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Snagging the lowest European study abroad fares

SmarterTravel

If you’re heading to Europe next semester for a study abroad program or long-term travel, now is the time to start thinking about buying your airfare. The question is: Are you better off buying student-only airfare from a student travel company or going to a website like Expedia for airfare accessible to any traveler? We did some research to try to help you make the best decision.

Theoretically, student-only fares should come out ahead for long-term trips abroad because they often have longer maximum stays, sometimes for up to a year. In contrast, most regular round-trip fares restrict you to a 30-day maximum stay, unless you’re willing to pay more. However, sometimes you can find airfare with long maximum stays at more competitive prices on the big airfare websites, so we decided to put this theory to the test.

We researched the prices for round-trip Europe airfare, including all taxes and fees, that depart in January 2004 and return in late May 2004. We compared fares from two student travel companies, StudentUniverse and STA, with any-person fares found on Expedia. We included the fares for four different routes and put a star (*) next to the cheapest fare in the chart below:

Route Student Universe STA Expedia
New York (JFK) to London (LHR) $363 $363 $351*
Chicago (ORD) to Amsterdam $494 $528 $472*
Los Angeles to Paris $509* $525 $520
Miami to Rome $596 $599 $492*

Expedia came out with the best fares on three out of four routes. However, except for the last route, the student prices were close to or better than Expedia’s fares, so you shouldn’t rule out student fares in your search for the lowest price. Note that in order to purchase STA student fares, you’ll need an ISIC card, which costs $22.

Clearly, it’s important to check all your options before booking airfare and to remember that the departure city and dates of travel you choose will affect pricing. When shopping around, try plugging in different travel dates and checking the fares from multiple airports (if you have the flexibility to do so) to see where and when you can get the best fares. Also, remember to compare prices that have all the taxes and fees added into the price, because taxes can inflate the price by $100 or more.

For easy comparison of non-student fares on multiple airlines, use our price-comparison tool. Or, look up student fares on the StudentUniverse website or the STA website.

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