It's time to get up and out.
With summer vacation on the horizon, travelers have begun that most time-honored of internet traditions: obsessively searching airfare sites for good ideas.
You see, when it comes to travel the internet has been both a blessing and a curse. There's no question that online travel agencies (or OTAs) reduce prices for consumers. In fact, one study found that when airlines decided to limit OTA listings, fares went up by more than 10%.
On the other hand, scouring for online deals can become an endless quest. There's always one more site to check, always one more combination of dates, times, layovers and airports, always the chance that maybe tomorrow will bring a red-hot deal. It's Sisyphean, only with less eternal damnation and more complimentary margaritas.
As frustrating as it can be, though, that flexibility is generally the best way to find great prices online. For example, travelers willing to plan around the deals can try these 10 summer routes pulled by CheapAir.com. They just might get you to Europe for less… maybe even a lot less.
Editors' pick: Originally published April 26.
Airlines: Try WOW and United/SAS
We'll start with the West Coast.
Getting to Europe from California is a daunting task. Unlike the travelers who suffer through LaGuardia's third world hospitality, those who fly out of LAX have to cross the entire country before even getting out of U.S. airspace. It's neither convenient nor ordinarily cheap.
That doesn't mean there aren't any deals to be had at all, though, such as touching down in Stockholm where prices can get as low as $490 from Los Angeles. At that point, it'll cost you less to get to Sweden than many flights to New York.
Airlines: Try WOW or British Airways
London is, for now, a major European travel hub. That means that travelers who set foot on the Queen's soil can take one of the continent's super-cheap carriers such as easyJet or RyanAir to any other destination.
It's a great shortcut for some of Europe's more expensive destinations like Prague or Budapest, or even a stop on the way to the Chunnel for France-bound vacationers. Of course, lest we forget, London itself is also one a spectacular tourist destination in and of itself.
Still… first you have to get there. For West Coasters that might be less challenging than they'd think, with Cheap Air reporting fares even below $600 into Heathrow airport.
Airlines: Try Swiss Air or United
Learn the lessons of Napoleon: do not visit Moscow in the winter.
Instead, try it in the summer where airfare from the Second City is cheap! In particular, consider a trip in August.
"August 28 is the least expensive travel date to Europe on average this summer," wrote Lindsey Pugh, a spokeswoman for CheapAir, in an email. "That's based mainly on the fact that demand drops as we get further toward the end of the tourist season."
"You can save significant money by avoiding July travel altogether (Saturday, July 1 has the dubious honor of being the most expensive travel day to Europe of the entire summer)," she added.
Airlines: Try Finnair or SAS
Travelers from the Land of Lincoln get the chance to see some new destinations this summer, as neither Denmark or Russia would top most vacationers' lists.
Denmark is so much more than just the Tivoli Gardens, though. (Just don't expect to catch an Uber there.) Certainly they are magnificent, but thinking no further than Copenhagen's gardens and Little Mermaid statute is a little like skipping America because big canyons bore you.
There's a lot more here…
Whether it's the technicolor houses of Nyhavn, Tycho Brahe's observatory or the actual setting for Hamlet, Denmark has a lot going for it. Chicagoans can get there pretty cheaply, too.
Airlines: Try Norwegian Air or Icelandair
Let's be honest, you don't get bragging rights for finding cheap fares to Europe out of New York. As one of the closest major airports to the land of tight jeans, techno beats and dragons (that about sums up Europe, right?), New York generally offers some of the best prices around.
So let's get a little creative…
Instead of flying to Paris, Berlin or Rome, try Oslo. Still largely ignored by much of the tourist trail, anyone who likes hiking or landscape simply can't afford to miss a trip to Norway. With prices clocking in under $400, we kind of mean that literally.
Airlines: Try Norwegian Air or Icelandair
Yes, those accommodating Scandinavians will fly you even to other countries dirt cheap, and who are we to turn up our noses at their hospitality? So let's toss out the rules (established above) by visiting one of the most trafficked tourist cities on the planet: Paris.
Because the thing is, sometimes clichés are clichés for a reason. Paris might be the place that everyone visits, but that's because life is so often simply better there, at least if you have a bit of money to spend. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower will not disappoint. Shopping for books along the Seine will bring out the inner literary in all of us. The Latin Quarter has kept its bohemian, Beat spirit steady against all the efforts of the 21st Century.
Whatever they say about Paris, whoever you heard it from, they're probably right. This is a place to find your inner Victor Hugo, Gene Kelly or Anthony Bourdain should the mood strike.
So go, go and get to Paris, just be aware: bargain shoppers will likely visit in August when the city is dead. The French, being French you see, tend to take that entire month off.
Airlines: Try Turkish Air or Delta
There is much debate about whether it is still safe to travel to Istanbul in the wake of its political turmoil. Many travelers are willing to try though, and for them the city on the Bosporus still offers the food, architecture and culture that have made it one of the world's busiest travel destinations.
For our southern audience who can adjust to the security situation, this summer offers a chance to sip apple tea on the cheap. Airfares from Atlanta to Istanbul hover around $700, an outstanding price for a ticket halfway around the world. One catch? Try not to wait until the weekend…
"Most of the time high season travelers to Europe get the best value for money by avoiding travel on the weekends and this summer is proving to be no different," Pugh wrote. "Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday flights are the best value throughout the summer."
"If you book on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday, for example, you can expect to pay close to $130 less per ticket."
Airlines: Try British Airways, Iberian Air or Turkish Air
Go to Greece.
Don't think too hard about it, don't ask whether you should or would. If you have the means to do so, buy a ticket to Athens and spend a week visiting the country's mountainous center and whitewashed isles. This country is good for the soul.
This goes double for those in Atlanta.
Ordinarily a ticket to Athens runs well over $1,000 to $1,200, the city not bringing in the kind of high-volume business travel that drives prices down. This summer, however, travelers are finding flights for less than $800. Add in the fact that Greece itself is one of the world's best budget destinations, striking an outstanding balance between affordability and experience, and this trip becomes something of a no-brainer.
Airlines: Try WOW
Toronto, Chicago's good-natured counterpart up in Ontario, is also a great place to find competitive airfare. For readers willing to find a quick shuttle up to the city, there's a real chance to cobble together some savings.
For example, this could be the chance to see Ireland that you've always longed for. With airfares on WOW around $600, there'll be plenty of cash leftover for a few pints of very authentic Guinness.
The surprising thing? Ordinarily this shoe is on the other foot.
To avoid taxes and fees, many Canadians travel to the United States for their airfare needs. A Canadian city competing with American airports on price is an increasingly unusual event… and a good excuse to give our neighbors up north some love.
Airlines: Try Azores Airlines
Somehow, quietly, Portugal has steadily become one of the "it" countries for affordable European adventures.
Much of this has to do with how inexpensive Lisbon is. Compared to its peer cities around Europe, Lisbon will run you far, far less in hotel and restaurant bills, which is a valuable thing given that Western Europe is generally one of the most expensive vacation destinations in the world. Some representative budgets suggest $100 per day for a mid-range traveler, a figure that wouldn't even get you a hotel room in Paris. (It might barely get you into a hostel.)
Travelers flying out of Toronto can really take advantage of that, with summer prices under $600. It's worth a trip.