Before my first trip to Europe I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where Karlsruhe, Katowice or Klagenfurt was on the map. Since then I not only know where they are, I have used their airports and have saved hundreds of Euros in the process.
[Amsterdam Schiphol Airport - Closest isn't always cheapest]
My criteria for flying in Europe is to book flights that are on sale to places I haven’t been. Occasionally though I need to fly to specific places within a given time. Having locked in travel dates can mean having to fly on expensive tickets. You may be able to save money though by using alternative airports close to your destinations.
For example, I was in Amsterdam and I needed to be in Budapest on a certain date for work. At the time of booking there was no low cost airline serving this route (SkyEurope used to, but they have since closed).
I checked the usual farefinder sites and the cheapest flight I could find was €250! There is no way I’m paying that much for an Inter European flight, so I looked around for alternatives.
A good tool for finding nearby alternative airports is harefares.com. Enter the two cities you want to fly between and it will also show you the nearest airports, ranked in distance.
[Flights from Netherlands to Hungary]
The next nearest airports to Amsterdam are Rotterdam and Eindhoven. Hungarian low cost airline WizzAir serve the Eindhoven – Budapest route and I found a fare for the date I needed at €50.
Eindhoven is listed as 105km away, which may sound like alot, but it is only 80 minutes from Amsterdam by train. This is about the time it takes to me to get from Central London to Stansted or Luton anyway.
The train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven costs €17, and it’s another €3 to get the bus from the Eindhoven Train Station to the airport.
So my total cost for the airfare and train ticket was €70, a saving of €180 had I have settled for booking a flight out of Amsterdam.
[WizzAir at Eindhoven Airport]
I have been in a similar situation where I needed to from London to Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions, thus flights to the city are expensive. The best option was to fly to Karlsruhe-Baden Airport which is a short train ride away in Germany and a couple of hundred Euro cheaper than flying to Strasbourg Airport.
When you are considering using an alternative airport, make sure you research if you can get to the airport easily enough as well.
I usually book flights well in advance, so I don’t often have to do this. It is a handy travel hack to know just incase your travel plans aren’t so flexible.