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If you think London, Paris and Rome are too expensive to visit, read this

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Wanna travel to Rome? You might be able to find a cheaper option than you think.

Wanna travel to Rome? You might be able to find a cheaper option than you think.  (iStock)

So, what are you doing the next couple of months? You think maybe it's time for a trip? To London, Paris or Rome, perhaps?

Don’t say no just yet: This winter, there are tons of flights deals for travel between the U.S. and Europe — if you know how to find them.

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Here are five things to keep in mind as you shop for deals:

#1. Sometimes, the city you like best will be the most expensive

And if that is the case, you could fly to one of the cheaper destinations, then plan your trip so the journey to your favorite European city is part of the adventure. For example, if you fly into Paris but want to see London, there are discount airlines that can get you there (including Ryanair and Easyjet) or take a Eurostar train under the sea via the Channel Tunnel, sometimes called the Chunnel. If you’ve got your heart set on Rome, see if there’s a cheaper Italian city to fly to (Milan can be a bargain) and take a train from there.

#2. Most of the best fares depart from big cities

If you live in a smaller town, see if you can drive to a large hub airport; if that’s too far, see if you can find a cheap flight on an ultra discount airline to a bigger airport. Sometimes, even if you have to pay for an additional flight, it can still work out to be cheaper than flying from your hometown to Europe, but always compare fares from different airports to be certain.

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#3. Fares can and do change with little warning

Here are just a few fares found on an airfare comparison site late last week, which were good for travel in February and March.

  • Boston – London, $388
  • Chicago – Paris, $476
  • Denver – Paris, $443
  • Los Angeles – Rome, $476
  • New York – Rome, $394
  • San Francisco – London, $408
  • Seattle – Paris, $545

That said, you may not find the airfare prices seen above, because the airlines are sometimes quick to change them. Anytime they see a surge in demand for certain routes, they will raise their prices because they are confident people will pay the higher prices, and when demand wanes, prices drop, too. The price hikes (and drops) can happen anytime and with no notice, so if you see a price you love, act fast.

#4. Look for inconvenient flights on inconvenient travel dates

Often, the deals include a stop (or even two) so you may have to skip the convenience of a non-stop in favor of a connecting flight. It can also pay to have some flexibility in your itinerary; next time you shop, try using a tool that finds cheapest travel dates by month. 

LondonIstock

Traveling to a pricey city, like London? The fares might drop if you leave in the middle of the week.  (iStock)

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#5. Find your passport now

Do you have to renew it? You may, even if it’s valid through your trip because some countries refuse entry to visitors whose passports expire within six months of entry. See more on this at the U.S. State Department’s site, Travel.State.Gov, along with a step-by-step guide on getting or renewing passports plus useful info about countries around the world.

Europe is easier — and cheaper — than you think. Have a wonderful time.

Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of FareCompare.com, an airfare comparison shopping site

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