Plan A European Vacation Around Discount Airlines

A lot of people are 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), luck in that we have jobs that allow us to add holiday days to a work trip, and part of it is being 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.

Parliament - Budapest at night
Hungarian Parliament Building, along the bank of the Danube

There are a lot of deeply discounted airlines in Europe, as 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. And 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.

London is well connected to all of Europe through several discount airlines. Alex in front of the UK parliament
London is well connected to all of Europe by several discount airlines like Easyjet and Ryanair.

Ryanair services around 75 European destinations from Dublin and they also have additional hubs throughout Europe, which in total services around 1,000 locations, though some are seasonal, infrequent and inconvenient, so do your respective research. They aim to fill every seat on their planes, so their prices are set accordingly. If you want to go somewhere last minute, try searching many destinations and 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, people not printing their boarding passes ahead of time and even scratch off lotto tickets! They have a savvy business model that ultimately allows flexible consumers to take advantage and see the world cheap.

View from a budget hotel we stayed at in Madrid on the Gran Via. Combined with cheap Ryanair tickets= fantastic value!
The amazing view from our room at a budget hotel called Luis XV, that we stayed at in Madrid, along the Gran Via. Combined with cheap Ryanair tickets= fantastic value experience!

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 and we wanted to get 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, by typing 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. And on a side note, Lux Express is a wonderful way to get around the Baltic countries and even Russia, though you need to organise a visa well in advance for Russia.

Bell in front of the Trakai castle in Lithuania
Wizz Air got us from the Netherlands to beautiful Lithuania for very cheap.

We haven’t been to Italy in 12 years and never to Sicily, so it’s on our bucket list. We decided that before we move from Europe we needed to get back to Italy, and 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 suit 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.

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, and if we wanted we could even do a quick trip through the Italian Alps to the Swiss Alps by train.

If you’re heading to Europe from elsewhere, European train travel can be a great way to see the countryside, but it’s often expensive. If you’re going from one side of the continent to the other, go via the discount airlines and you can save a bundle. Something to note is 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 and can be a semi-costly train or bus ride, but if you can nab a plane ticket for 50 bucks it’s well worth it!

Norwegian Airlines can get you to Oslo, Norway very cheap...good luck once you're there though!

Prepare for high prices after discount flights to some countries

Norwegian Airlines can get you to Oslo, Norway cheap…be prepared for sticker shock when you arrive though! Norway is one of the world’s most expensive countries. Same goes for destinations like Iceland.

12 thoughts on “Plan A European Vacation Around Discount Airlines

  1. You are so lucky as Aus is so far away and cheap flight options are more restricted to Europe. Enjoy and I will read the posts!!!

    1. Thank you! Yes European residents are indeed very lucky in this regard. Asia has Air Asia, based out of Malaysia which is an extremely cheap way to get around much of Southeast Asia.

  2. So true and a smart way to travel. I recently went to Sochi for the Olympics from Canada. I first found the cheapest way to Europe then hopped my way to Sochi on discount airlines, spending a fraction of what others were paying. I also got to see a lot of great places on the way.


    1. Hi Shaun, thanks for the comment! That sounds fantastic- I’m a huge Olympics fan and enjoyed watching the Sochi Games on TV and wished I could have made it. We haven’t been to Russia yet so I’m not familiar with the discount airlines that service that region. We recently flew Air Asia and they are a fantastic discount airline based in Malaysia for getting around so much of Asia. We also flew Malindo Air from Kota Kinabalu in Borneo to Kuala Lumpur- they’re usually not as cheap as Air Asia but they happened to be cheaper on the date we needed to fly.

  3. Very smart indeed! We usually prefer to travel by land either by train or buses (if we can help it) because even if it’s slower we feel like we see more. But it’s hard sometimes to say no to such incredible cheap deals airlines do nowadays.

    1. Hi Franca! We love train travel, and seeing the countryside too- but if we jump on a train or bus we don’t get out of Ireland 😉 But even in our old home of Amsterdam, the rule of discount airlines would often apply- though booking ahead we did score cheaper train tickets over plane tickets from Amsterdam to Berlin a few years back. Trains, like planes in Europe, can have many different prices. The buses are usually the same price, and cheaper than trains so for those that want to see the countryside and have the time, a bus from say Amsterdam to Paris might be cheaper. But Paris to Rome? Almost certainly best to fly.

  4. It’s this sort of thinking that got us to learn about the Less well known cities (Vilnius- Ryanair fly v cheaply there) or say Valetta (Malta), which you’d otherwise only know (if at all) from the Eurovision Songcontest 🙂

    1. Hey Nomadic Boys, thanks for the comment! We actually considered Malta for our last trip as residents of Europe- Ryanair had very cheap tickets there from Dublin for the upcoming dates we wanted, May 1st-7th, and the island is meant to have a lot to offer…But we haven’t been to Italy in 12 years so we figured seeing the Last Supper in Milan would be a fitting goodbye to the continent. And the Lakes district of the Italian Alps is meant to be amazing. Cheers and happy travels!

  5. It is always so great thing that having a discount over airlines while having limited budget. I am also a travel lover but this happy co-incidence never happened with me yet. I am currently planning a long Bangkok trip plan and I hope I will get this discount opportunity.

  6. What a privilege to be able to jet away like that and that it is so (relatively) close and (relatively) cheap. Lithuania is a great destination and on weekends Trakai castle is teeming with visitors – your photo brought back great memories. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Amber. We’re glad to read that our photo brought back great memories of Trakai Castle for you. It’s a wonderful spot on the planet and we’re really glad we made the decision to visit Lithuania a few years back 🙂

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