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When to Book Cheap Summer Flights to Europe

Everyone has a different approach to booking airfare. There’s the trigger-happy shopper, the overly cautious planner, the last-minute daredevil who hopes to snatch the remaining unfilled seats, and everyone in between. But whatever methodology you normally employ, booking for Europe summer travel is a completely different beast. For one, since demand is higher during the summer peak season, carriers don’t need to entice people to buy, so don’t wait for the elusive summer sales from the airlines because there likely won’t be much to choose from. And if there are, the blackout dates and other choking restrictions will make finding availability for the low advertised rates harder than finding a needle in an airplane boneyard.

Instead of getting lost in a sea of airfares and booking blindly, track prices for the time period you have in mind. For the last five weeks, a couple of fellow editors and I have been benchmarking high-season rates for travel to a few major European capitals. We’ll continue to keep tabs on these routes well into the summer, and will report back with our finding in an ongoing series. But in the meantime, here is a sampling of our data:

  • New York City > London: decrease by 6 percent
  • New York City > Paris: decrease by five-tenths of a percent
  • New York City > Rome: increase by 7 percent
  • New York City > Madrid: increase by 14 percent
  • New York City > Dublin: decrease by 13 percent
  • Los Angeles > London: increase by 4 percent
  • Los Angeles > Paris: increase by 4 percent
  • Los Angeles > Rome: increase by one-tenth of a percent
  • Los Angeles > Madrid: decrease by 2 percent
  • Los Angeles > Dublin: decrease by 20 percent
  • Chicago > London: decrease by 8 percent
  • Chicago > Paris: decrease by three-tenths of a percent
  • Chicago > Rome: decrease by 12 percent
  • Chicago > Madrid: rates have remained static week over week
  • Chicago > Dublin: decrease by 19 percent

What does this all mean? Overall, our analysis shows a six percent decrease in fares since the beginning of our research in mid-February. Will the trend continue? If the last few weeks are any indication, you still have a short period before we get closer to Europe’s high season and fares begin to skyrocket. Don’t have illusions that you’ll find a steal—at best, you will find a fair enough rate, and when you do, jump on it. Our research showed that the lowest fares were available Mondays through Thursdays, so be flexible with your travel dates and you will have access to lower prices.

Another proactive move to find the decent rates is to keep an eye on current sales. Sign up for SmarterTravel’s airfare newsletter, where we gather the latest promotions and news and conveniently mail them to your inbox.

Are you planning on a summer romp to Europe? If you’re still comparison shopping, have you been keeping tabs on the cost of fares? Do you have a tried-and-true strategy on how to pin down a decent high-season rate?

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