Travelers who don’t mind exploring destinations in the off-season can easily score cheaper flights and discounted hotel rooms. But if what you want is to experience a destination like Europe during peak summer — either because the kids are out of school or because you have your heart set on balmy Italian beaches — it can be tricky to find airfare deals.
It is possible, however, to find cheap flights to Europe during the summer months. Even without a well-honed strategy, airfare to the continent has become more competitive as budget airlines like Norwegian Air offer great prices for transatlantic flights without frills.
To help you find the best price on a prime ticket to Europe this summer, we've compiled our best tips along with those from airfare experts at Hopper and CheapAir.com. If you have your heart set on visiting Europe this summer, here's what you need to know.
Be ready to buy.
If you want to travel to Europe during the summer (when, admittedly, everyone else wants to travel to Europe) you definitely can’t procrastinate. “Prices typically rise through the spring and peak in June as summer arrives,” Hopper’s data science team determined. And if you plan on traveling during a summer holiday — Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day — the best fares can typically be found at least three weeks in advance of your departure.
Price alerts are your friend when looking for a deal, and you shouldn't waste any time setting them — either in Hopper, Google Flights, KAYAK, or your preferred flight search engine — for your preferred travel dates.
Pick a cheaper time to travel.
Consider traveling on the edges of summer — the first week of June, or after mid-August — and you’ll definitely find less expensive flights, according to Hopper. CheapAir.com also determined that of the summer months, May and August are the least expensive times to fly to Europe.
Buy during the prime booking window.
The “prime booking window,” according to CheapAir.com, is from 4 months to 3 weeks before departure. If you have a very fixed window during which you can travel to Europe, start watching fares at least 160 days before your flight, which is when the biggest savings are most likely to be found.
Remember that there is such a thing as booking too early, though. Buying more than 4 months ahead of time will likely mean you'll pay a premium for your preferred flight.
Choose a less popular destination airport.
Airlines can save big (and pass those savings on to you) by flying into less popular airports, meaning it may be worthwhile to fly just a little out of the way if you have your heart set on a destination like Paris or Rome. Travelers can also find less expensive tickets to less-touristed cities like Edinburgh and Prague.
The airport you depart from can also make a difference. For example, in New York City, travelers can consider the three big airports — JFK, LaGuardia and Newark — as well as the out-of-the-way, but often cheap Stewart International.
Fly during the week.
If you have the flexibility to fly to Europe on a Wednesday, you may want to do so. CheapAir.com has previously found that travelers can save an average of $76 by reserving flights for the least-popular travel day. When looking for flights, take advantage of fare calendars to see which days are the cheapest, both for departing and returning.