How to Save Money on Flights to Europe from the USA
Are you looking for the secret to save money on flights? Anyone who claims to fully understand how airlines price their fares is either lying, or an industry insider about to be ominously silenced. The reality is that airfares constantly change. Algorithms set prices well beyond most human comprehension. But with a bit of research and a few tips and tricks, your first expense on a Eurail trip — that flight over the seas — doesn’t have to be so daunting.
Choosing to fly into the right city and timing your flight right can save you hundreds of dollars. Most big cities in Europe offer fantastic rail access, which means that once you touch down, you can focus on getting the most out of your Eurail Pass. You can pretty much kiss long airport queues and sanitized air travel goodbye until you fly back home!
Save money on flights by leaving from these US cities
According to Time, you may be better off catching a domestic low-cost flight to one of these US cities before connecting to an international flight to Europe:
– New York
– Los Angeles
– Washington DC
Good to know: Just because a city is on the East Coast and closer to Europe, it doesn’t mean you’ll get the best fares. For example, the difference between a flight from Philadelphia versus one from New York can be as much as $300. Flights from big hubs like Los Angeles may be longer, but they’re often cheaper than those from smaller East Coast airports.
Save money on flights by going to these European cities
The cheapest cities to fly into from the US change almost daily. However, according to recent research by Price of Travel, some European cities trend as cheaper than others. Here are our picks from Scandinavia, Great Britain/Ireland, and the rest of Europe.
Copenhagen is a large hub for Scandinavian Airlines (SAS). As such, the city lends itself well to low fares from the United States. Pay close attention to direct flights from Chicago and New York.
Easy rail connections from Copenhagen: Copenhagen is a major rail hub in Scandinavia. You can easily get to most destinations in Denmark by rail, as well as popular neighboring cities Oslo, Norway (8.5 hours), Stockholm, Sweden (5 hours), Hamburg, Germany (4.5 hours), and Berlin, Germany (7.5 hours).
Like Copenhagen, Stockholm is a busy port for SAS. Fares to Arlanda Airport, just outside the city center, usually offer the best value. It’s often possible to find flights under $800 from New York, Chicago, and LA.
Easy rail connections from Stockholm: Although Stockholm is isolated from much of mainland Europe, it’s still a great rail hub for exploring Scandinavia and even further afield. You also have the option of night trains within Sweden to the likes of Gothenburg, Östersund, Luleå, and Malmö. Popular international connections include: Oslo, Norway (5.5 hours); Copenhagen, Denmark (5 hours); and Hamburg, Germany (10.5 hours).
Oslo may be an expensive city to visit, but surprisingly you’ll be able to save money on flights here from the United States. Some East Coast cities have flights under the $700 mark, with an average price of $868 across several US cities.
Easy rail connections from Oslo: Oslo is the obvious choice for rail trips fanning out across Norway. The lay of the land in Norway can increase rail journey times considerably, though. There are three daily trains to Stockholm, Sweden that take 5 hours, as well as easy connections to Gothenburg, Sweden (4.5 hours) and Copenhagen, Denmark (7.5 hours).
Great Britain and Ireland
London is an obvious choice for flights from the US, but this doesn’t mean it’ll be overpriced. There are four major airports in the English capital, with Gatwick usually being the cheapest to save money on flights. Flying to London also puts you in the perfect position to start a Eurail trip given the inclusion of the Eurostar train in valid Eurail Passes.
Easy rail connections from London: Many Eurail Passes now include passage on the Eurostar train to both France and Belgium. This puts you in the perfect position from which to start a cross-continental rail journey. The trip from London to Paris takes less than 2.5 hours; London to Brussels takes just 2 hours.
Ireland’s Aer Lingus offers cheap flights between Ireland and the USA. It’s possible to find fares from New York and Chicago for between $650 and $750. They operate similarly priced flights from both Shannon and Dublin airports. If you’re planning a rail journey to continental Europe, however, then Dublin is a more convenient option.
Easy rail connections from Dublin: There are many pleasant rail itineraries throughout Ireland. Dublin also serves as a good starting point for longer rail journeys. Eurail holders with a valid pass receive 30% off ferry tickets from Dublin to Great Britain and France. Once in Great Britain, you can use your pass to travel on the Eurostar between London and continental Europe.
The rest of Europe
Flights to Milan from the US are often cheaper than any other city in this part of Europe. This is good news for rail travelers, as it’s the ideal starting point for a Eurail trip. Flights between New York City and Milan are often the best-priced from the US.
Easy rail connections from Milan: It’s easy to reach almost any destination in Central Europe from Milan. There are also high-speed rail connections from Milan to most famous Italian cities.
As with London, it’s quite possible to find competitively-priced flights from the United States to Paris. Flights from New York City to Paris are often less than $700, and the average price from several major cities is $809.
Easy rail connections from Paris: Paris is a major rail hub in Europe, and the city’s numerous stations can easily connect you by rail with the rest of France and beyond.
If you’re looking to explore the more eastern reaches of Central Europe, then a flight to Berlin may be your best bet. It’s more touristy than other German low-cost contender Frankfurt. The city regularly features in cheap fare searches from the US, with flights from the East Coast costing as little as $560.
Easy rail connections from Berlin: It’s easy to reach any major German city from Berlin, and there are regular rail connections to most major neighboring countries.
Cheap flight hacks
- Book in advance. According to Kayak, flights between the US and Europe tend to be cheaper 6 months in advance.
- Leave on a Wednesday and fly back on a Tuesday. Research suggests that these days are often cheapest.
- Check the seasons. Northern Hemisphere summer tends to be peak period, which is when prices are at their highest. If possible, choose to fly over in the shoulder season — usually spring or fall.
- Use a flight aggregator to check flights on all airlines. But don’t rely on these for the final booking. Rather see these results as indicators of cheap flight trends, and then double check on the airline’s official website, where the rate is often even more competitive.
- Book the cheapest city possible and then plan your rail route from there. Even if the arrival city wasn’t your first choice, your Eurail Pass will easily connect you to the rest of Europe.
Booking a flight can be daunting. Most of us sit behind our laptops with dozens of open browser windows – all for the best deal to save money on flights. Ultimately, though, there comes a time when you need to commit. And if you have a Eurail Global Pass, there’s no pressure to fly to the right city. Instead, it’s the start of a spontaneous adventure!