Lose Your Shirt European Vacation
February 23, 2011 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Going to Europe this summer. Do I really have to spend $1500 to get there?!

I'll be going to Europe this summer and spending two weeks. I'd like to start in Prague and then end up in Italy. I'm coming from Denver.

Timing is flexible - anywhere from early June to mid-August.

Is it really $1500 a ticket just to get to Prague and back? Any strategies for minimizing this? I've priced it as a single destination (just Denver to Prague) and I've also priced multi-leg Denver-Prague-Rome (the advantage here not having to go back to Prague to get home). My god, the rates are unbelievable in all cases. I've tried different days and different months... nothing seems to help. Advise?

posted by shew to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Try to find a return trip from London on any major airline. Once you're there, Momondo will help you find cheap flights within Europe. RyanAir is generally a good bet.

Single trips across the Atlantic are almost always as if not more expensive than return trips.
posted by snoogles at 2:31 PM on February 23, 2011

Have you thought about adding on another city and then taking the train to Prague? I've taken trains to and from Prague from Hungary, Austria (Vienna), and Poland. Pretty cheap and fast. There is also a train from Munich.
posted by melissam at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2011

No, you shouldn't pay this much. Something like ORD-LHR or DFW-LHR will be much cheaper. Paris is also probably cheaper.

It's all about capacity and number of flights to a given city. Denver is not particularly popular (yes, it's a United hub, but it's only a United hub), and neither is Prague. New York or Chicago and London or Paris have many more flights between them, which means there are many more seats available, which means they'll be cheaper.

I've flown to Europe for $800 round trip in the summer, and the routing was ORD-LHR-OSL. If I was just going to London, it would have been boatloads cheaper. (In the winter, I flew to London for $280!)
posted by jrockway at 2:32 PM on February 23, 2011

Fly via from Denver to Frankfurt or either of the major London/Paris airports and then use one of the budget airlines to get to Prague.
posted by caek at 2:40 PM on February 23, 2011

I have been following airfare prices for a couple of months now and am seeing the same pattern. My home airport is O'Hare and I have priced flights from there to pretty much anywhere between Spain and Italy with no luck. jrockway, I agree that much cheaper fares were available as recently as two years ago (we flew to Paris for ~$700 in August 2009); however, the prices shot up at some point last year and really haven't come down at all. Sigh.
posted by onepot at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2011

Agreed with be flexible about where you fly into in Europe; that should help as cheaper intra-Europe planes, trains, ferries, etc can be cheaper. However, like onepot said, prices to go across the pond this year are much higher than the last several years it seems I searched kayak a few weeks ago for ATL to London or Dublin or Paris and the prices were more than I have seen in many years - pretty much nothing under $1200. YMMV.
posted by pointystick at 2:47 PM on February 23, 2011

Looks like flying into Zurich might be the cheapest option - $770 rt.

Kayak Explore is my favorite tool for stuff like this - change the departure airport or trip timeline to see the best deals available.
posted by CharlieSue at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2011

FWIW you can fly into and out of Dublin round trip from New York for $800. You can fly to Prague from here for peanuts on Ryanair.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:57 PM on February 23, 2011

Many people recommend Ryanair, and they are right (technically) to do so, because they are cheap as chips. What I will say however, and I apologise for the language, is that you have a fucking ridiculous amount of hoops to jump through in order to get the actual price quoted, they have really restrictive baggage policies etc etc. For a short hop, you might not think it but actually the major carriers can often be just as cheap with far less hassle. I flew from London to Paris a couple of times last year with British Airways... a completely stress free experience and never paid more than about £40. Another thing you really must be aware of with Ryanair is that they don't actually fly to where they say they do. For example - They fly to Glasgow - actually it's Prestwick which is quite some way away from Glasgow. They fly to Paris - actually it's Beauvais which is about an hour and a half by coach North of Paris. They fly to Milan - actually it's Bergamo... I could go on, but the point I'm making is don't expect Ryanair to actually fly you to where they say they will. They advertise the destination and neglect to point out that they actually land at what is practically a farm strip about an hour away because it's cheaper. Ok, the farm strip dig wasn't entirely accurate, but the distance thing is.
posted by dougrayrankin at 3:23 PM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Wizz Air flies from London Luton (about an hour bus ride from Heathrow) to Prague for about $30. I've booked flights to European hubs and then used budget airlines for intra-European flights for much less than what major airline search engines quote for the total trip. Watch out for seasonal sales – sometimes you can get amazing deals ($600 to cross the ocean from Seattle, roundtrip, last August). You just have to do some research and have a contingency plan if you are on a tight schedule and any of the flights are delayed/cancelled.

Also, check out student discounts if you are younger than 26 or a student.
posted by halogen at 3:26 PM on February 23, 2011

United and Aer Linus are the cheapest imho. Look into buying direct. And fly into Shannon, stanstead or knock instead of heathrow or Dublin. Much cheaper.
posted by fshgrl at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2011

Yes, definitely take advantage of student discounts if you can get them. I used StudentUniverse.com with a .edu email address and was able to get a round trip flight to London for about $620 in July. Do flights to London with a budget airline, to be sure.
posted by amicamentis at 4:28 PM on February 23, 2011

Nthing that Ryanair are good if you watch the T&C and the actual travel time from their often-distant airports to the cities they are supposedly in and the baggage. Last time I checked, they charged you for a single checked bag, twice as much if you haven't booked it in advance, and are quite mercenary if your bag is a single kilo over the limit (or your carry-on is an inch too big). I don't know specifically about the respective Rome & Prague airports but I believe easyJet go to both and are generally a friendlier budget airline (one checked bag free, better airports). And they operate out of London-Gatwick (in addition to Stanstead and Luton) where a lot of flights from the US land.
posted by K.P. at 4:37 PM on February 23, 2011

If you keep your eye on the FlyerTalk Mileage Run Deals forum and are flexible with your dates and routes, you can get extremely good fares into Europe, then take another short hop to Prague. Unfortunately being in Denver means you'll probably have to fly to a larger hub (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, NYC) to get a good deal.

For example, a recent sale on LOT (the national airline of Poland) had flights from NYC to Warsaw for $393 all-in. NYC to Copenhagen on several carriers was $410 all-in. (Both round trip airfares, of course.)

You may need to wait a bit longer until good fares appear, though, so keep an eye on Kayak, Vayama, etc.
posted by armage at 4:58 PM on February 23, 2011

My vote would be to probably plan on hopping into London, Frankfurt, Paris, or Amsterdam (especially if you can get a nonstop from denver to there!); any one of those airports have enough competition that there are only mildly usurious fares to them. Likewise, there are a number of discount carriers to choose from for your next hops.

Many of the non-Ryanair carriers might not be as cheap on paper, but tend to include a checked bag, fly into the city them claim to, etc. The nickel-and-diming-to-death of Ryanair is legendary.

Also, pretty good odds that some airports in the US are going to get you more competitive fares than others -- the farther east or north you can get (seattle, or new york being prime candidates), the more staggering some of the deals can be, including airlines that just don't fly to denver.

I think the main thing to consider is that if you only have two weeks, time might be more valuable than money -- if you're saving a few bucks, and killing another day in the air or on the train, that's a tradeoff that you have to evaluate.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 5:35 PM on February 23, 2011

I'm doing Paris for less than $400 RT next month - it can be done. (Although that was really lucky.) I got a great deal on AA. If you fly to a big city (Paris, London), as above, you can fly a discount European airline around. I think AA releases fare deals on Tuesdays, but am not positive.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:54 PM on February 23, 2011

Although RyanAir is a good recommendation in general, for specifically from London to Prague I would second halogen's mention of WizzAir.

Everyone here is giving good advice. Sites like Kayak don't include the discount carriers. The cheapest way to get from the US to Europe is to find a hub-to-hub flight and then get to/from each one using either discount airlines/train/bus/whatever. In Europe, the well known hubs are London, Paris, Frankfurt. In the US, the hubs are cities like LAX, San Francisco, Chicago, NYC.

Your timing is actually not as flexible as you think. The summer is usually the high season because thats when everyone wants to go to Europe. If you can go in May or September that should lower your rate a bit too.
posted by vacapinta at 2:11 AM on February 24, 2011

Keep in mind that baggage allowances are much lower on intra-European flights than they are on flights to and from the US, so if you fly to London or Frankfurt and then switch to a European carrier, you may have to pay more for baggage. For a trip of only 2 weeks I'd advise traveling carryon anyway, but if you need checked luggage, pay attention to the limits and fees.

I paid $1250 last summer for a round-trip ticket from Boston to London, and $1000 this past December for a round trip from Boston to Amsterdam. $1500 doesn't seem unreasonable for Denver to Prague.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:45 AM on February 24, 2011

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