Cost of Living Travel

3 Tricks to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

Booking two round trip tickets from Portland to Zürich for $788.12 felt like winning a thousand dollars on one of those scratch-off cards. No way! We, were, floored.

It’s Travel Tip Tuesday and this time, we’re bringing you not just one, but three tips to save on airfare. Combining these tips is what led to us snagging cheaper airfare to Europe than we thought possible from the West Coast.

Cost of Living | Finding Affordable Airfare

It’s true cheap and affordable are relative terms. $800 for two tickets is not cheap.

However, if all things are relative and flying from the midwest to California costs the same as flying from the midwest to Paris, the dream of seeing Europe just got real.

Here are three tricks to finding more affordable airfare to Europe from North America.

Being Flexible Makes Traveling Cheaper

We all know the basics, don’t travel in peak season, take the worst flight times, any airline will do. Problem is, when you’ve got kids and it’s Spring Break, options are limited. Airlines count on that, surge pricing.

If you want to get to Europe, during peak seasons, the best way to find cheaper flights is to accept getting anywhere in Europe. Then figuring it out from there.

American travelers search for flights with destinations in mind. Where you are, where you want to go.  We leave the connections up to the airlines to suggest. Trouble is, that cuts out the biggest potential to find the cheapest flights.

Google Flights Maps

Take a look at the Google Map below. Flying from Portland to Milan would have cost $1,319. While Zürich is $751. That’s a difference of $568 per ticket. Pretty astonishing when you consider getting to Milan from Zürich is a three and a half hour drive.

Those $83 train tickets are looking mighty good right about now!

It pays to be flexible on the end destination. Once in Europe, regional flights, trains, and even driving can dramatically cut down on overall airfare.

Google Flights Map

The image above is, in fact, a clue to the second tip.

Use Google Flights

There is more to love about Google Flights then there are booking sites out there. With Google Flights you can find the cheapest flights quickly by explore destinations on a map, and sign up for flight alerts.

Google Flights Map

Flexibility on location is a lot easier to understand visually. Seeing prices, lined up with surrounding airports, now that’s #priceless. Google Flights automatically takes care of this for you. No more looking up nearby airport codes. Google Flights connects airport and flight costs visibly on a browseable map. Thank you!

From here, filter options kick in including airline, connections and total travel time. Amazing.

Google Flights Price Tracker

If you can’t be flexible on the location, then it’s often best to keep an eye on prices and jump on a great deal when it comes up. Again, Google Flights has the answer with their price tracker. Direct to your inbox, comes alerts when prices drop and go up.

The last two weeks, I’ve watched Paris flights fluctuate by $450. Now that’s a big difference! Heads up hubby, you heard it here first, I’m watching Paris Baby!

Google Flights Price Tracker

Google Flights Calendar

Similar to the best feature of Kayak, Google Flights lays out the ability to be flexible with dates easily as well. Their calendar enables you to both filter and search by date. If there is one cheap flight in an entire month, this helps you find it!

Google Flights Calendar

I’ll let this article from HuffPo give you the rest of the perks to Google Flights.

Now before this Travel Tip Tuesday begins to sound like a sponsored post, which is not, let me get on to the third and final tip.

Two words.

Iceland Air.

Iceland Air Hub and Spoke Model

Iceland Air introduced their genius Hub and Spoke model back in 1998. It’s right about now that it’s getting really interesting for Americans who want to fly to Europe instead of Canada or Mexico for Spring Break.

Why? Since 2016, Iceland Air now flies from 18 North American destinations to 27 European destinations. 

So why should this matter to you specifically? In short, Iceland Air is part of a major tourism push by Iceland. How big? This big.

$30 Tickets to Europe Via Iceland Air

Yep, that’s right. Paolo and I snagged tickets with Iceland Air for $30 a piece. Now add Taxes & Fees, yada yada yada and two tickets from Portland to Zürich through Iceland via Iceland Air, is $788.12.

The taxes and fees, that’s another post entirely.

Tricks to Finding Cheap Airfare to Europe

American’s are at a disadvantage when it comes to traveling to Europe for many reasons. The first is the obvious, airfare. The second is less obvious. The pure size of our country has narrowed our ideas of travel.

For most of us, driving from one state to another for dinner seems absurd. For Paolo’s Parents in Italy, they could wake up in Italy and decide on a whim to have dinner in Paris that very night. In Europe, everything is just closer. Growing up moving between countries has made Paolo an incredibly creative traveler. He sees what I as an American have missed when it comes to booking inexpensive airfare.

In the case of our spring trip, we caught a deal. How?


Google Flights plus flexibility on dates and locations plus Iceland Air. Best part, Iceland wants tourism. So we have arranged a three-day layover to see Iceland on our way back.

Using these tips, our spring trip to Europe includes Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria and Iceland with roundtrip airfare for $788.12.

Hopefully, by sharing Paolo’s tricks, you too can afford to go a little further this year for a family vacation.

Happy flying!


    1. Hi Jim!
      Saw a lot of WOW in Iceland too. Checking them out next flights. Super excited Norwegian is going to be expanding in the US, opens up a lot of the EU. Cheers from Prague.


    1. Thank you for stopping by and taking a second to share your tips! SkyScanner has been getting a bit of buzz lately too. Will definitely check them out too. More tips shared the better!


    1. Hi Staci! I used to swear by Kayak too. Google flights seems to have airlines Kayak misses. Add that to the map navigation and it’s pretty powerful. Happy Travels and Happy Tuesday!


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