Whether you're heading to Paris for the Olympics, catching Taylor Swift on her international tour, or planning to enjoy a European city or two during the peak summer months, there's something you should know about travel to Europe this summer: Everyone else is going, too.
Travel demand across the pond in the summer of 2024 is going to be unprecedented, with high-profile events like Swift's Eras Tour and the Summer Olympic Games, plus the usual draws of Europe in the summer. Higher demand means higher prices, not to mention tough flight and hotel availability.
There are several other indicators, too, that travel demand to Europe this summer is going to be like nothing we've ever seen.
For one, airlines launched dozens of new routes across the Atlantic in preparation for this summer and increased how often they'll fly their existing routes, too. American Airlines alone launched four new nonstops, along with United's new offerings, JetBlue's foray into Ireland and Scotland, and more!
While we don't have perfect data about when and where travelers want to fly, the airlines do. When they're adding more flights, that means they know they can fill them with high-paying customers. The flight prices on these seasonal routes are not for the faint of heart. Charging upwards of $1,500 roundtrip for an economy flight might seem offensive, but the airlines know there are people out there desperate enough to pay that.
If you want to waive the white flag and just watch the festivities from your couch this summer, the rest of this story isn't for you. But if you're dead set on taking a Euro trip during what could be the busiest travel season ever, these are our best tips and tricks to save.
Start Planning Now! (Like, Right Now)
The fact that you're reading this story is a good sign, but you can't put planning on the back burner any longer if you're even considering traveling to Europe this summer. In all likelihood, you are not going to get better prices or availability between now and this summer, so time is of the essence.
So, get moving! Every day you put off planning this thing, airplane seats fill up, hotel rooms are purchased, and train tickets get gobbled up, too.
According to Google Flights data, the cheapest flights to Europe historically are found between now and 72 days before departure. That means you should begin looking for your international flights around six months before travel up until about 2.5 months out from your trip. But that data is from a normal year, and this year is going to be even busier.
Right now is when you should start looking and booking – especially if you're trying to see Taylor or Team USA.
It's time to get this trip out of the group chat and into your TripIt itinerary. And you already know where you should start…
Follow the Flight First Rule
Most travelers follow the same script when planning a trip: Pick a spot, decide on your dates, book a hotel, and then start looking at flights.
The single biggest change you can make to save on flights (especially during the busy summer months) is also the easiest: Flip that script on its head and follow what we call the Flight First Rule. And yes, it's exactly what it sounds like.
By booking your flights first, you open up a world of potential savings. Pick your dates in advance, and you're putting yourself at the whim of whatever the airlines want to charge you. Start by searching for flights, and you can let the prices guide you to the cheapest dates possible.
Whether your schedule is wide open to travel at any time of the year or you've only got a one-to-two-week window to travel, even changing your departure or return dates by a single day can mean some serious savings.
Or, you could let a good flight deal determine when and where you take your Europe trip. Our team of flight deal analysts searches every single day for flight deals to Europe in the summer, especially around high-profile events like the Paris Olympics and the Eras Tour. And when we find them, we will send them right to our Thrifty Traveler Premium members.
Take this deal, for instance. While the likes of American, Delta, and United don't typically drop prices to Europe during the peak summer months, European carriers like SAS run big sales on summer fares all the time. This latest deal featured amazingly cheap itineraries to Europe, including some August availability!
Join Thrifty Traveler Premium to get more flight deals like this in your inbox!
It doesn't get much cheaper than this to fly to London during the peak summer months. Book this flight, then build your Europe around these dates. Your wallet will thank you!
Changing your travel dates by just a day here or planning your whole trip around the cheapest flights can lead to huge savings, but there's another way to save big, too.
Cast a Wide Net (Search for Multiple Destinations)
Peak summer flights to Europe are pricey in a normal year, and 2024 will not be normal. Traveling to major events is tough because there's less flexibility and the highest possible demand. But there's a better way…
Say it with us: You don't have to fly to Paris to go to the Paris Olympics!
Repeat that to yourself. Say it again. Put it on a post-it note. Tattoo it on your forearm. Do whatever you have to to get this through your head. You're likely going to pay way too much if you insist on flying into Charles-de-Gaulle (CDG) International Airport from the U.S. while the Olympics are taking place. The same goes for any date on the Eras Tour. Want to see her at Wembley Stadium in London? You don't have to fly to Heathrow (LHR) to do it.
Use Google Flights Explore to see where it's cheapest to fly into. Let's say you're in Chicago (ORD) and want to book a flight to Paris for the Olympics. If you use the Explore map to search the cities around Paris, you stand to save anywhere from a little to a lot.
You could fly to Dublin (DUB) for less than $900 during the games, or to London (LHR) or Lisbon (LIS) and then travel to Paris from there to save hundreds. You can also build in your own layover, allowing you to see another city for a few days, too!
The beauty of Europe is, that once you're in Europe, Europe is so small. Intra-Europe flights are usually about an hour or less and can be insanely cheap, even during the peak summer. That's because there's so much competition with trains and buses, too, which are also terrific options to fuel your travels.
Need proof? Here you go. Say you can book a cheaper flight to London than you can to Paris for the Olympics. A flight between London (LTN) and Paris (CDG) on the day of the opening ceremony starts at just $104.
And just a few days later, during the middle of the games, London to Paris will only run you $72.
This system will work for tons of European cities, too. While fares don't always work exactly in reverse in Europe, this map of nonstop flight prices from Paris during the Olympic Games gives you a sense of nearly how cheap it can be to fly there from all over Europe on the day of the opening ceremonies.
Plus, from many of these cities, a train ride can save you money even further. For instance, Brussels, Amsterdam, London, Geneva, Zurich, and Frankfurt are all within three hours by train from Paris if the flight prices are too high, or you want to avoid the airport altogether.
Use Your Points and Miles
Cash rates to Europe might be high this summer. In fact, we expect that to be the case, as fares are already creeping up and up and up and up…
That's why having a stash of credit card points or airline miles is useful. Using points or miles to book your flights will save you tons of money, and depending on the points program, you don't have to pay an arm and a leg, either.
Here's an example. Say you want to go to Amsterdam (AMS) from Minneapolis (MSP) this summer. Maybe you do the smart thing and aim for August, the beginning of shoulder season, when summer flight prices tend to be slightly cheaper than June or July. you do the smart thing and you aim for August, when summer flight prices tend to be slightly cheaper than June or July.
Here's what you find…
Ouch. $1,300 for a no-frills basic economy? That's straight-up awful. But if you turn to your Delta SkyMiles to get the job done, there's not much relief there, either.
Yeeeesh. While anything's better than forking over $1,300, it's still going to hurt your SkyMiles account. Not to mention you might not even have that many miles to spare.
But if you have transferrable points from a travel rewards credit card, you've got more options. By transferring those points to an airline partner, you could book these exact same flights for far fewer points.
Delta's partner, Virgin Atlantic, allows you to book nonstop Delta flights using Virgin points at significant discounts compared to how much Delta charges in SkyMiles.
Using Virgin points, you can book these exact same flights to Amsterdam for just 30,000 points each way during peak summer. You can transfer points to Virgin from banks like American Express, Capital One, Chase, or even Bilt Rewards.
That's just one example of how your points and miles can help you save big on expensive flights to Europe this summer.
Why Business Class Might Be Best
It might sound counterintuitive, but the most expensive seats on the plane might be the cheapest way to fly to Europe in some cases this year.
Just hear me out.
As economy flight prices soared above $1,000 for travel this summer, business class points and miles rates stayed largely the same. That's how most programs work: The price (in points or miles, not cash) doesn't change depending on demand. The only thing that changes when you're using points and miles is award availability.
Over the last few months, we've sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium members tons of deals that include peak summer business class, but almost none that include peak summer economy.
This Air France business class deal to Paris (CDG) during the Olympics and peak summer was one to remember. Flying from Boston (BOS), Miami (MIA), Toronto (YYZ), and Washington, D.C. (IAD), flyers in the front cabin could get a cheaper deal than the economy travelers in many cases! You could easily transfer the points you need to Flying Blue from banks like American Express, Capital One, Chase, Citi, or even Bilt Rewards and book these flights.
We thought this couldn't be a trend, but then we found the same availability from Los Angeles (LAX) on Air France a few days later, and that was before Lufthansa jumped into the mix on its new route from Minneapolis (MSP)!
A swanky seat like that could be your home on the way across the Atlantic, and for our subscribers who booked this deal before it died off, it will be! Again, if you had points from Amex, Capital One, Chase, or Bilt, you could transfer them to Air Canada (or United in some cases) to book these Lufthansa flights to Europe during peak summer.
Also flying to Frankfurt is German carrier Condor, which is starting to get a lot of love for its sweet new business class setup. We reviewed Condor's new business class seats last year and thought it was spectacular…especially for just 55,000 points each way!
If you're not a points and miles junkie, you can also use cash to buy lie-flat seats to Europe this summer. These fares are so close to the economy rates, it might be the best deal yet.
La Compagnie flies a business class-only plane featuring a plane with only lie-flat seats. To fill those seats, they ran a sale a few months ago that featured wide open availability all summer long!
The best deals we're finding for peak summer travel to Europe are in business class, which is crazy to say, but it's true!
Plan Way Ahead for Lodging, Too
Let me reiterate one more time: You have to get going now – like right now – if you want to pull off a trip to Europe for the Olympics or to see the Eras Tour affordably.
We've talked about the flights, but lodging near the Olympic venues and the stadiums where Taylor is playing is already going fast – and the hotels know this. They're raising rates where travelers want to be, but it's not too early to get ahead of them. Hotels raise rates when they see huge demand, so your booking can either be the reason they raise the rates for the next traveler, or you can be the next person who suffers from the higher-priced rooms. Your choice!
If you prefer a hotel stay, use Google Hotels and its extensive list of filters to dial in your specifications. You can filter by star rating, amenities like pools or fitness centers, and proximity to the events you want to see. It will also show you, on a moving map, how expensive hotel nights are for the dates you want.
Google Hotels is, hands down, the best place to start your hotel search, especially for big events.
Airbnb and Other Vacation Rentals
Especially if you have a group coming with you, an Airbnb might be your best shot at staying for less in Europe next summer.
Use your guide to finding the best Airbnb where we recommend you pick a neighborhood first, use Airbnb's powerful filters, utilize Superhost homes, scour the reviews, and watch out for hidden fees!
You should also search Vrbo, Vacasa, and independent vacation rentals for your stay. A Google search for “Vacation Rentals Paris” could pull up some good options, too.
Flex Those Points
Staying in Europe during any major event going to be more expensive than visiting the city at any other time, there's no doubt about that. When cash rates are running $400 per night or more, it's time to dip into the hotel points to book your next trip.
You can do that in one of two ways:
- One, you can use Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, or Marriott points to book directly with the hotel if there's availability. That's the easiest way, but award availability might be hard to find during the Olympic Games.
- Or, you can use your flexible points, like American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, or Capital One Venture Miles to book hotel stays. No need to find award space – any room you can book with cash through your bank's travel portal, you can also cover some or all of your stay with points.
Plus, with Capital One, you can cover hotel stays with your Venture Miles after you book. You can help take the sting out of a pricey Airbnb or VRBO this way, too.
Stay Out of Town
Hear me out: The best bang for your buck on a Paris Olympics trip or a Taylor Swift concert might be to stay in a different city.
Because trains and flights are so abundant coming in and out of the city, you can probably make a day trip into town to see the events you want to see and fly or train back out that same day or night. Your lodging is going to be much cheaper the further away from the host city you get.
If you really can't find anything worth the price in town, this is a good option to keep in your back pocket.
If a trip to Paris for the Olympics, to any number of European cities for the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, or just a regular old Euro Trip is on the docket for 2024, you should know that it's going to be a crazy summer crossing the Atlantic.
Our advice: Get going on booking your travel right now and follow our advice, because when demand is high, prices trend that way, too.