We are planning our first family trip. I need 5 tickets, so airfare savings (even $100-150 each is important). I am seeing flights for ~$1500 from Houston to London, which seems to be about the cheapest. I have heard the best deals are 3-6 months out, but I am scared to wait. I feel like a gambler, but a good gambler is informed. I don't know whether I should lock at $1500 and be done or roll the dice. Any perspectives would be helpful. We are committed to going (family has been looking forward to it). Only thing worse than $1500 would be having to pay $1800 or more for waiting. I would imagine there are seasonal trends with air pricing that repeat each year, so I am wondering if my odds are better to wait? Thanks!
Bryan, when are you going? That is crucial when it comes to prices. I am guessing you are going in summer since this is a family trip. I checked fares for a trip late June to early July, Rt to London, on Kayak using the "flexible" matrix. It showed fares as low as $1269 on US Air or $1272 on Delta for certain date combinations, flying from Houston. Dallas was higher. Open jaws with a return from Rome was much higher ($1531) but I couldn't figure out how tonuse the flexible date feature for multiple-city so maybe there is a way to bring it down. Then I checked British Airways as they have a chart that shows best fares for every month of the year for many US airports. From Dallas, Rt fares to London are way higher in June and July ($1677) than May and August ($1107). Not that you would necessarily fly on BA, but those high season prices may be indicative of what goes on industry- wide. If so, that would point to going in August (again, assuming this has to be a summer trip because of kids). But then lodging prices may be at their max. Basically, you have to consider total cost, not just air. I like to book early so I can firm up dates and get the best prices on family-friendly lodging. We save hundreds of euros that way, especially with apartments so we can cook "in" instead of going out every night.
Try this; there was a recent post that(I think) Airberlin was starting service from BWI to Berlin in July. Go Southwest to BWI, and connect. Don't know if any fares are posted yet, but they are a great airline and usually as competitive as Southwest is in the US. I looked at fares for june-july travel and they look pretty pricey now!
To add more info, we are doing London, Paris, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy. Planning to fly into London and back from Rome. I could do trip in reverse, or change my route and fly into or out of other major if I can save a few hundred bucks per ticket. Flight prices are about $1049 before taxes. It seems like taxes/fees are cheaper out of Houston than Dallas and it appears cheaper to fly into London than Paris, but not 100% sure if that is true.
I would absolutely wait. I never book any more that a couple of months out and have rarely paid more than $1000 with all the taxes and fees to anywhere in Europe. It may be a little more for you but I think you should be able to save quite a bit if you sit on it. I would set up fare alerts with all the travel search engines now but you probably aren't going to see anything until 6 months prior to your travel date though. Sounds like a fun trip!
I don't see any information about when this trip will be, which could make a difference in the answer. Is this a year from now, next summer, or when? Whenever you end up buying, once you do, stop looking at the prices. No one can really predict when a good deal will appear or how good it will be, and you have a 50/50 chance of guessing wrong, so don't kick yourself over it.
Leslie, when was your most recent trip to Europe, and do you go at high season? Things are changing in the world of air travel- higher fuel costs and taxes mean higher fares. I would not count on duplicating my experience from past years in 2012. In 2010 we waited to book, on the advice of a now long-gone poster here. Fares never did go down and we paid over $1600 more for our 4 tickets than we would have had we booked months earlier. I'd suggest setting up fare alerts and watching for sales, check different days of the week to fly, and if you see something a good bit lower than that $1500 grab it right away.
I've been to Western Europe only 3 times so far this year (my work has me more in this hemisphere these days) and just bought tickets for London this morning for Christmas travel. They were all less than $1000. I try and avoid high season, but I flew to Frankfurt this summer for somewhere in the $700's. I have the added benefit of living in a major hub, but Dallas & Houston have a good sized international market too. Fuel prices and surcharges are as predictable as squirrels so who knows what will happen even tomorrow. Right after 9/11 I flew to Dublin for less than $300 RT. Can't predict everything. Prices listed this far out are just the 'list price'. But as always, do what makes you feel at ease. And as Nancy said, don't look back!
Bryan, one more trick to consider is setting up fare alerts from NYC to London/Paris/Wherever too. There's a lot of sales on that route as it's extremely competitive. Then look at cheap flights from Dallas/Houston to NYC. You can't check baggage through but you could really save quite a bit if you catch a great sale.
Thanks for the many replies. I included a lot of details, but not when we were going, which I know makes a huge difference. We are planning to go mid-June through early July. That is about the only time we can go, given the kids schedules.
I just recently heard about trying to book from NYC from someone else, so I will try that. I know that can backfire if you miss the connection for whatever reason, but I may take that chance if I can save at least a few hundred dollars per ticket.
Bryan, try a search on Kayak for RT to London from Houston, using the " flexible" plus or minus three days feature, to find the cheapest day to fly. Then take those dates to the multiple-city search function for your open jaw flight into London and out of Rome. I used June 20 to July 7 for my search. That $1272 fare came up for slightly different dates, but close. If your Switzerland plans include Mürren, you can save a bundle by staying in the two-bedroom apartment at Chalet Fontana. This will sleep 5 comfortably and is the best deal I know in Switzerland for a family. We save enough staying there that we can afford to spend a bit more elsewhere. I have booked this apartment in December for the following summer, and Denise said that was none too soon as her place starts filling up.
Just some general thoughts. Buying tickets in October for a June/July trip has traditionally been very early. I would say that it would be more typical to wait until February or March. Some may push that to April, even May, but needing five seats, you are limited as to how long you can wait and still get seats. I do say traditionally, because that has been when, in a stable market, airlines start to discount tickets to fill planes. Todays Markets are somewhat volatile, fuel costs are way up, seats are down, and demand is strong. It is likely that what you are seeing is a good price, I think it is typical, just do not know if better prices will be offered. As for other "tricks", I can just say, beware. Independent bookings carry the risk of delays and very expensive ticket change fees, if the low cost tickets you buy allows re-booking. Even choosing a different airport carries a cost in transportation to that airport, even parking at the airport can be costly. As an example, I can fly out of my regional airport, or drive 4 hours to Ohare and save money, but nearly everytime I compare, the cost savings (maybe $100 a ticket) just don't hold up after I consider fuel costs, Parking, maybe a hotel night, not to mention my time and the wear and tear on my body from the extra travelling.
I would need a considerable savings to do the NYC trick with 3 kids :) If you do decide to this or any other "non protected booking" (i.e. fly to London and take Easy jet etc...) allow LOTS of time for the connections. I did this earler this year as a solo traveler without checked luggage and gave myself 4 hours in Boston. Didn't need them,but.. better safe then sorry :) I also would not do it with checked luggage if possible. Now, you are going to get the "cheap" fare folks on here who never pay more then $1,000. They aren't going in the summer in most cases or they are willing to do the four stop flights. You have to decide what's worth it to you. A lot of times when I see the 'cheap' airfares and add up the other costs (getting to the departure airport, possible extra hotels, extra transportation expenses between airports, lost vacation time) the 'savings' just aren't there.
Is your trip jam-packed or do you have some wiggle room? although it is inconvenient, sometimes flying round trip can have a huge savings over open jaw. you can just do your trip in a circle, or book intra-Europe flights to get you back to the location you need to be in to fly out (if you do the right amount of research, you can get these for under $100/person). i'm currently researching a trip for next September that involves London, Paris, and Rome out of Charlotte, NC (which is a US Air hub) and the flight into our out of rome is over $400 more expensive than it would be into or out of london, and $300 more than it would be into or out of Paris. Currently, i'm planning to fly into Paris, take intra Europe flights to connect Paris to Rome to London (intra-Europe flights use a lot of smaller airports that are pretty cheap - i may go into Bologna or Florence rather than Rome and use the train in-between), and fly out of London. slightly less convenient, but much less expensive. it might, however, make more sense for you to pay more for the more convenient option, depending on the ages of your children.
I frequently fly between Dallas and NYC so, FYI - flights from Dallas come in at either JFK (international) or LaGuardia (LGA - domestic). It is possible to transfer between airports but it can be a major headache; I would try to fly into JFK and minimize the transfer pain. Also, summertime thunder storms often disrupt flights out of Dallas, a morning flight is a safer bet than an afternoon flight.
Bryan, since you are in the houston area you should check the american airlines sale they are having today. my wife and i just booked tickets for a trip in may to london and paris and we got tickets about 3-400 dollars cheaper than they had been for the last couple of months. we got ours for $784 a piece! good luck. we found them via orbitz.
There are multiple factors. If you book on a European carrier you might have a better chance of a good deal not changing. My flight in 2010 never changed more than a few dollars between when I booked it in January and when I flew in June. I flew on Aer Lingus when they were having a massive sale. But now with fuel costs it's hard to say. I think I would book now and just not look at the prices. It will drive you crazy!
Bryan, On vayama.com the price seems to be 1373 now. That's from Houston to London going and Rome to Houston coming. No one knows what prices will be later. May be higher, may be lower.
You might want to check out fares from Charlotte to London and Rome (or Paris, or Frankfurt or Dublin)(either round trip or multi-city/open jaw). USair sometimes has very good rates (not always). And the Charlotte airport is very nice.
We have been watching fares for a month and bought tics on Delta yesterday. We needed open jaw tics into CDG and out of Barcelona(mid May) and bought them for $1042 each and flights are direct. Prices may possibly drop but we are now able to proceed with lodging, etc.
Couple of suggestions to consider: Do not fly into or out of any airport in the UK - you will pay a lot more in taxes for the privilege of doing this. While not ideal - try some more complicated options. For example, Icelandair is starting flights to Europe from Denver this coming May. If you can get a reasonable deal from there, I'm sure you can get a cheap RT on Southwest, Frontier or UA between DEN and Houston. Use kayak to set up multiple alerts - going into 1 city and out the other. Try different options.
Agreeing with a post above - there are some good rates right now; seem to have decreased in just the past 2 - 3 days. I've booked my flight to Paris for beginning of April, RT out of Dulles (IAD) in Washington, DC to CDG in Paris, non-stop on Air France for $780 (incl taxes). I am ecstatic - rates were about twice this amount just last week. Other airlines also lower; I actually booked through Travelocity.
I'm looking to fly out of Little Rock next June for a couple of weeks in Europe. By far the best rates I've found are on Aer Lingus out of Boston or New York. It's much cheaper for us to book a separate flight to Boston and fly open jaw into Paris and out of Milan. The rate out of Boston to Paris and from Milan to Boston on our dates for 2 adults and 1 child is $2,309.29. We now just have to book separate flights to Boston, which will add about another $1000. I've done a ton of research, and this is by far the best option I've come up with!
I think Bryan has left the building.
Try mobissimo.com (a ticket consolidator). We just booked tickets for Seattle to Reyjavik, then on to Frankfurt and return June 29-August 24 next summer to 1050 each, including all taxes and fees. We use them every year. Nowadays waiting will often cost you more (if you want to get tickets for 2 or more), as airlines have reduced the number of flights to maintain full airplanes.
Howdy to the 'Rose Capital of the World' from an ex-pat of the 'Tomato Capital of the World' (that's located 30 miles south of you, in case you're unaware!)!!! Just a thought...with 3 school-aged kids, aim for non-stop or one-stop flights. Unless the fares are drastically cheaper and come with very generous connection times (2+ hours)... If I were you, I'd aim for DFW and American because they're well-represented in all 3 of your cities, but Houston if Continental is tons cheaper. American has a large presence in the eastern part of the country, in case you need to re-route your return trip due to a cancellation, and don't forget if you're flying on an American-flagged carrier from Rome/FCO (any USA airline), you'll need to go to Terminal 5 in Rome! Ticket prices will probably come down some, but from recent experience I wouldn't expect them to come down much - around $1100 I'd JUMP on them! Rome has been the most expensive European city to fly into or out of (in my experience) for years now, and London isn't cheap, and you're flying in prime vacation time for Europe. You'll have to fork over the big(ger) bucks, unfortunately. (cheapest, in my experience - Zurich and Frankfurt) Once you've bought your tickets, never look at those ticket prices again!!! You can drive yourself crazy doing that! Oh, and if you've already purchased your tickets, please come back and let us know ;-)
Sign up for Best Fares by Tom Parson's twitter! He's located here in Texas. He is the only twitter I subscribe to and I have saved a bundle. We returned from Amsterdam/Paris/Strasbourg/Paris on Tuesday - we paid $677 for our round trip airfare. My husband's meeting was in Strasbourg...the fares round trip to and from there were in the $1,600 when I booked. I paid $375 each for our train tickets to/from Amsterdam and to/from Strasbourg. Total = $1052 each. This is the 4th domestic/international trip I have booked off his twitters - sometimes there are sales that only last a few hours, or are a mistake, and you get the twitter information much quicker than signing up for an email alert. We flew US Air.....DFW/Charlotte/CDG then CDG/Philly/DFW. I hate the Philly airport but there were only 100 people on our plane from CDG to US (with about 35 of them in business class) - everyone had their own row so that more than made up for the long walk in Philly to our flight back to Dallas. One of the passengers from business class happened back into our coach area and whined as he had spent a bunch of his precious miles (plus some $$) upgrading so his wife could stretch out!!!