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Flight Planning To/From Europe

Longish post! Trying to figure out flights for my trip to Europe in November. Planning to go to the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. Initial plan was that I would fly from Dulles Airport (Washington, DC) to Amsterdam, then use trains on to Brussels, Paris, Annecy, and fly back to DC from Geneva (closest airport to Annecy). A few potential glitches with that however—using different airports is more expensive (especially when one is Geneva); there’s only one nonstop a week from Geneva to DC, which takes away some flexibility in our schedule; and Dulles got rid of Mobile Passport and my friend’s Global Entry has expired (in May when I returned from Portugal with another friend whose GE had also expired), I had to wait for her for 2-1/2 hours to get through arrivals. Don’t really want to repeat that! So now I’m trying to decide whether just to take the train from Baltimore (where I live) directly to Newark airport and fly to/from there (they have both Mobile Passport and Global Entry), and whether to just do a r/t from one of my destinations (probably Amsterdam or Brussels) or still do the into one airport out of another itinerary. Not particularly tied to which order we do things in...just trying to make it as convenient (or less inconvenient!) as possible. I’m an experienced traveler, but I’m getting bogged down with the details here (mainly because my friend doesn’t have GE and Dulles doesn’t have MP). Suggestions?

Posted by
2816 posts

I don’t live there but getting to Dulles from Baltimore must be a pain. Train to Philly and the American hub there could make more sense then Newark. Icelandair also flies to Philly, and since they only sell one ways it never costs more to use different cities.

Posted by
5214 posts

carolsorgen,

. . . . using different airports is more expensive . . .

You are looking at multi-city (aka open-jaw) fares, right? If so, just how much more are you seeing? Anyway you can rearrange the order and end trip in Paris (more flight options), for example?

Posted by
17145 posts

I'm from DC, and every time I look at the airfare map on Google Flights, it seems that Geneva is a costly place to fly into. Zurich is usually a lot cheaper, as are Amsterdam, Paris and Munich.

Train time from Annecy to CDG is a bit shorter than to the Zurich airport.

Of course, you may find a totally different fare pattern when you check Newark or Philadelphia.

Posted by
44 posts

Looked at Newark primarily because there’s an Amtrak station right at the airport, as opposed to Philly or NY, eliminating the need for yet another variable. And yes, getting to Dulles is a pain...I usually hire a driver so as not to leave my car at the airport for 3-4 weeks, but that’s getting to be really pricey (not to mention unless you come and go on a weekend, you’re bound to be in rush hour. In May it took us close to 3 hours in the airport and another 2-plus hours back to Baltimore...I could have flown back to Lisbon in that time! I’d been trying to avoid CDG because it’s such a zoo, but it might have more options. The itinerary is flexible...we’re not tied to dates, sequence, etc.

Posted by
6544 posts

You can fly non-stop from Baltimore into London Heathrow and catch a connecting flight to AMS. The prices are not bad for November. You may have to sit on the ground for a couple of hours, but it beats sitting on a train even longer.

Posted by
4457 posts

there’s only one nonstop a week from Geneva to DC

Are you sure about that? I just checked on the United app for a random week in November and I see nonstop flights on Sun, Mon, Fri, and Sat from GVA to IAD. Perhaps the schedule changes during your timeline.

Another possibility is to look at taking a one way flight from Geneva to London, spending the night, and then flying out of London. Because there are 6 flights a day from London to IAD, I often find that London is one of the cheapest places to fly to and from. I have often bought a separate ticket (but I would never try this on the same day). Sometimes this works out to be cheaper than an open jaws ticket,

Have you looked to see what the flights out of BWI look like? Your best bet would probably be the BA flight via London there. A connecting flight might be way less of a hassle than Newark or Dulles for you.

I think only you can decide whether the time and expense of taking the train to Newark is worth it overall. I’d figure out all the costs and the time.

Posted by
17145 posts

Although I've never had a need to take advantage of it, I understand there are hotels out near Dulles that will allow you to leave your car in their lots during a trip after spending just one night there. That might be useful in the future.

Posted by
6544 posts

EasyJet and EasyJet Switzerland fly just about anywhere you want to go out of Geneva. And the fares are cheap.

Posted by
3456 posts

Be sure you have used a multi-destination search function to fly into one city and home from another. These must be bought as one itinerary, not a package of one-ways. You can't cobble the flights together by yourself and get the package price.
Inter-Europe flights are indeed cheap. See www.skyscanner.com for the possibilities. But they come with extra costs. Most offer no connections to other airlines or even their own flights so you face immigration and customs process at the first European airport (that could also be true if all the flights are on the same ticket) but have to recheck your luggage, possibly with different size regulations, and go through the complete security process for the second flight too. For ease and reduced stress I try to stick with the package that many agency sites and the airlines themselves arrange. It's reassuring that those airlines take responsibility if something goes amiss with a connection. If you DIY and are late for a budget flight, you buy a new ticket at last-minute pricing, no matter where the fault lies.