If you’re planning a trip to Europe this year, you’re probably wondering when you should book. Every month, we receive reader questions asking how far in advance is too far, if last-minute fares are likely to be available, and which destinations are cheapest.
Book as far in advance as possible if you’ll be traveling in summer, advises Erin Krause, a spokeswoman for Expedia. “Prices … continually increase as the summer months approach,” Krause says. If you’re traveling in late fall, early spring, or winter, however, the booking window can be shorter as there isn’t quite as much competition for fares.
In 2007, the cheapest fares on Expedia were booked in January, February, September, and October. Flights purchased in May were most expensive, possibly because summer travelers waited too long to book. Overall, 2007 fares were up three to four percent compared to 2006 prices. Expect 2008 fares to rise even more.
U.K. destinations, particularly London and Manchester, saw significant year-over-year increases, says Krause, so you should avoid flying into the U.K.
It wasn’t all bad news in 2007. Barcelona and Madrid fares dropped by five to 15 percent in fall and early winter, and Athens fares were also five to 10 percent cheaper. These trends could continue in 2008, making Spain and Greece relative bargains.
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(Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.)