Take the subway on vacation and save money.
Three years ago, my wife and I saved over $400 on a flight to Greece by taking the subway. It may sound crazy, but it's true.
When looking for the cheapest ticket to your destination, it helps to remember that airline ticket pricing is far from logical. While the shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, it's not always the cheapest.
Greece is always a popular tourist destination, but flights direct from Canada run about $850 to $950 per person. Yet charter flights to England from Canada are available for as little as $500 in the summer. This got me thinking: would it be possible to find a flight to Greece from England for under $250 Canadian, then take the charter flight from Toronto to England and transfer on to Greece?
This is where the subway comes in. Most charter flights to England land at Gatwick International Airport in the far southern suburbs of London. Gatwick has excellent transportation links to the rest of London and the rest of southern England. By searching the Internet for low-cost flights from the London area to Athens we were able to pick up two tickets from Luton, in London's northern suburbs, to Athens for about $60 Canadian each.
By taking public transit between the two airports we were able to save $400 on a round-trip flight.
This story teaches two important lessons. First, the most inexpensive way of crossing the Atlantic is to look for charter flights running between two major cities such as Toronto and London. The second lesson has to do with the abundance of cheap low-cost airlines operating within Europe.
Easy Jet and Ryan Air are two European carriers that travel between most major European cities. Easy Jet (www.easyjet.com) has a bizarre pricing policy that depends on when you buy your ticket. Tickets purchased well in advance can cost as little as 12£. Costs are kept low by flying out of less popular airports like Luton.
Ryan Airlines (www.ryanair.com) has a host of great deals, too. Its customers must fly at odd or non-peak hours to get the very best deals, so passengers travelling from North America should be ready for a few hours' stopover. For example, flying to Milan from London only costs 9£ if you book your flight at least seven months ahead and are willing to leave England at 11 pm and arrive in Italy in the middle of the night.
Scouring the Internet for the best deals can have its downside. Fly-by-night operators have been known to go out of business without notice. Make sure you check how long the carrier has been in business. If it's a publicly traded company, check its stock to see if the airline is likely to disappear before you can take your flight. (Both EasyJet and Ryan Air have posted profits for the last several years.)
Air travel within Europe has become so inexpensive that the Eurail Pass, once standard issue for North Americans travelling around Europe, is now being given stiff competition.
Flying within Europe has another advantage. If you're lucky, you may be able to see Big Ben and the Acropolis the same day.