Home (not broke) for Xmas.
November 8, 2009 4:20 AM   Subscribe

Please help me get from Europe to Canada for the Xmas holidays without having to live out of a cardboard box.

This is my first time living abroad, and I've rather naively discovered that holy crap, airfare to North America is super expensive from mid-December to early January. I've managed to get a bit of wiggle room on my travel dates from my employers (I work at a school and the holidays are pre-scheduled), but the reasonable/cheap airfare is still a day or two out of reach and I don't want to push my luck much further.

This isn't a make or break thing - I've promised the family I'll go home either way - but if there's a way to get from Paris to Winnipeg without spending $1800 Cdn after tax, I'd be appreciative. Especially considering $1800 is the price I managed by wiggling the dates.

Is finding reasonable airfare at peak travel time in December a total pipe dream? Am I just booking too late, or too early? Are there any genuinely useful sites for this sort of thing? I've tried both Expedia and Travelocity and find them pretty useless when the destination isn't a major hub - they seem to miss a lot of cheap fares I can find by checking airlines myself.

My holidays are from Dec. 19 to Jan. 3 (like the rest of the Xmas-celebrating world). Employers are willing to let me leave the Wednesday before and return the Wednesday after, which is how I managed the price above. I'd like to be home for Xmas day but I'd be willing to leave pre-NY if that generally makes a difference. I'm also willing to fly to other European centres or take the train to get a better price.

FYI, I've checked other threads on this site and, oddly, can't find a similar question, but my AskMF skills might be lacking. So if you find the same question previously, by all means share.

Thanks much in advance.
posted by nicoleincanada to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, to be clear, I know of other sites like kayak, etc. But I suppose I'm wondering if any such sites are useful in December/January.
posted by nicoleincanada at 4:22 AM on November 8, 2009

Oh, and one more thing I've always found confusing - whether it's better to search for a flight to the nearest major city (in this case, Toronto or Montreal) or to the final destination.
posted by nicoleincanada at 4:36 AM on November 8, 2009

can you get to London and fly with Canadian Affair?

Yes, airfares get stupid this time of year. An agent I worked with said that the last discount tickets for over Christmas usually sold out early June.
posted by scruss at 5:03 AM on November 8, 2009

Yeah just take the Eurostar Paris > London and Canadian Affair still has flights from Gatwick (but not LHR) to Toronto for £259 outbound, £329 inbound. The dates I put in were 19 Dec and 03 January giving you plenty of time to make those flights with you extra days of vacation either end.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:16 AM on November 8, 2009

Thanks for the tip - this is the first I've heard of Canadian Affair. At the risk of sounding dense, have you flown them before? Are they reputable?
posted by nicoleincanada at 5:23 AM on November 8, 2009

Can you get someone to pick you up in Minneapolis? You could fly easyJet from Paris to London for about C$80-100 roundtrip depending on luggage, and you can find flights from London to Minneapolis on Continental for C$650 roundtrip (maybe cheaper if you search different dates). That saves you $1,050, and you'll be much closer to Winnipeg than Toronto.
posted by helios at 5:28 AM on November 8, 2009

CDG-Chicago O'Hare-Minneapolis and back on American is US$1107 here. You'd leave 12/16 and get back 1/5. You'd have to get to/from Winnipeg from Minneapolis, which is a seven-hour drive, but it's not $600 worth of gasoline. Perhaps your family can come pick you up?

I found that fare on DoHop.
posted by mdonley at 5:42 AM on November 8, 2009

These are good ideas, all, but I don't know if getting picked up in Minneapolis will fly (no pun intended). My family's super busy and although it's reasonably close, it's still a long drive there/back. But I appreciate the suggestions.
posted by nicoleincanada at 5:51 AM on November 8, 2009

Canadian Affair uses Air Transat, Thomas Cook, and MyTravel airlines. I've flown with them all through Canadian Affair many times before and while they're a bit more budget, they're fine. I'm in the UK so I always fly between London and Toronto, and I've found the best deals to be seat sales much earlier in the year. I generally book in the summer and if you get a deal, Air Canada between Toronto and London can actually be the cheapest (and nicer).
posted by Kirjava at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2009

Another data point for 12/16ish-1/4ish: Jet Airways, Brussels-Toronto, €852/C$1360. Jet Airways is an Indian airline and is known for its cushy and comfortable accommodations, even in economy. Brussels is far easier to get to economically using the TGV/Thalys than Eurostar, and you'd have the added advantage of not needing to go through UK customs/immigration if that's an issue. It wouldn't cost $500 to connect YYZ and Winnipeg on a separate ticket, right? Westjet perhaps?
posted by mdonley at 6:03 AM on November 8, 2009

Canadian Affair is fine if you understand what a budget charter airline entails. They're ATOL registered in the UK; I think they're code sharing (or whatever you call that for tour operators) with Thomas Cook and Monarch. They will get you there in once piece, and there is zero chance of a cancelled flight at that time of year, but don't expect luxury or fabulous in-flight entertainment.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:09 AM on November 8, 2009

I use Canadian Affair quite frequently. They're okay. More legroom than standard economy.

UK's eurozone, so no additional customs required.
posted by scruss at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2009

You could look into taking a bus from Minneapolis, or even a short discount flight. Don't despair!
posted by amtho at 6:28 AM on November 8, 2009

UK's eurozone, so no additional customs required.

The UK is an EU member, but has their own border controls still in place. Going from Paris to the UK to Canada means getting a passport stamp out of the Schengen zone and into Britain, then out of Britain and into Canada, and doing the same on the way back. Just an extra hassle/line-up on the way.

The eurozone is something else.

posted by mdonley at 7:44 AM on November 8, 2009

I've found that flying over New Year, i.e. leave evening of New Year's Eve, and landing back New Year's Day can result in cheaper tickets. Plus, there's LOADS of space on a half empty plane.

One year the Air Canada cabin crew brought the drinks trolley back to economy and we had a nice party :o)
posted by arcticseal at 7:45 AM on November 8, 2009

Good idea, arcticseal. I'm debating whether it would be too depressing to spend New Years Eve on a plane, or if I'd be glad enough about saving the cash. It's not as though NYE is always a great joy, anyway.
posted by nicoleincanada at 8:27 AM on November 8, 2009

I just played around with kayak and if you fly out on the 17th and fly back on the 31st there is a United flight that currently costs $1144 USD (which XE.com says is $1,229.97 Canadian). Probably not as inexpensive of an option as you might be able to swing by combining different cheap flights, but definitely more straightforward (it looks as though you would have just one connection in Chicago).
posted by pie_seven at 8:32 AM on November 8, 2009

Ugh, don't fly through Chicago and its sub-humane treatment of passengers, especially over the holidays and especially if you'll still have 12 hrs of round trip driving just to save one or two hundred. Holiday season is madness as is, keep it simple and you'll have less opportunities to encounter failure along the way.
posted by furtive at 9:30 AM on November 8, 2009

Are you willing to fly on Dec 25th, Dec 31st, or Jan 1st? If you are you can save.
posted by cotterpin at 10:16 AM on November 8, 2009

Yes, check Jan 1 prices. I just booked tickets for NYC to SFO and saved $200 by flying on Jan 1 instead of the 2nd or 3rd. The earlier in the day, the cheaper they are.
posted by min at 12:15 PM on November 8, 2009

Last Minute Club is worth considering as well, if you don't mind waiting till early Dec to book. This August, I used Last Minute to find far and away the cheapest peak-season summer flights from Calgary to Copenhagen (ca. $700 one way on British Airways, less than half the price I could find on any of the online search engines).
posted by gompa at 5:35 PM on November 8, 2009

Are you willing to fly on Dec 25th, Dec 31st, or Jan 1st? If you are you can save.

This is pretty much the only way to save money, at this point.
posted by randomstriker at 5:49 PM on November 8, 2009

To give this story a conclusion, I managed to negotiate with the powers that be here and fly home a week earlier. Total cost was around $1350, including taxes. The advice was all much-appreciated, though.
posted by nicoleincanada at 9:23 AM on December 1, 2009

That said, I am flying back the day before NYE. Flying on New Years Day was more expensive, for some reason, and flying after was insanely so.
posted by nicoleincanada at 9:24 AM on December 1, 2009

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