The Key to European Budget Travel

A wee guest post from the veteran IAESTE member and ex-President of the Glasgow LC, Joshua.

I get asked very often how I’ve been able to afford to travel so often to so many places (so far a tally of 25 countries outside the UK). After a few long haul trips (not more than one per year, and not every year) I think many people have assumed I’m always flying long haul and therefore paying for long haul airfares. In actual fact most of my travel is within Europe, and despite recent financial troubles in the Eurozone, I still manage to do it fairly cheaply.

So what is the key to keeping costs down? One word: FLEXIBILITY.

By leaving your options open, casting your net a little wider and thinking creatively, it is possible to travel for a lot less:

Be flexible with airports – I live very close to Glasgow International airport. Many of the mediterranean destinations served by Glasgow International are also offered by budget airlines at Glasgow Prestwick, often for a lot less if you are book at the right time. Likewise, Edinburgh and Manchester airports are also easily accessible with rail (and a subsequent bus, soon to be tram connection for Edinburgh), and while slightly more inconvenient than a Glasgow airport, they offer many more connections. Most Scottish people wouldn’t think to go to Manchester (and likewise many in the North of England wouldn’t think to come up to Scotland), but taking it into account when booking a flight can make things A LOT cheaper – for example just now I’m trying to book a flight to Berlin. Even with the train fare (which is cheap if booked in advance, especially with a railcard) the flight with Easyjet is over half as cheap as the same destination flying from Glasgow. Do you know your “local” airports?

Be flexible with airlines – When I flew to Brazil, I had to first fly to Munich to meet a friend. Usually flying to Munich I go for the EDI-MUC Easyjet connection, taking only hand baggage. On this occasion I was taking hold baggage, and it actually worked out to be about the same price to fly with KLM than it was with Easyjet. When I took into account the train and bus fare to Edinburgh, it was actually cheaper (and more convenient) to fly with KLM from Glasgow than fly with a budget carrier. You can research what airlines fly to a destination simply by looking up the local or destination airport on wikipedia. Know your carriers and what they charge!

Be flexible with dates – Fairly straightforward. Flights in the middle of the week tend to be cheaper, as well as away from major holidays and events. Avoiding high season is also a good idea: in Scotland we have different school holidays than England, so many people go away at the start of July, before English schools have broken up as prices are usually cheaper. Likewise I took a trip to Malta one Easter, which landed the first week of the tourist season. Not only were flights and accommodation cheap, the islands were really quiet, there were a lot of Easter related things happening which were interesting to see, and the climate at that time was not to great a shock after infrequent snow showers at home in the weeks before. Unless you are constrained by dates, be open to flying out at any time.

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