The last of the summer-season shutters may have only just gone down in Europe’s travel hotspots, but if you’re thinking of heading that way in 2019, you’d better put your skates on.
Earlybird fares and special deals from premier airlines such as Etihad Airways, Qatar and Singapore Airlines are on sale now. But you need to book by 31 October – yes, a few weeks away.
The savings are not to be sneezed at, with travel search site Skyscanner estimating that you can save up to 44 per cent on the cost of a flight to Europe by booking now.
Earlybird fares to London, still the favourite entry point to Europe, start from $1058, a saving of 41 per cent compared with fares booked closer to departure dates*.
Dublin, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Manchester are some of the other European destinations with savings ranging from 32 to 44 per cent. That’s a saving of hundreds of dollars to spend wining and dining, from the West End to the Latin Quarter.
Other ways to save
It’s not just about booking early though. Angus Kidman, travel spokesman at finder.com, advises travellers to be flexible and consider “booking for European spring or autumn”.
“Not only will there be fewer tourists, airfares will be more affordable,” he says.
As London is so popular, competition for fares can make it more difficult to get those bargains. Mr Kidman suggests “to score a better deal, be open to new destinations and flying into other airports such as Düsseldorf or Zürich. They’re also quieter routes if you’re looking to book using points” – another way to save your cash.
Demi Kavaratzis, a travel expert from Expedia, takes it to the next level.
“For really savvy travellers, when planning, being mindful of the day you book and the day you start your trip … our research found that from Australia to London, in terms of cost, travellers are best to book on a Saturday, not a Thursday, and to commence their travel on a Tuesday over a Saturday.”
It’s not just the airfare
Snapping up a bargain airfare is only part of the deal – you need to take into account day-to-day expenses if you’re looking to stretch your dollar.
Skyscanner has estimated the cost of a day in Europe in a number of popular European cities, including accommodation, car hire, food, beer (naturally!) and water.
The results show that while the airfare to Paris might be cheaper than to some destinations, staying there can be more of a crunch on your credit card. The average daily spend in Paris, at $362, is more than the average in Amsterdam, Munich or Milan.
Athens (average daily spend $227) and Rome ($254) come out as the best-value European destinations based on this research. You’d have to say two of the best cities in the world, so not a bad place to spend your travel dollars.
Another savings strategy is “bundling” – booking accommodation, tours or hire cars with your airfares. Some airlines have low-cost or even free accommodation for stopovers, and package deals can offer serious savings.
Stay ahead of the crowd
Another savings hack is to research destinations that are still a little below the tourist radar. Skyscanner’s Michael Grierson advises travellers to “look at less expensive, emerging cities to really maximise the value of your holiday”.
Based on bookings, two cities that haven’t reached peak tourist yet, but appear to be up and coming for 2019, are Moscow – no doubt helped by all that television exposure during the World Cup – and Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Perhaps as people move away from the magnificent, but tourist-clogged, Dubrovnik.
* Earlybird airfares based on advertised fares in early October, 2018, compared with average airfares paid for those destinations for European summer 2018