Have to fly in July, but we'll adapt to anything else!
October 13, 2009 9:53 AM   Subscribe

How to find the best NYC --> Europe flight deals when both day of week and destination are flexible. Caveat: flying out July 2010.

My roommate and I are planning an extended European vacation beginning around the middle of July next year. I know that this is the absolute worst time to fly out, so we need some tips about how to cut down the price.

We are flying from NYC but would be willing to travel to Newark or even Philadelphia if there were significant savings. I have used RyanAir in the past and am familiar with inter-European travel, which is why we don't care much about the city that we first land in. So far, it looks like flying into Dublin is the least expensive. We would also be fine with Paris, London, Glasgow, Amsterdam, or Geneva.

What now? I've heard that if you're flying during peak season then you should just buy tickets as early as possible because they will never lower. However, with our flexibility it seems that there may be some deal, somewhere a bit closer to our flight date. Is this wishful thinking?

We would appreciate any website recommendations that would give fares on neighboring cities as well, or flexibility about the day of the week. I've tried Kayak and liked it - are there others?

In addition, our vacation will probably continue for several months. Will the customs agents give us any problems for having a return ticket for more than three months from the day we enter the country?

posted by amicamentis to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you plugged the info into Farecast yet? They can give you basically a trend "forecast" of how the prices to different cities will pan out for the next few months, based on the past year or so.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:56 AM on October 13, 2009

I have seen the advice "Buy your tickets on a Wednesday between midnight and 1am in the time zone of the airline's headquarters" in a few different places - for example here. The rationale for this is that this is when tentative bookings, which have been made and confirmed on the company's website are released. These may be at a lower price than you could otherwise get for that week.
posted by rongorongo at 10:53 AM on October 13, 2009

Persevere. I started looking for tickets to Spain last winter (for a trip in august) and the prices hovered around $1100 for a long time. I peeked in on Travelocity/Kayak/Mobissimo every day and then wham, one day lufthansa started a sale and bingo, i found ticket on Iberia air to barcelona for $580. two days later the price was 985.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:18 PM on October 13, 2009

this was from Seattle btw, YMMV.
posted by OHenryPacey at 2:19 PM on October 13, 2009

Best answer: Here is a super non-obvious tip. If you use Kayak Buzz, put in a dollar limit, even if you just think you want the cheapest. To see why, try running a search from NYC to Europe for July 2010. The cheapest flight is $597 to Frankfurt. Put in $600 as your top price, and suddenly a $555 flight to Portugal shows up. I'm not sure why this works; maybe because it's the Top 25 cities under your price range? It's rather frustrating if you really don't care where you go.

Keep in mind these are very good rates but they are annoying flights. You end up flying through someplace you would be willing to stop (Paris or Madrid) on to somewhere you don't care about (Frankfurt or Porto).
posted by smackfu at 8:06 PM on October 13, 2009

As far as the visa issue is concerned...

1) Keep in mind that you're allowed to visit the Schengen zone visa-free for 90 days in a 180-day period, as in you show up at the airport upon arrival and get stamped with no advance paperwork. The clock does NOT reset when you move between Schengen zone members as there are no internal border controls anymore.

2) Britain and Ireland have their own visa procedures outside the Schengen zone. US passport holders have three months visa-free in Ireland and six months visa-free in Britain.

For the Schengen zone, you can apply for a long-stay tourist visa for a longer period, either from the embassy of the country you plan to visit the longest, or the country you're visiting first if you don't have a "main destination". The Netherlands' embassy in London has a good explanation here. It seems that this visa is only valid on the territory of the state where you apply for it, however; a longer-than-90-day multi-country visa seems to not exist. I'd get whatever cheap ticket you find sorted out sooner rather than later, then work on the visa issue. Keep in mind that many plane tickets can only be purchased 330 days in advance.

You may also want to consider tagging non-Schengen states onto the post-90-day portion of your vacation: all the Western Balkans except Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Romania have their own visa procedures outside Schengen.
posted by mdonley at 3:20 AM on October 14, 2009

Response by poster: These are all great answers - thanks so much!

mdonley: I appreciate the visa advice. Spending time outside of the Schengen zone is not a problem past 90 days. However, if our flight is roundtrip from Paris and more than 90 days from arrival departure, will we have any problems?
posted by amicamentis at 7:33 AM on October 14, 2009

Hm, not sure. A question for your local French consulate, though!
posted by mdonley at 2:09 AM on October 17, 2009

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