From California there are opportunities for cheap travel to Europe flying one way to London, Barcelona, Paris or Stockholm. These cities offer routes at one-way ticket prices with several different low-cost airlines.
London and Barcelona have even lower round trip ticket prices with major airlines for under $350 round trip. However, if traveling to different countries in Europe is your plan, then one-way tickets have an advantage to avoid backtracking back to the same airport for your return flight to USA.
American Airlines San Francisco – Philadelphia PHL – Barcelona BCN – London LHR – SFO
Open-jaw advantage of one-way flights
Another way to design a cheap trip to Europe with multiple destinations is book one-way tickets to one city and a return from another. Intra-Europe flights are inexpensive if you plan travel for low fare dates.
For example, look at the price of flying San Francisco to Europe one way on Google Flights. Nearly all these ticket prices shown in the low $200s involve flying Norwegian Airlines SFO to London LGW, then picking up a low cost flight with Wizz Airlines, Ryanair or some other low cost flight from London Luton or London Stansted Airport.
Google Flights Tuesday October 15
One way ticket prices from San Francisco to Europe
The actual ticket price for Wizz London Luton to Budapest will be slightly more than $192 (about $20) to buy up to Priority Boarding, which allows both a carry-on and personal bag in the cabin. Or pay for a checked bag. And the price is less if you are a Wizz Discount Club member, an annual membership that pays off after ticket and bag discount savings on three Wizz tickets.
Due to the hours it takes to travel between London Gatwick and London Luton, traveling south to north through central London, I would plan at least one overnight or even longer in London before flying out to another city. Paris and Stockholm can also mean flying from a different airport than the one you arrive. Barcelona in some ways is the easiest destination with one main airport location.
I generally fly Ryanair, Wizz or both airlines for intra-Europe flights on most of my trips since I generally arrive in Barcelona, London, or Stockholm and plan to spend most of my time in other destinations.
Correlating dates of travel with cheap flights to Europe and back again is the challenge. This sometimes mean I visit a city I was not necessarily planning to visit to string together cheap flight options. This is what placed me in Rome for three nights summer 2018 when Italy had not been my intended destination. The best deal I could find back to California was flying Krakow to Rome on Ryanair, then a United Airlines round trip ticket Rome to San Francisco. That ticket put me back in Rome in July. We did not even leave Rome FCO airport on the return, opting instead to fly on a cheap ticket to Vienna.
In general, open-jaw travel to Europe and back using one way tickets works well from LAX and SFO flying to:
Barcelona – Norwegian, Level (Iberia)
- SFO-Barcelona $190 one way Level Airlines
- Barcelona BCN-SFO $176 one way Level Airlines
- LAX-Barcelona $180 one way Norwegian
- Barcelona BCN – LAX one way $191 Norwegian
London – Norwegian
- LAX-London Gatwick LGW $180 Norwegian
- London LGW – LAX $225 Norwegian
- SFO-London Gatwick LGW $180 Norwegian
- London LGW-San Francisco SFO $213 Norwegian
Paris – Norwegian, FrenchBee, XL
- LAX-Paris CDG $200 Norwegian
- Paris CDG-LAX $180 Norwegian
- SFO-Paris CDG $200 Norwegian
- Paris CDG – SFO $180 Norwegian
- SFO-Paris Orly ORY $221 FrenchBee
- SFO-Paris CDG $268 XL Airways
Copenhagen/Stockholm – Norwegian