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Last week I wrote a post on all the uncertainties I’m facing in connection with my planned family reunion in Europe. The main obstacle, of course, is the war between Russia and Ukraine, where Belarus happens to be a co-aggressor. On top of it, my dad is having some serious health issues and is scheduled for medical tests.
Well, if that wasn’t enough, just the other day I got a notification that our Finnair award flight from Croatia to Iceland is now canceled. I booked it a few months ago using AAdvantage currency at 12.5k miles per person, which I thought was a great deal. But even more importantly, it gave me flexibility of being able to cancel the tickets with no penalty in case our travel plans change.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be. Our flight to Helsinki was pushed back three days, and we would now have to overnight in Finland. That ain’t gonna work. Back to the drawing board I go. I could not find any decent alternatives via miles, and I checked several programs. Either we would have to make three connections, or award options for the route simply didn’t exist.
So, I had to check what revenue flights were available for this particular itinerary.
Narrowing down my options
I’m hoping that my thinking process will benefit those of you who are a bit nervous about using low-cost carriers in Europe. Don’t be. Europe has high aviation safety standards, and all airlines have to adhere to the same rules. As far as extra costs (baggage and so on) go, those can be substantial. Still, if the price of the ticket is low enough, they may not be a deal breaker.
I’ve flown on quite a few low-cost airlines, including Ryanair and Easyjet, and would do so again without hesitation. Of course, you do lose flexibility compared to mileage tickets, but depending on the price and schedule, it may be worth it.
If you have a specific destination and date in mind, I recommend checking Kayak.com first. Unlike some booking portals, it lists low-cost carriers. In my case, since we plan on staying in Kotor (Montenegro), I have a choice of flying out of Tivat, Podgorica or Dubrovnik. The first one is the most convenient, since it’s only 20 minutes away.
Unfortunately, I was not able to find any decent flight combinations from any of these airports. They were either too expensive or had too many connections. So, I’ve decided to see if we can break up our trek to Iceland into two legs and overnight somewhere in Europe. In order to see all the direct flights from a specific airport, I recommend starting with Flightconnections website.
It instantly shows you all the options. Keep in mind that it may not be 100% up to date. Still, it’s a valuable resource.
Based on this info, I have quite a few options, mainly large cities. But I also need to make sure that wherever we go also has a direct flight to Iceland.
I’ll also share this easy hack with you: check the airport’s own website. Usually it will list all the airlines and routes. In case of Tivat airport, it even shows you who flies where, sorted by date.
This is super handy if you are not sure exactly where you want to fly. In my case, since I haven’t been to Paris, I wanted to check that option first. Turns out, that we can fly from Tivat to Paris for only $50 per person one-way on Transavia France.
From Paris to Reykjavik we can use low-cost Play airline for around $150 apiece. Of course, we will have to cover luggage charges and other possible expenses. Still, it’s not a bad deal for getting all the way to Iceland from a tiny airport in Montenegro. And of course, a cherry on top is spending two nights in Paris. It does complicate our itinerary somewhat, but if we have to overnight somewhere anyway, Paris isn’t the worst option, am I right?
Why I’m not booking these flights just yet
As I’ve mentioned earlier, a lot can change in a month, and it mostly has to do with the war in Ukraine. Our Montenegro plan is directly tied to Turkish Airlines operating flights to Belarus. So far, the airline has been canceling them due to military activity in the area. Right now there are ceasefire talks being held between Russia and Ukraine, and many people are hopeful. I’m very skeptical because Russia is essentially a terrorist state. And you can’t trust terrorists.
If my family can’t make it to Montenegro, then our plan is off. I will probably have to switch all of our reservations to Turkey. Then I’ll have to come up with a plan to get to Iceland from Istanbul with no more than a couple of weeks’ notice. Should be fun, so stay tuned.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.