We all want to travel Europe on a cheap budget these days.
Budget and discount price airlines have sprung up in almost every European country in the last few years – all of them fighting furiously with each other to offer the best value cheap airfare deals. But do we really benefit from these discount European travel prices or do the drawbacks of trying to travel Europe cheaply outweigh the advantages? Do the budget low price airfares blind us to the extra hassle that the cheap price might be hiding? Lets look at some current cheap European travel deals and see what we find.
Almost every European country now has at least one no frills budget airline. Easy Jet and Ryan Air are becoming well known and popular in Great Britain and in Ireland. Germany has four or five low cost airlines and cheap airfare specialists. Meanwhile, in Sweden, SAS have just launched their own budget offshoot called Snowflake.
At first glance the fares that these airlines charge can seem ridiculously low; Ryan Air have given their flights away almost for free in the past – although you still have to pay the airport tax of around twenty UK pounds. But where’s the catch? Is there a catch? Can you really travel Europe by air without spending a fortune?
Here’s the deal if you want to travel Europe on a cheap budget:
Firstly, the low fares airlines in Europe nearly always use out of town provincial airports – often about forty or fifty miles from the respective city centres. This can add up to two hours of travel time to your journey at each end. You also have to pay for the bus or train connection to get from your airport to the city centre. Make sure you add this price in to the cost of your ticket when comparing prices between cheap airfare deals and the prices charged by the mainstream airlines. In most cases the main airlines fly you into the city centre airport and thus cut your travel time and the cost of any extra transport.
If you’re unlucky enough to miss a flight then you could literally be stuck in a very rural airport overnight with all the food outlets closed down and no way to get back to the town or the city.
Secondly, you only get what you pay for. The European budget airlines may offer no in-flight service for food and drinks. Or, if they do, they will charge you for it at a premium rate. Coffee, sandwiches and beer may be very pricey indeed. To be fair, many of the flights are only of an hour or two’s duration so snacks and drinks may not be such a big deal.
Thirdly – figure out the total travel time and compare that to the costs. For example: it takes five hours to go from the very centre of Glasgow in Scotland to the very centre of London by train and it costs around twenty five UK pounds each way.
Now – you might pick up a cheap flight from Glasgow to London, only to find that both of your airports are forty miles from the city centre. That immediately adds three hours to your travel time, not counting the waiting around at the airports, baggage handling and all the extra hassle that goes with it. You will also have to pay separately for the bus or train journey from airport to city centre and vice versa. Unless your airfare is extremely cheap you might well spend more money in the long run for a less comfortable journey. Check it all out carefully in advance if you can.
Fourthly, the quoted cheap airfare ticket prices are only for APEX travellers. You might have to pay a lot extra if you need to change your flight time. Cheap airfare prices are also usually only available if you buy well in advance – buying the day before or on the day will add a big premium to the price. The baggage allowance is also on the mean side – often no more than 15kg or 20kg per person. Any more than that and you will face a very hefty premium on your cheap price ticket.
In summary – you can travel Europe cheaply by choosing your discount airline package carefully. But do try to weigh up all the extra hidden costs as you compare flight ticket prices. You should also factor in the extra travel time that arriving at a provincial airport may bring.
Please remember: Don’t get too hung up on it all!
Travel in Europe is fun – however you do it.
Gary Hill is a travel writer based near Edinburgh and Scotland. He travels widely in Europe and can give great advice and tips on European travel. You can read much more about how to travel around Europe cheaply on Gary’s website. You’ll find more detail about the discount airfare packages available and about the routes that the various budget airlines fly. Travel in Europe can be great fun but it helps to get good quality advice before you go.
The website also has details of how to organise a European Vacation and on planning your dream package vacation [http://www.vacation2europe].
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