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How to find cheap flights in Europe

How to find cheap flights in Europe - sunset from plane

One thing I am asked time and time again is how do you manage to go away so much? Don't you have savings? I do like a good holiday of course. Said everyone ever. I probably check Skyscanner about as often as I brush my teeth (and I've got an alright set of gnashers).  If you want to read more about how I generally save money for travel then check out my most read post with all my top tips for saving money without making huge sacrifices!

I am very tight with myself and I am just not going to spend a fortune on flights. Cheaper flights = more trips, and who couldn't do without more trips away in a year? I absolutely love a bargain and I always go through a long list of steps to get my hands on the cheapest flights within Europe that I can. I really feel like I've got a good process now that enables me to find cheap flights and I am excited to share it with you all.

Now this isn't a quick process, so grab a cuppa and your laptop, but believe me it will be worth it if you follow the same routine and find that dirt cheap flight!

How to find cheap flights in Europe


Put your browser in 'incognito mode'

This will differ depending on your laptop / computer operating system, but make sure you are in a private or incognito window. Rumour has it this will stop prices increasing as you keep looking at flights (this is definitely a real thing which can prevent you finding those cheap flights to Europe!)

Cheap flights Europe - incognito mode on browser

Use a flight search website

Or as they are more formally known, 'travel fare aggregator websites'. My favourite is Skyscanner, but I also recently found that Google's own flight tool is useful as well, particularly using the calendar function. I do not always book directly through Skyscanner (more on that later) but it is the best place to start looking for your cheap flights to Europe, particularly if you can be really flexible.

Decide how flexible you are


Be savvy with timing for your flight to Europe

Do you have a certain week's annual leave booked? Or can you be more flexible and go on any weekend in a certain month to find cheap flights? The more flexible you are, the cheaper your flights are likely to be, so bear this in mind before getting fixed on a certain date. 

Flying mid-week seems to work out as a less costly option, so if you can do Wednesday-Wednesday for example and split your leave between two separate weeks, this may save you big bucks.

Lisbon on a cheap flight deal
A long weekend in Lisbon - somewhere I didn't plan to visit, but loved!


Consider different locations in Europe

If you don't have a specific trip in mind and just want to get away then you might be able to get an amazing bargain as a reward for your flexibility. I think one of the main reasons I always get cheap flights in Europe is because I don't tend to have a certain place in mind, or at least have a couple of options.

If you can be totally flexible (or just want to daydream like me) then I would highly recommend entering your destination as 'everywhere' on Skyscanner's handy search. Just enter 'from' as your local airport, 'destination' as everywhere, and either select a whole month if you're set on one specific time of year, or try 'cheapest month' to literally see where those cheap flights are at! You can tick direct flights only if this is important to you. This is often best if you are only going for a weekend break somewhere but you can save money if you are happy not to fly directly.

If you want to go to a certain country, or city, you can follow the same process but enter your specific destination. Try the cheapest month option to find out when is a good-value time to go.

Make sure you play around with different dates and length of stay. I'm going to work through an example at this point as I think it will help to illustrate what I mean!

Imagine I want a nice weekend away just before Christmas, and I think I can get away with the Friday off work so I'd like to go away Friday - Sunday. My first step is to search on Skyscanner to 'everywhere' from Newcastle for those dates.

Here are my results (just showing the lowest few prices):

How to find cheap flights - Skyscanner screen shot showing Switzerland for £151

Straight away I know that I don't want to visit Ireland or the UK on this occasion so I would look at the other destinations listed. I've been to them all quite a few times but I've only visited Switzerland once, briefly, so quite fancy it - but is it any good at that time of year?

Do your location research

Make sure that you research any locations which come up with cheap flights to make sure the weather is right for your trip, although don't let this totally put you off if you want a bargain! It is also worth checking if there are any public holidays, festivals, or other events happening in Europe as this may make it even more worth booking or may just send the price of hotels sky-high.

In this example I would Google 'Switzerland in December', check some blogs and major travel websites, and see if it's somewhere I fancy booking a cheap flight to.

Check hotel prices

I actually used to look purely for a cheap flight and thought I would figure the rest out later. Whilst this can work sometimes, it's probably best at this stage to at least have a quick scan of hotel prices before you book those cheap tickets! 

I always start with Booking.com (using this link gives both you and me £15 credit) as booking with them enough earns you 'genius' status and can get free breakfasts, discounts and more. I also check Air B&B (this link gives you £25 credit and up to £23 for me as there are some bargains to be had depending on your destination. These two links  I will write a whole separate blog post soon about how I find affordable hotels, but make sure you can roughly afford a hotel in a good location before you book the flights!

Cheap europe flight - Switzerland mountains in 2009
Driving through Switzerland last time I visited in 2009 - a very cheap trip as I stayed with a friend!


Try different airports

Living in the fairly small city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, we aren't exactly spoilt for choice with cheap flights to European destinations. For this reason I always have a look at flights from Edinburgh or Manchester as well. I tend to prefer Edinburgh airport (any excuse for a visit to Scotland!) but I will search from both to see how prices are looking. (I told you this was a long process but honestly it's sooo worth it!)

Searching from Edinburgh is bringing up much better prices:

Cheap flights in Europe - screen shot shows £70 from Edinburgh to Switzerland

Don't get carried away and double-check times

Depending on your destination, it might not be worth arriving really late at night if that means paying for an extra night of accommodation. If you decide that it's better to travel to a different airport you will need to make sure you have enough time to get there, and factor in any overnight accommodation costs as well! 

It really only feels worth it to me to fly from Edinburgh if I'm saving hundreds (e.g. on a recent trip to Copenhagen on a budget, we saved around £300 each by flying from our Scottish neighbours!)

In this example, the departing flight to Geneva is actually 6.00am from Edinburgh, so yes it might be over £70 less, but once we factor in a hotel, petrol and the inconvenience of setting off so early it just doesn't feel worth it - so it's onto my next step.

Play around with dates and try 'entire month'

I would now check flights from Newcastle again, entering the destination that I like the look of but look at the 'whole month' of December to see if I can get any cheaper flights by flexing my dates slightly.

Result! If I leave on the Saturday and come back on the Monday instead it reduces the price significantly... imagine if I'd just booked from Edinburgh and driven all that way for the sake of one day's difference?

Calendar showing dates for cheap flights to Switzerland

This is actually quite a quick example but usually I would look through a good handful of destinations, constantly flexing my dates / trying whole month / different airports before I find my cheapest option. I'd like to consider Sky Scanner as a hobby (jokes... kind of)!

Choose your destination and click-through


Use cash back and direct booking to make your flight even cheaper

Once you have decided which flight you like the look of then click through as though you are going to book it and it will show you who the booking is through. At this point, I would always look at which airline it is with and open their site separately to check the price directly, but use a cashback website to click through to make sure you get some money back (Quidco is my favourite - this link gets us both £10 credit if you sign up and make £5 cash back).

I usually like to book directly through the airline, using a credit card for extra protection, but if the price is cheaper with a broker through Sky Scanner then don't be afraid to book this way. Just make sure you search for any reviews to ensure you're choosing a decent company if you haven't heard of them before.

Finally, it is unlikely, but I will always look for a discount code to apply just in case. This is more likely to exist when booking through a broker site and I just Google the company name and discount code to see what comes up.

Avoid added extras on your Europe flights

Don't forget that a cheap flight can suddenly become more costly if you add baggage and seat selection. I rarely add either unless I am travelling for a long time or it is for a really special occasion. 

Be careful if booking through Ryanair, however, as their current hand luggage allowance at time of writing is only a small handbag or rucksack. You need to add a full cabin bag to your booking, but it's usually at a cost of less than €10 so will still keep your flight cost down.

I will write a separate post on how I keep the cost down once I am in the airport and on the flight, so keep a look-out for that one.

Cheap flights in Europe - rainy Berlin photo
A rainy weekend in Berlin - always check you're visiting at a good time!
Just before you click that purchase button and get your countdown app fired up...

Check package deals

This is something I only really figured out recently, as I always incorrectly assumed that a package deal would cost more than booking separately. I was looking for a trip to Kos and the flights came up as over £300 so I just decided, on a whim, to check TUI and found an entire week's holiday including transfers and checked luggage for £381. 

It definitely pays to do a quick package holiday search including Jet2 Holidays, EasyJet Holidays, Teletext Holidays, TUI and any other websites which come up when you try searching.

Cheap flights to Europe - Kefalonia scenery on a package deal
An affordable package deal to Kefalonia in 2017 - such a chilled and cheap break!

How to find cheap flights in Europe - summary

I hope following through the process has been useful and you have picked up some handy tips to help with your next hunt for cheap flights in Europe. The problem is that now I've done this searching I just want to book these cheap flights to Geneva! If you have any other handy tips for finding cheap flights, please share them in the comments as I am constantly hearing about new tricks I haven't used before.

I recently visited three countries on a week's trip with flights costing only slightly more than a return to one country, so if you enjoyed reading this let me know and I will explain how I did that in a separate post. Thanks for reading and happy travels! Melis x

4 comments

  1. Fantastic tips! It's weird how package holidays can sometimes work out cheaper isn't it x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Yes I never used to even check them out but recently have found they can actually be worth it :) Melis x

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