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When to purchase airline tickets to Europe

Hi, Will our family save money by booking our flights to Europe now, for end of May or beginning of June 2013? If not, when is the best time to book flights to Europe? Thanks! Jen.

Posted by
9023 posts

I usually take a trip across the pond mid-May every year, and have found that airfares dip around the first week of February.....YMMV.

Posted by
26 posts

Hi Michael, thanks for your response. you don't think that booking 6 months out does anything anymore? I remember that use to be the case, but perhaps things have changed?

Posted by
5926 posts

There's no way to really know. It's all a crap shoot now.

Posted by
31622 posts

Jennifer, I'd suggest watching the airline or travel websites for at least a few weeks, so get some idea on the pricing trend. You could also speak with a Travel Agent, as they may be able to offer a few tips for getting the best price. For travel in May, I'd probably want to have flights booked at least by the end of January. If you need information for planning other parts of your trip, you may find it helpful to attend a meeting of the helpful RS Denver group. If you happen to be in the Denver area on the third Saturday of the month, they meet at a local Panera Bread outlet. Details are posted in the "General Europe" section of the HelpLine. Cheers!

Posted by
284 posts

My experience has been that fares seem to dip about 3-4 months before the date of the flight, but last minute deals are pretty much a myth and buying way in advance without an especially good fare doesn't help you out either. The best way to do it is to keep an eye on the fare (like with a fare alert) and then book it when it hits a good price. For me from Seattle, I rank prices to Europe as: $400 - Buy now, apologize to boss later! $500 - Fantastic. $750 - Great deal. $900 - Good deal. $1100 - Standard fare. $1200 - Getting high.
$1400 - Only if I absolutely have to travel to Europe for business.

Posted by
11450 posts

Jennifer, make sure you know what a good price is so you can jump on it. On another forum a man asked about a fare from Edmonton ( Canada) to Paris for next May, saw one for 950 and wasn't sure that was a good price. He then didn't come back on forum for a day,, and then came on and said omgoodness, price has gone up now, and he hadn't checked the replies on the forum. All the replies had said same thing, thats a good price take it. If he had seen them he would have been able to grab the deal.
Point is, know what is a good deal from your airport . Keep looking at all sorts of sites for prices and then when you see a deal buy it and don;t look back

Posted by
1064 posts

Do a little research before buying tickets from CheapOair. There have been a lot of complaints against the company on the TripAdvisor air travel forum. I realize that no company is perfect, but they seem to attract more complaints than anyone else out there.

Posted by
26 posts

Hi everyone - thank you so much for your thoughtful and helpful replies. I think that is the key - knowing what the airfare should be. Nicholas, that was a very helpful chart. I just checked with cheapOair and their best price on an open jaw from Denver to Malaga Spain to Paris and back to Denver is $1444. (Kayak was a bit more) I'll now have to watch and see if this really is a good deal or not. From Denver all the way down to the South of Spain is a pricey ticket.
KEn, thanks for tip regarding the Denver group, I'll look into it.

Posted by
7199 posts

Where are you wanting to go in Europe? Can you go a little earlier? Or later? Need specifics. Your Denver non-stops appear to be to London Heathrow or Frankfort. Right now, the cheapest flights I see into Frankfurt are $1400 approx. with 2 stops or Lufthansa @ $1550 non stop. Ouch! Flights are probably at an all time high. Airlines have the supply and demand thing down pat. We spent $720 into London and out of Rome 3/31/12. We'd be looking at over $1000 this year and have to go before 3/20. The ITA did an in depth study last year, and they found the most reasonable fares are to be purchased 60 days ahead of the flights. I don't know if there are really going to be any reasonable fares in 2013. Sometimes travelers have just got to suck it up and pay the big $. Then, stay at cheaper places when you get there, or limit your travel to a couple of cities. There's nothing wrong with being frugal once you get there.

Posted by
1525 posts

There is no best time, because if there was, everyone would buy then. The fact is, the price you see today could easily be the lowest price you will ever see. Or, you might see a big sale hit at any time. No one knows. "typical" pricing behavior is mostly a thing of the past. You can approach airfare one of two ways; 1) you can just leap onto anything that looks reasonable ASAP and then spend the rest of your time happily planning your trip (including getting a head start on the best lodging options), or... 2) you can wait and wait to see if you might save $100-200 per person some time later. You have to decide where the best value is to you (emotional as well as financial value). Having said that, we have always bought tickets for our family of 5 at least six months ahead (twice eight months ahead) and only once of the six trips have we not wound up with the lowest airfare offered for summer that year. That was 2009 when the world economy started to fall apart about two months after we bought tickets - an unusual event. What really saves money for us is being very flexible on dates, routes, and destination cities. Once you say something like "I want a flight from Denver to Frankfurt on May 20th, return June 10th" you are at the complete mercy of the airlines. As an example of outside-the-box thinking; It is possible that you could find a flight from NYC to Europe for so much less than Denver that you could purchase an additional separate ticket DEN to NYC and still save money. In fact, you might be able to stay a night and see a show and still save money. Not a guarantee, certainly, but it's possible. The same goes for alternative destination cities in Europe.

Posted by
1086 posts

On previous trips, I have found the best fares around 5-6 months in advance, but who knows about this year? I have noticed that fares are a bit lower in late April-early May compared to earlier in April. In mid-May, fares start to climb rapidly to summer levels. We paid $700 for a non-stop Air France flight Boston to Paris in May 2012. If I were going in 2013, I might consider using Aer Lingus or Icelandair.

Posted by
1160 posts

As others have advised, keep an eye out for any, repeat ANY, native destination in the UK, France, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, etc. Train travel is so comfortable and fast and really cheap if you learn how, when, and where to buy the tickets. WE almost always find airline deals to London, spend a couple nights there in modest hotels, and then take the Eurostar or a Brittany ferry to Paris or to Caen if we are touring the south of France. Check out www.set61.com for all the help you'll need with rail (or ferry) tickets across Europe. Tickets for the Eurostar can be purchased 120 days prior to travel and are really cheap. The other countries' rail sites sell the cheapest tickets around 90 days prior to travel. We've never done the open jaw thing since we enjoy London or Paris so much we usually start and end at one of those cities plus our cheap fares require that. Keep at it and you can find some bargains if you are not locked into one airline or one specific destination city in Europe.

Posted by
1160 posts

Apparently the website did not like "a l t e r n a t i v e" and chose native instead. Their bad.....