Don't miss out! Join the thousands of people who subscribe to our once-daily email or our free miles and points Facebook group with all the best travel news. Points With a Crew has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Points With a Crew and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
If you’re like many Americans, you have a “bucket list” of things to do in life. At the top of that list is probably seeing some amazing sites or experiencing a new culture. And doing all of that on a budget.
As the “fare deal” writer here at PwaC, I’m constantly searching for cheap airfare around the world. Contrary to popular belief, we are in a golden age of air travel: currently, it’s possible to fly halfway around the world for less money than it recently took to fly to the next state.
Google Flights is the easiest, and in some ways best, way to start searching for airfares. But there’s a hidden difference between the fares offered for flights from the U.S. to Europe, and those for Asia (and most of the rest of the world). You may find it one reason to book a bucket list trip to Asia before Europe.
Basic Economy to Europe (& Elsewhere)
When you see flights to Europe (and Central America and the Caribbean) on Google Flights, most of those fares are basic economy. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, basic economy fares are “bare bones” options; they usually include only an unassigned seat (typically the least desirable), a carry-on bag, and an economy class meal. Some airlines provide even less: Norwegian and Icelandair charge for meals.
The most important aspect of booking a flight for many people, especially families, is choosing seats. No basic economy fares to Europe allow free seat selection at booking, though SAS lets you pick seats 22 hours prior to departure. For that you’ll have to “buy up” to main economy (which usually includes a checked bag as well).
Buying up to main cabin economy to Europe is pretty standard. Outside of summer or holiday travel, the cost is generally $120-$160 round trip. In summer that can easily rise to $200 or $300 or more. For Caribbean and Central American flights it’s often $60 – $120, depending on low or high season. Fares are still incredibly cheap, at least outside of heavy travel times, but be aware that the lowest price you see to Europe and Central America does not include choosing your seat and a checked bag. So plan on a bit more money if you’re booking that dream flight to Paris or Rome or Bermuda, because you’ll want to sit with your spouse and kids…hopefully.
One Reason to Book Fares to Asia & Everywhere Else
One great thing about the fares you’ll find on Google Flights to Asia: they are all main economy and thus include seat selection and checked bags! No carrier I have found offers basic economy to Asia; every fare includes seat choice, meals (and alcohol if you desire) and usually 2 checked bags. The same can be said for flights to Africa and Australia as well. South American fares generally offer the same, though 1 checked bag is offered on Interjet, and low cost carriers do operate basic economy to South America.
It’s often less hassle to fly with carry-on luggage only, but sometimes that’s just not possible, especially with kids. Those 2 free checked bags can make a huge difference in cost for travel. Plus, knowing that you can pick seats together reduces a lot of stress when planning a trip.
Main cabin economy as standard to Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America isn’t guaranteed to last. If you’re planning a trip for the near future, you might find that one reason to book those places first. Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean may have to wait another year.
The Price is Right, No Matter Where You Go
So when you’re planning to see the Great Wall of China, or cherry blossoms in Tokyo, or the legendary Machu Picchu, know that the price you see on Google Flights or with your online travel agency is what you’ll pay. And when you’re planning for Rome or Paris, budget another $160 each for seats and a single checked bag. Whatever choice you make, you’ll cherish the memories for a lifetime. And that is priceless.
Points With a Crew has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Points With a Crew and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Other links on this page may also pay me a commission - as always, thanks for your support if you use them