Headed to Europe? What You Need to Know

Airfares to Greece are going up quickly, but there are still deals to be found if you can be flexible with your plans.

Writer: Steve Dinnen

Yes, you can vacation in Europe. And with a little flexibility and some research you might actually grab an affordable airfare. I learned this when I decided to go to Greece in August. Business class to Athens seemed reasonable – a shade under $2,000. But then Greece decided to reopen to tourists like me, and before I bought my passage, the fare doubled. Right before press time I rechecked and a ticket from Des Moines to Chicago, and then nonstop to Athens on American, had ballooned to $5,091. Delta and United were in the $4,300 range.

For some reason, fares from other cities were way less. So I grabbed one out of Los Angeles for around $2,400. Yes, I have to fly west to start a journey that is completely the other direction but even with the added fare of getting to Los Angeles, I saved enough to buy all the calamari I can swallow as I sit at a beachside cafe on some little Greek island.

Airlines are being aggressive with their pricing this summer. They still have reduced frequencies, and thus capacities, so the planes that are filling up as the world eases its COVID restrictions are fetching primo prices. But they do sometimes offer deals, so if you’re flexible, and can go to Los Angeles, you might save serious money. These deals can disappear quickly, so you or your travel agent need to be alert.

Along with reopening, the Greeks implemented a COVID protocol. The airline guided me to a Greek government site, where I registered and gave them the dates of my COVID vaccines. While there is no “vaccine passport” for entry, you’ll need to follow their formula or you won’t be allowed in. Spain is doing this as well.

The United States may soon join the European Union’s “white list” of countries whose citizens are free to visit. For now, COVID-permitted travel to Europe is decided by individual member nations. Just as you are keeping a watchful eye on airfare deals, you’ll want to do double duty and look for changing travel restrictions. To help matters, it will pay to fly directly to the country you intend to visit. You do not, for instance, want to fly to Greece by way of a stop in London. That would mean you’d have to satisfy both Greek and British travel authorities. That complicates matters. And we don’t need any more complications this year.

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