How to Find Cheap Flights to Europe
Early winter can be the perfect time for taking a trip to Europe. Between the mild weather, smaller crowds, scenic outdoor activities, and lower hotel rates, there are a handful of reasons to fly across the pond. There’s more good news: You can score low-priced flights if you plan accordingly.
Here, 8 easy tips for flying to Europe in the off season.
1. PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATION
Of course, where you’re traveling to affects your fare, so choose a destination with better deals. “The cheapest cities can vary depending on where you fly from, but we’ve been seeing some excellent deals to Copenhagen, Dublin, London, and Paris this year,” says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com. Case in point: Fare Compare found round-way flight deals from New York to Copenhagen for $320 and New York to London for $354.
Moreover, a recent Kayak report found that flights to Northern and Western Europe are currently offering the most competitive rates. Iceland (Reykjavik airport) and Dublin are the travel company’s top picks for cheapest European destinations.
2. PICK THE RIGHT DEPARTURE CITY
Generally, flights to Europe from Boston, Chicago, New York City, Orlando, Denver, and Washington, D.C. will be the most affordable, since these cities are hubs for many international carriers.
3. FIND AN ULTRA-LOW-COST AIRLINE
Some airlines offer better deals than others. Norwegian Air, British-owned Condor, Icelandic carrier Wow Air, France-based XL Air, and Latvian Primera Air have some of the lowest priced transatlantic flights. Wow Air, for example, recently offered a $160 flight from Boston to Amsterdam in December. Primera Air, meanwhile, is selling flights from Newark to Paris for as low as $99.
4. AVOID EXTRA FEES
Low-cost air carriers often charge “hidden” fees for extras, like carry-on bags, checked luggage, seat upgrades, or even beverages. While budget airlines are notorious for nickel-and-diming passengers for added fees, “you can score some serious value from their cheap tickets,” says Emily McNutt, associate news editor at The Points Guy. “Just be sure you read their pricing structure and terms and conditions so you know what you're getting into,” McNutt warns.
5. FOR REMOTE DESTINATIONS, FLY TO A NEARBY MAJOR CITY
To cross the ocean as affordably as possible, it often makes sense to break up your trip into two separate itineraries, says Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights (ScottsCheapFlights.com). “Once you're in Europe, you can hop a train or budget flight most places for under $100,” Keyes explains.
Often, flights to remote destinations, such as national parks or Mediterranean islands, cost more than flights to major cities. Hence, it pays to map out your trip and plan your flight path accordingly.
6. LEVERAGE GOOGLE FLIGHTS
There are certainly a ton of websites and booking search services for finding deals on flights, but Tarik Allag, founder of SecretFlying.com, recommends Google Flights. The tool lets you view fares from your city for specific travel dates, and it searches all but the smallest airlines, as well as the largest online travel agencies (OTAs) like Orbitz and Priceline. You can also use it to set an alert for a flight, and Google will send you an email if price goes up or down.
In addition, by utilizing Google Flights’ calendar function “you can scroll through to see if leaving one day earlier or returning one day later will help to save you some serious cash,” says McNutt. “If you're flexible on your destination, the ‘Explore’ function allows you to input your departure city and when you want to travel to see where in the region offers the cheapest flights.”
7. DEPART ON WEDNESDAY, RETURN ON TUESDAY
Many articles tout headlines like “This is the best day of the week to fly!” but few have hard evidence to back up their claims. Yet thanks to Kayak, we can put this subject to rest. After analyzing more than a year’s worth of flight data leaving the U.S. and Canada to Europe, the website’s price forecaster found that flying across the pond on a Wednesday and returning home on a Tuesday typically gets travelers the cheapest flights. A recent report from CheapAir.com supports this, finding that travelers can save an average of $76 by reserving flights on a Wednesday (the least expensive day to fly) instead of on a Sunday (the most expensive).
8. GET TWO VACATIONS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE
Want a free stopover in Iceland on your way to another European city? With IcelandAir you have the option of adding a stay of up to seven nights when traveling from the U.S. and Canada to Europe for no additional cost to your original plane ticket.
7 Easy Holiday Travel Tips
Flying home for Christmas? Do those words inspire a kind of once-a-year cognitive dissonance that blends fond sentiment with deep-seated dread? You're not alone. Recent surveys suggest that holiday travelers do not, in fact, love everything about the experience. Shocked? We didn't think so. Here, we've consulted with some of our favorite travel pros to deliver stress-melting travel tips that are almost as effective as that second glass of eggnog. 1. FLY EARLY OR DRIVE LATE While a 6 a.m. flight may seem like a rough way to start your holiday trip, Andrea Feczko, host of the ABC series Vacation Creation, reminds us that the first flight of the day is often the most affordable and, of course, flying early means there’s less of a chance that your flight (and any connecting flights) will be delayed. But if you’re driving to your holiday destination, it may be best to try the opposite approach and hit the road after dark, when the roads are almost always emptier. Let the kids sleep in the back seat, and when you get to Grandma’s house, you may sleep in before the festivities start. 2. TRAVEL LIKE SANTA ON CHRISTMAS EVE Before we leave the subject of the best times of day to travel, the Budget Travel editors swear by imitating St. Nicholas’s approach: Travel on Christmas Eve night. For real. A red-eye from Cali for NYC on Christmas Eve, for instance, is a surprisingly peaceful, drama-free way to get home for the holidays. 3. MAIL YOUR HOLIDAY GIFTS AHEAD OF TIME Unless you’ve got eight tiny reindeer and a flying sleigh, chances are your gifts are going to slow you down. Wrap your presents (and bulky winter coats too, if you want) and ship them to your destination ahead of time to save time and money on the whole checked-bag experience. And be sure to pack an empty expandable bag, too, so if you end up acquiring a multitude of items while you’re away from home and you don’t get a chance to mail them home, you’ll got something to haul them around in. 4. THESE APPS MAKE FLYING EASIER “Appy Holidays!” When you’re flying at one of the busiest times of the year, such as the last two weeks of December, “know before you go” becomes an urgent necessity. Before you head to the airport, be sure you have downloaded some essential apps, suggests Wendy Perrin, the editor of WendyPerrin.com and travel advocate at TripAdvisor. Get the MyTSA app, which will keep you updated on your airport’s security lines and wait times. And download your airlines’ app, so you have up-to-the-minute intel on delays and cancellations at your airport and any connecting airports. 5. BOOK GROUND TRANSPORTATION IN ADVANCE Tim Hentschel, CEO of HotelPlanner.com, suggests that, during the busy holiday travel season, book your ground transportation in advance instead of relying on the kindness of on-demand apps or taxis to get you from the airport to your lodging. “Book ahead of time with a shuttle service or private driver that will be there waiting for you on arrival.” 6. TURN A DELAY INTO AN ADVENTURE Try to look at an unexpected flight delay as a good thing and embrace your newfound free time to explore the city where you happen to be "stranded," says travel writer Kaeli Conforti (@KaeliTravels on Instagram). Remember, a flight cancellation isn’t a disaster if you can think of it as a travel adventure. 7. DON’T BELIEVE “THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS” Instead of going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, consider going your own way over the holidays, at least every so often. (Surveys suggest that 7 out of 10 travelers aren't all that crazy about staying with relatives anyway.) Caribbean beaches, European cities, and Las Vegas may be calling your name. This year, we're seeing reasonable holiday airfares to Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Orlando (remember, Orlando's theme parks see a lull in crowds and a dip in hotel rates between the busy Thanksgiving weekend and crowded Christmas week).
You've seen them at the airport and at the train station; you may know them personally, or you might even be one of them yourself—those people who practically float through the terminal, not a hair out of place or a bead of sweat in sight. The secret to such serenity? Having the right tools for the job, and our picks will do the trick. 1. A Trusty Sidekick (Courtesy Away) Still trying to make it to your gate while lugging a bulky bag and pulling an unwieldy rollaboard? Streamline your approach with Away's trim, handsomely designed tote. Equally appropriate as an under-seat personal item and a weekend-trip carry-all, it has a pocket for everything—laptop, tablet, phone, notebooks, pens, even a wet umbrella—but the external sleeve that slides over your suitcase handle and lets you wheel the two together is the real game-changer. When used on its own, the handles are sturdy and amply padded, and there’s a removable crossbody strap for hands-free shlepping. We like it in the sturdy, water-resistant nylon, but if you’re really looking to splurge, the limited-edition leather versions receive rave reviews too.The Everywhere Bag, from $195; awaytravel.com. 2. An Optical Illusion (Courtesy Spanx) When you’re on the go, leggings are one of the most comfortable things you can put on your body; the downside, of course, is that they rarely look as good as they feel. This faux-leather pair from Spanx will give your travel-day outfit a stylish upgrade: They’re effortless and form-fitting, as leggings should be, but the matte finish makes them look like the real-leather deal, with a gentle sheen instead of the bright, cheap-looking glare of other synthetic fabrics. And not for nothing, the brand best known for its shapewear has a way with spandex. Here, the natural waistband contours and supports for a smooth silhouette, so you’ll seem pulled together, even on the laziest day.Faux leather leggings, from $98; spanx.com. 3. A Versatile Cover-up (Courtesy prAna)Pair your swank new leggings with another travel-day essential: a light, slouchy, easy on-and-off layer that’ll let you breeze through security and keep you cozy in transit. With its loose fit, deep, angled pockets, and stretchy, wrinkle-resistant modal fabric, prAna’s soft, dolman-sleeve cardigan does just that. Stash one in your daypack in case the air-conditioning kicks in or the weather shifts, and you'll be well prepared for frigid temps.Foundation Wrap, $69; prana.com. 4. A Magic Hat (Courtesy Goorin Bros.) Tossing and turning on that overnight flight is bad enough; you shouldn’t have to deal with a wild ‘do on top of a lack of sleep. This trilby-style fedora from Goorin Bros. lets you roll off the plane without giving your hair a second thought: It folds to take up minimal space in your bag and pops back into shape remarkably well, its paper-straw construction and moisture-wicking sweatband combine to keep you from overheating, and its striped-grosgrain ribbon adds a chic touch. And while the straw might lend it a warm-weather vibe, the neutral color palette means it’ll pair with pretty much anything, so it won’t be one of those things you pack and never wear.Keep It Real hat, $50; goorin.com. 5. A Makeup Must-Have (Courtesy Sephora) If you have an extensive skincare regimen or makeup routine, this Sephora Collection organizer is the solution to your packing needs. With elastic loops for your brushes, two removable, vinyl-lined storage cubes for your products, and a flat zippered pouch (also removable), for your toiletries, it’ll hold everything you need for your journey, and you won’t find yourself rummaging around in a bottomless Dopp kit once you hit the hotel bathroom, either. Pro tip: If you’re flying, use the pouch for your liquids and carry it separately, popping it back into the case after you’ve cleared the scanners.Pack It All Organizer, $45; sephora.com. 6. A Clean Sweep (Courtesy RECESS)Feeling less than fresh in flight? This travel kit from Recess comes with an assortment of individually packaged, biodegradable wipes that’ll let you leave your toiletry case in the overhead bin. Try the witch hazel–based face wipes, laced with soothing green-tea extract and revitalizing green-apple extract, to knock out bacteria; the anti-inflammatory aloe wipes to moisturize and heal; and the tea-tree-oil deodorant wipes to knock out nasty odors. They’re all non-comedogenic, so they won’t clog pores, and they’re free of sulfates, parabens, artificial fragrances, and a whole slew of other bad-news ingredients, so you’ll feel safe using them—and won’t offend your fellow passengers in the process.Kit 301: Travel Kit, $26; myrecess.co. 7. A Reliable Rinse (Courtesy the Laundress)Dressing in head-to-toe black is one way of disguising unsightly spills and stains, but to avoid such embarrassments entirely, pack a provisional laundry kit in case of sartorial emergencies. This set from the Laundress includes two-ounce bottles of wrinkle-releasing solution, fabric freshener, and a static-zapping spray, as well as stain packets that work wonders on tannin-heavy substances like coffee and red wine, and a semi-miraculous bar of soap that can be used to pretreat and hand-wash anything that needs it. Why pay to send your delicates out when you can take care of them yourself?On the Spot kit, $31; thelaundress.com.8. A Real Eye-Opener (Courtesy Thrive)Sure, you could use Thrive’s cushy, oversized eye mask en route to your destination, though it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than the ones we normally recommend. But we’ve found that it’s most effective as a recovery tool once you’ve touched down, thanks to its massaging gel beads and hot/cold capabilities. Throw it in your hotel-room microwave and heat it up to treat symptoms of travel stress like headaches, sinus pain, and even soreness from tight shoulders or clenched jaws, or stick it in the freezer for cool relief for puffy, bloodshot eyes. Regardless, it's a soothing, non-prescription restorative for what ails you.Hot/cold eye mask with gel beads, $13; amazon.com. 9. A Tiny Treasury (Courtesy UncommonGoods.com)Don’t fancy sporting the same neckwear each day you’re away? Pack a variety of ties and keep them wrinkle-free with this tidy cylindrical case from UncommonGoods. The vegan-leather caddy holds three at a time, and it’s a mere four-by-three-by-three inches in size, so you won’t sacrifice space in your bag to do so. Grab one for yourself, and gift one to your favorite fashion plate.The Necktie Travel Roll, $24; uncommongoods.com.
Teenagers can be notoriously tough to please, but we believe we've cracked the code. From cute accoutrements to bigger-ticket investment pieces, we've got the gear that'll earn that nod of approval—no sweat necessary. 1. Warm Up (Courtesy Rumpl) Airlines' standards for a clean and germ-free environment may not be mile-high (...sorry), but you can avoid those grimy, barely-bigger-than-a-towel fleece throws by packing something with panache. We love the puffy down blanket from Rumpl for its shimmery shades, cushy feel, and compact, lightweight footprint. They can stuff it in the sack that’s included and clip it to their carry-on to save room in their bag, toss it in the back seat to stay warm on a road trip, and bring it on overnight hikes or camping trips for an extra dose of coziness around the fire. Thanks to ripstop nylon encasing 600-fill goose down, it’ll keep you toasty, and it’s machine washable and dryer friendly, so they'll have no problem rinsing away those plane pathogens once they're back on solid ground.Puffy Down Blanket in Fractal, $199; rumpl.com. 2. Travel Light (Courtesy Patagonia) We’re big fans of a hands-free bag, both for travel and for the everyday, so we were psyched to discover this tough little ripstop number from Patagonia. At just seven inches long by five inches high, it’s already impressively tiny, but it also folds away into its own case, which makes it a great choice for an already overcrowded suitcase. Even better, the case itself turns into an internal, zippered pocket when the pack's being used, so your valuables will stay protected when you're on the go. Add to that its vibrant blue hue, and you've got a real crowd-pleaser on your hands. Lightweight Travel Mini Hip Pack in Balkan Blue, $29; patagonia.com. 3. Guard The Digits (Courtesy cable-bite.com) In the grand scheme of things, a frayed cord may not seem like much more than a petty irritant, but exposed wires on phone chargers can be a dangerous proposition, causing minor shocks and even, in the extremely rare case, death by electrocution. These fun iPhone cable bites will protect your screen junkie and provide some cuteness at the same time, and they're just a few bucks a pop. Choose their favorite animal (we’re partial to the penguins ourselves), or grab a set and let them change things up as the mood strikes.Dreams Cable Bites, from $3; amazon.com. 4. Keep It Moving (Courtesy Jabra) For that traveler who’s looking to shut out the noise of the world, give them the gift of solitude—and good sound. Jabra’s wireless on-ear headphones have a slimmer profile than bulkier over-ear alternatives; they’re adjustable, but they best fit those with smaller heads (we found they don’t pinch at all, even when wearing earrings). They’ll keep the music going for eight hours at a trot, and they come with a cord so you can plug in and keep listening even if your playlist lasts longer than the charge. The Bluetooth pairs quickly and easily, the microphone works well for taking calls, and though they’re not technically noise-cancelling, the headphones do block out quite a lot of commotion. Most important? They produce remarkably robust, well-rounded tones—especially considering the affordable price point. Jabra Move Wireless Headphones, $50 (discounted through 1/5/19; regularly $100); amazon.com. 5. Protect Those Peepers (Courtesy Sunski) What’s a selfie without a set of shades? This pair from Sunski has frosted, translucent frames and polarized, mirrored lenses for a standout look, and they're feather-light and comfortable to boot. Like the rest of the brand’s offerings, they come with a lifetime warranty—a strong selling point if you’re shopping for someone who isn’t particularly precious about their eyewear—and the company donates one percent of its sales to environmental nonprofits, so it’s a win-win for anyone with a green streak.Dipsea polarized sunglasses in frosted sky, $58; sunski.com. 6. Provide Instant Gratification (Courtesy FUJIFILM INSTAX®) In these digital times, there's little more appealing than the tactile pleasure of a physical photo, and when you factor in the immediacy of an instant print, you can't go wrong. Even the most jaded teen will get a kick out of Fujifilm’s latest Instax model, a chunky camera that produces square images ready-made for Instagram—once they're scanned in, of course. They can mess around in double-exposure mode, experiment with macro and landscape settings, adjust the light levels, and play with color via the filters that pop onto the flash and add a tint to the scene. But our favorite feature is the selfie mirror, right next to the lens. All they have to do is make sure they're in the frame, click away, and the camera handles the rest. (PS: It's really popular at parties too.)Instax Square SQ6, $130; fujifilm.com. 7. Teach Them About Beauty Sleep (Courtesy Oliver Bonas) It’s a lesson best learned at a young age: If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep on the road, an eye mask is your best friend. This one is super-fun, a playful wink to emoji culture wrapped in a fuzzy faux-fur hug. Lined with cool satin and finished with a ruched band to keep it in place without pulling hair, it’ll help them get through that first red-eye like a champ.Faux Fur Eyes eye mask, $19; oliverbonas.com. 8. Grow Their Library (Courtesy Amazon) Bountiful reading material in one slender device: What’s not to love? Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite offers 8 GB of storage (double the memory of previous versions), a 300-ppi glare-resistant screen, and WiFi connectivity to download on the go—great for folks who get itchy when they don’t have a book on hand. This version is Bluetooth-enabled, so they can sync to an Audible account and listen instead, and it’s waterproof in six-plus feet of water for up to an hour, so they won’t have to stress over the odd poolside splash. Naturally, it comes with access to a huge collection of titles, including magazines, comics, and newspapers, but they can also borrow Kindle-compatible e-books from the library for even more budget-friendly reads.Kindle Paperwhite, $130; amazon.com. 9. Pack in Style (Courtesy ban.do) Form over function? Not so fast. Yes, this coated-canvas toiletries bag from ban.do is adorably logoed, but it also has plenty of pockets—inside, a clear PVC zippered pouch and two mesh pockets; outside, one big pocket on the back—so everything they pack will have its place, even when they’re stuck in coach. All set on the toiletries front? The youthful brand carries an array of similarly smart travel gear, from planners to passport covers to luggage tags to eye masks, so you’re bound to find something for them here.First Class Getaway Toiletries Bag, $15; bando.com.
Traveling With a Disability: What You Need to Know
Consumer Affairs recently reported that the Government Accountability Office, an independent federal watchdog agency, found that in the air travel industry, disability-related complaints doubled from 2005 to 2015, topping out at more 30,000 complaints for the most recent year that data was available. The situation for disabled travelers is never simple, but with growing public awareness and activists working for change, the future might hold and easier trip for everyone. Shrinking aircrafts, growing problems In airlines’ efforts to pack more passengers into each flight, one thing that’s been sacrificed is bathroom space. In the newer model planes that are flown by Delta, United, and American, bathrooms in coach are a meager 24 inches wide. While it’s a struggle for tall or obese people, the task of squeezing into such a compact space can be even more difficult for someone with a physical disability. But according to the aircraft manufacturer, the smaller restroom accommodates six more passenger seats. And that’s to say nothing of shrinking seats and less aisle space in newer-model jets. Disabled passengers’ complaints on the rise Maneuvering an aircraft is only one challenge that physically disabled travelers face. In addition to structural and design limitations, there are plenty of other issues that can be a hassle, if not a nightmare, for people with limited mobility. Earlier in November, Consumer Affairs reported that “customers with disabilities say that they are regularly mistreated during air travel, with one of the more common problems being airline staff that lose or break their personal wheelchairs—leaving passengers who can’t walk completely stranded and without a medical device worth thousands of dollars.” This is especially problematic because unlike lost or mishandled luggage, there are no reporting requirements under federal law for wheelchair damage. But being prepared can lead to a speedier solution should the worst case scenario come to fruition. The Department of Transportation recommends taking a photograph of your wheelchair or assistance device ahead of travel to capture its condition and providing written instructions detailing the disassembly, assembly, and stowage of your device. The federal government’s protections According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website, a disability is defined as a “physical or mental impairment that impacts a major life activity—such as walking, hearing, or breathing.” This applies to temporary disabilities, like a broken leg, as well as permanent ones. The DOT is responsible for enforcing the Air Carrier Access Act, the federal law that makes it illegal for airlines to discriminate against passengers because of their disability. Airlines are required to provide disabled passengers with various means of assistance, like wheelchairs or other guided help to board, deplane, or connect to another flight. They must also offer seating-accommodation assistance that meets passengers’ individual needs and help with loading and stowing assistive devices. Further protections could be coming down the line. In 2016, the Obama administration said that by 2018, all US airlines would be required “to report on how often they mishandle wheelchairs so air travelers with disabilities can easily compare carriers and make informed travel decisions.” After initial agreement from the airline industry, companies requested the new rules be put on hold under the new administration. Advice from disabled travelers When it comes to planning a trip, accessibility concerns are first and foremost, from hotels and tourist attractions to public transportation and taxis. In interviews recently published by Healthline, a health and wellness website, disabled influencers offered their recommendations for dealing with travel’s many challenges. Vilissa Thompson, a disability rights consultant, writer and activist who founded Ramp Your Voice (rampyourvoice.com), an organization focused on empowerment, notes that when planning a trip, she double-checks her flight reservation days before she flies to make sure her wheelchair use is noted, and she makes it a priority to figure out public transit and airport transfers ahead of time. Cory Lee Woodard, a prolific blogger (curbfreewithcorylee.com), notes that taking direct flights reduces the risk of his wheelchair being damaged. Australia-based blogger Stacey Christie (lovemoxieblog.com) says the best way for disabled passengers to negotiate travel challenges is via personal advice from the many disabled travel blogs on the web. Her own site is a great place to start.