See how I was able to score a RT flight from San Francisco, CA to Frankfurt Germany for $380 and some tools that will help you score cheap deals too!
Hi All – this is a very exciting post for me…I’m going back to Europe in May! Those post-vacation blues got me good…I have been day dreaming of Europe for the past month, constantly trying to find a good deal from California to ANYWHERE! I got the bug and I need to travel (I’m almost positive you feel the same way if you are reading this post 😀 ) SO! I have been searching non-stop for about the past week through SO many different sites to find out great deals. I’ve always heard those awesome stories that go like this:
“I wanted to go to China from Australia, and a direct flight was $1500. I searched around, and if I went from Australia to a smaller city near China, it was about $450 direct flight. From there, a few days after arriving, a flight to China was about $50…Making the trip to China From Australia $500 versus $1500, saving $1000!”
So do you know how much time I’ve been spending in the last week to find a trip like that? lol Searching one-way tickets to anywhere in Europe, to take a shorter flight within the European Union (EU) to end up in France. I found a flight from Venice to Brussels for a whopping $16, isn’t that crazy? Traveling within the EU can be very cheap, but getting to the EU is the first thing to plan! The key is flexibility in timing, locations, and comfortabiltiy (see Reason # 5 in this blog post to see what I’m talking about).
So, in my current situation, I had requested time off in May to take a different vacation. Plans changed, and I have been looking up places to travel to during that time. This is somewhat a set back: since my dates are pretty locked-in and not flexible, it is hard to find those crazy and amazing deals. Why worked to my benefit is that I didn’t realize that 1 day that I had included in my request for vacation was a national holiday, so that means I can transfer 1 paid vacation day to the beginning or end of my trip. I also will have a couple days off to take from working on a weekend- those two days I will save to add to the beginning or end of my vacation…if that makes sense. This gives me 3 days of flexibility in my booking. Here are some examples:
Original Vacation: Thursday May 25-Sunday June 4
Original Vacation +1 Day: Option A- Wednesday May 24-June 4, or Option B- Thursday May 25- Monday June 5.
Original Vacation +3 Days: Option A +/- 2 days, Option B +/- 2 days
The more flexibility you have, the better. You increase your chances of saving money exponentially. With my now flexible(ish) dates in mind, I took my wanderlusting brain to work using the following search tools.
First, I tried:
This is always my first go-to. You can search by location, duration of trip, month, and a lot more, and Google will do the work for you and show you many different options.
This search engine has always been a winner for me, and I used to think there wasn’t much better. The results that were turning up for me were in the $700-$800 range – my last trip to France was $400 RT, so I kinda set the bar with that one; I was aiming for something less than $500 RT. I also tried flying into different locations, one-ways, and with Google flights for this scenario, it was cheapest to book RT, but still over my budget.
I had been talking to my friend about taking a trip in May, so she started looking up trips too.
She found some cheap flights on:
So I downloaded the app and started exploring. What is cool about this resource is that you don’t have to have an exact destination or date in mind when exploring options, you can choose “Everywhere” as your destination. This is a great app for the spontaneous and non-location-specific traveler.
Skyscanner also lets you search for deals on Hotels and Car Rentals, but I haven’t used that feature yet.
I started searching around for round trip flights to “everywhere” from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and I was finding some cheap flights to South America for $150-$250 RT which is great! But, the flights to Europe were in the $500+ range. I was able to save some searches that I was interested in so that I could monitor them. I had a good feeling about this app for future flights, and for non-specific location traveling.
A couple of days later at work, my coworker asked me if I saw the deal to Manilla for $540 RT….say whaaaaat??
Intro to the discovery of:
I had already known about Slickdeals and the awesome electronics deals…but I had no idea they had deals for traveling! So I went on there to browse around.
There are some pretty amazing deals, actually. They have a dedicated Travel section, where you can search for all-inclusive vacations, hotels, cruises, and much more. I went straight for the “flights.”
You can narrow your search by airline and ratings, but to increase my options, I didn’t narrow my results. For my searches, I tried “Europe,” “France,” and “Spain.” I noticed that a lot of these deals are very date specific. So, instead of searching destinations I just searched their general results and I found an awesome deal for a RT flight to Scotland from Boston for $441 during the dates I wanted to go, but the tickets to get to Boston made the deal not so much of a deal anymore. I searched with Skyscanner to see if there were any cheap RT flights to Boston to no avail.
The epic day I found it….
I continued checking every day, searching new flights and monitoring the saved ones. One Thursday night around 10pm PST, I found my $380 RT flight to Germany. I had realized that I had enough points with my Southwest Rapid Rewards for a RT ticket to places in California. I have previously flown with Wow Airlines to France, and I knew that they had departures from Los Angeles and San Fransisco. I had a free flight to and from San Francisco, so I put that as my origin and….voila! $380 RT from SF to Frankfurt (FRA). The next step was to see the flight times, and to see if there were complimenting flights to and from SF on my preferred dates.
In conclusion and some things to make note of….
I guess the key thing that I took from this trip planning was the value of earning points from the flights you already take, and persistence in searching. At times it may seem impossible to find flights below the norm, but anything is possible! Search with one-ways, be flexible with your destination and origin. Also, you have to consider your willingness to travel on budget airlines.
- A good thing to keep note of is the airline’s baggage policy: Most crazy-cheap flights have a catch- like Wow Airlines. You are only allowed a very small personal item, anything else “normal” size will cost you. I’m willing to travel out of a small backpack, so this budget flight worked for me.
- Another thing to keep in mind are any layovers that are associated with your cheap flight. This flight to Germany includes a 16 hour layover in Iceland- if you are dead-set on having more days at your final destination this may not be the flight for you. For me, I see it as an opportunity to explore Reykjavik for a day! It’s all about flexibility. 🙂
If you guys have used any of these resources, or different ones, feel free to share your experiences and tips! We’re all looking for amazing flights to travel and explore here, and I have found most resources through word of mouth. Thank you for reading!!