Before my first trip to Europe I wouldn’t have been able to tell you where Karlsruhe, Katowice or Klagenfurt was on the map. I now 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 a meeting. 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 a European flight, so I looked around for alternative airports.
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 about 105km away from Amsterdam. It sounds far, but it’s 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.
The train from Amsterdam to Eindhoven cost €17, and it was 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 compared to the flight from 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, and flights there are usually 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. If the airport is too far away then you will also need to weigh up the time vs cost benefits.
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 in case your travel plans aren’t so flexible.