How to enter Europe in the cheapest way
Three US airlines (United, Delta, and American Airlines) operate direct flights to Europe, but their flights can do some damage to your wallet. However, there are a few tricks for how to minimize your travel expenses. Just join a frequent flier program and get a credit card with a sign-up bonus to book an award ticket.
Frequent flier program
Number of award miles you need to get to Europe
Best credit cards with sign-up bonuses
30K MileagePlus® miles for a one-way saver award economy ticket
The United MileagePlus Club Card or the United MileagePlus Explorer Business Card both come with a 50,000-mile bonus
Delta has pulled its award chart from its website, but generally the standard award one-way flight is offered at approximately 30K miles
The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from Amex with a 40,000-mile bonus
30K miles for a one-way award ticket or 22.5K miles for off-peak main cabin travel
The CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Mastercard® with a 70,000-mile bonus
Watch out for fees and fuel surcharges. When booking your award ticket, pay attention to the total cost before pulling the trigger.
Entry point — London
Major connecting airports: London Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW), Luton (LTN), Stansted (STN), City (LCY), Biggin Hill Airport (BQH)
How to get (direct flights): US legacy airlines: United, Delta, American Airlines
Other carriers: Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air New Zealand
Why choose London: Although London opens up numerous itineraries to reach any sweet spot in Europe, consider taking a cross-island trip. Domestic flights are more than affordable and it’s really worth exploring the UK’s terrific landscapes.
Wales: The atmospheric scenery of Wales inspires many people. Visit Snowdonia and climb the country’s highest mountain, Mount Snowdon. Or explore the country’s gem — Brecon Beacons National Park — with its noisy waterfalls and grassy landscapes. And don’t forget to try craft beer and ales in authentic Welsh pubs.
Scotland: Dramatic highlands stretching for miles and the mysterious Enchanted Forest fascinate tourists. Dive into the medieval center of Edinburgh, the country’s hilly capital, and take a stroll through the splendid Princess Street Gardens to enjoy the outstanding views.
Northern Ireland: The country boasts numerous picture-perfect spots like the rope bridge connecting Carrick-a-Rede to the mainland. How about natural landmarks? Don’t miss a chance to explore Giant’s Causeway, a surreal landscape with 40,000 basalt columns, the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.
Entry point — Frankfurt
Major connecting airport: Frankfurt Airport (FRA)
How to get (direct flights): US legacy airlines: United, Delta
Other carriers: Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines
Why choose Frankfurt: It’s the fastest and cheapest way to get closer to the soulful region of Eastern Europe. Well known for its welcoming small towns and bustling cities cut with winding streets, this region’s uncommonly peaceful nature will recharge your inner batteries as easy as 1-2-3. And it’s really cheap there.
Poland: The sheer charm of this country lies in its rich history, as well as its breathtaking mountain ranges like the Tatras. Be sure to check out the imposing medieval castles of Warsaw and Krakow, and don’t miss out on World War II historical sites.
Hungary: Here you’ll enjoy picture-postcard scenery, an abundance of magnificent castles, the Széchenyi thermal baths in Budapest, the charming Danube River that divides the capital into two parts, and numerous eateries offering signature dishes like mouthwatering goulash…
Czech Republic: No trip to the Czech Republic would be complete without trying its native beer and local cuisine: try generous portions of authentic dishes and wash them down with a cold, fresh-brewed beer. Once you’ve had enough, challenge yourself with visiting as many castles as you can. A tip: there are more than 2,000 in the country!
Entry point — Amsterdam
Major connecting airport: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS)
How to get (direct flights): US legacy airlines: Delta, United
Other carriers: KLM
Why choose Amsterdam: It’s an ideal departure spot for Scandinavian countries: you’ll save both money and time. Scandinavia will inspire you with its beautiful wilderness, views of the Northern Lights, and vibrant cities with impressively designed buildings.
Norway: Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to stand on top of the world? Hike to Trolltunga (“troll’s tongue”), a spectacularly scenic cliff 1,100 meters above the sea. Once you reach the top, its mind-blowing beauty will send goosebumps all over your body, making you feel as though you’ve merged with nature.
Sweden: Sweden is known for its laconic, simple beauty. You can delight in unique natural phenomena like the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun, or enjoy the cities with their music festivals and playful colorful houses. Dine on pickled herring and smoked fish, just to name a few Swedish delicacies. The list of reasons to visit Sweden is truly endless.
Denmark: Of course, there’s Copenhagen with its charming Tivoli Gardens and Nyhavn, the city’s canal and entertainment district, but there’s much more to explore in Denmark. Climb the Mountain of Sand, the largest migrating dune in Northern Europe. Or head to Møns Klint, a 6-km stretch of chalk cliffs revealing dramatic scenery.
Entry point — Paris
Major connecting airports: Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG), Paris–Le Bourget Airport (LBG), Paris Orly Airport (ORY)
How to get (direct flights): U.S. legacy airlines: United, Delta, American Airlines
Other carriers: Air France
Why choose Paris: Paris is a gateway to almost every corner of Europe. However, you’ll be better off choosing a short-haul destination somewhere in Western Europe. There are plenty of affordable flights to desirable places like Rome and Madrid — living reminders of the past with an atmosphere of timeless celebration.
Spain: It’s a paradise for foodies and those in search of diverse activities, from lying on the sandy beaches in Barcelona to skiing in mountainous Navacerrada. The grandness of Spain’s architecture impresses as well. For example, check out Alcázar of Segovia, a medieval building that inspired Walt Disney to create Cinderella’s castle.
Italy: It’s the country where each day is a feast for the soul, eyes, and stomach. And for good reason, they say “When something goes wrong, keep calm and head to Italy.” Try unsurpassed shopping in Milan, dive into the living past in Rome, or just visit any town or village — your inner esthete is sure to be thrilled.
Portugal: This country is an appealing destination for true foodies, offering world-class wines, signature mouthwatering Pastéis de Nata, and cheap generous portions of skillfully cooked fresh seafood. Scenery lovers can visit the town of Sintra or Porto, or trek to Madeira for incredible views and lovely villages.
The bottom line
When you plan to spend your vacation in Europe, choose the best entry point for your final destination. Be it Amsterdam or Paris, Frankfurt or London — opt for the city with a connecting airport that offers affordable flights to the region you wish to explore. If you plan your trip wisely and get a sign-up bonus to cover part of your expenses, you’ll have nothing but positive memories from your European vacation.