I am planning a trip to Europe later this year. I have a great deal of flexibility in my schedule and destinations which I thought would be a good thing - but oddly enough is causing me a bit of a problem with the planning. My original plan was to fly open jaw, starting in the destination that provided the best airfare. I can go anytime from April to Oct. Problem is I can't seem to find a site that accommodates that much wiggle room. All understandably ask for specific dates (or range of dates) to specific locations. To further complicate, I am interested in business class or economy plus. In the past I have found some very good business class deals on "old" Continental in summer months. But once again, fare alerts do not seem to offer that option. If anyone can help me get started, I would certainly appreciate it. I have a feeling most will say to go to a travel agent and that is OK too but I rather enjoy trying to do it myself - at least until I get overwhelmed with all the options. Thanks, PT
You might not be finding that much date flexibility because schedules might not be available that far out. I would suggest setting up fare alerts to your most likely destinations and watching them for awhile. I have never watched for business class, but economy plus seats have always been available when I booked economy sale flights. I'm sure others will be along with more ideas, but you are wrong when you think most of us will recommend a travel agent - most of us are DIY types.
Schedules are certainly available through October but sale fares may not appear yet. But Open Skies is offering a fare of $1661 in Prem Plus for April-May and Sept.-Oct., for travel Sunday thru Thursday. Biz class is something like $4400. You might sign up with BA so you get email announcements of last-minute deals. People on FlyerTalk buzz about such sales that do not make it to the sites like Kayak.
Pat: Sometimes travel requires making hard decisions. It's nice to roll with the flow, but you've got to start somewhere. We see little or no evidence that airfares are going to be substantially lower later this year. Airlines remain very stubborn in controlling the seat supply and keeping demand and ultimately prices high. Any sales come when flight analysts sitting in a big room figure out their flights are flying at an unprofitable level. As long as the flights are full, they're going to be profitable. We flew into London 3/31/12 and out of Rome for $720 on U.S. Airways. I don't see them cheaper than any other airline in 2013. We're shelving our European trip this year in favor of a $220 round trip into New England for a trip to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island. Unless you make a decision on when to leave and where you're flying into and out of, you'll have many, many hours to scour the internet for airfares. Good luck finding any reasonable fares.
"starting with the destination that provided the best airfare." I suggest putting that on the shelf. It's a bad planning criterion, unless you are truly indifferent (is Hamburg really as good as Paris?), and it's unknowable. Instead start with some ideas about what kind of trip you'd like to have. Where do you want to go and why? This will tell you what airports to watch and what time of year might be best. Personally, I like to start on the travel section of a good public library, to see what calls to me. Travel planning is iterative, but must include some top-down decision (what do I enjoy? Where would be a good place to do those things?) as well as bottom-up (airfare, logistics, etc.).
You could also check the deals offered on travelzoo.
Thanks to all for the sage advice.