People are often amazed with how much we travel and how we’re able to do it with limited funds. There are many factors, part of it is generous European vacation time (four weeks is fairly standard). We also have jobs that allow us to add holiday days to a work trip. Part of it is being both savvy and flexible. Flexibility is huge in regards to seeing more of the world. With that said, if you are cash strapped adventurers like us, you should plan a European vacation around discount airlines.
Discount European Airlines
There are many discount airlines in Europe. The continent is not dominated by a few big oligarch airlines like in the USA. When we lived in Amsterdam we flew Easyjet several times. In our current home of Dublin, Ryanair dominates the discount airline market and offers sometimes insanely low fares. In January we flew roundtrip from Dublin to Manchester, England for €20 ($28 USD!) each.
If you can make your way to Dublin from an American city, you can launch yourself to a number of great European locations for very cheap prices. You can always fly somewhere really cool from Dublin for under €100 ($140 USD) roundtrip. Don’t go out drinking a few nights or skimp on some dinners out, and you have your plane ticket very fast.
Ryanair services around 75 European destinations from Dublin. They also have additional hubs throughout Europe, flying to around 1,000 locations. Though some are seasonal, infrequent and inconvenient. So do your research your trip through online booking sites. Airlines aim to fill their planes, so their prices are set accordingly.
Search For Last Minute Deals
If you want to go somewhere last minute, try searching many destinations. Then see which flights still have cheap seats available. Ryanair makes most of its money on last minute higher priced seats, checked bag fees, food and drinks, in-flight advertising. They also make money from people not checking in in advance. Ryanair even sells scratch off lotto tickets on board their aircrafts! They have a savvy business model that ultimately allows flexible consumers to take advantage and see the world cheap.
Other discount airlines run similar business models. A great website to check out for booking plane tickets in Europe is Skyscanner. When we lived in Amsterdam, we planned a very last minute holiday. We wanted to travel to a beautiful and affordable destination for very cheap. You can use Skyscanner to check where you can go cheapest on your dates of choice. Just type in your location of origin to “everywhere.”
Ultimately we flew Wizz Air to Vilnius, Lithuania and caught an extremely comfortable and cheap bus called the Lux Express to Riga, Latvia for a great 10 day trip that was fun, enlightening and not hectic. And while we stayed based in the respective capitals, we did some relaxing day trips to the countryside and beach, like seeing the beautiful Trakai Castle from Vilnius.
On a side note, Lux Express is a wonderful way to get around the Baltic countries and even Russia. Though you need to organize a visa well in advance for travel to Russia.
At the time, We hadn’t visited Italy in 12 years and not been to Sicily. We decided that before we move from Europe we needed to get back to Italy. Ultimately, we decided to keep Sicily on the bucket list. We could have flown to Sicily roundtrip for under €100 each, but the dates didn’t work for us. So we looked at the 10 other Ryanair flight options from Dublin to Italy. Milan Bergamo? For our upcoming travel dates leaving May 1st and returning May 7th, the tickets were just €78 ($107 USD) roundtrip each!
We also paid to split a 15 kg (33 pounds) checked bag for €30 ($42 USD), you should travel light anyway, so the total cost came to €185 ($254 USD) for both of us, for roundtrip flights that are nearly 3 hours each way. In the United States, this price would be double, at best.
Discover Beautiful Less Touristy Destinations
Before planning our Italian trip we’d never even heard of Bergamo. But Bergamo is wonderful town that isn’t overly touristic. Along with being just 50 km (30 miles) from incredible Milan, this charming medieval city sits at the foot of the Italian Alps, and close by to breathtaking places like Lake Como, home of the famed town of Bellagio. Like most of Italy, the Lombardy region is meant to be spectacular. A quick trip through the Italian Alps to the Swiss Alps by train is also possible.
Take the Train on Shorter Trips
European train travel can be a great way to see the countryside. But longer distances can be more expensive compared to discount airlines. It can also take a lot more time. If you’re going from one side of the continent to the other, go via the discount airlines and you can save a bundle.
Be aware that Ryanair’s airports at Paris Beauvais, Brussels Charlerois, Munich Memmingen and London Luton, to name a few, are far outside their respective city centers. So it can be costly to catch the train or bus upon arrival. But if you can nab a plane ticket for 50 bucks it’s well worth it!
Prepare for high prices after discount flights to some countries
Norwegian Airlines can get you to Oslo, Norway cheap. But get ready for sticker shock when you arrive though! Norway is one of the world’s most expensive countries. Same goes for destinations like Iceland, Switzerland and Luxembourg.
A perk of traveling to expensive destinations is that they tend to be some of the safest countries in the world. Read our list of travel hacks to save big money circumventing the globe!