Travel

The Cheapest Flight Deals to Europe Right Now

Fly to Spain, France, and Italy-all for under $500.

trabantos/Shutterstock
trabantos/Shutterstock
trabantos/Shutterstock

Editor’s note: The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic continues to fluctuate rapidly and impact communities all over the world. If you’re venturing out, triple-check the opening status, entry requirements, and safety protocols for both your destination and home city upon your return. Be safe out there.Finally, our bucket-list vacation dreams are back on the table now that countries across Europe are reopening to vaccinated US travelers, including classics like Italy and Greece and newly-hyped hits like Croatia and Iceland.

But the global pandemic is far from over (begone, Delta variant!). Travel still feels tricky right now, with airlines canceling flights left and right and overly-complicated entry requirements making trip planning feel more like rocket science.

But what your trip lacks in ease of preparation, it may make up for in cost: cheap flight deals to the Old World are booming. If you haven’t signed up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, you should get on that like, yesterday. Scott’s team sends out alerts when great flight deals pop up (while avoiding terrible budget airlines or crummy routes). Based on what they’ve seen so far this year, certain European cities are much cheaper to reach than others, with a high volume of discounted fares that’ll help you get a dose of Europe without blowing your savings.

One very-good tip of Scott’s: Be flexible in your search. Even if you’ve got your heart set on Paris, that $370 ticket to Portugal might be too sweet to pass up. And, given the ongoing state of things, be extra sure you’re able to cancel or change your flight plans without penalty. Here are 10 bang-for-your-buck European destinations where you can travel on a (relative) shoestring right now.

Unsplash/Paulo Evangelista
Unsplash/Paulo Evangelista
Unsplash/Paulo Evangelista

Lisbon, Portugal

Typical cost for economy: $850
Average cheap flight deal: $369
With vibrant mosaics and a sweet spot on the shores of the Atlantic, Lisbon is a deeply captivating city. You’ll love it even more with flights from San Francisco, Miami, New York, and Boston for under $400 (though a direct flight will run you a little bit extra).

Despite the hills, Lisbon’s an extremely walkable city with plenty of cheap things to see and do. Check out architectural stunners like Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Praça Dom Pedro IV, and Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, all for free; splurge a little on a lot of good food at Time Out Market Lisboa; or head to Belém, where you can eat pastéis de nata at the pastry’s place of origin, Pastéis de Belém, before watching a glorious sunset at the Belém Tower.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Typical cost for economy: $800
Average cheap flight deal: $433
Iceland is having another moment, maybe because it was among the very first European countries to open its borders to US citizens, and maybe because there’s a freakin’ erupting volcano that people are flocking to see. While there are only a handful of direct flights to Reykjavik from the US (and it ain’t exactly the cheapest place to be once you land), there’s very little not to love about the city-especially since places like New York, Chicago, Boston, and DC have flight deals under $500 throughout the summer and early fall.

Traveling on a budget in Iceland isn’t impossible, with cheap to mid-range accommodations, campgrounds, and donation-based tours on hand. Join a free walking tour with The City Walk, scale Mount Esja, or make Reykjavik your launching pad for a longer road trip around the country. If you’re looking to get your hot springs fix for the low, skip the expensive Blue Lagoon and try the Reykjadalur Hot Springs just 40 minutes from the city for a wilder and cheaper dip.

IrenaV/Shutterstock
IrenaV/Shutterstock
IrenaV/Shutterstock

Athens, Greece

Typical cost for economy: $950
Average cheap flight deal: $548
Athens-and all of Greece, for that matter-is no stranger to budget-minded travelers, and the city caters as much to them as it does to resort-lovers. The average flight deals here aren’t as sweet as those in other destinations, but with some flights from Newark starting at $372 and from Miami at $454, there are definitely steals to be had.

Once you’ve touched down, free-to-cheap thrills are aplenty. Filopappou Hill is a stunner at sunset and worth the climb, the National Garden is a quiet respite from the bustle, and the darling neighborhoods of Anafiotika and Plaka offer plenty of Instagrammable moments. Even historic spots are cheap: The Acropolis of Athens has €20 admission, but the Acropolis Museum, which houses the artifacts found at the site, is only €10. Or take a bus ride to Delphi, Corinth, or Mycenae and visit the archaeological sites for no more than €12 per.

Barcelona, Spain

Typical cost for economy: $850
Average cheap flight deal: $454
When you have as many sunny days as Barcelona, cheap thrills are easy to come by. And with $372 flight deals from New York or Newark and $445 fall prices from San Francisco this year, those cheap thrills are also cheap to get to.

The obvious way to spend an inexpensive day in Barcelona is either at the beach or strolling the streets. But you can also stop in spots like Can Paixano for cheap glasses of cava, or Calle Blai for street tapas that’ll only run you about a euro each. The best views of the city are also gratis; head to the top of Turó de la Rovira and peep the skyline from old anti-aircraft bunkers. And to view art by one of the 20th-century’s greatest painters, hit the Picasso Museum on Thursdays from 5pm to 8pm or on the first Sunday of each month when admission is free.

Unsplash/Victor Malyushev
Unsplash/Victor Malyushev
Unsplash/Victor Malyushev

Rome, Italy

Typical cost for economy: $850
Average cheap flight deal: $425
There’s just something about Italy that makes you want to come back again and again. Luckily, under-$300 fares from Miami and $425 fares from Chicago and New York will help you feel less guilty about making yet another beeline for Rome now that the country’s reopened.

Surprisingly, the most quintessentially Roman things you can do are either cheap or completely free. Sipping an espresso outside at Sant’Eustachio? Less than two euros. Strolling through streets casually surrounded by the world’s greatest collection of architecture? Free. St. Peter’s Basilica? Also free, though paying €30 or so for a guided tour will help you skip long lines. Food is the other obvious draw here; for a good and cheap meal, get out of the city center’s tourist trap restaurants and gorge yourself on pasta at Pasta Chef Street Food instead.

Paris, France

Typical cost for economy: $850
Average cheap flight deal: $440

Nobody’s mistaking Paris for a “value destination,” but with flights starting at $385 from New York and Newark, as well as the occasional $435 fare from Miami, you can certainly get there for cheap.

Listen to the right people and you can do the city for less, with affordable options not limited to taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame. Cathedrals that aren’t famous for their hunchbacks are free and worth a visit, including the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and the Basilica of St. Denis. The Musée des Arts et Métiers is also free for everyone after 6pm on Tuesdays, after which you can stroll along the Seine with cheap wine, crepes, croissants, and falafel.

Unsplash/Matheus Câmara da Silva
Unsplash/Matheus Câmara da Silva
Unsplash/Matheus Câmara da Silva

Dublin, Ireland

Typical cost for economy: $800
Average cheap flight deal: $438

Eat, drink, and be merry in one of Europe’s best cities for imbibing-and with Aer Lingus deals that’ll fly you out from LA for $489, Chicago for $438, and Newark for $385, we recommend you take the money you saved on travel and buy a pint for every reveler at the pub.

Dublin might be the odd European city where hitting all the iconic, tourist-friendly food joints will actually save you money, with fish and chips at Leo Burdock only €10 and ice cream at Teddy’s less than €3. You need not exclusively drink here, though a self-guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse’s outdoor area-plus a beer-is only €18. Burn it all off by hiking to the top of Killiney Hill for the best view of the bay, then stroll cost-free through the National Museum and the Science Center at Trinity College. A peek at the fascinating Book of Kells is just €16.

Madrid, Spain

Typical cost for economy: $900
Average cheap flight deal: $386
Barcelona might be the Spanish city on everyone’s list, but Madrid is worth carving out time for-especially when you’ve got $386 round trip tickets from Miami, Newark, and New York, or circa $500 deals from Los Angeles and Atlanta. All these hubs also have direct flights, if you’d rather pay more for the extra convenience.

While it doesn’t have Barcelona’s tantalizing Gaudi appeal, Madrid does have its own charms-including being one of Europe’s more economical destinations. A visit to Parque del Buen Retiro to admire the Palacio de Cristal is a must, as is a ramble around the city to marvel at its architectural wonders. Visit Museo Nacional del Prado from 6-8 pm Monday through Saturday, and you won’t have to spend a dime. For cheap chow, indulge in croquetas and more at one of the city’s many, many tapas bars before walking it all off along the banks of the Manzanares River, where you’ll find plenty of free or cheap things to enjoy, as well.

Unsplash/Callum Parker
Unsplash/Callum Parker
Unsplash/Callum Parker

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Typical cost for economy: $900
Average cheap flight deal: $435
Prices in Amsterdam’s hash bars and red-light district haven’t dropped in years, but at least flights are cheap. Trips from Chicago, Miami, and New York will set you back less than $500 for a round trip this year.

Vices aren’t the only thing to enjoy in the Dutch capital, with plenty to do for well under 10 euros. Just renting a bike and taking in the wonders of engineering that made this marshland a viable city is fascinating, as is the architecture along the canals. Rooftop movies at spots like Floor 17 are popular when the weather is hospitable; non-Heineken brewery tours (including samples!) at Brouwerij de Prael and Brouwerij ‘t IJ can be had for under €10; and climbing the church tower at Westertoren for fantastic views of the old city is absolutely free.

Brussels, Belgium

Typical cost for economy: $850
Average cheap flight deal: $485
Brussels can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be. But with under $500 flights coming out of Chicago, Miami, and New York, you get off to a great budget-friendly start.

This extremely walkable city has many sights to see for free, so prepare to get your steps in. La ​​Grand-Place is worth a stop, even if it is a bit touristy, as are the elegant shopping promenades that pepper the city center. The Parc du Bruxelles, home of the Royal Palace of Brussels, is a quiet spot for resting your weary feet. Then fill your belly with those addicting Belgian frites and Brussels waffles before taking a power nap on your way to Bruges, a mere hour away by train. It’s a pricey destination, but tickets are relatively inexpensive and a self-guided day trip should more than satiate your romantic sensibilities.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTwitterPinterestYouTubeTikTok, and Snapchat.

Michelle Rae Uy is a Los Angeles freelance travel, tech and gadgets writer covering everything from computing to the latest in green commutes to the best adventures in Europe and Asia. She currently contributes for TechRadar, T3, IGN and Business Insider, as well as Thrillist. When not testing cool gadgets, she spends her time gallivanting around the world and cuddling with her cats, Bow and Arrow.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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