This summer I traveled to Europe and spend time in London, Italy, Poland, and Hungary. I flew on 9 planes and spent less than $1200 on flights. So many people have asked me about it, so I decided to write a post about it for those intending to travel abroad.
Three tips: Start early, be willing to spend a lot of time searching, and be patient!
First of all, if you are a student traveling, be sure to look and sign up for student discounts wherever applicable. There are many sites that offer lower rates, like STA travel. You can also get a student traveler card which makes you eligible for more discounts.
Go directly to foreign airlines directly. Many US travel websites do not include flights by smaller airlines, which can sometimes offer better fares. Airlines will differ by country so you will have to do a lot of digging depending on where you want to go. Skyscanner is a great resource for searching cheap flights and they tend to include more airlines.
If you start early enough (about 8 months before), you can set alerts for when the price drops on multiple flights. They usually say the sweet spot to buy international flights is usually between 4 and 6 months out from the departure date and this will give you plenty of time to watch the price patterns. Shorter flights do not require as much time, but you should buy at least a few weeks out to avoid price surges.
If you want the best deals, you will have to get creative. It might be joining together different flights on different airlines. Be willing to be flexible in your destinations and connection locations as well. In order to get to Italy, I took a flight to London on one airline I had a 20 hour layover until my flight to Rome. I spent the day exploring London and visiting museums. I even saw a show at the Globe Theater! The cheapest flight home was through Lyon, France 5 days after my program ended, so I used the extra days to travel. I ended up in Budapest, Hungary and the cheapest way to get from Budapest to Lyon was to fly first to Brussels, Belgium. I had a few close calls and I ran through some airports but that leads me to my next and most important piece of advice.
CARRY ON. Carry on carry on carry on. I would not have been able to travel as much as I did if I didn’t. if you read the fine print of many discount airlines, the can saddle you with hefty fees for bringing a checked bag. Not only are checked bags more expensive, you will add a significant amount of time to your journeys. If you want to switch airlines you will have to wait at baggage claim and then recheck your bag (not to mention customs if you’re switching countries). While packing a month’s worth of supplies into one bag may seem impossible, it will be well worth it to cut time and cut costs. Good luck and safe travels!
Packing Tip: Remember liquids must only be in 3 ounce bottles. Also, try to find hostels with laundry options and pack clothes that you can mix and match. If you want to reduce your food costs, pack some snacks. By the end of the trip you’ll have eaten your food and you will have room for all of your souvenirs!