Fly During "Shoulder Season" To Save On European Summer Airfare

Fare-prediction site Farecast.com says you can save an average of $350 on your plane ticket to Europe if you fly April-May or September-October. This is known as “shoulder season” because the price graph sort of looks like a pair of shoulders, with the summer peak forming the head. If you must fly to Europe, Farecast recommends either buying early or late; either buy in February March or wait a month or two before departure and look for summer fare deals.

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  1. Murph1908 says:

    My wife and I went to London and Paris on our honeymoon on the October shoulder. Our flights were only $350 each roundtrip BWI to Heathrow.

    The weather was a bit chilly, but not uncomfortable at all (sweater or light jacket during the day, maybe both in the evenings). Plus the crowds at the tourist sites were much smaller (judging by the length of unused queues).

  2. ratnerstar says:

    I just got back from Scotland a week ago. Yeah, it was cold and rainy, but the price was right. Besides, you’re not getting the true Scottish experience if you have good weather.

    Now if only there was a shoulder season for that damned exchange rate….

  3. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @ratnerstar: Oh, great, I’m spending two weeks in Scotland soon. Hooray, rain. Fortunately I’ll be spending most of that time in a windowless training room in Aberdeen. (Fortunately?)

  4. ratnerstar says:

    @speedwell: It’s all good; the wind and the rain just provide convenient excuses to duck into a pub.

  5. Yeah, going during the “slow season” for tourists is DEFINITELY another reason to go during the shoulder season.

    I did Ireland in February a year or two ago, and my sister and I had a HOOT. It was chilly and drizzly, but not terrible, so we wore warm coats, had entire historic sites to ourselves, got cheap rates on B&Bs, horse trekking, etc., and lots of attention and chatting with locals because tourists are a novelty in February (and a damned nuisance by August).

    Some things were closed, but if you called ahead they’d often send someone over to let you in.

  6. backbroken says:

    I highly recommend it, but I’m not so sure these are the best of times for Americans to travel in Europe

    Can be a weeee bit pricey.

  7. miran says:

    I’m taking a 6 week vacation in Ireland, and going during high season. I like Ireland, have gone often and will continue to go. So for short trips, I’ll definitely go shoulder season. I had a great time in November. Had a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner in a Dublin pub. And lots of the locals celebrated with us.
    But for a long trip, I don’t have a problem with the high season fairs. I’ve done most of the “tourist” stuff, so I now venture off to the more obscure sites. If you are driving about searching out the lesser known sights, then the nice weather is a huge benefit.
    Irish roads are typically narrow and the more complications added to the drive, the harder it is for the Americans to stay on the left.

  8. sk1d says:

    Early June/Late May is the best time to go. The weather is pretty decent and while there will be other tourists, there will be relatively few compared to July/August.

    Even if prices are higher for hotels/hostels/B&B’s you can usually get them to come down in price to their off-season rates as it’s only a couple weeks past that date and there’s no way they’ll be packed to capacity.

  9. JohnAtFarecast says:

    If you’re interested in more information, we made a video about the different airfare seasons for domestic US travel, and for travel from the US to Europe.

    Cheers,

    John at Farecast

  10. Fly Girl says:

    Travel agent here.

    DO NOT WAIT TO FIND SUMMER DEALS. They don’t exist. Seriously.

    If you HAVE to go to Europe in the summer, either leave in shoulder season and return in peak season (your entire ticket cost is based on your outbound departure date, so if you leave in off-peak or shoulder season that’s the price of your whole ticket) or suck it up and pay the big bucks right now. Waiting is only going to make it worse.

    Or delay your drip until September 15th or so and save a TON of money on your ticket, plus enjoy Europe when the weather is nice and it’s not swamped with freakin’ tourists.

  11. Fly Girl says:

    Also, Switzerland. They’re still on the Swiss Franc and their value has plummeted. If you have your heart set on Europe but aren’t a millionaire, consider some time in Switzerland. Your U.S. or Canadian dollar will take you a LOT further there.

  12. Fly Girl says:

    Sorry. One more thing. The “fares” that you see are actually BASE fares. Make sure you budget for up to $500 (seriously. five hundred.) in taxes and fuel surcharges PER PERSON for your tickets.

    IE, a peak season $1,100 ticket will ACTUALLY cost you about $1,500 or $1,600 once you’ve paid for the whole thing.

    It sucks big time, but it’s our new reality. No way to get from the West Coast to Europe for under $1,100 or $1,200 this summer– and most people are paying more along the lines of $1,400 or $1,500.

  13. emilayohead says:

    @I Ain’t Tryin’ a Hear Dat!:
    Thanks for the info – I just bought tickets for my family from SLC to manchester returning from Paris for $1245 each, including fees for a June trip to London, Paris, and Switzerland. It’s nice to know I’m not missing out on a good deal.

    Here’s a great tip that I never would have known about as an American – check out Eurocamping as a cheap place to stay. [www.eurocamp.co.uk] You pay in UK pounds, as it’s a British organization, but our week in Paris for a 3 bedroom mobile home with a kitchen is going to be US$900. I’m hoping it’s nice, never done it before.

  14. modenastradale says:

    @I Ain’t Tryin’ a Hear Dat!: Not a travel agent, but I totally agree with your assessment of Europe in September. It’s lovely!