There are many wonderful things about Europe (e.g., the history, the architecture, the casual acceptance of Nutella as an all-purpose condiment), but one of its greatest attributes is the size of its countries. Unlike the Americas or Africa, Europe’s countries allow for quick and easy boundary crossings over the course of a relatively short trip. Rather than seeing one place on a vacation, you can enjoy a Guinness in Ireland, tapas in Madrid, and boiled foods in London (we kid because we love). Planning your country hopping trip doesn’t have to be full of headaches. First things first, of course, you need to get from place to place. Depending on your planning personality, you have two options when it comes to flying: scheduling a stopover or booking regional flights. There are benefits and downsides to both.
If you’re an advanced planner, one of the easiest ways to plan a multi-destination trip is with a scheduled stopover. This is much different from a layover, which might be only a few hours and rarely allows you to leave the airport, let alone truly experience a place. A stopover extends for several days but is still booked as one itinerary on one airline. Icelandair offers one of the most popular stopover options in Europe. On either end of your trip, you can experience the North Atlantic island nation, while also enjoying a holiday in Stockholm, London, or other destinations in Scandinavia and Europe. Booking is incredibly easy through the airline’s website, you don’t have to assemble your own plans à la carte, and you get to visit at least two exciting destinations on one trip.
Similarly, United Airlines allows European stopovers in multiple cities. For example, you could fly from New York to Frankfurt, take in Germany for a few days, and then fly to Paris to enjoy a change of scenery (and even Chunnel over to London to really make the most of your trip). You’d then fly home from Paris (or London, if you stayed over) on the same United itinerary. The airline also allows stopovers on award tickets, so if you have miles, use ’em!
The issues with stopovers, of course, are price and timing. Putting together one itinerary with multiple destinations adds up. Additionally, it requires you to plan your trip well in advance and then stick to that schedule, unless you want to endure the change fees. That’s where our second option comes into play: regional carriers.
If you’re willing to do a little research online (sites like Skypicker are incredibly useful for booking flights on low-cost European airlines, even at the last minute, as is our Travel Search tool, though many low-cost airlines require that you visit their own individual websites), you can find flights across Europe for cheaper than you’d ever find on legacy carriers. We’re talking $20 flights (or even lower, if you get lucky). Of course, they usually come with fees for checking bags and other innocuous tasks, so be sure to read the fine print. But, if you’re willing to ignore the reputation of Ryanair’s service or run the risk of missing a connection after an EasyJet flight, you have the potential to save a ton of money, see some great destinations, and make plenty of spur-of-the-moment plans that will leave you feeling like a true globetrotter.
There are some caveats, of course. Many low-cost carriers only sell nonrefundable tickets that cannot be changed. If you miss your flight or decide to change your plans, you’ll be left purchasing a brand new ticket. They also do not guarantee connections, as they may not be affiliated with any other airlines. It’s up to you to be sure that you leave yourself enough time to catch that last flight home.
Whether you plan a stopover in advance or book a flight on a low-cost airline on a whim, it’s easier than you think to add destinations to your European vacation. With temperatures dropping, there are even more deals to be had right now if you don’t mind a little off-season fun. Just make sure you have enough free pages in your passport before you go!