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Least expensive place to fly into and start European backpacking trip?

I will be traveling to Europe in May 2017 for approximately 21 days for a multi-country European backpacking trip and would like to know what would be the least expensive place to fly into as it relates to airfare from the United States. I am also hoping that the first country I fly into will be efficiently/conveniently located to allow smart branching out to other countries in Europe.

I have not determined what countries I would like to travel to on this trip and am open to suggestions.

Posted by
7044 posts

Need more input! Where are you flying from? It makes a difference. If you decided to do a backpacking trip to Europe you must have some idea what countries you want to visit. What interests you? Are you an outdoor person? Like adventure? Like museums? Art? Music? Theater? Scenic sites? History - any particular period? Prefer cities or small towns? What's a rough idea of your budget because some countries are more expensive than others? Traveling alone or with others?

Posted by
7580 posts

Yes, it depends greatly on where you are starting from, what airline serve your airport, and to a degree, what airlines are offering deep discounts on their routes. As an example, New York to London or Paris can be super cheap, from other places, not so much. Airlines like Icelandair and Turkish Airlines often offer super cheap airfare if you do a night in-country. If you look at airlines, Delta tends to have better deals to it's hubs in Paris or Amsterdam, American to London, United to German Cities, mostly based on their partners. Also the further East or South you go, the more cost as most gateway cities are in the West and North.

All of these are very general, but are a starting point.

Posted by
4 posts

Hi Nancy- Thank you for your response to my topic!

I'll be traveling with one other person and flying out from Detroit (dtw) airport. I am at preliminary planning stages and have not yet decided on potential countries of travel. I value the outdoors, adventure, historic/scenic sites, and must-see/do museums, art, music, theater etc. I would like to travel to several of Europes anchor countries/cities including major cities, but am also open to smaller towns, etc.

My plans currently are to determine a starting origin, and possibly plan a few other anchor points throughout the duration of the trip, however not have a set itinerary or travel plan until I get there. And at that time, go with the flow of things and make travel decisions day by day.

Hope that helps!

Posted by
7580 posts

Since Detroit is a major Delta hub, consider Amsterdam or Paris as a starting point, but do not overlook other options.

Posted by
20254 posts

Delta is showing nonstops to London Heathrow the first week in May at $663. Look at flying out of Windsor with a connection in Toronto to Paris in the $750 range in May on air Canada.

Posted by
4054 posts

Delta out of Detroit trans-Atlantic is a pool operation with KLM/Air France, selling each other's tickets. You can see from search websites which airline actually flies the aircraft but it doesn't matter too much; your ticket purchase is with whichever one you prefer (the fares may not be automatically identical even though it's the same plane.) Choosing the operator may make advance seat selection easier. The most efficient approach is to use a multi-destination search function so you fly into one city and home from another. These are not two one-way tickets. is another way to search for cheaper routes; it is a Google service that does not sell tickets buy covers many (not all) of the airlines for information.
From Metro Airport Detroit, Virgin Atlantic, United and Lufthansa all have connections to Europe but the first two require transfers rather than non-stop. The Air Canada connection out of Windsor, which I use, requires a hop to Toronto on a small propeller-driven plane, stretching out the time of the journey. The small airport is easy to handle with cheap parking.

More generally, I think you are going about your planning backwards. Better to decide which destinations you really want to see, then begin your price shopping. The biggest continental airports don't have huge price variations and what you might save in dollars will be used up in time getting from the airport to someplace you long to visit.
Buying internal European train/plane fares at the last minute can be hugely more expensive than well in advance. Trying to travel free-as-a-bird is often very costly. And you must have a set departure to get on the first plane at all and pass through European border security

Posted by
1558 posts

I have a different experience from the prior poster. I am finding huge differences in price between various airports - I think this is mainly driven by the rise of the LCCs in Europe and the destinations they serve.

For example, from DEN in March, I can get to BRU, AMS, CDG and to some extent FRA, MUC for around $380 - $550 but if I look at Italy, prices are well over $1100.

If travel involves a family of 3 or 4, the savings by flying into a low cost airport and then buying a connecting flight on a LCC will well be worth it.

Posted by
8171 posts

Delta flies non-stop from Detroit to London Heathrow, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris de Gaulle all the time. They fly seasonally to Rome FCO whatever seasonally means.
Lufthansa flies to Frankfurt.
Air France flies to Paris de Gaulle.
You need to plan your itinerary pretty quick, as flying open jaw into one city and out of anther is much more efficient and a cost savings to you.

Posted by
265 posts

Here is an option.

Fly into Rome (In May the weather will be nice / warm) and work your way North. As you move North the weather might be better and warmer.
Depending on your travel plans.... yet to be determined you can end up in Amsterdam, Paris or London ....for a flight home. Delta would seem the logical airline choice from Detroit.

Check the Rick Steves tours for possible itinerary ideas. His best of Europe in 21 days goes AMS to Paris via Rome and hits some really good places you might like to consider.

Since your question was about the best price...
I checked and came up with a $1260 Roundtrip to Rome and back from Amsterdam. That was a Friday evening departure and both flights were non stop. (dates 5/5 -5/26) looking at a Wednesday departure and return 21 days later (5/10 - 5/31) it was $1187 with a one stop going to Rome non stop back from AMS. You can research you own Multi City flight itinerary with your possible dates and destinations.

Those prices seem to me to be about right / normal / regular for flights to Europe that time of year.

Posted by
355 posts

Sounds like this might be your first trip across the pond. If so, congratulations! From Detroit, Delta/KLM to Amsterdam is a great option. In addition to cost considerations, which are a big deal to most of us, I always advise my friends who are first-timers to start some place where a lot of English is spoken, like Amsterdam or Brussels. Get your feet on the ground there for a couple of days, then venture out to other countries where communication can be a bit more "entertaining". Both of thèse cities have the transportation connections you want, and in a couple of days you will be train tripping like a pro because there is always someone there who can (and will) answer questions in beautiful English. Hâve à wonderful time!

Posted by
11613 posts

If you can leave from Windsor, you might find better prices, but that might add a leg to your trip.

Posted by
1216 posts

If the UK is part of your itinerary, I would recommend arrive or depart London, so that you do not have to double back over the Channel. Then use the major city in your itinerary which is the farthest from London as your other endpoint and plan the most efficient route in between.

On the other hand, if your itinerary lends itself to doing a big loop with the same arrival and departure city, just use your arrival/departure dates and use an app like kayak to quickly find the best return flight from your home city.

Posted by
7911 posts

Whatever you do do not start your trip in London; you will never find a reasonably priced flight (without a ridiculously) amount of connections from Detroit'; plus the exchange rate dollar to pound is crap inexplicably.

Paris is a good hub to explore Europe and you will find some reasonable prices if you go from Detroit and use Montreal or Toronto as your transatlantic flight. to Paris

Posted by
344 posts

I am not the original poster, just a reader,I wanted to add what a terrific community this is. Many perspectives and so much experience. Many other people benefit from suggestions on this board. . Thanks to all.

Posted by
344 posts

I have found google flights invaluable for comparing journeys and prices. You can also set up alerts and be notified when prices go down. It's not a perfect system but very helpful.

Just Google "Google flights"!

Posted by
503 posts

If you're pinching pennies or, using miles to pay, do NOT fly-in/out of the UK, principally Heathrow if you can avoid it. Airport fees and taxes in/out of the UK are the most expensive in all of Europe.

This article illustrates what I'm referring to.

If you're looking for low cost European flights, consider book at flight with Icelandic Air, WOW Air, Norwegian Air, AerLIngus and Turkish Air.