Curious how to fly to Europe for cheap?  We’re talking about $350 roundtrip (or, possibly even less) from the USA!  If money is what’s holding you back from traveling more and exploring Europe, it shouldn’t be.  At least not since the launch of my new favorite low cost airline, Norwegian Air.

I’ve been curious about this airline for a while, but now that I’ve personally flown with them on my recent trip to Norway and Sweden, I can share my thoughts with you.

Norwegian Air offers extremely low rates from a handful of US cities (New York, Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Oakland and Orlando) to a large array of European destinations.   Granted, you’re most likely to find the lowest rates to cities in Scandinavia, but the company also offers great fares to many other European destinations as well.  (In fact, Norwegian Air actually flies to 38 different countries, including Morocco, Thailand and UAE).

Here are some sample fares I found while searching today:

  • JFK to Oslo: $116.20
  • Los Angeles to Copenhagen: $153.40
  • JFK to Paris: $187.30
  • JFK to Stockholm: $149.70

How to Fly to Europe for Cheap:

Just by browsing Norwegian Airline’s website, you’re sure to find some jaw dropping deals.  But, what if I told you that a few simple tricks could save you even more money?

  • Sign up for Norwegian’s newsletter, their rewards program, and watch the site for sales.  (These ones are a no-brainer, but stick with me, they get better)…
  • Be flexible with your travel dates.  When searching for flights, use the “show low fare calculator” option.  When you do this, you can see the one-way fare rates for the entire year and can plan accordingly.
  • Book your ticket in advance.  It seems that the best deals are typically found several months in advance.
  • Avoid peak season.  Ticket prices appear to be the highest in summer.
  • Book a “no frills” ticket.  Because Norwegian is a low cost carrier, your basic ticket comes with NOTHING.  Literally, just your seat.  If you’re wanting to eat on the plane or you even want a blanket, you’ll pay extra for it.  When booking your ticket, your purchase will default to adding a meal option.  A very pricey meal option.  (We’re talking almost $40 USD for airline food).  Travel on the cheap by selecting “no meal” and carrying on a sandwich and snacks, or by ordering cold snacks a la cart once you’re on the plane.  I had heard that ordering food on board was absurdly expensive, but I actually didn’t find the prices too shocking.  For example, water, coffee and tea were $4, a sandwich was $10 and a glass of wine was $9.
  • Pack light.  You’re going to pay handsomly if you want to check luggage, so don’t do it and carry on instead.  The airline’s carry on restrictions are not overly restrictive compared to other low cost carriers.  You’re allowed one personal item and one carry on bag sized 55x40x23cm and weighing up to 22 pounds.  Although I played by the rules and carefully weighed my suitcase prior to my trip, I was surprised that the ticket counter employees didn’t even weigh it.  That said, I would still recommend that you’re cognizant of the airline’s carry-on restrictions since you don’t want to be stuck paying an exorbitant fee to check your bag at the gate.
  • Try booking your ticket in different currencies.  Depending on the exchange rate, you may find that you save money by purchasing your ticket in a foreign currency rather than U.S. dollars.  For example, I just booked a peak season direct flight from JFK to London.  The price in USD was $354, but by changing the currency to Swedish Kroner, I paid only $281 – what a fantastic deal!  This said, be aware that your credit/debit card may charge you a foreign transaction fee (typically 3%) if you don’t have a card geared towards traveling that waives this fee.
  • Pay with a debit card instead of a credit card.  Norwegian charges a small fee for most credit cards.  You can avoid this fee by paying with your debit card.

So, what did I think about my flight experience on Norwegian Air?

To be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations given the low cost of the ticket, but I was pleasantly surprised.  The planes were brand new!  Each seat was outfitted with it’s own outlet to charge your electronics and a television which offered TV shows, games and movies on demand (which were free)!  (Conveniently, you also order your a la cart drinks and snacks from your screen, which the crew then brings to you).

The Cons? 

  • Currently the airline only has departures from three US states, so if you don’t live driving distance to one of those airports, you’ll also be footing the bill for another domestic airline ticket.
  • Neither of my flights left on time (one of them leaving almost four hours late) and I’ve been told that Norwegian has a bit of reputation for late departures.
  • It was cold on the plane!  (Perhaps to boost blanket sales?)  Be aware of this and dress in layers.

The Verdict: 

All things considered, you should fly with Norwegian Air.  Their prices are unbeatable.  I’ll forgo a hot meal and deal with a chilly plane any day to save several hundred dollars!

Have you flown with Norwegian?  What did you think?

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CC image credit from Flickr: Estocolmo de Noche by Hector Melo A.