Budget Europe 2008

by Ralph Martin


If you've ever watched a cattle drive, you'll have an inkling of how the boarding process works on Europe's inexpensive intracontinental airlines. As the boarding announcement comes, passengers break into a run, hustling for unassigned seats. They're headed for places they may not have heard of a few years ago: great small-city destinations like Carcassonne in southwestern France, Cagliari on Sardinia's southern tip, and Zadar on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast. Thank discount carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair, whose Third World pricing—two cents from London to Palma de Mallorca (pictured), $15 to Riga, Latvia—has democratized formerly pricey European routes (easyJet fares from London to Paris average $40 in shoulder season). Whether you stick to the greatest hits or opt for the offbeat destinations, one-way trips let you cover a whole lot of Europe without doubling back. Once you're seated, these airlines are as serviceable as any major carrier, with new planes and friendly staff. Sites such as wegolo.com allow you to put together the ideal discount-flight itinerary, by comparing cut-rate prices. Two caveats: Major cities' second airports, such as Frankfurt's Hahn, can be hours away from their nominal cities, so it pays to do your research. And there's an art to timing London airport transfers: If you're flying into Heathrow from the States, the trick is to build in enough layover time (several hours) to get to the smaller Luton and Stansted airports without an expensive overnight.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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