The Cheapest Way to Get to Anywhere in Europe
Hoping to head to a pricey hot spot like the Greek Islands or Amalfi Coast? Finding cheap airfare can be difficult, if not downright impossible; but with this little trick, you can save hundreds and see several cities in one go.
Thanks to the rise of low-cost carriers like WOW and Air Transat, as well as less popular cities for tourism offering a cheaper entry point, airfare to some European destinations can be much cheaper than expected.
Take, for example, flights to the Greek Islands during peak summer travel season, which are generally more than $1,200 roundtrip from North America. Instead of booking an itinerary that took me to the Greek Islands via Athens, I booked on two separate airlines: a roundtrip flight to Milan for just $600, and to/from the Greek Islands on low-cost carrier EasyJet. Even at the last minute (after additional fees) my EasyJet tickets cost $380 roundtrip, bringing my total to approximately $980 roundtrip, saving more than $500 — which would have been even greater had I not booked at the last minute. Pretty significant, right? Even better, on my way back from the Greek Islands, I spent a night in Milan and had the day to explore the city.
If you’re like me and logistics concern you, then you’d probably be wary about connecting flights. However, I can assure you that transferring airlines at Milan Malpensa Airport was pretty seamless, even though I had to switch terminals. The two-hour, 40-minute, layover was more than enough to get from the international Terminal 1 to EasyJet’s Terminal 2 via the free airport shuttle. Milan’s airport authority even offers a program called Via Milano to insure your trip in case of a missed connection. (Note: A minimum of 100 minutes between flights is required for insurance if you need to transfer between terminals — although I recommend at least two and a half hours for peace of mind).
On the way back, I spent a night at the lovely Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport, right next to the express train that goes into the city leaving me plenty of time for gelato and exploring. In about 30 minutes, I was right in the heart of Milan, within a 20-minute walk to the Duomo and other major tourist sights. Don’t let the names confuse you; most tourist sites are near Cadorna station rather than Centrale station.
If you’re headed to Venice or Florence, Milan is a few hours away by regional train service through Italo or TrenItalia, so you’re not just limited to EasyJet flights.
Milan may not be the perfect transfer point for you, depending on your final destination, but the following cities generally offer cheap entry points into Europe and plenty of low-cost carrier coverage to get you anywhere you need to go:
Milan: As mentioned above, it is an EasyJet hub serving 52 destinations.
Dublin: We recently found flights for less than $700 roundtrip from Toronto and Montreal nonstop. Dublin is a RyanAir hub, serving 32 destinations, plus GermanWings and other low-cost carriers.
In some cases, you can get to London and Paris for less than $500 roundtrip, but it may require a stopover in Iceland (on WOW Air), so it might not be the best option for a connection to the rest of Europe if you’re short on time. Also, be aware that low-cost carriers might fly from different airports in the London area, like RyanAir from Stansted or EasyJet from Gatwick, rather than the largest, London Heathrow International Airport.