Tag Archives: flying tips

United's Polaris business class cabin

How to Find Affordable Business-Class Airfare to Europe, South America, and Asia


Wendy, we’d like your help finding a reliable airline ticket consolidator for a July trip for five of us. We need two business-class and three economy tickets on the same plane. Thank you for any guidance you can give us. —Bonnie


Bonnie, for business-class consolidator airline tickets, you might try Blake Fleetwood of Cook Travel, a boutique consolidator with 35 years of experience and a high level of personalized service. Blake negotiates low fares with all the major airlines to just about every international destination, mostly in business or first class; his best deals are to Europe, South America, and Asia. Look to him when you have some flexibility in your travel dates, so that his team can peruse the options to find you the best deal.

Blake’s business-class fares save you between 10% and 40%, depending on how far ahead you’re buying them (three to four months is ideal, though you can sometimes find great deals at the last minute) and the time of year you’re flying. Business-class fares are relatively low during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter. They’re relatively high from September through November and March through May, since those are the two peak times of year for business travel.

Blake’s team is available 24 hours a day, and they have an emergency hotline if your flights go awry en route. Beware of less reputable consolidators that may be reselling frequent-flier tickets; if you can’t earn miles on a ticket, that’s a likely sign that it’s fraudulent. Another bonus: Blake’s business- and first-class fares are almost always refundable, though sometimes minus a penalty of about $500 per ticket.

UPDATE:  The company mentioned above, Cook Travel Inc (based in New York City), is not affiliated with Thomas Cook Group Plc (based in Britain), which went bankrupt on September 23, 2019. The company mentioned in this article is not affected by that bankruptcy.

Save Time, Room, and Money: Secret Travel Uses For Common Accessories

Note from Wendy: All travelers develop packing hacks over the years. I have several of my own. For instance, I always pack a thin, lightweight day pack or duffel in my carry-on, just in case I end up coming home with more than I left with and need to check the carry-on. In this article from Brittany Jones Cooper at Yahoo! Travel, she finds creative travel uses for items many of us have lying around the house. What are some of your best packing tips? Tell us in the comments below.

This article originally ran on Yahoo! Travel


Everyone has secret tricks they use when packing and traveling, and I think the best part is that it doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money.

In fact, some of my favorite travel hacks involve secret uses for items I use every day.

So, this week I’m going to share some ways that your eyewear can help you on the road…other than the obvious use of helping you to see.


You download a movie on your phone to watch on the plane…great planning. But what you didn’t plan on was holding it in your hands the entire time. To prevent fatigue, use your sunglasses to prop up your smartphone. You’ll look like a genius, and your arm won’t get tired!

contact case-cr-yahooContact Case

If you’re a contact wearer, you probably have a bunch of these contact cases lying around. You get them every time you buy a bottle of solution. But they can also be used to hold a small amount of cream. For instance, if you have really expensive eye cream that’s in a big bottle, you can put a small amount in your contact case for a short trip. You can also do the same thing with foundation or gels.

Added bonus: These cases are also a great place to carry small items that easily get lost—like earrings.

glasses case-cd-yahooGlasses Case

When I’m packing, I always throw my brush, comb, and toothbrush in my toiletry bag, but all of the small stuff always gets lost in the shuffle. That’s why I’ve started using my extra glasses case as a smaller vanity kit. I put in small things like cotton balls, Q-tips, hair ties, bobby pins, and even a small sewing kit. Now, they easily accessible AND organized!

Also from Yahoo! Travel: 6 Unusual Household Items You Need to Use When Packing

What are your best packing hacks?

5 Easy Ways to Avoid Airline Bag and Change Fees

In the first three months of 2015, U.S. airlines raked in a record-setting $1.6 billion in checked-baggage fees and ticket-change fees. That’s up 7.4% from the same period last year. With the airlines’ profits at record highs, do you really want to give them an even bigger chunk of your trip budget?  I didn’t think so.  So here’s what you can do to avoid these fees:

How to avoid baggage fees

1. Get a credit card that exempts you from them.

The standard fee for checking a bag is $50 round-trip but, depending on the size and weight of your luggage, can be as high as $400 internationally. Each of the three major U.S. airlines offers a co-branded credit card that waives such fees when you fly that airline. And these credit cards cost nothing for the first year, so you have little to lose by trying one for 12 months. United offers the United MileagePlus Explorer Visa card from Chase; it provides one free checked bag to both the cardholder and one travel companion ticketed on the same reservation. American offers the Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select MasterCard from Citibank; it provides one free checked bag for the cardholder and up to four travel companions. Delta offers the Gold Delta SkyMiles card from American Express; it lets you and up to nine companions check a bag for free. For all three cards, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year. The United and Delta cards charge no foreign-transaction fees.

 2. Fly an airline that does not charge baggage fees.

Southwest charges no baggage fees, and some JetBlue fares still incur no baggage fees.

How to avoid or minimize ticket-change fees

1. If you think you may need to change an airline ticket, buy it with miles.

Change fees, which are typically $200 for domestic tickets and up to $450 for international flights, are more lenient for mileage-award tickets. American Airlines, for instance, lets you change mileage-award flight dates and times for free or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, for $75. United lets you change your travel dates for $75 or, if your new departure date is within 21 days, $100. Fees for changes to mileage-award tickets are lowered or waived for fliers with elite status.

2. Choose an airline that offers changes for free.

Southwest Airlines does not charge ticket-change or cancellation fees. Alaska Airlines offers free changes if you make them 60 days or more in advance.

3. If the flight is not very expensive, look into booking two one-way tickets rather than one round-trip.

Time was when two one-way tickets cost significantly more than one round-trip. Nowadays, though, more and more, they cost the same. So, if you’re unsure about either your outbound or return date, consider buying two one-way tickets, especially if each one-way fare is less than the airline’s change fee. Say a round-trip costs $300 and the airline’s change fee is $200. If you bought two $150 one-way fares and you had to change the outbound or the return, you could simply throw out the $150 ticket (and buy a new one), saving yourself $50. If you’re unsure of both your outbound and return dates, you’re probably better off buying the round-trip because you can change both dates with only one change fee.

Do you have any suggestions I’ve missed? I’d love to hear them—as, I’m sure, would everyone else! Please weigh in below.

Brett finds a treasure in the duty-free shop onboard the Korean Air's A380.

The Airlines’ Biggest Shortcoming, According to The Cranky Flier

Brett Snyder’s title is Chief Airline Dork. And it’s fitting. As a kid, his idea of fun was watching planes land at LAX; by the age of 12 he’d become the youngest known travel agent. Since then, he’s worked his way through various airlines—US Airways, America West, Eos, and United—all the while helping friends and family solve various air travel snafus and frustrations. Eventually (and we’d add, inevitably), Brett turned his knack for solving problems into a service available to anyone, via his company Cranky Concierge. Need a last-minute alternative for delayed or canceled flights? Help finding a hotel when a blizzard has grounded travelers all over the country? An ally who can talk directly to airlines and untangle their rules and regulations? Call Cranky. Wendy does. In 2011, 2012 and 2013 she named Brett to her Condé Nast Traveler list of top travel specialists, as an expert in urgent airline assistance. Today, when travelers ask Wendy for the best travel agent to book a complicated airline itinerary, she often sends them to Brett.

You can follow Brett on his blog, The Cranky Flier, where he monitors the airline industry, using his insider knowledge to ensure that the rest of us understand what’s going on behind the scenes. As you might have guessed from the name, Brett’s sharp sense of humor pervades all of his posts and work—after all, you’d have to be able to laugh in his business. Here, he bravely reveals one of his most memorable and embarrassing travel experiences, as well as his opinion on the biggest issue that airlines face.

Most memorable travel moment:

Well, you’re asking this question just a week after I stepped off my first (and likely only) flight in Singapore’s Suites class. So it’s tempting to say that’s it. But really there is one flight that sticks out in my mind as being the coolest thing I’ve ever done. Back in 2002, I flew Concorde from London to New York. That was incredible and is easily my most memorable travel moment.

Brett relaxing in Singapore Airlines' A380 Suite.

Brett relaxing in Singapore Airlines’ A380 Suite. Photo courtesy The Cranky Flier.

Most embarrassing travel moment:

This isn’t airplane-related, but I still remember it to this day. Way back in third grade, I was on vacation with my parents and younger brother in Washington, DC. We had walked into Georgetown to go to dinner and my brother spilled what seemed like a gallon of milk right in my crotch. It was a long walk back to the hotel for this mortified third grader.

Name one thing people would be surprised to find in your travel bag:

Not much. I travel very light when I’m on the road. My wife still can’t believe I brought only a duffle bag on our two-week honeymoon. Granted, it was in French Polynesia, so I didn’t need more than a bathing suit anyway.

Touristy spot that’s actually worth it, and the trick to doing it right:

Dubuque. Oh wait, that’s not touristy? Ok, then I’d probably say Washington, DC. The place is absolutely full of history, and most of the monuments and museums are free, so it is not only a great place to visit but it can be done economically for those on a budget. While there are some great out-of-the-way memorials (the Einstein one is my favorite), most of the places you want to see are the same ones everyone wants to see. Wear comfortable shoes and be ready to walk. Get yourself an awkwardly named SmarTrip fast pass for the Metro as well. Stay hydrated and bring snacks. In other words, prepare like you’re getting ready for some post-apocalyptic world. Lastly, don’t go during cherry blossom season (spring). Everyone goes then, and it’s even more crowded than usual. And don’t go in the summer. Not only are their hordes of families, but the place was built on a swamp. You’ll feel like you’re in a steam bath. If you can go in the fall or winter, you’ll be better off.

Non-touristy spot people might not know about but should add to their must-visit list:

I don’t think Slovenia counts as touristy, does it? When I was young, I remember seeing a picture of this impossibly blue river in Slovenia. It took me a long time, but I finally made it there about a decade ago to see the Soca River for myself, and it remains one of my favorite trips. It’s an incredible sight. But what’s more incredible is how much you can see in Slovenia within such a short drive. You have the glacial valleys where the Soca River roams in the west. In the north you’ll find the Julian Alps and some incredibly picturesque mountain lakes (Bled and Bohinj). Come down a bit to the center and you’ll be in the medieval capital of Ljubljana. (Just try to ignore the Soviet-era buildings that surround the city.) To the east is the wine country of Maribor. And in the southwest is Slovenia’s tiny coastline with the historic town of Piran and beachy Portoroz. From one side of the country to the other is less than three hours by car. To top it off, I’m convinced that every person in Slovenia is friendly and speaks 300 different languages fluently.

Hiking outside of Kobarid in the Soca River Valley, Slovenia.

Hiking outside of Kobarid in the Soca River Valley, Slovenia. Photo courtesy The Cranky Flier.

Name two indispensable apps you use when you travel:

1) The app for whatever airline I’m flying.

2) Google Maps, which is great for plotting public transit routes and providing fare information.

The travel gadget or gear that has saved your life…or your mind:

I’m not really a gadget guy. I travel light, so my phone is probably the only real gadget I use when I travel. And it has definitely saved me a lot of stress. (It also creates a ton too, but that’s my fault for checking my email.)

Choose any two travel-world bloggers and tell us the most important thing you’ve learned from each:

Here’s the funny thing. I don’t read a ton of travel bloggers. When I do, it’s usually more for the business insight into the industry as opposed to things that focus on the travel experience itself. So for example, I read Gary Leff’s View from the Wing for news on frequent-flier programs. Or I read really geeky stuff like Airline Route, which shows airline schedule changes. Boring, right? I should read more aspirational stuff—I’d probably be happier.

Whose Tweets do you find the most useful and entertaining when you see them in your feed?

Well if you’re looking for entertainment, try out @FakeUnitedJeff and his impersonation of United’s CEO. It rings a little too close to home. Otherwise, if you’re looking for useful, I turn to all my favorite #AvGeeks. People like Airline Reporter, Ben Granucci, Benet Wilson, Ghim-Lay Yeo, Henry Harteveldt, Holly Hegeman, Jason Rabinowitz, Jeremy DwyerLindgren, Jon Ostrower, Justin Meyer, and Paul Thompson.

Name one way the travel industry can do better:

Well my experience is more on the airline/travel agent side, so I’ll focus on that. I honestly think the biggest issue for airlines has long been communication. We all understand that flying airplanes around the world is a complex business. Most people are understanding when things go wrong if they know what’s actually happening. But for years and years, airlines have had this “need to know” kind of attitude, and the customer doesn’t need to know. It’s not just on the operations side either. Delta has really taken this further by hiding its seat maps and availability from third parties. Heck, it even stopped publishing an award chart altogether. If airlines really want to improve the travel experience, they should communicate openly, truthfully, and often. The fact that they don’t is one of the reasons that my Cranky Concierge business is thriving, so maybe I shouldn’t hope for them to change…

Look into the future and describe one aspect of travel that you think will be different in 20 years:

I’d like to think that we’ll be closer to having space travel as a reality. Even if it’s not for travel into space but as a way to speed up the transit time between cities on Earth, it would be a huge win. Between 1903 and 1965, we saw travel times come down dramatically in the air. But nothing has changed since then. It’s time.

Most effective thing you’ve ever said or done to get an upgrade or a special perk while traveling:

The best thing anyone can do is just be nice. If you’re using that as a tool solely to get an upgrade, then that’s pretty shady. And it doesn’t work with airlines much anymore, since there’s a lot less leeway for a gate agent to give you an upgrade than there used to be. But just be nice in general and things can sometimes fall in your favor. If the gate agent has any leeway, then being nice is the only way you’ll get an upgrade. (Just try the “do you know who I am” route. You’ll end up in a middle seat in the last row.)

I remember one time I was at JFK and it was a mess. I had to get rebooked and finally got to the agent at the counter. She looked wrecked. I simply asked her if she’d like a sandwich or a drink or anything, and her mood changed instantly. It’s hard doing that job and getting yelled at all day. I actually did end up getting a seat up front, but I didn’t even ask. I was just trying to empathize.

To make friends, I always carry:





Train travel.

If you were in my car during a road trip, you’d hear me singing:

Some good classic rock—maybe a little Tom Petty, possibly some Zeppelin. Or it could be something a little more recent like Smashing Pumpkins, which admittedly still isn’t all that recent. As my brother says, my appreciation for music somehow stopped developing at the turn of the millennium.

The airplane movie that, unexpectedly, made me bawl was:

Marley & Me. Never watch a dog movie with a sad ending on an airplane.

When I travel, I’m not afraid of:

Going naked into a communal bath.

But I am afraid of:

Getting violently ill from accidentally drinking the water in a country where I shouldn’t.

Qatar Airways seat configuration

5 Things I Loved About My 13-Hour Flight on Qatar Airways, and Two I Didn’t

“These might be the most comfortable pajamas I’ve ever worn.”

That is my most lasting impression from my 13 hours on a Qatar Airways flight from JFK to Doha the other week. The big draw of the airline is its business class, which travelers have named best in the world in Skytrax’s World Airline Awards for the past two years running (its seats, amenities, food, and lounge earned high rankings too). The back of the plane isn’t shabby either: Skift named Qatar Airways Best Economy Long-Haul Experience in 2015. But it was the business class experience—complete with a Giorgio Armani amenity kit, soft gray pajamas, and cushy slippers—that I indulged in last week.*

The rise of the airline—which launched as a regional service in 1994 and was revamped as a global player in 1997—mirrors the rise of Qatar as an international tourist destination. A young country in general (it was a British protectorate until 1971), the capital city of Doha was raised into existence only 35 years ago, but already the wealthy Qatari government has positioned it as a luxury Middle East destination, attracting all the biggies in luxury travel brands: Four Seasons, St. Regis, InterContinental, and most recently Anantara, which recently opened the Banana Island Resort to which I was bound. There’s star power in the culinary space (Alain Ducasse, Nobu, Shake Shack, and NYC cupcake stalwart Magnolia Bakery); in the arts scene (I.M. Pei designed the Museum of Islamic Art, and Richard Serra created a monumental series of obelisks for the museum and for the desert), and along the skyline (you’ll find projects by Jean Nouvel, Norman Foster, and Rem Koolhaas). Construction is everywhere: a new cultural village packed with galleries and a striking 4,000-seat marble amphitheater; a new metro rail system; a new education “city” offering American universities to Middle East residents; the new Mall of Qatar (which will be the largest in the country); and, of course, a rush of new sports facilities in anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Travelers are taking notice, and their introduction to Qatar begins on the plane. It’s an impressive one. Here are five things I loved about my nonstop business-class flight…and two things I didn’t.

The Good

1. The personal attention begins as soon as you check in.

Qatar Airways’ VIP service starts right at the airport check-in counter, when one of the desk agents offers to escort you to the lounge. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was code for “you will get to cut every line in security and insert yourself and your bins right at the front.” I definitely enjoyed the celebrity treatment’s speed and ease, but it came with a side of guilt for cutting in front of all the regular folk waiting to make their way through the TSA maze. However, anyone flying QR in any cabin class can purchase this VIP treatment. It’s called the Al Maha service and includes an escort from check-in to the gate and a welcome escort at Doha International Airport who will guide you through passport inspection and out to your ground transportation; the service is also available on arrival (prices start at 300 Qatari riyals each way).

Once onboard, you’ll find a set of pajamas and a Giorgio Armani amenities kit stuffed with the usual essentials (ear plugs, eye shade, socks) and some Armani perfume and lotion.


The Giorgio Armani business class amenities kit contains perfume and lotion—men get one set, women get another.

The Giorgio Armani business class amenities kit contains perfume and lotion—men get one set, women get another. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.


2. The seat configuration allows for space and decent privacy.

The 777 we took from JFK to Doha had a 2-2-2 configuration. For easiest access to an aisle, choose seats in the middle section.

The 777 we took from JFK to Doha had a 2-2-2 configuration. For easiest access to an aisle, choose seats in the middle section. Photo: Billie Cohen.

My plane was the B777-300ER, which meant a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. I shared my nook with only one other person, with whom I could enjoy conversation while we got settled and then completely ignore once we reclined for movies and sleep, thanks to the cocoon-like design of the lie-flat seats.


3. The in-flight entertainment system made it kind of hard to leave the plane.

All seven of the Harry Potter movies, all three of the Lord of the Rings movies, an entire collection devoted to Meryl Streep, plus a ton of Bollywood films and TV and music from around the world. I kept thinking, Why can’t Netflix have as good a selection? It was hard to choose between sleep and staying up all 13 hours to watch movies.

It was hard to choose between a Harry Potter marathon and a nap. I did both.

It was hard to choose between a Harry Potter marathon and a nap. I did both. Photo: Billie Cohen.


4. The food is good enough to be served on the ground.

Pumpkin and chestnut soup. Summer greens and mozzarella salad. Greek yogurt with raspberry compote and toasted granola. A selection of desserts from Ladurée. Special dishes created by Nobu Matsuhisa and Vineet Bhatia (the first Indian chef to win a Michelin star). And lots of small details added to the feeling of fine dining: warm mixed nuts, warm bread and butter, mini boxes of Valrhona chocolates, white-cloth napkins, real silverware, and real glasses. Unfortunately, my food pictures are horrible; I have not mastered the art of Instagramming dishes in any appetizing way whatsoever, so I haven’t done justice here, but believe me this was food I would’ve been happy to be served in a restaurant. And the best part is that it’s all delivered to your seat whenever you want, rather than when the flight attendants’ schedule says it’s time.

This yogurt parfait with raspberry compote was delicious.

This yogurt parfait with raspberry compote was delicious.


5. The award-winning lie-flat bed

As a light sleeper, I was skeptical that this “bed” would be as comfortable as promised. It was. After the flight attendants set you up with a thin mattress, a fluffy pillow and a light cloth quilt (none of that staticky fake fleece stuff), it is really hard to stay awake. On both flights, the lights were dimmed, with only the soft glow of the color-changing ceiling accents, which cycled through blues, greens, and oranges to indicate time of day. According to Qatar Airways, the purpose of the mood lighting—which exists in the economy cabin as well—is to decrease the effects of jet lag, but I’m thinking it has more to do with the beds than the light bulbs.

Qatar Airways lie-flat beds

The model in this press photo is not faking—the beds are comfortable. Photo courtesy Qatar Airways.

The fully adjustable bed not only made for comfortable sleeping, but for working, and curling up and watching Harry Potter. I especially appreciated the adjustable attached footrest; thanks to button controls that let you raise it to your comfort level, my short legs (which don’t usually reach the floor on airplanes…or buses, subways and office chairs for that matter) enjoyed the full benefits of a footrest for the first time I can remember.

At 4’11, my legs aren’t long enough to reach most footrests. Thanks to the adjustable one on my business-class seat, I got to see what all the fuss is about. I liked it.

At 4’11, my legs aren’t long enough to reach most footrests. Thanks to the adjustable one on my business-class seat, I got to see what all the fuss is about. I liked it.

The Not So Good

No exit 

There I am, happily cozying up in my reclined seat, snacking on chocolates, flipping through movies while my neighbor gently snored in the next seat, when nature called and I discovered the first downside to life in QA’s business class. Not the bathrooms (which were cleaned often and stocked with aromatic soaps), but the one drawback of these award-winning lie-flat beds.

I chose a window seat in on both of my flights. Great for sightseeing (I’m a sucker for takeoff and landing photos), but bad for every time I wanted to go to the bathroom. Once my seatmate was fully reclined and snoring, I was trapped: His feet reached all the way to the wall, so to get out of our row, I had to climb over his legs, a fate I had naively thought was limited to the coach-class experience. Thankfully he was a heavy sleeper and there wasn’t much turbulence. Otherwise, there could have been a very awkward spill onto his bed. If you want to avoid this on your next business class flight, check SeatGuru to determine the cabin’s seat configuration. If it’s 2-2-2, like mine was, choose the middle section to guarantee easy aisle access from both seats.

No Wi-Fi, inaccessible power

Power plugs are a must-have these days. Even if you’re distracted by Meryl Streep’s complete catalog of films, at some point on a 13-hour flight, most of us have to do some work. But on QR’s 777, the plug (which, conveniently, does not require an adapter) is inconveniently hidden behind the lower-leg portion of the seat. Even when the seat is in its fully upright position, it covers the recess where the plug is located; if I didn’t have small hands (and if I wasn’t willing to sit on the floor in front of my seat holding a phone flashlight), I would not have been able to plug in my computer. Once I did, I realized the other drawback of QR’s 777s: no Wi-Fi. I understand that some aircraft are older and not able, or worthwhile, to be retrofitted—and the airline’s 787s, A350s, and A380 all have internet—but business class should allow you to, you know, get some business done.

To be fair, these are pretty minor quibbles considering how comfortable the flights were, how impressive the food and service were, and how easy it was to sleep. While getting work out of the way is key to having a good vacation once you’re on the ground, the truth is that you can’t get anything done—on or off the plane—if you’re tired and hungry, and Qatar Airways sufficiently takes care of both. Plus, you get those pajamas.


*Full disclosure: My flight was fully paid for by Qatar Airways, as part of a small media trip to Anantara’s new Banana Island Resort, just off the coast of Doha. (The five of us were the first American journalists to see Anantara’s new property here.) Onboard, I watched carefully to see if the flight crew treated me or my colleagues any differently than other passengers and it did not seem to be so.

In keeping with WendyPerrin.com standard practice, there was no request for or expectation of coverage on our hosts’ part, nor was anything promised on ours. You can read our signed agreement with Qatar Airways here and with Anantara here. 

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Turkish Airlines plane

When To Buy Summer Airline Tickets to Europe

A ton of families I know have the same question each year: When is the best time to buy summer airline tickets to Europe? It’s trickier for a family of four or five that’s operating around school vacation dates than it is for a solo traveler or couple who have schedule flexibility and can wait for late-winter and spring airfare sales.

Here’s the latest quandary:

“Hi Wendy,
My family of four wants to leave in early June and spend three weeks in Spain, France, and Italy. We could fly to Paris, Barcelona, Rome, or whatever city affords the best airfare. Based on airfares we’ve been monitoring to date, Milan seems like the best value, with tickets in the $1,200 range. Milan would work well because it’s in the center and would allow us plenty of flexibility to go in any direction we like. We’re tempted to purchase the Milan flights but aren’t sure if we should wait a little longer to see if we can get a better deal. Thanks!  Greg”

For an in-depth answer, I turned to AirfareWatchdog founder George Hobica. “This is such a thorny question,” says George, “and no one has an ‘airfare magic eight ball.’” Nonetheless, he offers this advice to families generally:

* Fly before peak summer fares kick in.
“Early June is actually a good time to visit Europe because the summer peak fares have not kicked in yet. (Early June is still technically spring.) There could always be a sale. In fact, just recently OneWorld Alliance airlines (American, USAirways, Iberia, British Airways, etc.) had an unadvertised airfare sale to many European destinations, with fares 70% lower than usual. It was valid only for travel through May, but it proves the point that flash sales do happen. Airfare alerts by email are a good way to find them.”

* Search for two seats, then another two seats.
“When there are four people traveling, in addition to searching for four seats at a go, search for two seats plus two seats, in case there are only three seats available at the lowest fare.

* Consider connecting flights, even with forced overnights.
“Some airlines have been offering great deals to Europe if you’re willing to connect, sometimes with a forced overnight in the connecting city. Turkish Airlines, for example, has some very cheap fares from its U.S. gateways. (And everyone should experience their in-flight catering at least once. It’s really good!) You might have an overnight in Istanbul, but the good news is that they will give you either a free hotel at the airport or a free tour of Istanbul. Icelandair, Condor, Norwegian Air Shuttle, and now WOW Airlines are also offering some good fares. These fares might require long layovers, but the savings can be significant, especially for a family of four.”

And here’s George’s advice specific to this family’s request for flights to Italy, France, or Spain.

* Consider flying to Milan or Barcelona.
“As your reader discovered, Milan is relatively cheap to fly into and is centrally located. Emirates now flies New York to Milan non-stop, and there are even fares for a three-week trip departing in early June for $840 roundtrip, including taxes. Flying to Paris is going to be more expensive, with Barcelona a second choice after Milan. It’s a good idea to check fares into both Milan airports (MXP and LIN).”

* Wait to buy your tickets.
“There’s plenty of time to wait until pulling the trigger. Although I’m not airfare-psychic, I don’t expect early June fares to rise much above $1,200 roundtrip (that’s about what they cost currently from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, etc.), and they could go lower. So I think there’s more downside potential movement than upside. Wait and keep checking. Check airfares several times a day over a period of several weeks, and sign up for airfare emails at various airfare alert sites.”

In addition to signing up for AirfareWatchdog’s airfare alerts, you might also follow @airfarewatchdog on Twitter because George tweets surprise fare sales and sudden unadvertised deals to all manner of cool places.

Does anyone have additional tips for families buying summer airline tickets to Europe?