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Everything You Need to Know About Finding Cheap Flights to Europe

Scott Keyes
By 
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)
12 min read
Last updated 
October 24, 2019

The continent of Europe is the world’s most popular travel destination. More than 672 million people visited in in 2017—almost double the arrivals to Asia, the next most popular continent. And, the list of the top ten most-visited countries in the world is dominated by European countries: France, Spain, Italy, UK, Turkey, and Germany.

It’s no surprise, then, that we frequently get questions related to finding cheap flights to Europe. To help answer some of them, we’ve created this detailed guide. From where to go and when, to which airlines to fly and the best city for a layover, here’s what you need to know about finding cheap flights to Europe.

How much does it cost to fly to Europe?

What you’ll pay for a plane ticket to Europe will depend on dozens of factors, including (but not limited to) where you’re flying to and from, what time of year you go, when you buy, and whether or not you’ve bought at the right time and snagged a good deal. However, we can give you some general averages for regular prices (see below for deal prices) for roundtrip flights to Europe based on what we’ve seen logging thousands of hours of flight searching.

From the US, regular prices for a flight to Europe range from $700–$1,000+ in low season and $900–$1,500 in high season. A good deal (what you should pay, and what Scott's Cheap Flights member pay) on a flight to Europe is in the $200s–$500s in low season and $400s–$600s in high season, like this $316 roundtrip deal from NYC to Paris nonstop or $394 roundtrip from Los Angeles to Madrid.  

flight deals to Europe

Where should I go in Europe? What are the best places to visit in Europe?

That’s a broad question with an entire continent full of possibilities, and the answer will depend on a lot of factors personal to you. You could take this question to the 80,000+ members of our Travel Community to get personalized advice, but here’s a little bit of general info to get you started.

If you’re looking to check off bucket-list items, consider the big-name cities: London, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Athens, Prague, Dublin, Rome, Berlin. If you prefer to go left when everyone else goes right, look at less-trodden cities like Bucharest, Ljubljana, Porto, Warsaw, and Zagreb.

In general, northern Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Russia, and the former Soviet countries will all be colder in winter and milder in summer. Southern Europe is hotter in the summer and much milder in winter. Of course, even within countries there’s variation. It might be sweltering in Paris in July, while in the mountain town of Chamonix it’s refreshingly cool.

If you want to visit multiple cities in Europe, you can often book an open-jaw flight for the same price as a roundtrip flight. This allows you to fly into one city and out of the another. For example, you could fly into Barcelona, take the train to Madrid, and fly home from there.

What are the most and least expensive places to visit in Europe?

In general, Scandinavia, the UK, and western Europe are the most expensive regions to visit in Europe. According to Numbeo’s cost of living index, the most expensive countries in Europe are Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Finland.

Countries in southern and eastern Europe and the Balkans tend to be less expensive. Numbeo lists the cheapest countries in Europe as: Ukraine, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Belarus, Turkey, Serbia, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Albania.

Again, though, it can vary a bit within each country; in Russia, for example, St. Petersburg and Moscow are much more expensive than smaller towns. And, even in the more expensive countries you can often cut costs by taking public transportation, staying in an Airbnb or hostel, and cooking some of your own meals.

Georgia is one of the least expensive countries in Europe
Georgia is one of the least expensive countries in Europe

Do I need a visa to visit Europe?

US citizens do not need a visa to travel to Europe. The US is one of 60 countries currently allowed visa-free travel to Europe (though beginning  in 2021, there will be a fee and online pre-registration required).

How long can I stay in Europe?

Citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand and dozens of other countries can only stay in the Schengen Area of Europe for a period of 90 days within a 180-day period, unless they have a visa that allows a longer stay.

However, you can stay longer on the continent by breaking up your time between Schengen and non-Schengen countries. For example, you could stay 90 days in the Schengen Area, spend 90 days in one or more countries outside the Schengen area (depending on their specific rules) and then return to the Schengen area for another 90 days.

What are some popular airports in Europe?

Some of the busiest airports in Europe include hubs like London Heathrow Airport, (LHR) Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (AMS), Iceland’s Keflavik Airport (KEF), Milan’s Malpensa Airport (MXP), Frankfurt am Main Airport (FRA), Munich Airport (MUC), Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD), Barcelona-El Prat (BCN), and Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino (FCO).

Istanbul's Ataturk Airport (IST) is also very popular, though in 2019 the bulk of operations are moving to the new Istanbul Airport (ISL; which is expected to see even more passengers).

What are the cheapest cities to fly into in Europe?

This is another tricky question with a complicated answer; just because an airport has some of the lowest prices on average, it doesn’t mean it offers the best prices for your particular trip.

We can say that, overall, in 2018, we saw the most deals to: Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Milan, Rome, Barcelona, London, Frankfurt, Zurich and Munich. We also saw a lot of deals to Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Vienna, and Berlin.

Of course, it also varies a bit by where you’re coming from and when you’re traveling. If we look at just flights from the US and Canada, the same 15 airports saw the most deals in 2018 so those are good places to start your search, but it’s always wise to check multiple options. Even if there are great prices from Austin to London in May, from Houston it might be better to fly to Amsterdam, for example.

While we have data that says that, on average, it’s cheaper to fly to certain European cities, we can’t definitively say it’ll be cheaper to fly to that city for your specific trip, so always compare prices. Google Flights makes it easy to do this with its map view, which shows the prices for an entire region for your specific dates, or for a week or two-week trip in a given month. You can also search up to seven airports in one go. See our Google Flights tutorial for more.

Lavaux vineyards in autumn
Switzerland in autumn

When should I go to Europe? When is the best time to visit Europe?

Again, this depends quite a bit on your personal preferences, but in broad strokes:

  • If you want very warm or hot weather so you can hit the beach, soak up the sun, or swim in the ocean, June to early-September is generally the best time.
  • If you want the fewest crowds and the lowest prices, go in January or February.
  • If you want pleasant weather but fewer crowds than summer high season, look at April, May, September, and October. March and November can also be good times, though for March and April be wary of Easter, and in November, know that the popularity of Christmas markets means that some cities are still quite busy.

When are high and low season in Europe?

High season in Europe is June through August as well as the Christmas and New Year holidays. Low season is November through February (excluding the holidays).

Everything else—March through May and September through October—is considered shoulder season.

What are the major festivals and holidays in Europe?

Much of Europe is Christian, and Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Easter are celebrated widely throughout the continent. Observation of Easter can vary; some countries celebrate only on Sunday while others take nearly a week to celebrate Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are also celebrated throughout Europe.

Other holidays, like independence days and bank holidays, vary by country; there’s St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, Hogmanay in Scotland, and Bastille Day in France, to name a few. Every country also has its own major festivals, which, depending on the size and scope, can impact travelers. Some of the biggest European festivals include Germany’s Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnival in Venice, Spain’s San Fermin (the Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona, France’s Cannes Film Festival, and many, many more.

When is the cheapest month to fly to Europe?

In general, the cheapest time to fly to Europe is from January–April and September–early-December. We see the most deals available in January and February from most departure regions (from Latin America we also see a lot of deals in March and May).

Skyscanner data says the cheapest month to fly to Europe is January, but again, the answer isn’t quite that simple. As mentioned, we see a lot of deals for travel in January, but that doesn’t mean the cheapest price you’ll find for your specific routing will be for travel in January; we’ve seen some amazing deals pop up for all other months of the year, too.

When is the best time to book flights to Europe?

There is no specific month, week, day, or time of day that the best prices are available for booking. In general, the best time to book an international flight is 2-6 months in advance of travel. That doesn’t mean you should just blindly book as soon as you’re in that window, though—wait for a good deal, and then act quickly when you see one.

How should I get to Europe?

We’ve broken this section into major airlines and budget airlines. The budget airlines generally offer a no-frills experience but lower prices. The major airlines are full-service airlines and flagship and legacy carriers. In general, the economy class on these airlines includes a checked bag and advance seat assignment. However, some of these carriers have also begun to offer basic economy fares to compete with the budget airlines. In exchange for the lowest price, you’ll give up (or pay extra) for things like meals, checked luggage, and advance seat selection.

It’s wise to compare prices on all options to see not only which has the lowest price, but which offers the best value for your particular needs.

What airlines fly to Europe?

From the US, some of the full-service airlines that fly to Europe are: Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air Canada, Air France, Air Italy, Air New Zealand, Air Serbia, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Transat, Alitalia, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Azores Airlines, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Condor, Delta Airlines, Emirates, Eurowings, Finnair, Iberia, Icelandair, Jet Airways, KLM, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, SAS, Singapore Airlines, SWISS, TAP Air Portugal, Thomas Cook, TUI, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, WestJet, and XL Airways.

LEVEL and Norwegian are among the budget airlines that fly to Europe, and both make our list of the best budget airlines to fly from the US.  

What is the cheapest airline to fly to Europe?

While there’s no one airline that will always be the cheapest, we see the most deals to Europe from the US on American, United, Delta, Air Canada, British Airways, and Lufthansa.

Of course, these are also the airlines that operate the most flights to Europe and serve the most the most airports. More flights means more chances for deals.

How can I get to Europe as cheaply as possible?

If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest way to get from your home airport to Europe, we have two tips for you: (1) flexibility is key and (2) two roundtrip flights are often cheaper than one.

First, you need to be flexible. If you’re only looking at flights to one destination, you may not find the cheapest options. The more flexible you can be with location (and dates), the greater your chances of scoring a great deal.

Second, in some cases, it’s much cheaper to buy two sets of roundtrip tickets: one from your home airport to the continent and another from your entry airport to your final destination.

For example, a flight from NYC to Dubrovnik, Croatia, with a connection in London could cost $1,200 in high season. But a flight from NYC to London could cost as little as $500. From London, you can hop on a budget airline and fly to Croatia for less than $200. You end up spending $700 in two separate transactions instead of $1,200 in one, and you can add a long layover in London if you like.

That’s not the only perk of this hack, which we often refer to “the Greek islands trick.” It also allows you to break up your purchases (you don’t have to buy both sets of flights at the same time) and if you aren’t sure exactly where you want to go, you have time to figure it out. In most cases you will need to break this up into two transactions. Flight search engines typically won't let you book two non-partner airlines in a single transaction, so you have to do the legwork yourself to find the best deal.

You can read more about how to find the cheapest flight anywhere, and remember, you might find that a train or bus connection is actually a faster or more economical way to complete your journey once in Europe. You can use Rome2Rio to compare options.

What are the best cities for layovers in Europe?

Ask ten different people this question and you'll likely get ten different answers based on personal preference. We considered (1) how likely it is you’ll find a deal to this airport, (2) how likely it is you’ll have a layover or the option to add a long layover in this airport, and (3) how quickly and easily you can get from the airport to the city and back.

Based on those criteria, here are our recommendations for where to spend your layover in Europe.

Amsterdam, Zurich, Barcelona, Lisbon, Frankfurt, Stockholm, and Brussels can all be reached in about 15 minutes by train or taxi from their respective airports. The trains run reliably, and once you’re in the city it’s easy to connect to the local metro (or walk) to main attractions so you can see a lot in a short amount of time.  From Helsinki or Madrid it takes a bit more time to get from the airport to the city (about 30 minutes) but it’s still easy to do on a longer layover.

Amsterdam canals
Amsterdam is a great city for a layover


London and Paris are also great choices, depending on the airport you’re flying in and out of.

In London, the Heathrow Express train whisks passengers from London Heathrow (LHR) to London’s Paddington Station in just 20 minutes and the trains come every few minutes. Gatwick Airport (LGW) is slightly farther, but still doable depending on the length of your layover; the trip takes about 30 minutes but trains only come every 15 minutes. Avoid Stansted (STN) if you’re looking to do a single day layover; the trip from the airport takes 45 minutes and the trains only come every 15, so you’ll eat up a lot of time in transit.

In Paris, it takes about 35 minutes to travel by RER train from Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to the Gare du Nord train station, and trains come every 15 minutes. Orly Airport (ORY) is actually closer, but the journey takes about the same amount of time. Avoid Paris-Beauvais Airport (BVA) for a shorter layover; there’s no direct train, but there is a bus that takes about an hour to make the 40-mile journey.

It’s not quite as easy to get from Istanbul’s airports (either Ataturk or the new Istanbul Airport, which are 25 and 45 minutes from the city by taxi without traffic—and in Istanbul, there’s always traffic), so a short layover isn’t recommended, but if you’re flying Turkish Airlines and you find yourself with a layover in Istanbul of at least 20 hours, you may quality for a free hotel room.

Reykjavik is also pretty far from Keflavik airport (about 45 minutes by bus), but it is close to the famous Blue Lagoon and a few hours is plenty of time to leave the airport, travel by bus to the hot spring, and relax for an hour or two. The Blue Lagoon does reach capacity, though, so be sure to make reservations.

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Last Updated 
March 19, 2019
Everything You Need to Know About Finding Cheap Flights to Europe
Scott Keyes
Founder & Chief Flight Expert (CFE)

Scott has traveled to 46 countries (and 46 states!), living in California, to Oaxaca, to Oregon. He’s left-handed, drinks five cups of tea daily, and holds a vendetta against the “Happy Birthday” song. On a dare, he once ate 13 hot dogs (and a bowl of Dippin’ Dots) at the ballpark. He grew up in Ohio and founded Scott’s Cheap Flights in a Denver coffee shop. Favorite airport: PDX.

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