's how to do it.


Aim for the Continent, Not Your Final City

Too many travelers follow the same playbook when booking a trip to Europe: They go to their favorite travel website or Google Flights, plug in their home airport, their desired destination, and preferred travel dates, and then click search.

While you might luck out and stumble upon a cheap fare that way, you're far more likely to see an eye-popping price. When it comes to finding cheap flights to Europe, flexibility is key … and not just for when you travel, but where you fly to.

Within Europe, you've got tons of options for destinations to get you started. And travel within Europe via plane, train, or automobile, is cheap once you're there, too. So you stand to save by first booking the cheapest flight to Europe you can. From there make your way to the city or country of your choice.

Let's look at an example of how this works in practice. Say you're based in southern California and you want to visit the Netherlands for the annual tulip bloom this April. You might start by searching for flights for flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Amsterdam (AMS). I would, too.

Los Angeles to Amsterdam 

Ouch. The best-case scenario is getting there for $866 roundtrip. If you want to arrive in the morning, you're looking at more than $1,000 roundtrip.

But if you fly into London-Heathrow (LHR) instead  – just a quick (and cheap) train ride or flight from Amsterdam – you can save big. And depending on how long you want to spend overseas, you could build in a quick (or not so quick) stop in London before heading down to Amsterdam.

These roundtrip fares to London are less than half the cost of flying to Amsterdam!

LAX to LHR flights 

From there, you can fly (or take a train) to Amsterdam for just $75 each way and still come out far, far ahead.

Read more: Flight Prices Too High? These are the Cheapest Cities in Europe to Fly To


Use Google Flights Explore to Find the Cheapest Flight

Not sure where to start to find the cheapest city within Europe to fly into?

Let's say you want go to Italy this summer from the Orlando area. But booking a flight from Orlando (MCO) to Rome (FCO) – even with a connection – is going to hurt your wallet.

MCO to Rome 

Summer is when everyone wants to go to Italy, and that demand pushes flight prices sky-high. Just the thought of summer flights to Italy is making my bank account squirm.

Instead, use the Google Flights Explore tool to find a cheaper flight to the Europe from Orlando.

Go to Google Flights, click the “Explore” button at the top and enter Orlando as your departing airport. Rather than searching for flights to Rome, Florence, or another Italian city in the destination box, simply type “Europe.” You can either enter your desired travel dates or use the flexible date options to increase your chances of finding the lowest fares. For this, we chose a one-week trip in August.

Thrifty Tip: To get the lowest fares, always search for at least a one-week trip – airlines typically don't discount four- or five-day roundtrip airfare.

What you'll see on the map are the cheapest cities in Europe to fly to from Orlando in August. And that includes a gem: a $599 roundtrip fare to Zurich (ZRH) and back!

MCO to Europe 

Considering it will cost you more than $1,000 to fly roundtrip to Rome (FCO) directly, that's a steal. Once you find the right flight, do the same Google Flights Explore search from Zurich (ZRH) to Italy and you'll see a map that looks like this!

Zurich to Italy roundtrip 

If you want to fly to Rome (FCO), it's just $92 roundtrip from Zurich. But you could also go to Venice (VCE) for $120, Milan (MXP) for $118 and more!

There are tons of examples of this depending on where you live. Don't get trapped into flying directly to your final destination on one ticket. The biggest savings come when you aim for Europe and fill in the gaps from there.

Whether you want to fly from Orlando to Italy, Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Greece, or Seattle (SEA) to Switzerland, this process works just the same. Use Google Flights Explore to help you find the cheapest fare across the Atlantic.


Let the Flight Deal Guide You

Otherwise, you could let a service like Thrifty Traveler Premium do some of the work for you.

Our team of flight deals analysts searches for flight deals to Europe almost every day to send to our members. Eyeing a trip to Europe this summer? Next time you see a cheap flight to Europe – anywhere in Europe – in your inbox, book it, then piece together the rest of your trip.

While flight prices are always fluctuating, there are still some tried and true destinations in Europe where we're always finding flight deals.



Ireland is perhaps the best example for two reasons:

  1. Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus drives down flight prices to and from North America to Europe – and not just on Aer Lingus but on many major U.S. carriers, too.
  2. It's home to Ryanair, the most budget-friendly airline in all of Europe, putting the entire continent at your fingertips for shockingly low fares.

And when I say flight prices are low, I mean this low. Here's what we've found at Thrifty Traveler Premium lately.

Dublin flight deal 

These nonstop fares to Dublin (DUB) are sublime. If you find Europe airfare in the $400s, don't wait: Book it now, ask questions later. But sometimes these fares can drop to even more unthinkable lows…

Dublin flight deal 

If a little (or a lot of) extra comfort is what you seek, Dublin is also one of the best destinations to look for a cheap business class flight.

Dublin business class flight 

This JetBlue Mint Suite business class fare Business Class seat could have been yours for $1,993 roundtrip – less than $1,000 each way from the east coast of the U.S.

If you'd rather use points to book your business class seat, it's a bargain, too. We've sent Thrifty Traveler Premium alerts to book for just 50,000 Avios (the loyalty program of British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, and Qatar, whose miles you can easily earn by transferring from all the major credit card companies) for a one-way to Dublin.

Dublin business class flight deal 

And from there, you're looking at airfare in the range of $20 to $100 maximum each way to get to where you want to go in Europe.


Iceland & Scandinavia

The Nordic nations aren't known for being cheap. In fact, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway are some of the most expensive places to visit in the world.

Yet ironically, they're some of the cheapest destinations within Europe to fly to thanks to some comfortable budget-friendly airlines that call Scandinavia and Iceland home.

Here's one recent example from Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). With hubs in Stockholm (ARN) and Copenhagen (CPH), SAS flies from many U.S. airports to cities throughout Europe at bargain prices. But even if you're not interested in flying SAS, those low prices drive down prices on your favorite airlines like American, Delta, and United.

Stockholm flight deal 

The other budget carrier responsible for driving down prices to nearly all of Europe is Icelandair. Icelandair connects North Americans to Reykjavik (KEF) but also offers onward connections to almost every major European city. These low fares to Helsinki (HEL), for example, would make the perfect cheap Europe flight, followed by a quick, cheap flight to any other city on the continent.

Finland flight deal 

Iceland itself is always home to cheap flights thanks to Icelandair. But the budget airline has been putting a lot of pressure on Delta lately, which has three of its own nonstop routes to Iceland. To help fill those planes, Delta put connecting flights from all over the U.S. on sale under $600 roundtrip this year.

Iceland nationwide sale

Spain & Portugal

Spain and Portugal are almost always a reliable starting point for a cheap trip to Europe.

Besides being incredible, sought-after destinations on their own, these two cheap flight meccas are the perfect place to aim your flight search if you want to get to Europe almost any time of year.

Spain and Portugal 

This list of cities above is a flight deal we sent recently to Madrid, Spain (MAD). Fares in the $400s roundtrip can help you keep your trip costs way, way down. And from Madrid (MAD), you have Spanish carrier Iberia's entire network of flights to get you to the rest of the continent.

The same goes for Portugal, which is known for cheap flights thanks to the competitive pricing of flag carrier TAP Air Portugal.

Portugal flight deal 

If you can get to Lisbon (LIS) or Porto (OPO) for less than $599, do it! But even with as few as 35,000 credit card points, you can make that same journey on TAP Air Portugal business class instead!

Portugal business class 

Start your trip off with a lie-flat bed across the Atlantic? Don't mind if we do!

You can also pull off a lie-flat journey flying Iberia business class to Madrid (MAD), too. And for as low as just 34,000 Avios each way in the spring, fall, or winter, it's one of the cheapest (and easiest) ways to cross the Atlantic in a lie-flat seat.

Iberia business class


And More!

Ireland, Iceland, Scandinavia, Portugal, and Spain all stand out for regularly cheap transatlantic fares. But they're not alone.

You can also routinely snag a cheap flight to places like Budapest (BUD), Vienna (VIE), Zurich (ZRH), Brussels (BRU), Frankfurt (FRA), and so many more.


Bottom Line

Travelers looking for a cheap flight to Europe often do it wrong. Instead of searching for flights between your home airport and your final destination – and only those flights – travelers should look for the cheapest flight possible to Europe and piece together the journey from there.

Why? Because some European cities are magnets for cheap transatlantic flights – and traveling between cities once you make it to Europe is even cheaper. So focus on getting across the pond as cheaply as possible first in order to save on your next big Europe trip.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  • Awesome article, you have me rethinking my whole strategy! We have 5-6 destinations we’d love to make it to across the pond in the next 10-15 years, so letting the cheapest flight dictate our choices also helps ease the “paralysis by analysis” decision of where to go first!

  • This, Is Fantastic. Economy is just too painful at this point. My only fear is, what happens if you miss your connecting/ next flight? Especially if’s it’s using points, and with another airline.

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