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Book now, fly later, save big on Europe travel

Are you itching to ramble through the Alps or have a pint at a real Irish pub, but can’t stomach the sky-high cost of European travel this summer? Wait to go until early September, say Europe travel experts, and you’ll pay far less for airfare and still have the chance to enjoy traveling when the weather is warm and daylight hours are longer.

How to save with fall flights

Travel by Americans to Europe has rebounded in big way this summer, giving airlines and other travel providers little reason to discount fares and packages. However, the flow of transatlantic travelers is expected to slow as summer winds down, and travel agents are seeing significant drops in airfare prices for late summer and fall travel.

“Almost all of our [airfare] contracts go down in price significantly effective September 1,” says Rob Becker of Travel CUTS, which currently has Europe sale fares for travel starting September 1 from $268.

Kirsten McLellan of StudentUniverse sees the same trend: “September is the end of high season and the beginning of shoulder season for Europe travel, so fares in general go way down on or around September 1.”

To give you an idea of how much you can save by flying during the shoulder season, here is a comparison of student fares on three routes for travel in mid-July and in mid-September. Sample fares were found through the StudentUniverse website and do not include all taxes and fees.

Route Mid-July fare Mid-September fare Savings
New York (JFK) to London (LHR) $543 $240 $303
Boston to Paris $750 $382 $368
Washington (IAD) to Madrid $859 $475 $384

While there’s no way to predict for certain whether you’ll be able to find cheaper prices if you wait to book, early September is likely to still be a popular time to travel, so booking soon to ensure you get an affordable seat on your desired dates makes sense.

“Europe is very popular, so we recommend booking now,” says Nigel Osborne of 1-800-Fly-Europe, which has late summer/early fall fares starting $276 before taxes.

It’s especially important that students going to Europe in early September for study programs book early. “Many students who are studying abroad in Europe will need to be there by a certain date. . .and should try and secure their tickets early on,” says McLellan. “And, since Labor Day is a holiday and it’s a popular travel time, low fares will sell out quickly.”

Early fall weather

One of the caveats of shoulder-season travel is that the weather may be less than ideal. However, you can expect many days with pleasant temperatures and sun through September and early October in much of Europe. And, in many popular southern European destinations such as Italy, weather in the fall can be preferable to summer’s hot, muggy days. Come October and November, temperatures and the number of daylight hours drop quite a bit, so traveling earlier in the shoulder season is preferable.

Good things come to those who wait, and if you can put off traveling until September, you’ll be able enjoy the best Europe has to offer and stay under budget. And, you may also be able to pay less once you arrive: the once-weak dollar is beginning rise against the euro.

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