My motto for European vacations from California is get yourself to anywhere in Europe as cheap as you can, then fly to the destination you truly want to visit. For me starting in Monterey, California, this often means flying to Scandinavia and connecting to another city on a separate cheap intra-Europe ticket. The lowest fares I see today from San Francisco to London and Paris are WOW ($500s-$600s) or Aer Lingus $680-$720 for fall travel.
Update 12:30pm Fri Aug 5:
SAS/United SFO to Helsinki is $399 to $402 round trip Sep 6 – Dec 8 on most dates.
Alternatively you can fly SAS to Bergen BGO or Stavanger SVG, Norway or Gothenburg GOT, Sweden for around $540 round trip from early September to mid-December.
Bergen BGO offers the most direct flights to 14 other countries in Europe with Norwegian Airlines. There are also a few other airlines with intra-Europe flights, especially to the UK.
Bergen Bryggen at night. The houses on Bryggen are Hanseatic League 14th century trading posts and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Stavanger SVG you can fly Norwegian to Alicante, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dubrovnik, Gran Canaria, Krakow, London LGW, Malaga, Palma-Mallorca, Manchester, Nice, Prague, Salzburg, Split, Warsaw.
From Gothenburg GOT, Sweden there are Norwegian flights to Barcelona, Madrid, London LGW, Mallorca, Nice, Rome, Salzburg.
Kristiansand KRS is more suitable for an actual destination ticket with fewer flights to other places than the other low fare cities.
SAS San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen CPH – Gothenburg, Sweden GOT – CPH – SFO
United/SAS (Momondo.com search)
San Francisco SFO – Copenhagen CPH – Bergen, Norway BGO – Stockholm ARN – Chicago ORD – SFO
This SFO-Bergen itinerary is not ideal since it forces an overnight in Bergen before you can fly somewhere else, but Bergen is one of the most interesting Norwegian cities to visit in my opinion. I did not play around with dates looking for better itineraries.
Flights from Bergen to London Gatwick LGW are $94 round trip on Norwegian. All in all, the ticket price works out to be about the same as flying Aer Lingus to London, but you get a chance to visit Bergen, Norway too. Routing via Europe provides an airfare discount to many other cities in Europe where there are not $700 round trip fares from SFO.
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