Q. I've been reading the Q&A extensively to prepare for my upcoming trip to New York in January and you helped me find a great round trip fare. My question now is regarding trips to Europe. In mid June, I am planning on seeing a friend in Amsterdam for about two weeks. I'm pretty flexible as to dates and locations. I've read conflicting things about Amsterdam. Some people say it's the cheapest place to fly into, some say the most expensive. It doesn't matter to me where I fly into, as long as I can get the cheapest round trip fare possible. I'd like to see different parts of Europe anyway.
I'm in Portland, Oregon but I am planning on using frequent flier miles to get to the East coast to find a cheaper flight onward to Europe. My main questions are: when should I buy the ticket (I was thinking sometime around March) and what would be the cheapest combination of cities? I understand flying between European cities is ridiculously cheap using Easyjet or Ryanair. I've been checking out studentuniverse.com for cheap international tickets, but the fare you guys helped me find to New York was much cheaper than anything they were offering.
A. There’s no way to predict when a cheap fare to Europe might pop up. It might turn out that you’ll find a bargain directly from Portland to Europe, allowing you to save your frequent flyer miles for another time, so don’t count that possibility out. Last year, we found that flights to Amsterdam were indeed more expensive than to other European cities, such as Dublin, Shannon, Madrid, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Berlin, Geneva, and Zurich, so we’d suggest that you set up airfare alerts both from Portland and New York to these cities (to find airfare alert sites, do a web search for “airfare alerts”). As to when to start looking, we’d suggest as early as January. One strategy that’s worked in the past is to find a bargain flying from New York to Dublin and then onward on Ryanair. Be sure to check individual airline sites such as Aerlingus.com, which often sells fares at lower prices than you’ll find them via third party sites. Another useful source is 1800flyeurope.com. Although we found many fares as low as $350, including taxes, round-trip to Europe last spring, this year we suspect that fares will be higher on average, since the airlines have cut a considerable amount of capacity from their schedules. One final note, fares tend to be more expensive for travel from mid June onward, so if it’s at all possible, plan your trip for early June or before.