I am looking for ideas on where and how much airfare I should expect to pay flying to Europe (from the United States). I have been consistently looking online for about 2 months and have seen no changes in prices. Does any one know of a great place to watch fares from or have any other helpful hints?
I have a few tips, but I am definitely interested in tips from others because finding the best deals is like a game. Travelocity has a fare watcher service that I've used, and it seems to work fairly well BUT we always check the web site for the airlines directly too and seem to frequently find better deals there. The advantage to signing up for Travelocity fare watcher is that Travelocity will notify you when the airlines have a big sale.
We don't live in a hub city (we have to connect in Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis, etc.), and we've paid between $450 (flying into Istanbul and out of Venice), including all taxes and fees, to $800 for international tickets, so looking for a good fare can save a lot of $$. For our trip to Europe this year in May, we used frequent flyer miles, but the ticket would have been $1,073 if we had purchased it. Oddly enough, it can be more expensive to fly into London than it is to fly into other cities that are farther away from the continental U.S. Also, when you get into Europe, there are really, really cheap fares inside Europe on http://www.aerfares.net/v11/index.php (we flew from Zurich to London for $70 each). So if you fly into Paris and spend a day or two and then fly over to London (Dover) to board a European cruise, the difference in the high cost of flying into London might pay for a couple of extra days. There are so many options.
Also, you can use a consolidator and save about $200 each, but it may not be worth the risk, depending on your circumstances. We have used a consolidator out of Dallas and were pleased with the service. The disadvantages to consolidator tickets are that they are use-it-or-lose it tickets. If you have to change your plans with a regular economy ticket, you could always pay the $100 change fee and use the tickets at a later date. And no frequent flyer mileage credits with consolidator tickets. I love the Frommers web site, and they probably have more info on consolidators. I know I've seen articles on this in the Budget Travel magazine.
The airlines will probably have sales early in the new year. If you see a good price, I think you'd be wise to book it because it may be gone later. I wish I had an easy answer to your question, and maybe someone else will, but I think it's just going to take some checking on the Internet to get a good fare.
Consolidators are those guys who publish the ads in the Sunday Travel section of your local paper. Sometimes you'll find their ads scattered in other parts of the paper as well, like the Sports pages. They buy seats in bulk from the commercial airlines and charter carriers, and sell them to you at a price usually lower than the current market price (check Travelocity, Priceline, and Expedia just to make sure). Because they're bulk seats, you many not have a choice of carrier or departure/arrival times or the number and place of transfers, but that's the trade-off for saving a few bucks.
I've been monitoring prices and you can get a roundtrip fare as low as $500 per person between a US hub city and Europe if you fly before mid-May on Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France. After that, the price more than doubles. Right now, I can fly from IAD to LHR or CDG for $199 roundtrip over the Christmas holidays, but I'm not able to take advantage of it due to family commitments.
I noticed that several cruise lines, including Oceania, are offering free or 2-for-1 airfares on some of their cruises around Europe, so if you can arrange your schedule to take advantage of that, I'd strongly recommend it. Oceania is small enough that they'll allow you to select your preferred flights and will book you on those (if space is available). That way, you can avoid unpleasant transfers at DeGaulle, Frankfurt, or Rekjavik at 3 in the morning.
I found a problem at Travelocity's Fare Watch.
I tried to track the trans-atlantic price for next summer. However, it won't allow you to specify the time frame. They just send you the best available fare which is for next Spring, and not helpful to me. Anything we can do?
The best thing you can do is to wait a few months, when the airlines can gauge demand and set the summer prices. They've determined that the Spring traffic is going to be pretty strong, so a lot of the $500 RT deals have already ended, with most fares in the $800-$1000 range for an open jaw ticket.
If you're travelling on a cruise, monitor the airfares and compare them with the cruise line's add-on price. If you find one on your own, snap it up. And if the price later drops, try contacting the airline to renegotiate your price. If you're not comfortable or optimistic about your success, I'd recommend using a travel agent. Not only do they have direct access to airline reps, they also have access to consolidators.