Without a doubt, January through March is the cheapest time to book an international flight departing from the U.S. The reason why is pretty simple, according to Scott Keyes, founder of the flight-deals newsletter Scott’s Cheap Flights. Weather aside, lots of would-be jet-setters are hamstrung by the academic calendar, so travel demand is highest in summer. The numbers don’t lie: according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Travel and Tourism Office, from July to August 2018, about 6.4 million Americans flew to Europe. By comparison, about 2.7 million Americans departed for Europe between January and March.
For years, Keyes and his team have spent hours a day scouring airline sites for too-good-to-be-true deals. (Recently, he found a $433 round-trip flight between New York and Tokyo.) For travelers looking to get away on the cheap, Keyes suggests being as flexible as possible—and a little crafty. For example, if you’re interested in visiting France, book an affordable flight to an airport in a nearby country, like the Netherlands. Taking a train or a separate flight from there can save you hundreds of dollars.
If you’ve been dying to make a quick escape but have to pinch pennies, there are several world-class destinations that are far more affordable to get to during winter.
Iceland, which sees more tourists annually than it has in year-round inhabitants, is one of the most expensive countries to visit in the summer, when the days are up to 22 hours long. But in the dark winter months, solitude comes cheap. If you’re willing to put up with just a few hours of sunlight, you’ll be treated to low prices for hotels, tours, car rentals, and empty tourist attractions. Stay warm by visiting natural hot springs, like the Reykjadalur Valley thermal river near the capital, as well as lovely and ultra-affordable heated public pools in nearly every town. Plus, December to February is the ideal time to catch the northern lights. If you want to tack a few days here onto another trip, consider booking a stopover. Icelandair allows you to take up to a seven-day layover in the country without any extra charge.
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