Krakow KRK Norwegian Air Oakland OAK Prague PRG San Francisco SFO Stockholm ARN WOW Air (defunct)

My European winter itinerary $259 SFO-CPH-PRG/KRK-ARN-OAK

Three days ago I purchased a $69 one-way ticket on WOW Air for San Francisco SFO to Copenhagen CPH. At the time I made my purchase, I did not want to buy a round trip ticket since I did not have a planned itinerary and Copenhagen was not my intended destination in Europe. Copenhagen to SFO one-way with WOW priced at $97 and Stockholm to SFO on WOW priced at $88. Both airports have several low cost carriers for flights across Europe and I needed to figure out where I was going before choosing to fly back from Copenhagen or Stockholm.

Copenhagen is a brilliant party city in summer when thousands of people hang out in city parks and along the city canals, but winter means indoors. Commercial dining and activities are expensive in Copenhagen. Scandinavia as a tourist destination is expensive since these are cities with far higher average standards of living than the USA. Copenhagen is more affordable than Stockholm or Oslo, but not a place for a budget vacation.

After about two hours of working out a travel itinerary, my plan was a trip from Copenhagen to Prague, Czechia that ended up taking me back to Copenhagen with two cheap flights for $64.

I went to buy a $97 ticket on WOW Air Copenhagen to San Francisco to see the price had risen to $186.

No problem. I went to buy a WOW Air ticket from Stockholm to San Francisco for $88 one-way. The price had risen to $186.

So I ended up buying a Norwegian Air ticket Stockholm to Oakland for $111 before those seats were bought up.

The problem was the price to get from Prague to Stockholm PRG-ARN $88 was 4x the price of flying to Copenhagen PRG-CPH $22.

My travel dates were set with two ticket purchases for WOW Air SFO to Copenhagen at $69 one-way all-in and Norwegian Airlines Stockholm ARN to Oakland OAK for $111 all-in.

$180 round trip from California to Europe is an amazing deal, but to stay at that fare I have to plan on packing only one small carry-on bag under 22lb with all the gear I need for 9 winter days in central Europe and Scandinavia and be prepared for a middle seat on the long-haul flights since I did not buy pre-assigned seats for $45 to $51 each way.

After buying my tickets Tuesday to get me from San Francisco to Copenhagen and then from Stockholm to Oakland, I wanted to share some of the great bargains I found for airfare deals and hotel deals across Europe.

For example, I saw it was possible to fly to Bristol, UK for $69 and from there to Faro, Portugal for $12.

Ryanair Bristol BRS – Faro, Portugal FAO

$12.15 one way (10 GBP)  Sun Jan 29

BRS-FAO $12 Ryanair Jan29

Tickets from Copenhagen to Madrid are only $27 one way on Ryanair or $47 for Iberia.

CPH-MAD $27-$47 DY-IB

This was my opportunity to get to Portugal for the first time and I have never been to Madrid either.

One of the big factors favoring a trip to the Iberian Peninsula is way warmer weather than central Europe and Scandinavia, places where I need to pack more clothes in my small one bag free carry-on for WOW Airlines.

At one point I toyed with the idea of simply flying wherever the airfare was lowest from Copenhagen.

For the absolute cheapest deal from Copenhagen, the $69 WOW ticket destination I had in hand, was Ryanair to Kaunas, Lithuania, for $21 round trip.

Ryanair  Copenhagen CPH – Kaunas, Lithuania KUN

$20.46 round trip  Thu Feb 2 – Mon Feb 6

CPH-KUN $21 Ryanair Feb2-6

Kaunas is a city where I could stay at the Park Inn Kaunas, a category 1 Club Carlson hotel reward for 9,000 points per night.

Even better, I could book a cheap Club Carlson 4-for-2 rate at $40 per night and earn 20,000 Club Carlson bonus points with the current promotion offer.

Loyalty Traveler – Club Carlson 5,000 to 100,000 bonus points for 1 to 20 nights Jan 9-Mar 31 works for my travel plans (Jan 9, 2017).

Park Inn Kaunas $40

I looked carefully at Kaunas and getting from KUN to anywhere besides Copenhagen by plane is a price challenge. Bus services are cheap in the Baltics and a bus ride to Vilnius VNO, Palanga PLQ or Riga RIX would open up more possibilities. Flying to another country on Ukraine Airlines with a 24 transit layover in Kiev, Ukraine seemed like an adventurous option from one of these airports in Lithuania or Latvia.

But since I needed to get back to Stockholm and not Copenhagen, Kaunas fell out of price range favor.

Praha on my mind

Prague, Czech Republic or Praha, Czechia is a place I stayed for one week 10 years ago in February 2007. Kelley and I thought it was one of the prettiest places we had seen in Europe when we strolled through the Mala Strana district below the castle.

I expected we would travel to Prague on our December trip, but Kelley wanted to go back to Krakow instead. So Praha has been on my mind.

I passed through Prague a couple of times in September 2015 when I traveled from Copenhagen to Brno, Czechia for a PointBreaks extended stay at Holiday Inn Brno.

So I’ll be back in Prague in a couple of weeks. From Prague I will travel by bus and train to Krakow, Poland again for a cheap $17 Norwegian Airlines flight to Stockholm Arlanda ARN airport.

Cheap $259 round trip to Europe

This trip is a challenge flight to see if I can travel to Europe 9 days in winter with only a free carry-on bag on low cost carriers.

I paid $180 round trip to fly San Francisco – Copenhagen/Stockholm – Oakland.

My ticket to Prague cost $62. It was $44 when I checked on Tuesday and Wednesday, but my laptop computer suddenly died on Tuesday and the price went up before I purchased my ticket yesterday.

I paid $79 to fly Copenhagen – Prague / Krakow – Stockholm.

For Copenhagen and Stockholm I booked two Choice Privileges reward nights for 8,000 and 10,000 points.

Average hotel cost for other stays is under $40 per night using Club Carlson discount rates.

Average temperature this week in Prague and Krakow is well-below freezing most days and some days showing single digits.

Can a person fly to Europe for $180 round trip in winter on WOW and Norwegian without paying any extra fees?

Follow my adventure later this month. Since weight and space are a major factor in keeping my airfare cost low with no bag fees, I’ll leave my Nikon camera at home and tweet my travels through my iPhone.


  • Jason Brandt Lewis January 13, 2017

    Ric, the problem — at least for me (and for my wife) — is the restriction for 1 carry-on per person, PERIOD. If nothing else, that would mean buying anything over the “3-1-1” limitation for carry-ons once we arrive at each destination as needed. And, while I have flown to Europe with just a carry-on before — or rather, a backpack — that was many, many years ago, and there is simply no way either one of us is able to (or would even want to) now. (Heck, we don’t even fly from SFO/OAK to New Orleans with just a carry-on for a 4-5 day stay!)

    Secondly, by the time we end up paying for one checked bag (each), two seat assignments, and the proverbial “partridge in a pear tree,” I would think we’d be better off flying a “major” airline, rather than a low-cost carrier which often ends up being just about as expensive all-in (or even more, as a BIO-LHR flight taught us!).

    I will say that, while we don’t travel to Europe frequently (let’s say 1+ times per year), we do fly there more than many. Since 2010, my wife and I have traveled there 3 times, and each of our college-aged children have traveled there twice. Every one of those trips have been paid for with points: economy for our kids on their individual trips; business class for us. (We are both in our 60’s now, with all the aches and pains that come with age, and I’m not sure either one of us could survive a 10+ hour flight from the West Coast to Europe in economy!)

  • Kim January 13, 2017

    I went to Iceland in late September early October using Wow. It felt like winter to me. I didn’t pay extra for a bag. I’m a bit packing challenged so, it was a bit of a personal challenge to see if I could do it. I did pay $12 for a seat. I followed the dimensions of the bag pretty well, so my bag was tiny. My friends bag was probably twice my size. He got his weighed. The agent at SFO took one look at mine and didn’t bother. You also get a personal bag. I had my purse but, I also packed a packable shopping bag. So, after check in I was able take off some of the layers I was wearing and things I was carrying, book/iPad/purse in there. Nobody questions you after you check in. Clothes wise I fit everything in a medium packing cube. Lots of packable layers. In all honesty it was a bit freeing to pack so, light. I went to Europe a couple of weeks later with my normal carryon and it felt so, heavy.

  • […] Loyalty Traveler – My European winter itinerary $259 SFO-CPH-PRG/KRK-ARN-OAK […]

  • Ric Garrido January 14, 2017

    @Kim – The WOW flight to start will be the primary packing challenge. Norwegian is lenient in my experience. I have never had trouble bringing a carry-on and my backpack for free.

    Since WOW is the flight to Europe, I can buy stuff in Europe and travel with more the rest of the trip, if I need to expand.

  • Ric Garrido January 14, 2017

    @Jason – This will be only my second time flying WOW to Europe. I did not like the experience the first time and by the time I paid all the bag and seat fees, I did not have a bargain ticket at all.

    Norwegian is an airline I have flown transatlantic several times and I like their aircraft and nonstop flights from and to Oakland.

    I booked this ticket specifically as an experiment to see how practical or rough it is to travel to Europe without paying any extra fees on a WOW ticket.

    The other reason is to show how dirt cheap it is to fly to Europe for under $200 round trip from California, go just about anywhere in Europe from an airport like Copenhagen, Stockholm, London or Amsterdam for under $100 and stay in nice hotels for under $50 per night – in winter.

    Europe is a bargain right now compared to travel in the USA.

  • […] Traveler – My European winter itinerary $259 SFO-CPH-PRG/KRK-ARN-OAK (Jan 13, […]

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