Here’s Why Flights to Europe Are Looking Cheaper These Days

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It’s not every day you spot a $439 fare from Newark to Amsterdam on United Airlines. Then again, it’s not every day that flights to Helsinki, Finland, from Seattle are priced at $523 on American Airlines, either. Are these hidden gems or are European airfares looking cheaper these days?

Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare, an online search engine for flights and hotels, says it’s not our imagination. In fact, a number of factors are driving down airfare, and the trend will likely continue. Here’s why.

Oil Prices Are Dropping 

With the price of barrels of oil taking a nosedive, Seaney said, gasoline prices have dropped and so, too, have airfares. For a long time, he said, carriers baked fuel surcharges into the price of airfare, along with taxes, before they started charging for the fare itself. But now that oil producers have lowered their prices due to a range of factors including instability in oil-producing countries like Venezuela and the U.S. nearly doubling its domestic production, the base airfare price has gotten much cheaper.

The Dollar Is Strong 

The U.S. dollar is quite strong, Matthew Ma, co-founder of the airfare deals site The Flight Deal, said, and as a result, that’s made it costlier for Europeans to come to the U.S. Carriers need to fill those seats somehow, so we’re seeing more affordable prices as a result, he said. “Fares to Europe are even cheaper than to the U.S.”

Travelers Have Terrorism Jitters 

Unfortunately, this year’s deadly terror attacks in Europe put Americans on high alert, making many of them wary of visiting cities like Belgium, Paris and Tunisia. This has led to a remarkable shift in travel patterns, with Paris losing as many as half a million to a million visitors this year, Ma said. Speaking of Paris, Seaney said airfares from the U.S. to the City of Lights have noticeably dropped over the past three months.

New Carriers Are Serving the U.S. 

With foreign carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW Air increasing their U.S. presence, travelers have even more options for flying to Europe cheaply, both sources said. Last month, Norwegian Air announced new routes to Barcelona and Copenhagen while the Iceland-based airline WOW said it will begin operating flights from Miami International Airport to several destinations in April next year. “That has a tremendous affect on pricing,” said Seaney. “If you looked at before Norwegian came to the U.S., fares to Scandinavia were pretty expensive. Now it’s not that hard to find nonstop deals.”

It’s Off-Season 

Simply put, fall and winter aren’t traditionally popular times to take trips to Europe, due to the weather, Ma said. “June, July and a little bit [of] early August” are typically the times when families decide to make the trek across the pond. So it’s no surprise we’re seeing cheaper airfares right now.

More Ways to Save on Flights 

Scoring a cheap flight is a great way to save money, especially when you’re on a budget. But there are others ways to cut down the cost of airfare, especially with travel rewards credit cards. These helpful pieces of plastic can grant you free baggage and upgrades and more, not to mention airline miles that can then be redeemed for airfare. Just remember, your credit needs to be solid before you apply, as lenders like to see applicants who can manage their credit responsibly. If you’re not sure where you stand and want to find out, you can do so by viewing a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.

Image: adisa

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13 Travel Essentials That Could Save Your Vacation

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Getting ready for a big vacation this summer? Before you go, read through this cheat sheet to create a list of travel essentials you absolutely don’t want to leave home without.

1. A Travel Credit Card

Even if you’re not habitually a credit card spender, it can be a good idea to take one with you on your travels. They’re a great backup in an emergency situation — although it’s probably more ideal to have an emergency fund to tap into instead so that you avoid going into debt. As long as you have some form of money with you, you don’t have to worry about losing everything else in your bags. Plus, using a travel rewards card to book your flight can net you better rewards for next year’s vacation and often some form of travel insurance or protection. (You can check out a roundup of the best credit cards for travel here.)

2. Essential Personal Documents (& Copies!)

Before you leave, be sure you have your passport (if you’re traveling internationally), driver’s license, itinerary, printed hotel reservations, airline reservations, contact numbers, and copies of any prescriptions for medications you might need. It’s best to carry original documents on your person. (If you’re worried about someone getting ahold of those papers, you can read these tips for preventing identity theft here.)

3. A Small Outlet Strip

Trying to charge your cell phone or iPad at an airport can be a challenge, especially if you need to charge more than one. Pack a small travel power strip, and you’ll be able to use a single airport outlet to charge multiple devices.

4. Basic Toiletries

Travel “essentials” in this area vary from person to person. But try to pack a travel-sized version of everything you use on a regular basis, from shampoo to lotion to makeup, in a well-organized bag in your checked baggage. It’s also a good idea to pack tiny versions of absolute essentials like contact solution, toothpaste and deodorant in your carry-on, just in case your checked bag is delayed for any reason.

5. Medications

If you’re on any medications daily or intermittently, be sure to take them with you. Just be sure they’re packed in their original prescription bottles in your carry-on. And be sure you’ve got more than you’ll need, especially for medications you absolutely need on a daily basis. If you’ll be within a day or two of running out of your supply by the end of your trip, contact your doctor or pharmacist to see if you can obtain an early or partial refill so that you have more than you need in case of delays.

6. Entertainment for the Flight

Don’t bust your budget by spending $25 on a paperback novel at the airport’s news stand. Instead, pack your own in-flight entertainment. Flights are a great time to catch up on books and magazines you’ve been meaning to read. Or you can pre-download your favorite movie onto your tablet.

7. Headphones

Even if you don’t think you’ll watch a movie on your flight, pack a pair of headphones anyway. They come in handy if you have a snoring seatmate, or if you just need some white noise to take a nap yourself on an international flight.

8. Extra Glasses or Contact Lenses

If you must have glasses or contacts to see properly, don’t just bring a single pair. That’s a recipe for disaster.! You risk missing the sights on vacation if your glasses break or you lose a contact.

9. Batteries & Chargers

These days, you’ll mostly travel with chargers for your electronics. But don’t forget extra batteries if you have a camera that takes regular AA or AAA batteries. If you’re traveling internationally, invest in a charger that will work in your destination country, or purchase one when you get to that country.

10. A First-Aid Kit

Hotels are great for providing a lot of things, but they don’t always offer bandages and other first-aid items. Pack a small first-aid kit in your bag, and you’ll be prepared for the occasional bump or bruise. In your checked bag, you can even carry some non-prescription medications like painkillers or Benadryl. It’s cheaper to bring your own than to buy them in a tiny two-pack from the hotel gift shop.

11. An Address Book

You should either bring a physical address book or set one up on your phone’s cloud storage before you leave. Sending old-fashioned postcards home is fun while you’re on vacation. But you won’t be able to do it if you don’t have your friends’ and family members’ addresses.

12. An Old-Fashioned Map

At home, you likely rely on your phone’s GPS to get you around to new areas of town. But you never know what reception will be like in an unfamiliar area. Play it safe, and pick up a local map of the area where you’re traveling. If you’re planning to use public transportation, be sure those options are covered, too.

13. Carry-On Clothes

Finally, even if you’re leaving on a multi-week European vacation with two huge checked bags, always pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on. You just never know when you’ll be delayed at the airport, or if your luggage won’t arrive until the day after you get to your destination. It’s much better to be safe than sorry by having an extra set of clean clothes with you all the time.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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How We’re Hacking Our Summer Travel

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We climbed out of $51,000 in credit card debt. We credit this achievement to one thing — discovering our why. (We learned from incomparable motivational speaker John Rohn that anything is achievable as long as we first know “why” we want to achieve it. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get this memo until well after we paid off our credit card debt, but it’s still a great quote to fall back on.)

One of Our ‘Whys’ – Travel

We can’t travel enough. Travel expands our world and gives us with new experiences. We’ve traveled at length both nationally and internationally. Two years ago, to focus on growing the Debt Free Guys, we made the decision to limit ourselves to domestic travel only, mostly to visit family and for work. We can’t not visit mom for three years!

Our three-year international travel hiatus is almost up. That said, we’ve planned, documented and are financially preparing for our 2016 contiguous-48 travel. This year’s travel theme is “family milestones” — a 50th wedding anniversary and a 100th birthday.

First, we’re taking a much-needed vacation in May. This go-round, we’re visiting both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif. As much as we’ve traveled California, John’s never been to LA and neither of us have been to Palm Springs. We both love the mid-century modern architecture and are excited about the latter leg of this trip.

Making Our Travel Cheaper

In June, we’re flying to Dickinson, N.D., to celebrate David’s grandmother’s 100th birthday! We visit Dickinson annually and it’s a nice change of pace from our normal and David’s grandmother has a lot to teach us about life and even money. She’s wise and sharp as a tack.

John hopes to someday beat David’s grandmother in pinochle, which he has yet to do. Despite being 100 years old, she can still count cards. For her 101st birthday, we may take her to Vegas.

When we visit David’s grandmother, our strategy for keeping costs down typically is staying with her. This visit will be different. David’s grandmother has nine children and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hers will be a full house (no pun intended — that’s a different game).

DFG Summar TravelTo avoid stress, contain costs and maximize our rewards, we’re using our hotel points in Dickinson rather than in bigger cities where hotel points won’t go as far. We can stay at a hotel in Dickinson for half the number of hotel points it costs to stay in Philadelphia. Such is the economics of supply and demand.

When we stay at hotels, we’re prone to use room service to satiate midnight hunger. Several years ago we learned to avoid the excessive room service costs with delivery from nearby restaurants. The same food costs half as much, even with a hefty tip. We search online for restaurants within one mile of our hotel.

In July, we’re flying to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to first visit John’s friends in the City of Brotherly Love, after which we’ll drive to Hershey, Penn., otherwise known as Chocolate Town USA, to visit John’s family. This trip is to celebrate John’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

The round-trip flight will be sponsored by airline miles acquired from travel hacking. We’ve mastered the art of using our credit cards and paying them off each month, so we don’t pay credit card interest. (High credit card balances can also hurt your credit score. You can see how your credit card balances are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Paying our balances off in full has helped us accrue points and travel cheaply on our numerous trips. (You can see what some of the best travel credit cards in America offer here.)

Finally, in September, we’re flying to San Diego, Calif., for a personal finance conference. Since the trip is part of our work as the Debt Free Guys, we’ll be sure to deduct our flight as a travel expense when it comes time to do our taxes next year. And we’ll be sure to enjoy the city during our stay.

So, to recap, here are our Debt Free Guys’ travel saving tips.

  1. Use hotel points in smaller cities to stretch hotel points further.
  2. Use restaurant delivery rather than room service.
  3. Use credit cards to acquire airline miles, not credit card debt.
  4. Get a tax deduction on business travel expenses each year.

Try using some of our strategies for planning your summer travel. Every bit of savings helps and, for us, goes towards our investments for maximum return.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: BeylaBalla; Inset Image Courtesy of David Auten and John Schneider

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