Airfare in Europe: how to get the most for your money

This blog is a little different from the ones I usually write so please bear with me. Recently many people have asked me how I afford to travel so much, so I thought I’d make a list of recommendations on how to fly cheaply around Europe. These are based on my experiences over the last 7 years; when to book, which sites to use, how to get the best deals, things to consider and things to avoid. It’s not to say that these 8 points are the only ways to travel cheaply (as you can also travel Europe pretty easily by train too) but these are some of the best ways to save money when FLYING around Europe.

The main thing people always ask me when I tell them about a recent holiday or they see my pictures is ‘how are you abroad again?! how did you get another holiday so cheaply!?’ and the answer is research, research, research. I sometimes spend 2 or 3 hours planning and researching before I book a flight but often I can get them for super cheap! It’s very important to weigh up all the options, consider different destinations and most importantly think about more than just the cost of the flight….

A few examples of flights I’ve taken and their prices:

UK – Gdansk, Poland: £23 return (29€)

UK – Hamburg, Germany: £53 return (68€)

UK – Milan, Italy: £15 one-way (19€)

UK – Berlin, Germany: £18 return (23€)

UK – Lisbon, Portugal: £60 return (78€)

With this said it is often dependent on where you travel to, which brings me to my first point…

1. Be flexible with your destination

If you’re looking for a cheap holiday then the best bet is to let the prices lead you, not the destination. Have a broad idea of what kind of holiday you want; beach holiday, city break, sports holiday, backpacking holiday etc. Once you’ve got a general idea then you can look for places which have the correct criteria. Or if you’re like me and don’t really mind where you go then you can get some amazing deals if you’re willing to fly to some obscure places! It goes without saying that the most popular places are nearly always the most expensive places to fly to, but you can often find really great alternatives that are often cheaper and less crowded once you get there! For example, instead of flying to the south of Spain or the Greek Islands to get some sunshine consider visiting Croatia or even the south of Italy, there are some real hidden gems in places you wouldn’t necessarily think to visit.

2. Don’t use the airline website to do your research

This is perhaps one of my most tested and most useful piece of advice. Most major budget airlines (Ryanair, Easyjet, Jet2 etc) have software which raises the prices based on how many times you have viewed the flight (detected by your IP address). Yes, it’s very sneaky and some people think its just a myth but I can guarantee that the prices will rise after just a few looks at the page. Take, for example, a flight to Germany…If you’re not 100% sure of when you want to visit of the flight times and keep going backwards and forwards between pages, checking details, then the price is likely to have risen by around 40%! I once tested this theory by looking at flights on my home computer with an original price of £15 which rose to £35 after a few views. I went to my friends house (and therefore a different IP address) and found the flights at the original £15!!

I would recommend using skyscanner.net which compares prices of all major airlines worldwide without raising any prices. Once you’ve researched and found the flight you want only then should you go to the airline website to book said flight.

3. Don’t be afraid to book well in advance

There is a massive misconception with late deals, many people think that booking a flight 2 or 3 days before they fly that the prices will be lower as airlines need to fill seats….WRONG! Yes, sometimes, and I mean very rarely, you can find flights that are cheap a few days before but more often than not they’re extortionate. Don’t be afraid to book in advance, take my flight to Milan for example…I flew at the end of March 2016 but actually booked it in September 2015!! That was why it was very, very cheap and if anything were to go wrong and I couldn’t fly or didn’t need to fly then I would only be loosing £15. I know its hard to organise something nearly 6 months in advance but it really can save you money.

4. Try booking with 2 airlines

I know it might sound complicated and like a logistical nightmare but booking your outbound flight and inbound flight with different airlines often saves you lots of money. It can often also mean that you can get better flight times and can spend a bit longer on holiday.

Take my trip to Gdansk for example… I flew from Leeds Bradford Airport with Ryanair and to London Luton Airport with WizzAir. My trip was very short, only 3 days so I wanted to get the most time I possibly could in Poland. My outbound flight with Ryanair cost £8 (10€) and left really early in the morning arriving in Gdansk at around midday and my inbound flight with WizzAir cost £15 (19€) leaving Gdansk mid-afternoon and landing in Luton around 7pm.

*Be aware of differences in baggage allowances/check in procedures etc*

5. Think about getting to/from the airport

Another cost people sometimes forget to factor in is transfers to/from the airport. Within the UK its often easy to catch a lift from a family member or take the train to the airport but when you land that is when the main issue arises. Avoid taking taxis that are stationed right outside the main arrivals doorways as they are normally very expensive and hike up the prices/take longer routes with tourists. Doing research beforehand is a good idea as you can find a cheap and sometimes easier way to get to your hotel. Remember you won’t be the first tourist to the area (even if your destination isn’t a very popular one) so there will be an infrastructure in place between the airport and city centre. There are often shuttle buses or trains which cost a fraction of the amount of a taxi that are perfectly feasible to get you to your hotel.

6. Remember the extra baggage costs

When booking a flight it’s VERY important to also think about any extra costs that come on top of the basic flight ticket. All budget airlines allow hand luggage but there isn’t a standard allowance across the board, airlines have different size and weight allowances so check before you travel or you can expect to pay more for ‘oversized’ baggage. If you’re a savvy traveler like me and can last a few weeks on just hand luggage then well done you! If you’re not and are thinking  about checking in a case then be very, very careful….hold luggage is very expensive and airlines are very strict on weight allowances.

If you’re going on holiday for 2+ weeks and don’t want to have to pay to check-in expensive extra bags then consider using sendmybag.com. I love this website and its service, I’ve used it more than a dozen times when I’ve been moving around Europe and it works really well. Its basically a courier service that ships luggage/boxes/bags around the world, and yes it can deliver to hotels too (as long as you check with them beforehand)! Depending on which country you’re sending your bag to it usually takes around a week (within Europe) so you will have to plan in advance but it can save you a lot of money. The door to door service varies for each country but from the UK to Spain it’s £32 (40€) for upto 30kg (one-way)! Ryanairs heaviest allowed hold luggage is 20kg and costs £30 (38€).

7. Research distances from the airport to the city centre

Quite often big cities have many airports all operating under the name of the city. Take London for example, it has no less than 5 airports…so which ones are closest to the city itself? Which ones are the most accessible? Before you book a flight have a quick google of the airport location in relation to the city centre, as sometimes you can get caught out and spend another hour (or more) travelling from the airport to the city centre. As well as being time consuming, it’s another cost to factor in as the farther away, the airport the higher the price.

Here’s just a few examples of airports outside of the city…

London: London-Gatwick (50 miles/80km), London-Stansted (35 miles/57km), London-Luton (32 miles/52km), London-Heathrow (18miles/30km)

Munich: Munich-Memminghem (70 miles/116km)

Milan: Milan-Bergamo (30 miles/50km)

8. Don’t bother with allocated seating

Every budget airline in Europe charges an extra fee to choose your seat but you don’t need to!! If you have no preference of where you sit on the plane but want to sit with your family/friends/group, then make sure to check-in as soon as you can. Check-in usually opens a few weeks before the day of the flight (check airlines for specifics) and if you check-in within the first few days then you will usually get a block booking whether it be a few rows or just 2 seats next to each other. The later you leave it, the more likely you are to be split up as other block groupings leave single seats dotted around the plane.

🙂 🙂 🙂

Well there you have it! My 8 top tips to booking flights affordably. Once again, these aren’t the only ways to get cheap flights but the ones I’ve used over the years and find that they all work. I hope they’re helpful – happy researching, googling, booking flights and flying!!

 

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