As traveling teachers around a school year work schedule of summer and holiday weeks available for vacation travel means I have developed strategies for minimizing the price of international airline tickets during peak travel seasons.
A ticketing strategy I use as a frequent traveler to Europe over peak season travel times in summer and holidays is book round trip flights between San Francisco/San Jose, California and Europe starting from a city in Europe, most often Stockholm, Sweden for the cheapest ticket prices.
Over the past three years I have flown round trip tickets starting in Amsterdam, Bergen, Copenhagen, Salzburg and Stockholm. These are all cities where I purchased round trip tickets to San Francisco or San Jose, mostly paying upper $300s to low $500s round trip. The difference between originating my travel from Europe to California is not necessarily lower than cheapest ticket prices available from California to Europe. The main benefit of starting in Europe are more dates around holidays available for travel at low fares.
Cheaper Christmas 2018 tickets to Europe
Here is an example of how I can book a ticket from San Francisco to Europe at Christmas 2018 for about 25% lower ticket price than the cost to fly from San Francisco to Europe at Christmas.
This year I am looking for a ticket from Europe to San Francisco SFO/San Jose SJC, California departing in late June or early July and returning to Europe for Christmas. I don’t particularly care which city in Europe I fly from or to since intra-Europe flights are generally available between most cities for under $50 one way.
I booked a round trip ticket from Copenhagen to San Francisco in early January to get home from London and Prague after my Christmas 2017 trip. That ticket puts me back in Copenhagen in June.
My strategy does not always work for significant savings since airline ticket prices are unpredictable. Summer 2018 is unusual with tickets from San Francisco/San Jose priced in from low $400s to low $500s for travel to Oslo and Stockholm in late June and July. These tickets are normally in the upper $600s to $800.
This year I made the wrong choice since I could have flown back to Copenhagen for Easter at an even lower price than I paid to fly back to Copenhagen in June. Turns out Easter week airfare is sky high to fly from California to Europe, while June/July fares are low priced this year. No Easter trip to Europe this year is planned for my travels.
San Francisco SFO – Zurich ZRH – Oslo OSL – ZRH – SFO
Cheaper Christmas Holiday Travel
I purchased a round trip Copenhagen-San Francisco ticket last November for CPH-SFO in January and SFO-CPH in June 2018. I do not have a ticket from Europe back to California in summer 2018 yet. The reason I have been waiting several months to buy a ticket back to California in June/July is I want a round trip ticket that flies me to California in summer and back to Europe in December for Christmas vacation 2018. That booking window only opened in the past three weeks.
Delta Airlines/Air France $495
Stockholm ARN – Paris CDG – San Francisco SFO – CDG – ARN
This Europe originating ticket strategy has saved me hundreds of dollars on several holiday travel trips over the past few years. Europe to USA round trip tickets may not be as useful a ticketing strategy in 2018 with lower airfare from USA to Europe much of the time than ticket prices from Europe to USA.
United Airlines San Francisco SFO – Zurich ZRH – Stockholm ARN – ZRH – SFO
Flying San Francisco to Stockholm for Christmas 2018 is $625 round trip today, while flying Stockholm to San Francisco in June and back to Stockholm at Christmas is $494 round trip.
That leaves an extra $130 cushion on the price of a ticket back to California in January 2019.
The best part of this ticketing option is the Swiss operated flight from Zurich to San Francisco is a United Airlines codeshare. I can earn 50% flight miles towards Aegean and Star Alliance Gold elite with Aegean Miles+Bonus frequent flyer program. Swiss Economy K does not earn Aegean miles.