I used to expect to pay over $1000 for round-trip tickets to Europe. Now I’d never pay over $500. And one-way tickets for $200 or less are more common than you’d think. When we started traveling full time, our frugal beginner’s travel budget forced us to find the cheapest method to fly to Europe. And now I’m sharing it with you.
Traveling on the cheap from the U.S. to Europe is quite simple, really. It involves just three things:
- a flexible travel schedule
- packing light
- my new favorite airline
Our Secret to Finding Cheap Plane Tickets from the U.S. to Europe
Now it’s time for the big reveal. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Norwegian Air! They’ve got plenty of sub $200 options, flying out of Los Angeles, Oakland, New York, Ft Lauderdale, and Orlando. We flew into Copenhagen from Los Angeles on Norwegian on March 2nd of last year, which happened to be their first flight on that route, and we were completely satisfied with our experience.
UPDATE May 8, 2016: We flew to Europe via Norwegian again this April (and we’re there through June)! Check out our itinerary for inspiration for your trip.
Why is it so cheap? For starters, there are very few perks included in their base fare price. No seat reservations. No meals. No checked baggage. All those things can be purchased, but if you’re trying to be frugal, you’ll find a way to live without them. We packed two carry-on bags for our 3-month trip to Europe and fared just fine!
Want to pack lighter & more organized? Read “Intro to Packing Containers: Organize Your Carry-On in 4 Steps!” on my women’s travel blog, Stylish Travel Girl.
It’s important to note that there are only 5 U.S. cities that Norwegian currently departs from. If you don’t live near one of those cities, you’ll have to book a connecting flight on another airline, which will obviously cost you more, but most international flights depart from major coastal hubs, so the low Norwegian price will likely still be worth it. It’s worth a look, at least!
Norwegian’s cheapest flights are usually to/from Scandinavia, but they still offer affordable flights elsewhere in Europe. In general, the most expensive part of a flight from the U.S. to Europe is the part that gets you across the ocean. If you can’t find an affordable route to your European destination of choice by booking with Norwegian alone, experiment with getting to Europe on Norwegian and then flying within Europe on an affordable airline like Ryanair or EasyJet. You can also use CheapOair to compare prices on multiple airlines.
Want more tips for planning a budget trip to Europe? Read How to Stretch Your Euro Trip Budget: Booking Strategies to Save You Money.
A Sample of Cheap Flight Options on Norwegian
Searching today (Friday, January 2nd, 2015), here are some of the best deals I found on Norwegian:
- San Francisco-Oakland (OAK) to Stockholm / $185
- New York (JFK) to Oslo / $150
- Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) to Copenhagen / $189
UPDATE MARCH 12, 2016: Word is spreading about this cheap flight option! Affordable flights are still available, but booking further in advance may be required. Here’s a sample of flights I found searching today, originating from both LA and New York to Oslo, Norway for February 2017:
Look for flights departing from around November through March/April for the cheapest flight options!
A few popular destination options — not under $200, but still a good deal:
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Amsterdam / $248 (May or June)
- New York (JFK) to Prague / $256 (March)
- Los Angeles (LAX) to Budapest or Berlin / $262 (May or June)
- Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) to Barcelona / $265 (May or June)
We started looking for tickets this time last year for our March trip to Norway (two months in advance) and found similar price results. Three, four (or MORE) months of advance purchase time got us cheaper tickets.
Tips for Finding the Absolute Cheapest Flights to Europe on Norwegian
- Keep your travel dates flexible and use their low fare calendar
- Search multiple destinations to find the cheapest place to get to
- Book several months in advance (prices go up a LOT as the plane fills up)
- Avoid peak seasons (summer seems to be the most expensive travel time)
- Search options from late fall (November) through spring. They’ll likely be cheaper.
- Try different departing airports
I hope this article has helped you realize just how affordable travel can be! And guess what!?! We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves for an affordable stay once you’ve reached your destination!
Once you’ve booked your flight, find the cheapest transportation options within Europe in Europe Trip Planning: How to Book Affordable Transportation in Europe.
More Budget Travel Secrets
Find budget accommodations at your next destination in How to Find a Safe, Comfortable and AFFORDABLE Place to Stay on Airbnb.
View our tips for saving money on a road trip in Intro to Hypermiling: How to Save Money & Increase Your Car’s MPG.
Find out how we stuck to our $600 per month housing budget in Norway, Germany and Italy in step 4 of 7 Steps to Quit Your Job and Travel Full Time.
Thanks for reading, and good luck with your budget travels!
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.