Flying to EuropeChoose where you leave from and where to fly to carefully. You can save hundreds of dollars by doing a little research.

First, where are you leaving from? Are there other airports within a couple hours by bus, car or train? When you are searching, put those airports in as departure options and see what comes up. The major airport two hours away may offer a ticket that is $300 cheaper than the one out of your hometown. Or it may only be $50 cheaper and not worth the trouble. You won’t know unless you look.

This also works for destinations. When traveling from the US to Europe, London and Dublin are often some of the cheapest cities to fly into. Sure Oslo, Prague or Rome may be your desired destination, but flying to these is usually several hundred dollars more. Lucky for you, airfare within Europe is cheap-much cheaper than it is in the US. A generation ago, people spent weeks traveling across Europe by train, changing currency at every stop. Today, air travel is often cheaper, faster and often more convenient than rails.

Second, use airninja.com to check which budget airlines fly from the city you will land in (one of the cheaper destinations like London or Madrid) to your ultimate (pricier) destination city. Here is where it gets tricky. Budget airlines are budget for a reason. Their ticket prices are very low, but everything else is going to cost you. Checked luggage, not checking in online, refreshments, aisle or window seats…you get the idea. For the independent, flexible traveler, these sacrifices are well worth the ticket price.

Lastly, there is also the issue of which airport these budget airlines fly to. Some will hit the city’s major airport with its transit connects to get you to the heart of the action. Others will use a budget airport in the middle of a pasture two hours out of town. I saw that Rockford Airport is now called “Chicago Rockford International Airport.” For those unfamiliar with Midwest geography, Rockford (home of Cheap Trick), is 90 miles northeast of Chicago, and Beauvais is 80km (by bus) to Paris – so buyer beware!

So sometimes the extra connection in London or wherever coupled with the added hassle of a budget airport will not add up, but often, it will. For example, using Rome as a final destination, a round trip flight to from Chicago to Rome could be around $1200 and the Chicago to London could be $750. A search on airninja.com shows an airline flying between London and Rome for $75 each way. Total round trip cost to Rome would be $300 cheaper with an extra stop, and that extra cash can really help your bottom line.

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