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Buying plane tickets

Hello fellow travelers!

We are going on the BOE 14 day tour at the end of May 2019 - little over 5 months! But we are not sure when the best time to purchase our plane tickets are? We were going to buy them a few weeks ago but were worried if prices would drop. Do any of you seasoned veterines have tips on how far in advance to get our tickets? Or tips in general to save some cash?

Thank you! Any advice is helpful - this is our first overseas trip! :)

Posted by
11107 posts

There is no right time or wrong time. There is only spending time, tracking fares for your preferred dates and routings. Doing that will give you a sense of what the normal price range is, so if there's a drop you'll know it.

What is your origin airport, what airport are you trying to fly into, and what airport are you trying to fly home from? What are your travel dates?

Maybe someone will have some specific tips, but I urge you to start checking fares daily, as of now. Five months is not a terribly long time.

Posted by
3400 posts

Go to Google Flights and pick your ideal flights - direct, or fewest connections, most ideal departure times, etc. How expensive are these fares now? Sometimes these "ideal" flights are much more expensive - maybe a one-connection option will be half the price or something. All depends where you are flying to/from.

But if there are good flights that already aren't too expensive, I'd buy them soon. Fares may drop but by how much? Without knowing what kind of prices you are looking at now, hard to judge.

You can set fare alerts at Google Flights to get notified when a fare drops - you could always do that.

Posted by
4024 posts

Where are you starting from to get to Europe? If you have flown before it is always good to sign up for sales alerts for each individual airline. The former and latter factors seem to determine the best times to buy a ticket.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for the quick advice!
We are flying out of Norfolk,va - which is a smallish airport. Right now flights for the times we want are close to $1750 per person after taxes/fees. I guess we really don't know for flying in May is that reasonable? Being 5 months out should we go ahead and purchase?

Posted by
3400 posts

Flying to where? What dates?

Can you fly out of the DC airports instead? Not sure it's worth the extra drive, but it might be - if you can get a direct flight + a 3 hour drive vs. a connecting flight that adds 3+ hours to your travel time and $600 per person to the cost.

Posted by
3209 posts

For many yrs i have tracked fares in Dec and January for June european travel. And usually end up purchasing no later than February. This helps me look for trends and flash sales. I suggest u follow and have flexible dates search from a major international airport.
It is a tedious job to search but the results can save u alot.

Posted by
711 posts

Flying out of small airports is great if you're collecting flight segments for airline status awards, but it doesn't always work in your favor for fares.

Depending on your final destination, you might find significantly better fares flying out of D.C. as suggested above. A lot depends on your starting and ending points as well as what days of the week you're flying when it comes to the total ticket cost.

I'd also suggest looking at fares now. Check the price every day. If you see a huge drop, book the tickets immediately and don't look back.

Posted by
5586 posts

Best of Europe starts in Paris and ends in Rome, assuming you are not doing the family version.

I’d watch closely right now as I’m getting notices every day for Delta and KLM sales. These airlines might not work for your departure airport but you might pick up a sale price out of DC if that is convenient. However you’d have to balance time spent getting to the airport, parking fees etc to see if it’s worthwhile.

I fly from a small end of the line airport and it’s just easier for me to fly out of there with free parking than to drive 2 hours to a bigger market with parking fees etc.

I hope you can arrive in Paris at least one day ahead if not 2 (or more). You’ll want some time to adjust to jet lag and recover from travel tiredness. If you can tack on days in Rome after that is great too!!

You’ll have a great time and see so much on this tour!

Posted by
30 posts

Not knowing your exact days or flexibility, I searched a two week period at the end of May to Paris. Another way to make it work is to fly from Norfolk to JFK or Newark for around $200. Then you could catch a non-stop to Paris round trip for under $500. Then at the end of the tour in Rome you could fly back to Paris to catch your return to the states for +-$100. A six hour flight from New York to Paris is a sweet ride. Google flights is an excellent tool to work through what if scenarios in planning your transportation. Have a great time on your tour.

Posted by
5568 posts

If Paris is your destination and you're going to be flying home from Rome, Norwegian Air Shuttle will be flying those routes out of Boston when you're going.
Boston to Paris is Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday for fares from $170 to $220 most days one way.
Rome to Boston is on the same days for $291 to $321 most days in June. In May, the fares are $241 to $271 most days.
Norwegian Air Shuttle charges extra for assigned seats, meals and checked luggage, however they're a great way to save if you can get to Boston reasonably on Delta Connection. (I didn't check.)
We're flying to Boston and taking Norwegian to Madrid and home from Paris May/June for $700 including our flights to Boston. The big legacy airlines want $1700 for the same flights.

Posted by
11107 posts

Personally, I would rather drive from Norfolk to Dulles Airport and get a good routing on a single ticket than have separate tickets, one to NYC and one from NYC to Europe. If you are on separate tickets and something goes wrong with the first flight, you may well miss the transatlantic flight, and you will be the one paying for the last-minute replacement ticket--a roundtrip ticket, because if you miss that flight to Europe, the return flight will also be canceled.

There used to be, and I assume still are, some not-grotesquely-expensive hotels out near Dulles airport that provided free parking for a decent period of time (maybe about long enough for you) if you spent one night there before your flight. I live in DC and have not ever needed to take advantage of that policy, but it sounds like it's worth checking out. I realize that you do not actually need to spend a night at Dulles, but paying for a room would probably be quite a bit cheaper than paying for parking for the number of nights you will need.

And you definitely should plan to head over to Europe at least one day ahead of time. Tours are expensive on a per-day basis. You don't want to sleep through the first 24 hours of yours, due to jetlag, etc.

Posted by
1738 posts

I’m always very reluctant to buy 2 different tickets on 2 airlines - if your first is delayed you miss the second and then you are on the hook for a whole new ticket at last minute pricing $$$. I only do it if I have many, many hours of leeway - preferably an overnight. Also the cost often doesn’t work out once you add all additional flights.

If you buy it all on one ticket then the airline is responsible for your new flight if there are delays.

I DO advocate driving to a bigger city if one is within a reasonable distance. Tolerance for this varies, but when I lived in Cleveland I would drive to Toronto (~4 hours?) for very cheap direct flights. To me a longer drive to get a direct flight is so worth it - layovers take time, making the drive time even out. And a direct from a big airport is often cheaper than a layover-filled trip from a smaller airport.

Posted by
2754 posts

Matrix.itasoftware.com

In my experience this website has the biggest selection of possible routes (none of them have everything.) It's run by Google for the trade so doesn't sell tickets, but the info can be used in your search.
Also become familiar with multi-destination search functions so you can save time by flying into one city to start your tour and another to return home. Time is money, including the cost to return to your arrival city, and usually these tickets are about the same price as a simple round trip. But use the search function; you're not buying a pair of one-way tickets.
The suggestion of shopping in January-February 2019 fits my experience too. Once you make your purchase, stop looking, so you don't beat yourself over a possible discount missed. It's not worth the aggravation.

Posted by
2475 posts

Thanks, Southam. I'm playing with that site right now. The most interesting thing I've learned so far is the route and airline I had planned for us is actually one of the cheapest! Not cheap, but I'm willing to spring for Premium Economy, unless we find an amazing price for regular. I'm still playing with dates and classes.

Posted by
693 posts

I usually buy air tickets to Europe around five months in advance. You should be able to get multicity tickets Washington Dulles to Paris and return from Rome for under $800.

Posted by
121 posts

Even Minneapolis sometimes feels like a "small market" and can be very expensive to fly to Europe or Asia. I have sometimes used the strategy to find a good fare out of an east or west coast city and then buy a separate ticket (or use FF miles) to get from MSP to that city. But I always do the first flight at least a day before the international flight and stay in a hotel for a night. This has the added benefit of cutting down on the amount of non-stop hours of travel. I have found that, even with the costs associated with the extra hotel night, this can save me some significant dollars.

I think the suggestion of driving (or is there some sort of shuttle?) to Dulles and flying from there is excellent and likely to save you a lot of dollars!

Posted by
11 posts

I am also a Norfolk person. For Paris & HOF in 2017 my daughter and I drove to Dulles. As has been suggested, there are several hotels near the airport that will allow you to park for free if you spend at least one night. We spent the night at each end of the trip. The combined cost of two nights in hotel, round trip gas and nonstop flights out of Dulles was less than half the cost of flights out of Norfolk.
This summer we’re doing BOE-21 days. Driving up to Philadelphia so we can fly nonstop to Amsterdam and home from Paris. Given the length of the trip, we’ll be beyond what the hotels will allow for free parking. Instead, I’ll do one way car rentals from Norfolk to Philadelphia and back. Still less than half the price of flying out of Norfolk.
All that being said...the suggestion to use trackers is good. I have already purchased my tickets because the non-stops sell fast!

Posted by
2499 posts

$1750/pp sounds like way too much, even considering that prices of air fares are about as irrational as can be imagined. What I recently did was to start tracking prices as soon as I had settled on an itinerary. At one point, they dropped to around $1100 from the $1350 or so that I had been seeing. Since I was still 5 months out, I decided to wait. Back they went to $1350, making me sorry I hadn’t jumped on the $1100. I decided that I would move if/when $1100 came up again. I started checking daily; and after a couple of weeks, kind of unbelievably, I caught a fare of $670. That was from the airline, no 3rd party sellers. My advice, which I learned here, is to do what I did for several more weeks. Legend has it that the holiday period is good for finding low air fares to Europe because people are too preoccupied with domestic concerns to think about travel. Therefore, the airlines act to increase their cash flow.

Posted by
10158 posts

Prior to the departure date, I buy the airline ticket anywhere from 2.5 months to 6 months out.

A few factors are expected, ie, non-stop, departs from SFO or OAK, arrival in the morning, sometime between 8 am to noon. If there has to be a transfer from SFO or OAK, then it has to be either at LAX or Sea-Tac. Price is the driving factor since I'm sitting in basic Economy anyway.

Best tip to save cash....don't dilly-dally, if the price is acceptable, book it.

Posted by
48 posts

I always look at https://matrix.itasoftware.com first to get an idea of what's available. I especially like the timebar view. Be careful that any change in Europe is long enough to get thru customs on your first stop. I then go directly to the airline to check. Only once have I used Expedia - but that was to match arrival times with my daughter.

Posted by
4 posts

THANK Y'ALL SO MUCH FOR THE ADVICE!! I ended up looking for non-stop flights leaving/returning to JFK and found some good deals then added in round-trip from Norfolk to JFK! Paid about $1250 per person so $500 cheaper than I would have done otherwise! Thanks again!!!

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Nicole, My wife and I have gone on 3 Rick Steves tours and loved them all. We've also gone to Europe twice on our own. My favorite web site to book a flight is "Hipmunk." Give them your dates, sigh up for a "fare alerts" and "Hipmunk" will send you emails when the fares changes. After receiving 3 or 4 of these emails, you'll have a good idea of what a good fare is. When you have that financial number in your head, and "Hipmunk" sends you another email with that price, book it. It works for me. Sincerely, Dan Edwards

Posted by
2475 posts

Hey, guys, this is "question of the month," so there should be more folks chiming in.

Posted by
1 posts

Adding another site to follow for airfares--actually available only as an app for mobiles-- Hopper. You can create alerts for your flight(s); it also predicts where they think flight fares will go (up/down),and suggests when to buy...or to hold off.

Posted by
12 posts

We start checking airfares six - seven months ahead using two or three search engine web sites to get a feel for going rates for our trip. We always arrive in Europe at least a day or two before a tour if we are taking a tour. We check a couple airports that are convenient for us. After identifying possible itineraries that we want, we also start checking airline sites directly. We have found that not all combinations surface on the popular search sites. Once we have zeroed in on our choice of airline and flights, we start monitoring the airline site directly every few or more frequent days. If we are within 3 - 4 months we sometimes check more than once a day. On one recent trip we checked in the morning and the fare was the going rate. A check at 10:30 that night showed a drop from $1100 to $700! We immediately logged into the airline site and booked our flights. The next morning the fare was back to $1100! We always book directly with the airline. Frequently we are flying some flights on code share carriers. Our philosophy has been any snafu is probably easier fixed by the airline rather than us having to deal with multiple carriers ourselves. We also have a preference for a non stop to Europe. The return isn’t as critical. We have honed our approach over a almost a couple dozen Europe flights now.

Posted by
557 posts

I decide what and when my next RS tour will be. Then plug in dummy dates and then check periodically on the prices and also using FF miles on United. We charge everything that we can and rack up points. So then I book with points when I see a good value. We both are tall and I have a new knee now so we sit in the extra leg room economy plus and where my left leg can stretch out more.

Our May trips were about $400 ish each to London and out of Paris back home to tulsa. Very happy with this next trip flights.

Posted by
3 posts

I'm not a seasoned veteran buying international tickets, but have one Rick Steves' trip, Sicily, under my belt and am hooked. Basque Country is booked for October. I waited a bit too long on the Sicily trip because I am used to booking best Hawaii fares from LAX or SAN less than 60 days out. Even this far out I missed a great deal on Lufthansa, found on Google Flights, due to Oktoberfest bookings for next year already. So, I booked Air France yesterday and probably won't regret it.

Granted, just like going with Rick Steves' tours, it is not the very cheapest, but the best experience for the money. Coming from LAX, the flights are longer and jet lag more of an issue than for you. I do book arrival a day early and won't sit in the cramped back of the plane, or 20+ hours with multiple stops just because it is cheaper. A friend went to Scotland on his first ever international trip using WOW. After adding up the extra charges, Air Canada would have been cheaper anyway.

Posted by
2475 posts

I just got an email from a travel friend who is pleased with her ticket price to London next September - $902.50, probably flying from Kansas City, but I'm not sure.

They got their tickets through asaptickets.com. Anyone had any experience with them? I plugged in my dates, and got a price quote that's about $350 cheaper than what I've been getting from British Air. And BA is cheaper (for Premium Economy) than any of the other airlines I've tried.

You get a quote on screen, but have to call to find out details. I may start a separate thread on this. I had never heard of them before.

Edit to add: I just checked out the reviews on Trip Advisor, and most were negative, saying that add-on fees brought the ticket price up considerably. All the reviews were old, however, so I don't know if this site is still sketchy.

Posted by
13 posts

Nicole,

Use the Hopper app to determine when is the best time to buy. It aggregates past prices with current trends to give a wait or buy with 30 days notice. Then use Google flights to find the best prices...just be sure to clear your cookies every time you search on both computer & phone.

Does this work? I'm going to Paris in April. Hopper told me when to buy & (eventually) found great tickets. Current price is over $2k. i got it for $980 in PE. :)

Posted by
2475 posts

Russ, I generally check prices once or twice a day, but almost always at the same times. I just checked again, at a time I normally don't and the price is about $100 less, each. Hmmm. Not drastic, but a reduction nonetheless. I'll keep checking... Our trip isn't until next May.

Don't delay. I always buy ticket in early September for spring trips. Sometimes changes occur but I have been able to fly from Seattle for between $550-$650 per person via Icelandair and Condor. These are no-frills flights and don't have a lot of choices in destinations, but are still far cheaper than other major airlines. Always check for additional fees associated with cheap flights to avoid last-minute surprises. Also, check passenger reviews to help with your expectations.

Posted by
1875 posts

THANK Y'ALL SO MUCH FOR THE ADVICE!! I ended up looking for non-stop
flights leaving/returning to JFK and found some good deals then added
in round-trip from Norfolk to JFK! Paid about $1250 per person so $500
cheaper than I would have done otherwise! Thanks again!!!

Glad it worked out for you. Is this all on one ticket? If so, I hope you allowed for a cushion of connection time. I especially hope you won't have to change terminals.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello Nicole,
I am going on the Loire to the South of France tour which is also at the end of May. My fare round trip Boston to CDG nonstop
was originally $526 and included seat selection, baggage and a meal with Norwegian Air. However, I switched tours, foolishly thinking I could change flights without incuring additional cost (due to the format of the booking travel document). The total cost ended up being $913. My mistake. Although I'm not a seasoned traveler, after several months of occasionally checking prices I concluded that the $526 was a reasonable price that avoided the risk of a big increase. It appears that at least with Boston/CDG via Norwegian that there are more flights and choices using their site versus Expedia. I also found that trying to book multi-city was more expensive than booking Boston/CDG by itself and booking Nice where the tour ends one way to CDG. I am leaving Boston a day earlier which may affect pricing and that is worth checking no matter what tour. Hope this is of help.

Allan