23 Cheapest European Cities & Airports to Fly into in 2020

Budapest RiverviewSo many of us starting in the US or Canada will be visiting multiple cities when we tour Europe that we have the luxury of flying into several different destinations. But with the airline business changing so rapidly, how do we know which are the cheapest cities to fly into?

Not too many years ago the cheapest flights into Europe were almost always into the largest and busiest airports, which are in London, Frankfurt, Paris, and Amsterdam, but times have changed. Now those are sometimes the most expensive airports to fly into within Europe, so savvy travelers on multi-stop trips are better off starting elsewhere. The cheapest international flight destinations from the USA are largely in Latin America, but many of them are also the top cities in Europe.

How Was The Test Done?

For each city tested we found the cheapest fare starting from the 5 largest cities in the US (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Atlanta) along with Canada's largest city (Toronto) in early August, and the cheapest fare in mid October. Then we averaged the two fares and then averaged the fares into all 6 cities into on Index number. The cheap flights to Europe from the USA are mainly from the east coast, as you'd imagine, but there are many great deals from other regions as well.

Needless to say, the rankings starting in individual cities can vary from the combined list, but generally they aren't far apart. A bit surprisingly, only a handful of the cheapest flights were non-stops, so almost everyone will be changing planes exactly once in each direction over the Atlantic. The cheapest flights from New York to Europe are often non-stops, but from most other cities you have to change planes to get a decent fare.

How To Use The List Below

Prague castleEspecially since many of the cheapest cities below are remote, the obvious strategy is to keep going down the list until you come across one of the cities you intend on visiting. Hopefully you can then find a cheap flight and use that as a hub to explore other cities by rail or low-cost airlines.

Overall, the differences in fares from the top to the bottom of this list are not great enough to justify flying into one and then booking another separate round-trip to your final destination on a low-cost airline, though in some cases it might work out cheaper. The cheapest international flights from Atlanta are often strangely expensive because Delta dominates that airport to such a large degree.

Related information

23 Cheapest European Cities & Airports to Fly to in 2020

(prices shown are cheapest summer/autumn – average)

Paris, France

City code: PAR
Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)
Orly Airport (ORY)

Charles de Gaulle Airport is another of Europe's largest and best connected, plus the main hub of Air France. In our 2017 tests we found some very competitive flights starting from some cities (New York, Chicago, and Toronto), but more expensive from others. You might find that flying into another city and then moving on to Paris is cheaper unless you are starting from NYC or Toronto.

  • New York City: $264/$200 – $232
  • Chicago: $388/$366 – $377
  • Los Angeles: $707/$685 – $696
  • Houston: $660/$685 – $673
  • Atlanta: $646/$607 – $627
  • Toronto: $683/$489 – $586
  • Index average: $532

London, England

City code: LON
London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Gatwick Airport (LGW)
London Stansted Airport (STN)
Luton Airport (LTN)

London has 4 major airports (plus London City Airport for short-haul flights) and the cheapest trans-Atlantic fares could be into any one of them. Heathrow is the busiest, but Gatwick is often the cheapest by a little. Starting with our 2016 tests, London actually had some very competitive airfares for the first time in quite a few years. If you want to start your vacation in London, then this year you should be able to get a fairly cheap flight.

  • New York City: $339/$293 – $316
  • Chicago: $477/$471 – $474
  • Los Angeles: $524/$390 – $457
  • Houston: $968/$726 – $847
  • Atlanta: $837/$682 – $760
  • Toronto: $459/$416 – $438
  • Index average: $549

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

Europe's 4th busiest airport has nonstop connections to destinations around the world as the main hub of KLM. Amsterdam is a good airport for bargains once again.

  • New York City: $276/$237 – $257
  • Chicago: $389/$475 – $432
  • Los Angeles: $642/$616 – $629
  • Houston: $701/$653 – $677
  • Atlanta: $689/$702 – $696
  • Toronto: $648/$621 – $635
  • Index average: $554

Brussels, Belgium

Brussels Airport (BRU)

The home of Brussels Airlines, which flies nonstop to New York-JFK, this airport is also served by most of Europe's majors so fares are competitive.

  • New York City: $433/$272 – $353
  • Chicago: $482/$567 – $525
  • Los Angeles: $567/$543 – $555
  • Houston: $671/$680 – $676
  • Atlanta: $702/$710 – $706
  • Toronto: $498/$520 – $509
  • Index average: $554

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich Airport (ZRH)

Zurich Airport is the primary hub of Swiss International Air Lines (aka SWISS), and it's quite surprising that they offer fairly competitive fares on incoming flights, including to many destinations in Germany as well. Beware that everything else in Zurich is incredibly expensive once you are through security.

  • New York City: $454/$451 – $453
  • Chicago: $438/$638- $538
  • Los Angeles: $633/$547 – $590
  • Houston: $703/$676 – $690
  • Atlanta: $761/$774 – $768
  • Toronto: $524/$540 – $532
  • Index average: $595

Madrid, Spain

Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD)

This is Spain's busiest airport and Europe's 4th busiest, but being home to Iberia Airline doesn't mean it'll always have cheap non-stop trans-Atlantic flights.

  • New York City: $398/$257 – $328
  • Chicago: $477/$458 – $468
  • Los Angeles: $622/$570 – $596
  • Houston: $650/$622 – $636
  • Atlanta: $886/$809 – $848
  • Toronto: $779/$659 – $719
  • Index average: $599

Oslo, Norway

Oslo Airport, Gardermoen (OSL)

The good news for anyone flying from the US or Canada to Norway is that flights into Oslo are strangely cheap from major North American cities. The bad news, of course, is that certain things (food and drinks) once you are there are quite expensive.

  • New York City: $823/$387 – $605
  • Chicago: $592/$566 – $579
  • Los Angeles: $438/$472 – $455
  • Houston: $630/$814 – $722
  • Atlanta: $600/$509- $555
  • Toronto: $775/$597 – $686
  • Index average: $600

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS)

The city of Lisbon is quite a good travel bargain once you get there, but the inbound flights are now fairly expensive, unless you are starting in Toronto.

  • New York City: $413/$439 – $426
  • Chicago: $523/$497 – $510
  • Los Angeles: $550/$541 – $546
  • Houston: $801/$791 – $796
  • Atlanta: $969/$1009 – $989
  • Toronto: $386/$451 – $419
  • Index average: $614

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague Václav Havel Airport (PRG)

Prague Airport is the hub of Czech Airlines, but few if any of the cheapest trans-Atlantic flights are on the national carrier. In 2013 when we ran the numbers this airport was in the top half of this list, but as of 2017 it's one of the most expensive incoming airports in Europe.

  • New York City: $449/$401 – $425
  • Chicago: $462/$556 – $509
  • Los Angeles: $555/$602 – $579
  • Houston: $754/$836 – $795
  • Atlanta: $900/$784 – $842
  • Toronto: $603/$510 – $557
  • Index average: $618

Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen Airport (CPH)

Scandinavian Airlines (also known as SAS) operates the largest of its three hubs in Copenhagen, and that leads to surprisingly low airfares, especially on its non-stop flights from New York, Chicago, and Toronto.

  • New York City: $468/$352 – $410
  • Chicago: $453/$470 – $462
  • Los Angeles: $629/$507 – $568
  • Houston: $794/$831 – $813
  • Atlanta: $764/$904 – $834
  • Toronto: $649/$679 – $664
  • Index average: $625

Milan, Italy

City code: MIL
Malpensa Airport (MXP)
Linate Airport (LIN)

The smaller of the two main hubs of Alitalia, Milan's is now usually cheaper than flying into Rome, but if you aren't planning on visiting Milan then flying into Rome is probably still better. Strangely, Alitalia itself never seems to have the best fares. In 2015 the city appears to have become more affordable for incoming flights, but mostly because Emirates is crossing the Atlantic with cheap fares from some cities.

  • New York City: $482/$324 – $403
  • Chicago: $556/$571 – $564
  • Los Angeles: $621/$574 – $598
  • Houston: $865/$871 – $868
  • Atlanta: $794/$781 – $788
  • Toronto: $557/$560 – $559
  • Index average: $630

Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona–El Prat Airport

A bit smaller and quieter than Madrid, the Barcelona Airport has a few trans-Atlantic flights of its own. It is served by all of Europe's major airlines, and this year it's basically the same price as flights into Madrid.

  • New York City: $245/$225 – $235
  • Chicago: $375/$373 – $374
  • Los Angeles: $421/$389 – $405
  • Houston: $788/$803 – $796
  • Atlanta: $1354/$1478 – $1416
  • Toronto: $603/$587 – $595
  • Index average: $637

Dublin/Shannon, Ireland

Dublin Airport (DUB)
Shannon Airport (SNN)

Dublin and Shannon airports are on opposite sides of Ireland, and both are busy hubs of Aer Lingus, which offers cheap flights including those that then go onto other continental destinations. Both are similar in airfare price (with Dublin usually being just a bit cheaper) so they are combined here. Basically, if you want to start your Ireland visit in Dublin, fly into Dublin, and if you want to start your visit elsewhere, fly into Shannon.

  • New York City: $456/$290 – $373
  • Chicago: $561/$438 – $500
  • Los Angeles: $715/$500 – $608
  • Houston: $928/$880 – $904
  • Atlanta: $1068/$1186 – $1127
  • Toronto: $469/$418 – $444
  • Index average: $659

Stockholm, Sweden

City code: STO
Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN)
Stockholm Bromma Airport (BMA)

Scandinavian Airlines operates its second busiest hub out of Arlanda Airport so fares there are usually cheapest, but Bromma Airport is closer to the city center and its fares are usually only a bit higher.

  • New York City: $561/$364 – $463
  • Chicago: $418/$422 – $420
  • Los Angeles: $648/$553 – $601
  • Houston: $1247/$1038 – $1143
  • Atlanta: $761/$829 – $795
  • Toronto: $826/$622 – $724
  • Index average: $691

Munich, Germany

Munich Airport (MUC)

Munich's airport is busier than the one in Berlin, so it's actually Germany's #2 for flights. Fares tend to be a bit more expensive than the other German airports as well, but it can still make the most sense if Munich is part of your itinerary.

  • New York City: $592/$444 – $518
  • Chicago: $433/$521 – $477
  • Los Angeles: $631/$583 – $607
  • Houston: $586/$703 – $645
  • Atlanta: $1056/$1198 – $1127
  • Toronto: $899/$914 – $907
  • Index average: $714

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD)

The cheapest fares into Budapest are often those that change planes in Moscow or Helsinki, but SWISS isn't much more expensive for a change in Zurich and much less elapsed time.

  • New York City: $408/$551 – $480
  • Chicago: $601/$584- $593
  • Los Angeles: $635/$626 – $631
  • Houston: $827/$843 – $835
  • Atlanta: $912/$878 – $895
  • Toronto: $860/$857 – $859
  • Index average: $716

Rome, Italy

City code: ROM
Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport (FCO)

Italy's largest airport and the home of Alitalia isn't known for cheap trans-Atlantic flights, though it's still a good choice for anyone starting in Rome and heading north on a larger tour of Europe.

  • New York City: $270/$219- $245
  • Chicago: $573/$543 – $558
  • Los Angeles: $952/$1395 – $1174
  • Houston: $824/$703 – $764
  • Atlanta: $1181/$1184 – $1183
  • Toronto: $607/$582 – $595
  • Index average: $753

Athens, Greece

Athens International Airport (ATH)

This airport is naturally the hub of both Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air, and prices for hotels have come down a bit, but incoming flights are rarely bargains. If you will be touring Greece along with some other European countries, it's probably better to first land somewhere else and hop over to Greece later in the trip.

  • New York City: $526/$456 – $491
  • Chicago: $736/$757 – $747
  • Los Angeles: $717/$770- $744
  • Houston: $1081/$1000 – $1041
  • Atlanta: $809/$849- $829
  • Toronto: $677/$760 – $719
  • Index average: $762

Moscow, Russia

City code: MOW
Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO)
Domodedovo International Airport (DME)

Russia's national airline – Aeroflot – was recently one of the cheapest in Europe, but once again it's quite expensive to fly to Moscow, although changing planes in Moscow for another destination can still be a bargain at times.

  • New York City: $937/$495 – $716
  • Chicago: $804/$598 – $701
  • Los Angeles: $679/$577 – $628
  • Houston: $1198/$867- $1033
  • Atlanta: $1121/$850 – $986
  • Toronto: $851/$530 – $691
  • Index average: $793

Warsaw, Poland

Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW)

Warsaw is home to LOT Polish Airlines, but that one is rarely cheapest for trans-Atlantic flights. This used to be one of the cheaper cities to fly into Europe through, but as of 2016 it has moved to near the bottom of our cheap list.

  • New York City: $581/$537- $559
  • Chicago: $986/$893 – $940
  • Los Angeles: $956/$605 – $781
  • Houston: $726/$728 – $727
  • Atlanta: $717/$1504 – $1111
  • Toronto: $789/$530 – $660
  • Index average: $796

Frankfurt, Germany

Frankfurt Airport (FRA)

Frankfurt Airport is the 3rd busiest in all of Europe, making it easily the busiest in Germany, and it's also home to Lufthansa which covers the world. And these days its trans-Atlantic flights are trending a bit pricier than those to Berlin, though the city itself isn't much of a tourist hub so think twice before flying here.

  • New York City: $718/$422 – $570
  • Chicago: $435/$556 – $496
  • Los Angeles: $660/$616 – $638
  • Houston: $1400/$1610 – $1505
  • Atlanta: $1696/$1811 – $1754
  • Toronto: $380/$410 – $395
  • Index average: $893

Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST)

In spite of the greater distance, Istanbul once offered surprisingly cheap fares, but those bargains seem to be gone in 2017 for the most part. There is another airport in the Asian suburbs (SAW) but its cheap flights tend to be from nearby.

  • New York City: $900/$606 – $753
  • Chicago: $940/$737 – $839
  • Los Angeles: $1031/$623 – $827
  • Houston: $1750/$745 – $1248
  • Atlanta: $1275/$747 – $1011
  • Toronto: $1103/$697 – $900
  • Index average: $930

Berlin, Germany

City code: BER
Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL)
Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF)
Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER)

With the rise of Air Berlin and greater popularity of the city itself, it's now a bit cheaper in fares than flying into Frankfurt, which is particularly helpful due to Frankfurt not really being a tourist city. Tegel Airport is usually cheapest for trans-Atlantic flights, and in 2017 or 2018 or 2019, Brandenburg Airport will open to replace both of the current two.

  • New York City: $479/$405 – $442
  • Chicago: $457/$487 – $472
  • Los Angeles: $802/$628 – $715
  • Houston: $2998/$3847 – $3423
  • Atlanta: $595/$666 – $631
  • Toronto: $789/$592- $691
  • Index average: $1062

NOTE: This post was originally published in May, 2013 with 2013 data. It's been totally updated in in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and most recently in April 2020 with current fare data.

103 Responses to “23 Cheapest European Cities & Airports to Fly into in 2020”

Frequent Traveler says:

I was surprised to see that Zurich did not make your list. I’ve flown three years in a row (during winter) exclusively into Zurich because I’ve found the best fare. Granted its an incredibly expensive city but we usually just spend one day there and then hop on the train to our next destination.

    Roger Wade says:


    You are right about Zurich, which I noticed after I made this list. I’m going to add it when I revise it soon. -Roger

Sugar says:

I’m travelling from South Africa to Spain. I intend going to barcelona in the middle of my stay so would like to arrive and depart from 2 different cities. What would you suggest?

pat halla says:

Hi, just writing to say thank you for the list. I know that it will come in handy.
sincerely pat

Davey says:

how did you not include or consider atlanta?

    Roger Wade says:


    I decided to go with the 4 largest cities in the US and Canada, and Atlanta isn’t even in the top 10, so relatively few people start their trip there. Also, Atlanta is notorious for having very little competition and high prices. -Roger

      Davey says:

      hey Roger-
      Atlanta may not be in the top ten for city size but it is Delta’s headquarters (biggest airline in the world) and the largest and busiest airport in the world. also, they have had some of the best deals I have come across, certainly not the best, but also not the worst. I travel a lot out of ATL to Europe and was hoping to find the best places to fly in to from here. Thank you for the research though! Much more than I’ve done 🙂

        Kelly says:

        Davey, I must recommend you fly out of Charlotte rather than ATL- the price difference can be staggering. You’ll have connecting flights rather than direct flights, but as delta has no competition in atl they charge whatever they please, so it’s worth it financially.

Whitney says:

I may have missed it in the article but are these round trip fares?

Also, are you considering adding Seattle as a starting point on your next update?

    Roger Wade says:


    Yes, they are round-trip fares. Sorry for not making it clear. And I don’t think I will be adding Seattle as a starting point for the next update, unfortunately. The research for each city takes a long time, and the results for each starting city are fairly similar anyway. Actual prices vary by the hour, so this list is mainly just to get some ideas of cheap cities to consider if you are visiting more than one or two. Thanks for the feedback. -Roger

Keith says:

Roger, thank you for the research. I realize it is a lot of work but I would have to agree with some other commenters about including Atlanta (possibly knock out Houston). Great work. Your articles are very informative.

    Roger Wade says:


    Your timing is good here because I’m updating this list for 2014 today and I will add Atlanta (and keep Houston). I know it’s an incredibly busy airport, but I believe Atlanta is mainly a place to change planes for most people, so the fares starting from there don’t mean much. Still, it will be interesting to see, so I’ll run the numbers and update all of it by the end of the day today. -Roger

Alaina says:

I’m traveling to Budapest in August for a wedding, but I’m from Miami! I was hoping I’d find some useful information about flying out from MIA to a cheaper European airport, but nothing! I do find it hard to believe that MIA isn’t on this list, especially since I flew out of MIA to Florence,IT in 2011 for MUCH cheaper price than an NYC flight.

Anyway, help would be great though! I’m looking to fly in & out of different cities (I love trains, so I’m very open to those budget cuts).


Jonathan says:

Well done
We aspiring family of 4 appreciate the effort


Libby says:

This is so informative! Thank you. Dreaming of a Slovenia trip in October from Kansas City.

Ferhat says:

Madrid Barajas Airport is actually 6th busiest in Europe now. Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Schiphol, Ataturk, Madrid…

charms says:

I’ll be travelling mid July with my two kids to Madrid wondering if I can get any flights cheaper than $1,500. I’m will to go to another city to save. Help! Any suggestions?

    Roger Wade says:


    It would help to know where you were starting from and also where else you are planning on visiting on that trip. Spain is a tricky one for inbound flights because Madrid and Barcelona both tend to be relatively expensive, and there are no close alternatives that work well. For example, Lisbon has some cheap flights from some cities, and it’s a really interesting city on its own, but the easiest way to get from Lisbon to Madrid is by night train, and those aren’t a great choice for many people.

    If you are going to Madrid then I assume you will also be visiting Barcelona, so obviously check fares into both cities. Aside from that, I’d need more info to help. If you want to provide where you are starting from, your ideal travel dates, and where you want to visit once you get to Europe, I might be able to help you find something that works better. -Roger

      Sandy says:

      Hi Roger – great article. My daughter and I are planning a trip to Spain in July, we live in Nashville. also considering a side trip to Portugal while we are there. Sounds like flying into Portugal might be a good option? Since it’s just the two of us, we were considering staying in Barcelona and taking day trips (organized) to other cities. Any feedback you have is appreciated. I have never been to Europe.

        Roger Wade says:


        Thanks for the kind words. Yes, if you can get a cheap (enough) flight into Lisbon, that could be a good strategy. Lisbon is really a lovely city, and it might even be an easier introduction because English is more widely spoken there than in Spain. The one possible complication is that getting from Lisbon to Madrid means either an overnight train, or a flight (which could be quite cheap). Or you could take a train down into the Algarve region of Portugal, and then a train or bus into southern Spain from there.

        As long as you have enough time, I’d recommend staying in Madrid for awhile, and in Barcelona for at least a few days. Both of those cities are very large, and quite different from each other. Madrid has the royal palace and more of the Old World kind of sights, while Barcelona has the beach, some very interesting architecture, and plenty of good nearby day trips. It really depends on how long you have on the trip. If you have more than 10 days or so, I could even make more suggestions. Best of luck. -Roger

Catherine says:

Hi Roger,

This is a really useful article. Thanks for posting! I am trying to decide whether I want to start and end my trip in the same airport or if I can do an open jaw trip for relatively cheap.

While finding a decently priced one way flight from NYC to LON is pretty simple, I’m having a hard time trying to figure out where would be a good ending place. Do you have any suggestions?

    Roger Wade says:


    Always happy to hear that this information is useful. All of my testing with these European airfares actually demonstrated that it’s difficult to save money by flying in and out of specific cities there. What I mean by that is, it’s hard to save enough money by flying in or out of a city you don’t really want to visit, to justify doing it. In other words, you are most likely to have the best trip by just flying out of the farthest place you want to visit on that trip. So the real question is, where do you want to go?

    You might save a bit of money by flying out of Copenhagen, which is a lovely city with surprisingly cheap flights, or by flying out of Lisbon, which is another really nice destination that is at one of Europe’s edges. Amsterdam and Berlin could also be good choices if you want to visit them.

    In the end, I think you might find the best deal by booking a round-trip to Europe, and then flying back to your landing airport at the end of the trip. As in, fly into London, take the Eurostar to Paris, then take a train down to Nice, then another one over to Barcelona, then Madrid, then Lisbon, and have a cheap flight from Lisbon back to London booked so you can get back on the flight home from there. In my experience, that will usually be cheaper than a one-way flight to London and then a one-way flight from Lisbon back to NYC. Of course, you should try all the main options before booking.

    So again, it mostly depends on your desired itinerary, and I’ll be happy to help you choose that if you like. -Roger

      Catherine says:

      Hi Roger, Thanks for the response.

      I’ve honestly never been to Europe at all so I am very open to most places. I am still eligible for the Youth pass for Eurail and I am considering getting the Select Pass for this trip and figuring out how to best utilize that.

      I’ve read that France and Italy don’t really like the pass and end up charging large amounts in addition to the cost of the Eurail pass. That being said, I’m thinking of saving one or the other for a future trip. I’m planning for 3 weeks, give or take 2-3 days. The itinerary isn’t set but I am considering something like the following:

      -Fly into London
      -Fly to Italy (Can swap in France) and either travel north by train or flight
      -Use the rail pass to continue north to some combination of these countries (2-4 countries is likely)
      -Austria, Czech, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark

      I’ll look into flying out of Amsterdam, Berlin, and Copenhagen, as well as just doing a RT flight in London as you suggested.

      Any thought on the use of the Select Pass with Eurail? Do you think I’m trying to tackle too many places? Any advice is greatly appreciated. 🙂

      Thanks again,

        Roger Wade says:


        A Eurail Select Pass can be a great tool for some itineraries, as long as you are traveling enough within 4 bordering countries.

        Before we go on, the only thing to be careful of with a Select Pass is that France charges like €30 or even a bit more for a seat reservation on a few of their most popular high-speed trains, and they also have a quota of how many they allow on each train, so you sometimes have to make those reservations well in advance. There is also a high seat reservation for booking a bunk on overnight trains from France to Italy, but otherwise it’s easy and cheap to reserve seats on trains in Italy.

        So you could use a Select Eurail Pass for France, Italy, or both, as long as you are prepared to deal with a possible seat or bunk shortage on a few of their trains. A rail pass is a better deal in France than in Italy because France charges much more for train rides, especially on or just before the day of travel.

        You could do France, Germany, Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg count as one country for rail passes), and Denmark. That way you could visit Nice, Paris, Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Copenhagen, just to name a few. You could visit Munich and/or Berlin in Germany as well. In other words, you’ll really want to sort out a proposed itinerary to know whether a rail pass is a better deal than buying individual tickets online in advance.

        I’d recommend at least 3 days in London. From there you’d have about 18 days left, and I’d recommend no more than 6 additional stops, making it a total of 7 in those 3 weeks. You could push it to 8 total stops, but if you tried to do more than that then you’d be spending nearly half your time going between places rather than actually seeing the sights.

        Of course it also helps to choose cities that are easy to reach from one another. If you wanted to spend time in France or Italy, then you’d also have time for Salzburg, Vienna, Prague, and Berlin OR you’d have time for Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam, Hamburg (or Berlin), and Copenhagen, but you probably wouldn’t want to mix the lists. So think about which group of cities you are most drawn to, and then your method of transport between them should become clear. I’ll be happy to help with that if you need it. -Roger

Francisco says:

Hi Roger,

WOW, what a great tool, a bit confusing but I am sure “eventually” I will get it for future travel. I am planning a trip in July 2014 to Europe, back packing and staying at Hostels. I live in Vegas and since its just me I am VERY flexible as to where and when I arrive. My dates would be July 1st to arrive somewhere in the EU and be back to LV sometime July 27 or so. I have looked at a map of the EU and thought of doing a letter O starting in London. Some of my prime choice cities are as follows: London, Paris, Rome, Athens, Odessa/Dnepropetrovsk Ukraine(visit friends so 4 days), Moscow/St. Petersburg RU, Berlin and back to London. I am thinking of night time travel by train and sightseeing during day anywhere from 24-48hrs. I thought of “bidding” for my airfare as to keep costs low, staying at hostels or even sleeping on trains overnight. Can you give some great travel ideas for a first time back packer who wants to do the EU on the cheap!

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad you find this helpful. I think your plan sounds pretty good, although be aware that from Rome to Athens you’d want to fly (quite cheap if you book way in advance), or take a train to a ferry. From Athens to Odessa you’d also want to fly because there is basically no train service in Greece these days. The other option would be a bus to Sofia and then another bus (or perhaps train) to Odessa.

    When you discuss “bidding” on airfare, I assume you are talking about Priceline? If so, I’ve heard that getting good deals that way has gotten harder and harder. The thing is, pretty much all airlines now fly most flights totally full, so it’s very rare that you’d find a half-full flight where they are ready to accept a low bid just to fill one more seat. Also, night trains aren’t often a good way of saving money, because usually the bunk (couchette) on a night train is going to cost a supplement of €20 or so, which is about the same as a hostel dorm bed.

    Honestly, the cheapest way of getting around will be by bus. Go to eurolines.com (it’s confusing at first) and you’ll find that they offer some really amazing promotional fares on long-distance buses. In some places they are almost as fast as trains, and they are usually pretty comfortable as well.

    As for budget tips, it’s mostly about going to the cheaper places. London, Paris, and Rome are all among the most expensive cities in the world. Check the Europe Backpacker Index for ideas on cheaper cities that are also great. Krakow and Budapest are probably the best bargains.

    Otherwise it’s too big of a question to try to answer here. If you have more specific questions, I’ll be happy to try to answer them. Good luck. -Roger

eileen says:

How about Birmingham UK

    Roger Wade says:


    I tried to limit this test to the cheapest and most popular European cities and airports. It appears that flights into the London airports are almost always quite a bit cheaper than those into Birmingham, and there also doesn’t seem to be much demand to fly into Birmingham for tourists from the US and Canada. -Roger

Irina says:

We’re planning to go across the pond soon and I was hoping to find some info from Miami to London (2 adults, 2 kids 9, 13). We plan to take Eurostar to Paris, then possibly Italy(Tuscany), and Santorini and possibly Latvia. We plan on staying 3 weeks +- some days and probably will rent a car in Paris to explore the surrounding areas. Any suggestions would be welcomed. Thank you!

    Roger Wade says:


    I’d be happy to try to help, but I don’t quite understand what advice you are looking for. Latvia and Santorini are not often found on the same itinerary for a 3-week trip, and including both will require several extra flights. If you give me an idea of what help you are looking for, I’ll be happy to try. -Roger

Douglas says:

Thank you for this very valuable information. My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe (Germany or France)leaving LA in mid April 2015. Would you suggest we wait on purchasing the flights or buy them now?

    Roger Wade says:


    According to the data as well as my personal experience, you’ll be better off waiting. I’d think you’d get the best fares starting around next January, and since April isn’t really high season, there is no risk of fares shooting up and planes being full. Time is on your side, for now. -Roger

Thomas says:

Wow! Great site. Thanks. Maybe you can help me.
I have accepted a two week teaching assignment in Rezekne, Latvia in late September 2015 (over a year from now). I live in San Diego.
I am thinking I’ll have someone drive me to LAX if cheaper airfare.
I’m trying to figure out how to get to Rezekne, without LAX to Moscow to Riga on Aeroflot, and then 4-hour train to Rezekne, which would leave me exhausted.
One thought is to book round trip to another nearby city I’d like to see for two or three days on the way. Maybe Prague, Copenhagen, or Stockholm? Then take the short flight from that city to Riga and hop a train. Reverse it on the way back to catch the return leg without the overnight stay.
Do you have any thoughts? I can’t seem to find anyone with much Baltic states experience.

    Roger Wade says:


    Thank you for the kind words. Interestingly, I’m currently planning my own first trip through those Baltic countries, so I’ve actually done quite a bit of research even though I’ve yet to visit.

    For one thing, everything I’ve read says that train service in that whole region is still terrible and very spotty. The train from Riga to Rezekne might be your best bet, but most people seem to agree that bus service is much better and more thorough. There are frequent normal buses between the cities, and also quite a few “VIP” buses with only 3 seats across for only a bit more than the others. If you buy in advance, they seem to be under US$20 even for the luxury ones.

    The other complication, as you’ve discovered, is that none of those Baltic cities seems to have decent airfares from anywhere. Warsaw seems to be the closest large airport, and that’s not very close at all. If you flew into Stockholm (which DOES have cheap flights) then you could even take a ferry to Riga. Or you could get a cheap flight from Copenhagen, although the city itself (along with Stockholm) is so expensive that you might use up your savings with a few meals and a night in a hotel. Prague is probably a better tourist city and it’s cheaper as well, so that idea seems worth pursuing.

    By the end of September, 2014, I will have toured that whole area so I might have more ideas for you at that point. Best of luck, and feel free to write back at any point. -Roger

Kathleen B says:

Roger, we took your advice and flew from Chicago to Munich in route to Zagreb, Croatia. We really got the lowest price for flying in July.

Thanks for your research effort. With 5 of us traveling small fees add up

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad it worked out for you, and I appreciate you taking the time to follow up. Thank you. -Roger

Leanne smith says:

Want to go to croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia. Italy? Circle tour or fly in and out of different cities. Renting a car for entire trip. Where should we fly to, from. Starting in Minneapolis, MN. Nothing written in stone. We have three weeks.

    Roger Wade says:


    There are no major airports in Croatia (for international travel) or Bosnia, so you will almost certainly be best off flying into Rome or Milan. You can take a ferry from several different cities in eastern Italy to a few different cities in Croatia. The trains in Croatia are slow and don’t go to most beach areas, so the ferries and buses will be best. -Roger

Rosanne Roy says:

Great site! Hope you can help me. Planning to go to Spain (Camino to Santiago, the Ingles Way from the north) Also want to see Avila, but not play tourist. Have to go to Rome at some point, either fly in or out of but no set plans. Traveling cheap. Probably in March or April, 2015 and leaving out of St Louis, MO. Any suggestions on how to plan, when to leave, where to start/stop would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Roger Wade says:


    That sounds like a really great trip you are planning. Unfortunately I can’t be of much help because that’s a part of Spain I don’t know too well. The one thing I can recommend is that you’ll want to fly between Spain and Rome, as the train takes a LONG time and isn’t cheap either. The earlier you book the flights, the cheaper it will be for those shorter hops within Europe. Best of luck, and sorry I don’t have more info for you. -Roger

Uche says:

Hi Roger,

I ran into your website whilst doing some research on the best place to fly into in order to explore Milan, Rome and Florence. Do you reckon Rome is the best city to fly and depart from? I see the distance for trains from Milan to Rome is about 8 hours and same for Florence as well. I’ll be traveling somewhat on a budget utilizing Airbnb. Any insight would be helpful.

    Roger Wade says:


    The cheapest and best airports to fly into Italy from abroad are Milan and Rome, but from elsewhere in Europe you can also get good deals into Venice and Pisa (which is close to Florence). A train between Milan and Rome only takes about 3 hours, and from Milan to Florence it’s only 1 hour and 40 minutes. Those train fares are quite cheap if you buy them at least a few weeks in advance, but still pretty reasonable if you buy them closer to the travel date.

    I hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Adeline says:

Hello Roger!

Your article has been most helpful!
My cousin and I are planning our first eurotrip for next summer – most likely around July for an average stay of 21-25 days

It is our first time there so our list of locations include: Paris, London, Barcelona, Rome and Venice.

She is flying in from Australia while I will be flying in from San Francisco, do you have any recommendations as to where we should meet?

Also if you have any comments/suggestions about how we should plan the commute between our locations ( train vs air via skyscanner) please share!

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad this has been helpful. You’ll both most likely get the cheapest flights into London or Paris out of that group, and it probably makes the most sense to choose London if the price seems reasonable. London is an easy place to get oriented for a first Europe trip, and then you can quickly take the Eurostar train to Paris as a next stop. After Paris it will depend on just which cities you plan on visiting, as to which direction to go in. In 3 weeks you’ll have time to visit the 5 cities on your list, plus maybe 2 to 4 additional cities. You could add in Florence, Italy, and perhaps Madrid as well.

    You’ll want to take trains between cities for the most part, although depending on your route you might want to fly once or twice. Buying train tickets online at least a month or two in advance will get the best prices. You might even consider a Eurail Pass if you add a few more stops. I’ll be happy to help more with specifics as your itinerary comes together. Good luck. -Roger

Bob says:

Hello Roger,
I have a wonderful deal in Paris for an apartment from June 22 to July 11. I’m thinking of flying into Istanbul in April and working my way east through Greece and then to Budapest, Vienna and then to Paris.
I have flown round trip into Paris before. I found the train prices going east to be rather expensive. What is the name of that pass you can get in the USA that allows cheap flights within Europe?

    Roger Wade says:


    Hmmm…I’ve never heard of a Eurail-style pass for planes in Europe, and I don’t really think one exists, at least in the modern era.

    Otherwise, that plan sounds pretty good, and if you can buy tickets in advance the train fares should be pretty cheap. Actually, there is still pretty much no train service in Turkey for the time being, and the trains between the Bulgarian border and Zagreb are quite slow and old. Fortunately, the bus service in that region makes up for it, with comfortable and inexpensive coaches leaving all the time.

    So plan on taking buses from Istanbul to Sofia and then onto Zagreb or anywhere else in the area. Once you get there you’ll find decent trains that are still quite cheap, especially if you buy at least a few days (or a few weeks) in advance. From Budapest to Vienna the trains are even nicer, though fares are a bit higher, and it’s really only the train that takes you into Paris that will be expensive. In general, the earlier you buy the tickets, the cheaper it will be. Have a great trip and let me know if I can help further. -Roger

      Bob says:

      I would like visit the Greek Islands. If I started from Istanbul, where would I go to base myself so that I could get to many of the islands. Then how would I get out of there to get to Budapest?

        Roger Wade says:


        This is an usual request because getting to the Greek Islands is not particularly easy from most of Turkey. You could go from Istanbul down to Bodrum, which is a short ferry ride to the Greek island of Kos. And from Kos you could hop a ferry to another island or head all the way back to the main Piraeus port near Athens.

        But generally, it would be far easier to start in Athens because you’ll have all the ferry options and even quite a few (cheap) flight options to some of the larger and more distant islands.

        From either Athens or Istanbul, it would take at least two days to get to Budapest by a combination of buses and trains, so flying to Budapest is your best option. -Roger

Mattie says:

Hello – I am planning my honeymoon for March 2015 in Italy and I am not finding any flights out of JFK, Dulles or Philadelphia to Rome for under $2k one way. I live in Baltimore and know BWI is always more expensive so I am looking at all airport options around us. Can you shed some light on the airlines you found for the prices above? I’m interested in seeing why I can’t find anything that cheap.

    Roger Wade says:


    I just checked for flights from JFK to Milan and Rome, departing on March 11, 2015 (on kayak.com) and they are all looking very cheap. Roundtrips (returning March 18) are only US$550 and one-ways are US$498. The fares in and out of Rome are a bit higher, but all of them are lower than I’ve seen in two or three years. Were you checking for business class fares? -Roger

Pete says:

This is what I was looking for, and more. I want to visit Germany, especially Hamburg and Munich. I am open to fly into any airport in Germany (Frankfort, Berlin, Munich, etc.) because I plan to travel to all those cities. I also plan to visit Salzburg and would like to add London and Paris if I can affort it. I also have option of flying from ATL or LAX.
Thank you for the information. You have given me more information than I have gotten with hours of research.

emma bail says:

I think this is the most informative post with so much detailed information. I want to visit Europe this year and this is really helpful information for me.Thank you so much for sharing…

Tim says:

Do you plan on making a list, with the cheapest european cities to fly back to the states?

    Roger Wade says:


    The list coming back the other direction would be pretty much the same. If you are starting in Europe and looking for a round-trip flight to the US or Canada, it will usually be a bit cheaper, but the rankings of cities and airports wouldn’t change much. The list above is already for round-trip flights, so both directions are factored in. -Roger

Juli Melani says:

Wow.. thank you for the lists these are what I am looking for so far… but I realized nothing mention from/to San Fransisco?

Thank you

    Roger Wade says:


    You’ll find that prices from San Francisco are similar to those leaving from Los Angeles, and the list of European cities will be more or less the same as well. Best of luck. -Roger

Aaron says:

Where are you finding these prices?

    Roger Wade says:


    It’s all explained in the article. These were the cheapest fares we could find for the test dates that we used on Kayak.com. Even if the current fares are higher (or perhaps lower), the general order of the cities should be similar. -Roger

Michelle Hunt says:

Thanks for doing all this research and I need some serious help since I can’t seem to plan our trip without spending a fortune. We are flying out of Denver and want to visit Barcelona, French Riviera, maybe Florence and fly back from Frankfurt back to Denver. This trip will be late June 2015 to early July.

    Roger Wade says:


    It’s my pleasure. I’m not sure if you are asking a question here or not. On the French Riviera you’ll definitely want to stay in Nice because it’s the most affordable city there and it’s very close to Cannes and Monaco for day trips. Please let me know if you have any specific questions. -Roger

Lee says:

My daughter will be going to Geneva for a 6 weeks at the end of July, and will spend the last 2 weeks of that joining friends on their vacation in Costa del Sol, Spain. She is a seasoned traveler after spending last year studying abroad. Since flights from Atlanta to Geneva are pretty expensive during July–she would like to fly into a cheaper location and spend a day or two touring before traveling on to Geneva. She would like to do the same thing when she leaves Costa del Sol. Any suggestions?

    Roger Wade says:


    In all of my tests, the two cheapest airports that are reasonably close to Geneva are Zurich and Milan. Zurich Airport to Geneva is only 3 hours by train, while Milan is about 4.5 hours from Geneva. As fond as I am of Switzerland, Zurich isn’t too interesting and it’s very expensive, and Milan has far more interesting things to see nearby. I hope this helps. -Roger

Cali says:

Hi Roger! My fiance and I are in the process of planning our honeymoon to Greece and Croatia. We were planning on going from either LAX or SFO (which ever is cheapest) the middle of August and flying to Santorini (or Santorini via Athens) and then flying out of Croatia at the end of August. Do you have any insight into which might be the cheapest airport to fly into to also is that timeline a smart one or are we better reversing it and going to Croatia first?

    Roger Wade says:


    The timing of your trip is a bit tricky because both Greece and Croatia will be packed during all of (July and) August, mostly with other Europeans. As you might know, many working Europeans get the entire month of July or August off, and coastal Croatia and the islands of Greece are very popular destinations, especially for people from Germany and the north. So resorts will be mostly full the entire time, but there are so many of them that prices are generally still reasonable. However, the flights and ferries will all be jammed at the beginning and end of each of those months, so you’ll need to plan around that.

    It shouldn’t really matter which country you visit first or last, as long as you can sort out the travel parts well in advance.

    Another small challenge is that Croatia’s airports are fairly small and not known for cheap flights or low-cost airlines. Split and Dubrovnik are the most popular coastal destinations, but even Zagreb tends to have expensive flights. Some people find that taking a ferry from Croatia to Italy and flying from there is a cheap way to do it, and fairly interesting as well.

    You might find the best bargain to fly in and out of Athens. From there you can either fly or take a ferry to Santorini, and you can fly from there to Split or Dubrovnik as well. The round-trip flight might be cheaper than an open-jaw ticket, but you really have to try the options to see for yourself. Good luck and let me know if you have other questions. As long as you book these things early, I think you can do an excellent trip for a reasonable amount. -Roger

Pat Pursley says:

This has been so helpful! My son is stationed near Frankfurt Germany and I am hoping to go see them in November/December this year. I live in Atlanta but am open to anything within driving distance and in Europe within a train ride. Any suggestions?

    Roger Wade says:


    Atlanta, as you might know, is a tough city for flights because Delta controls most of the traffic and there are no other major airports nearby. If you can drive to Charlotte, you might get a cheaper fare, but it’s up to you to decide whether the savings are worth it.

    I didn’t include it on the list in the article above, but you might check flights into Dusseldorf in addition to checking Frankfurt. Dusseldorf is a fairly short train ride away, and they have some cheaper airlines that use it as a hub. Otherwise your choices are Brussels, Amsterdam, Zurich, and Munich, all of which are maybe 4 hours from Frankfurt by train. Best of luck with this. -Roger

Steve Logan says:

This article is useful to a point. Living in England and having travelled extensively you would want to be spending many months down the list of places worth visiting before reaching some of these locations.
London, Paris and Amsterdam are expensive but they are also interesting, safe and probably the most convenient and cheapest places to get connections to elsewhere in Europe.
Moscow and Instanbul do have places of interest but if you are not a seasoned traveller they are not particularly safe and connections to elsewhere in Europe will generally be more expensive.
A weekend in Berlin is enough for anyone. Unless you have a family connection there is no logical reason to visit Germany. It’s a bit of a mystery to most Europeans why so many Americans go there. Similarly Dublin is nice for the weekend but is not a destination of choice for most. The Scandinavian countries are nice but that is all they are, certainly not worth crossing the Atlantic for. Visit England, Italy, Spain, France and Greece then move on if you have time which if you’ve done it properly you won’t.

    Roger Wade says:


    I agree with most of what you’ve said, but certainly not all of it. First off, I really hope that when people see that the average fares are similar between most of the cities in Europe, that they won’t be motivated to fly into some obscure city just to save US$100. In most cases you’d be better off just paying extra to fly directly into the cities you are most interested in.

    As for comparing our opinions, I’ve lived in Turkey not long ago and this is the first time I’ve heard someone say that Istanbul isn’t a safe place (except for the few days they’ve had demonstrations, and even those are easy to avoid).

    I agree with you that Dublin is kind of a dud, at least compared to the “great cities of Europe”. But I’m also in the great majority that raves about Berlin and highly recommends it to anyone going nearby. And while I wouldn’t recommend that anyone skip Paris or Prague to visit Copenhagen or Stockholm, I do think the latter two are beautiful cities that most people will appreciate (if they can afford them).

    Anyway, thanks for your feedback and I hope that articles like this are useful to people rather than misleading. -Roger

Joyce Deer says:

This is a wonderful article, and it made me realize I have options with my travel to Barcelona next summer with 3 grandsons (17, 15, 14). We have a cruise from BCN from 6/3-6/11 but we can leave anytime after May 25 and return anytime in June. If I am paying that much money for a flight, I may as well show these boys Europe 🙂 We live closest to New Orleans, and we don’t mind train, bus or whatever it takes to max our experience. We thought about coming into Paris and leaving from Lisbon, or vice versa, but reading this article and your comments to others, we may fly from one to the other to have a round-trip ticket from one city. I would also love to show the boys Normandy Beach, where their great great grandfather was, so London is also a possibility. Any suggestions would be welcome!

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad this has helped. I think your plan of starting in Paris before your Barcelona cruise could be great. You could even take the Eurostar from Paris to London in a few hours and spend a couple days in London before heading back to Paris. There is a high-speed train from Paris to Barcelona that takes about 7 hours and is a nice ride.

    Once in Spain you’ll have many choices of great destinations, and of course you wouldn’t want to miss Madrid, which is very different from Barcelona. From Madrid there is a night train to Lisbon, which might be tricky with a family, depending on how flexible everyone is. Lisbon is another wonderful city and great value, plus it has some relatively cheap flights to major hubs, so it could be a good choice.

    Normandy, by the way, is only a bit over 2 hours from Paris by train, so you could conceivably do it as a day trip. There are also train and bus tours from Paris that do it all in a day trip.

    If you have any other more specific questions about parts of this or you are looking for other suggestions, please let me know. Have a great trip. -Roger

Kim says:

You have offered some great information! We are planning a 14 day trip to Europe June 2016- Paris and several cities in Italy. We were planning on flying from Chicago into Paris, staying 3-4 days and then heading to Italy (heading north to south). It is our first trip to Europe. Any suggestions on the cheaper way to fly into France? Would it be cheaper if we went to Italy first and then headed to France and then home to Chicago? Thanks!!

    Roger Wade says:


    You’ll have to check yourself, but at this point two one-way flights across the Atlantic are usually quite a bit more than a single round-trip flight. So most likely the cheapest way to do this would be to book a round-trip into Paris or Rome, and then connect them with a separate flight on a low-cost airline such as EasyJet. In other words, book a round-trip to Paris and on the final day of your trip you’d take a one-way flight from Rome back to Paris, with plenty of time to make your main flight home.

    The good news is that one-way flight will be quite cheap if you book it at least a few months in advance. It might be around €50, plus baggage fees, if you book very early. The one thing to be careful of, though, is that the flight goes into the same airport as your flight home. You are probably aware that there are two main airports serving Paris, with most long-haul flights going into CDG and many shorter/cheaper flights using Orly. As long as you are flying into the same one or allowing enough time to get from one to another, then it should work well.

    By the way, you’ll almost certainly want to take trains from Paris into Italy, which will be enjoyable and also reasonably priced if you buy those tickets more than two months in advance. Have a great trip. -Roger

nick says:

great List! i know you did biggest cities in canada and usa. but it would be great to have a PNW city… Vancouver or seattle?
regardless.. still helpful thanks

    Roger Wade says:


    Thanks for the kind words and I’m glad you found this useful. The main idea behind the list is to let people see how the destinations tend to rank by airfare. I lived for several years in Portland so that would be interesting to me as well, but in my own research I’ve noticed that those flights tend to rank in around the same order as those from Los Angeles. Since there are very few nonstop flights from the Pacific Northwest to Europe, nearly all of them would require a change of planes, which is true of most Los Angeles flights as well. I will keep updating these cities, however. -Roger

Ciara says:

You know there is actually more than one city in Canada. Vancouver is a very important city and is bound to have different airfare than Toronto (or, for that matter, LA), it’s kind of ignorant of you not to include it.

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m not sure if you are deliberately trolling me or not, but just in case you are serious with this, I was proud of myself for including Toronto (North America’s 13th busiest airport) on this list of 6 cities. And if I add more in the future, it won’t be Vancouver (North America’s 29th busiest airport), even though I’m quite fond of the city itself.

    The point of the information here is to help people get an idea of which cities in Europe offer the lowest fares. I can’t do a full chart to include every possible flight. -Roger

Mark Heidecker says:

Are the days of flying open jaw as a cost effective way of visiting Europe over?

    Roger Wade says:


    For most destinations in Europe, it’s tough to get a good deal on an open jaw ticket these days, but not all of them. We’ve done many tests and have discovered that two one-way tickets across the Atlantic usually cost a lot more than one round trip. However, there are exceptions. Not long ago I flew from New York City to Oslo on Norwegian Air and discovered the one-way fare was not only half the round-trip, but it was the same price on departure day (about US$350). So it looks like at least with Norwegian Air and possibly with some others, you can build your own ticket or even fly over and book your return once you decide where and when you’ll fly from. Good luck with that. -Roger

brent says:

Hi, I have a question if I buy a round trip ticket to … from USA and the connecting flight airport is like Paris. Could I just stay in Paris the duration of my vacation and just not take the connecting flight to the final destination? And could I take the return connecting flight home from Paris back to USA? Since it is much cheaper, would I still need a visa for the destination country? Even though I am not going their just to the connecting city in a different country in Europe?

    Roger Wade says:


    What you are referring to is known as “hidden city ticketing,” and there are some big problems with it. The main problem is that if you don’t show up to your connecting flight (out of Paris the first time) then the airline voids the rest of the ticket, partly to prevent this exact thing.

    It’s sometimes possible to get a cheap round-trip fare leaving on one airline and returning on another, and in that case it’s less risky as long as the airlines aren’t official partners and the tickets are separate. In other words, if you go into a fare search engine and it says that you can fly from the US to Krakow on Delta and return on American Airlines, then as long as you can buy those ticket separately you might be able to pull it off. So you’d search for the fare going one way on Delta, and the fare coming back one way on American. If those fares are the same when bought separately, you might be in business because the return flight is unrelated to the outgoing flight.

    As for the visas, yes, the outbound airline will ask to see your passport as you check in, and if your final destination is to a country that requires a visa, such as Russia, then they’ll ask to see your Russian visa before letting you on the plane. They do this because if they put a passenger on a plane and that passenger isn’t allowed into that country, the airline has to fly you out on their expense and often pay a fine. I’ve been in that situation many times and they have always been strict about it.

    Of course, another thing to consider is that you have to travel with carry-on baggage only, which isn’t always easy when going to Paris for more than a few days. Best of luck though. -Roger

Tabatha says:

Hello and thanks for posting this site. I’m ready to pull my hair out first trip. Staying 16 days trying to get in Germany. Amsterdam. London. Paris. Ireland. Or Scotland. Any help is appreciated. I’m going to spend around 3 days in each place hit the highlights so that would be helpful too also have a 7 year old going is why I want him to see places. Via train bus whatever we won’t be able to make it back here again is why I’m trying see so many. And I’m flexible the real 3 that have to be are London Germany and Amsterdam my friend loves there. Any help please tha ask again

    Roger Wade says:


    The 3 days in each destination is ideal, so if you are doing a 16-day trip you’ll want to choose exactly 5 places. London, Paris, and Amsterdam are perfect for a first visit, and you can easily take the train between them quickly. It starts to get complicated when you mention Germany, Ireland, and Scotland, because each is filled with destinations and you can only really choose 1 or 2 of them.

    If you choose Scotland, you could take a fairly inexpensive train (if you buy early) to Edinburgh from London. Edinburgh is Britain’s clear #2 destination and it’s a lovely city that is quite different from London. You could also go from there up to Inverness to spend a few days in and around the Scottish Highlands.

    Ireland would be tricky for you because most people want to start in or just stay in Dublin, and it’s kind of a dud. The best type of trip to Ireland is maybe 1 or 2 days in Dublin, and then 5 or more days traveling the countryside and going to the smaller towns and villages. Ireland is a gorgeous and friendly country, but not really easy to see in 3 days.

    Germany is perhaps even trickier because it’s so large and has so many worthwhile places. The best and most popular place to start is Berlin, and you can get from Amsterdam to Berlin by train pretty easily. After Berlin you could go to Munich, but you might be better off going to Prague or somewhere else instead. Have a look at my article on where to go in Germany, and you can decide.

    So you could actually fly into Edinburgh then take a train to London then another train to Paris then a train to Amsterdam and a train to Berlin and they fly home from there. Or you could skip Edinburgh and then do Prague or Munich after Berlin. Think about which specific destinations appeal to you, and I’ll be happy to help you sort out the itinerary. -Roger

Sam says:

Curious how you made this list – I am from NYC and live in Madrid and frequently find flights for $500-600 nonstop/roundtrip from NYC-Madrid. I use Skyscanner for searching and always find cheap flights that way, over $900 for a flight to Madrid is absolutely insane, I’ve never seen that. Perhaps in the high summer months, but I have been living year for a year and a half and never seen prices that high when I’m looking to travel or searching for friends/family to come visit. Maybe you might wanna add what dates you were searching for/what you used to search! Anyway still an interesting list, I’m sure it did take a lot of work. Just adding for others that might be interested that Madrid is really quite cheap to fly into if you know where to look =)

    Roger Wade says:


    I’m glad you found this interesting. We are in the process of running tests for a 2017 version, which should be in place in a week or so. Actually, the methodology is explained near the top of the article. I think this was last run in late 2015, and at that time all US to Europe fares were higher.

    The main point of the article is to show how they rank compared to one another. As fuel costs have come down, all the flights have become cheaper, but the ranking won’t change much. It’ll be interesting to see what the upcoming update shows. -Roger

Taylor says:

Hi, Roger! Very interesting and insightful information! It’s helped me by reading other people’s questions as well. I’m planning a trip to Europe next fall. Planning on going for a month. I know you want to take time and see everything slowly, but I also want to try and shove as many places in as I can. I know it will be impossible to see all the places I do want to see in that amount of time. Ireland is my top choice. I’d like to see Scotland, England, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Austria, and Greece as well. Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark would be nice. But I know it will already be impossible to see all the others I want to see. I’m open to other places and taking some of those out. I know some places (like Germany) are massive and there are so many different places to see. Some places I’d like to spend more time than others. But like I said… I do want to try and cram in as much as I can. What’s the best way of going about this? Is there a route that’s better to take than any other? What’s one of the cheapest ways for me to do this? Thanks a ton!



    I’m glad you find this information useful, and I can totally understand the urge to want to cram in as much of Europe on one trip as possible. I even sympathize with it more than many other travel writers, to the point that I wrote an article about why fast travel might be best for some people. If you ask some travel writers (and travel snobs), they recommend staying a month in any country you set foot in, or you really can never claim to know the place.

    That said, there are major downsides to trying to cram too much in. The main problem is that it takes anywhere from 3 to 7 hours to get from one major tourist city to another by train or even flying. Once you factor in the time it takes to check out of your hotel and get to the train station early enough to make your train, and then the time finding your hotel in the next city and checking in and getting a bit settled, you are looking at 5 to 10 hours in most cases. If you change cities every two days, it means spending most of one of those days in transit. If you try to change cities every day, it literally means spending most of your daylight hours on trains and in train stations, rather than the things you’ve flown all that way to see.

    With that in mind, my recommendation is to stay exactly 3 nights in most major cities, or even 4 nights in the larger ones such as London or Paris. A few cities are small enough to see in a day or two, such as Venice or Bruges or Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany. And there are a few other cities that are close enough together on high-speed trains that 2 nights is still okay. The 3 major tourist cities of Italy are all about 90 to 120 minutes apart by train, so doing Florence in only 2 nights is still okay.

    Then you have a place like Ireland, where Dublin is actually only worth a day or two because the real charms of the island are in the scenery and small towns for the most part. The best way to visit Ireland in a hurry is to fly into Dublin or Shannon and then rent a car or take trains to 3 or 4 towns over a week.

    In Switzerland you can see the best highlights in Interlaken for 2 or 3 nights, and Lucerne for 1 or 2 nights, as described in this article on where to go in Switzerland.

    Aside from those two, I generally find it better to think in terms of cities rather than countries. In other words, you want to visit London (3 or 4 nights), and if you want to visit something else in England it would probably be Bath (2 nights) and/or York (2 nights). I recently wrote a long article on where to go in England, Scotland, and Wales, which might help. In Scotland you want to go to Edinburgh, and maybe to Inverness if you want to visit the Highlands. In France on a first trip it’s probably best to just hit Paris for 3 or 4 days and then move on.

    Again, in Italy you really want to visit Rome, Florence, and Venice, even on the shortest visit in 6 or 7 days. In Greece you’ll want to go to Athens for 2 or 3 days, and if it’s in warm season you should also visit at least one major island. In Spain you need to visit Barcelona AND Madrid for 3 nights each, because they are both very large and very different. If I were you I’d save the Nordic countries for a future trip. Not only are they very expensive, but the main cities (Stockholm, Copenhagen, Reykjavik etc) are all quite far apart, so it’s hard to rush between them.

    So what I’d recommend is to think more in terms of which cities you want to visit, and if you only have a month you should try to figure out which 10 to 12 of them that are fairly close together, that you’d like to visit. Once you do that you’ll probably figure out a logical itinerary, and I’m happy to help you with that as well. The more cities that you can string together by 2 to 5-hour train rides, the more enjoyable it will be. Flying within Europe is similar to in the US and Canada, where even a 1-hour flight will take at least 5 hours from city center to city center, and often longer. The trains are generally very scenic and enjoyable, while flights are stressful and confusing with all of the transport to and from required. Let me know if you have other questions as you get this together more. -Roger

Sarah says:

Hi Roger,

Thanks so much for all your insightful information! Hoping to get some tips from you. I’ve booked flights for my Europe trip in August (2nd – 30th) and now trying to put an itinerary together – feeling a bit deflated as I can’t work out the best/time efficient route, and can’t work out if it’s better to fly or train it between some cities!
We will be arriving in London at 19:00 on August 2nd and plan to spend 4 nights there before flying to Belfast for 4 nights. My partner has family in Belfast, which is the reason why we want to stay there for 4 nights.
From there we plan to fly to Spain on the 10th Aug. We originally thought of visiting Madrid, San Sebastian and Barcelona (then taking the high speed train to Paris). However, some friends have recommended we skip Madrid and see other cities instead. So now we’re thinking of San Sebastian, Seville, Granada and Barcelona. Do you think this is do-able in 7-8 nights?
We then plan to go to France and visit Paris, Marseille, Nice and Lyon. We have a wedding to attend in Paris on the 19th Aug so trying to work our itinerary around this.
In your opinion, can we fit all these cities into the 4 weeks? We only need to keep Belfast and Paris in there, and London as our flights are booked to fly into London and out of Paris. Are you able to recommend an itinerary for us and whether we should fly or take the train?




    I see your dilemma. I’ve actually yet to make it to San Sebastian, though I’ve heard it’s nice and do want to visit myself soon. But I’ve been to pretty much every other tourist city in Spain and easily the top 2 are Madrid and Barcelona. Both of them are very large and very different from each other, so I highly recommend 3 days in each. You definitely want to take trains in Spain, and book as early as possible for cheap fares on the high-speed trains between major cities.

    Seville and Granada are both nice and worth visiting as well. You could do them in 2 nights each if you were committed to hurrying along. But generally I recommend staying 3 nights in all but the smallest towns. The main reason is that when you move from one town and one hotel to another, even if the train ride is only 2 or 3 hours, it still ends up taking most of the day. In other words, it’s hard to do much sightseeing in one city when you woke up in a different one. For that reason a 2 night stay is only one solid day of sightseeing, while a 3-night stay is 2 solid days of sightseeing.

    As far as France is concerned, I think it’s worth mentioning that Lyon and Marseilles are big cities, but not really tourist cities. If you have specific things in mind that you want to see in either of them then that is great, but I wouldn’t recommend going to them unless you do. It’s a bit like going to the US and visiting Detroit and Dallas and skipping New Orleans and Miami Beach.

    Also, August is the month that most French office workers have the whole month off. So Paris will feels half empty and hotel prices there are strangely cheap in mid August, but Nice and the nearby beach towns will all be backed with the Parisians and other French people. Hotels in Nice will also be packed and fairly expensive. Nice is a really interesting city, and it’s great that it’s only 20 minutes by train away from Cannes and Monaco, but I don’t know if I’d go there in August (or probably July either). I’d probably head to the Loire Valley or Avignon or Burgundy, rather than those other big cities or beaches.

    Hopefully with all my rambling you can figure out something that will work for you. I recommend taking the train whenever possible, and buying tickets early from the official rail companies to get the best fares. I’m happy to help more if you have further questions. -Roger

Sarah says:

Thanks for your prompt response Roger!
I think we’ve worked out where we want to go, but need to work out if it’s best to do Spain first or France first. Going to France first will allow us to leave our large luggage with my family before going to Spain (saving effort and extra baggage cost when flying), however, we will lose an extra day from travelling. What are your thoughts on the below two itineraries?
Date From To
2/08/2017 Melbourne London
6/08/2017 London Belfast
10/08/2017 Belfast Madrid
12/08/2017 Madrid San Sebastian
14/08/2017 San Sebastian Barcelona
17/08/2017 Barcelona Paris (need to be in Paris for wedding on the 19th Aug)
23/08/2017 Paris Mont Saint Michel
24/08/2017 Mont Saint Michel Paris
27/08/2017 Paris Nice
29/08/2017 Nice Paris
30/08/2017 Paris Melbourne


2/08/2017 Melbourne London
6/08/2017 London Belfast
10/08/2017 Belfast Paris
11/08/2017 Paris Mont Saint Michel
12/08/2017 Mont Saint Michel Paris
21/08/2017 Paris Madrid
23/08/2017 Madrid San Sebastian
25/08/2017 San Sebastian Barcelona
28/08/2017 Barcelona Nice
29/08/2017 Nice Paris
30/08/2017 Paris Melbourne

Which do you think is the better option? Cost and time wise with the to and from. Are we cramming too much in?




    I think either of those itineraries would work well. You’ve got a rather long stay in Paris in the second one and I’m sure you’ll have time to do another little nearby trip or two. As I mentioned, Paris honestly feels half empty in the middle of August, which is great in some ways. Another minor thing to consider is that Spain is usually boiling in August, and it gets a bit cooler later in the month, while Paris is usually mild, and so is most of France. So saving Spain for later might be better in that sense.

    Lastly, I’d recommend you check those trains from Paris to Nice and back. Since millions of people will be returning to Paris and other big cities at the end of August, those could be booked or really expensive. And check hotel rates before you book that as well. Nice is really lovely and worth a stop, as long as it’s not insanely crowded and priced only for the rich. Mont Saint Michel is a great idea, and again, there are many other good choices that you might also consider. Just remember that all French beaches are packed in August, but that still leaves most of the country. Bon voyage! -Roger

Sarah says:

Thanks Roger.
Would you recommend getting a Europe Rail pass or buy the train tickets individually? We’d be taking the train for the below trips:
– Paris to Mont Saint Michel and back
– Madrid to San Sebastian
– San Sebastian to Barcelona
– Nice to Paris




    If you know the dates you’ll want to take these train rides, then buying individually as far in advance will be much cheaper than a rail pass. One annoying thing about rail passes in France is that they charge an unusually high seat reservation fee for rail pass holders on the most popular lines such as Nice to Paris. So the mandatory seat reservation might cost you €35 for that train, while buying an advanced ticket that includes a seat might only cost €60 without a pass. I’m not sure on those numbers, but it’ll be something like that.

    Rail passes are typically good value for longer trips where you want to be able to make your mind up as you go. For shorter trips and especially if you can pick your travel dates in advance, buying individual tickets online will be cheaper. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Terry says:

Hi Roger! I am planning on a trip to Central Europe! My friend is doing a lot of the planning and research. After reading your blog about traveling I wondered if you had any feedback about our itinerary. Any help is so appreciated.
Please note that if we leave August 5 and return August 20, we can save up to 600$. This changes all dates below by two days.
August 3, Friday: Leave GRR to fly to Vienna, Austria (taking Munich out of the equation) at 10 am AM, 18 hour flight, arriving August 4 at 8:30 am. NOTE: If cost prohibits, we can fly into Munich, Germany instead. Overnight in Melk, Austria
Currently flights are $1,100
August 4, Saturday. (If we flew into Munich) Fly to Vienna or take train from Munich which is *88 Euros
Boat to Melk, then boat or bike back to Vienna. Bike hire network (www.nextbike.com). This is “The Wachau”, or “the most beautiful stretch of the Danube”
August 5, Sunday
Hang in Vienna, hike or more time in Wachau wine region
August 6, Monday-August 7, Tuesday
Train to Budapest stay here/Village of Eger or stay in Pecs
Hotspring/thermal baths, Bukk National Park
Free tours of Buda and then to Pest. Town of Pecs is great too. Lots of great bars and nightlife.
Stay at “Backpack Guesthouse” hostel? Or Hotel Victoria on the Danube R. in Buda
August 8, Wednesday; Croatia River trip down Danube to Vucavar, Croatia?????? ( 2 days?)
August 9-August 11, Thurs-Sat; Train to Zagreb: A great departure point for those who need to leave early, due to the size of the airport
Day trip to Slovenia
August 12-14 Train to Split, which is on the coast.
August 15-16 Ferry? to Dubrobvnik (Game of Thrones) or driver
Kayak the Dalmatian coast!
August 17 Flight to Munich (or Vienna, wherever)
August 18: Sadly, flight to GRR from Munich



    Your itinerary looks meticulously planned out and I think it should work pretty well for you. Personally, as you may have read elsewhere, I generally recommend a 3-night stay in almost any city you stop in. The main reason is that going from one European city to another will take most of a day when you include everything from being checked out of one hostel until you are checked into your next one. So travel days don’t allow much sightseeing. And if you change cities every other day, you basically spend half your time sightseeing and the other half in transit.

    On the other hand, it looks like some of your transportation is also sightseeing, so it should be more enjoyable than just trains and buses. I haven’t been to every one of your stops so I can’t comment in too much detail. But I will say that Budapest is really one city and you can go back and forth all day. It’s also large enough that I wouldn’t go to Pecs on such a short stay. Also, Zagreb is a nice enough city, but it’s kind of a dud compared to Split and Dubrovnik. I wouldn’t linger in Zagreb if you can save time by moving on.

    I wish I could help more. But again, it looks like you’ve got a very detailed plan and I think you’ll enjoy it. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Nancy says:

Hello Roger,
I just began looking into planning a trip to Europe during the Summer of 2018 with my 20-year-old daughter. We have never been so we are pretty flexible. We would be flying from LAX and planning about a three week stay. We really are interested in seeing parts of Southern Europe and if possible a bit of Northern Europe. I am wondering if you can provide a loose timeline as I am going to try to plan this trip myself.

Thank you,



    You might have a look at an article I recently wrote with suggested itineraries for a first Europe visit, with other suggestions for things to add to them. In fact, I just answered a very similar query at the bottom of that article just now.

    Especially for a first visit, I recommend the famous highlights. Paris and London are both spectacular and very different from each other. Italy is wonderful as well, so Rome, Florence, and Venice probably all deserve a spot on your itinerary. After those you should consider Amsterdam, and perhaps also Berlin, Prague, and Budapest as classic cities that are all packed with highlights.

    I strongly recommend planning 3 nights in pretty much any city you visit, or even 4 nights in larger cities such as London and Paris if you have the time. I’m happy to help you more as you get your favorites together. -Roger

Alisa says:

Rpger…do you habe any experience travelling through Europe with small children?
If so…would it be easier and cheaper to take the train vs. Fly or not?



    No, I haven’t personally traveled around Europe with small children, but my brother and his family live in Germany and they traveled around a lot while his girls were small, and we have talked about it. I’ve also ridden a few hundred trains in Europe and I would say it’s far easier to take children on trains than in planes. The actual travel time can be an issue and I would probably hesitate to take a train journey longer than, say, 6 hours. But with flying you have to get from your hotel to the airport and then deal with security and all the waiting and then boarding and all of the other hassles, and then do it all again when you land. For trains you can just carry them or push a stroller aboard and you have plenty of space to organize yourselves. Many European trains also have large bathroom stalls on many carriages that serve as handicapped toilets and also changing rooms.

    Generally speaking, Europe is a very children-friendly part of the world. Children also travel free on trains up to a certain age, and unlike most planes, you can often give them their own seat as well. I’m not the top expert on the subject, but in general the train experience in Europe tends to be very relaxed and enjoyable while the airports are the same as everywhere else. Trains are usually cheaper as well if you buy your tickets far enough in advance. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Laura says:

Hi Roger,
What wonderful information, Thank you!! 1st time to Europe 2 of us are going to, for lack of a better word, a conference just outside of Nice 1st week of Oct ’18 for 5 days. Wanting to make the most of the cost to get there, we want to extend the trip to about 12 days (I know not a lot, but all we have got) and see some of Spain, thinking Barcelona & nearby. We’re trying to figure out the least expensive way to get there & back from the western US. Any suggestions? Like flying in/out of Paris & hopping on ‘domestic’ flights to Nice & from Barcelona? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you.



    I think trying Paris and Barcelona as you suggest are your best bets. Italy is also close by, but fares into Milan and Rome are rarely as low as into Paris or even Barcelona. The good news is that the flights within Europe between larger cities like that tend to be quite cheap as long as you buy in advance. There are also trains between all of those cities, but most of them are slower than the flights even including the airport transportation, and usually more expensive as well.

    Of the many low cost carriers in Europe I quite like Vueling for Spain and easyJet for anywhere they fly, as both are better than Ryanair. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

Jenn Stuart says:

I live in Texas I can access all the major airports here. I need to find the cheapest ticket to mainland Europe for late july/August arriving back prior to Aug 27th. It is an emergency and I’d really appreciate any advice. I do not qualify for hardship tickets. Please help me. I’m so frustrated and desperate. Thanks



    Sorry to hear about your situation. I’d say your best bet is to check Norwegian.com for Norwegian Air. They fly 3 times per week out of Austin to London-Gatwick, where you can change for an onward flight to any of Norwegian’s continental destinations. Unlike most other carriers, Norwegian has good deals even if you book on short notice, but the earlier you book the better.

    Aside from that, Houston and Dallas obviously tend to have more long flights and usually better fares as well. -Roger


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