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Shoulder and Low Seasons in Europe More Expensive

Expect to pay more—up to a 61 percent increase over 2007 fares—for travel to Europe this fall and winter. Usually, these [[ Seasonality | seasons ]] are the best times to visit Europe, as you’ll experience cheaper fares and smaller crowds (if you don’t mind a bit of inclement weather). This year, however, Best Fares reports fuel surcharges are going to hit Europe budget travelers especially hard, even in the low season. While these seasons still offer a good deal compared to summer travel, you’re going to pay more than previous years.

Some sample prices for Europe trips between October 29, 2008, and March 25, 2009, include:

  • $835 from San Francisco to London (up 61 percent from same time 2007/2008)
  • $844 from Los Angeles to London (up 60 percent from same time 2007/2008)
  • $680 from New York to Madrid (up 48 percent from same time 2007/2008)

Most routes from capital cities, both in the U.S. and Europe, are hit by this extra fee. In many cases, Best Fares found the amount for the fuel surcharge went up by about $200 per route—quite an extra tab on top of the ticket price itself.

Joel Grus of Farecast, a travel-search site that tracks airfare pricing trends, took a look into the national averages from top U.S. city airports for travel to London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam. He found winter airfares increased from 11 to 23 percent when compared year over year (2007 versus 2008).

“Regarding how far ahead to plan, it really varies by market and by trips,” says Grus. “It’s certainly not too early to start planning now. Last year some European trips for winter saw their lowest prices in August, but others had drops in November and December.”

The rule of thumb for [[ Shoulder Season | shoulder ]]- and [[ Low season | low-season ]] travelers? Don’t expect a bargain to Europe any longer. If you’re hoping for a good fare, even in less-ideal seasons, you may still get socked with hefty fuel charges. If you have your heart set on Europe, start planning (and budgeting) now. Compare prices among a variety of providers, and sign up for fare-alert services. And since you probably won’t save on airfare, look for special packages and promotions that may offer hotel, rental car, and meal savings.

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