Seattleites: Detour to Vancouver for best deals on European air fares this spring

It's not too early to be thinking about spring travel to Europe, and if you live in Seattle, a short drive north to Vancouver, B.C. could save you hundreds of dollars in air fares.

A quick search on Kayak.com, the meta-search site that scans for the lowest fares and links you to airline web sites and/or third-party sites for booking, shows some significant fare differences on round-trip travel between Seattle, Paris, London and Rome. vs. departing from Vancouver.

Here are some examples of what I found when searching fares for mid-March travel: 

Seattle/Rome round-trip: $1175 on Delta, British and American vs. Vancouver/Rome at $713 on Delta, $660 on British and $658 on American.

Seattle/Paris round trip: $1156 on Delta, $1180 on British and $1127 on American vs. Vancouver/Paris at $685 on Delta, $789 on British and $609 on American. 

Seattle/London round trip: $911 on Delta and $933 on British and American vs. Vancouver/London at $649 on Delta and $706 on British and American. 

What's up? Airlines will site "different markets'' for price differences rather than costs. There's simply more competition on flights in and out of Vancouver, not to mention that the airlines may perceive Seattleites (think Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing) as simply willing to pay more for air fares, just as they are for housing, restaurants, groceries and most everything else. 

So how much of a hassle is it to travel to Vancouver International Airport to catch a flight? I did this for the first time last spring and found it worth the savings. Amtrak and BoltBus travel between the two cities, but their schedules can be a problem depending on flight times. I used Quick Coach Shuttle which picks up in downtown Seattle four to five times daily, and drops off at Vancouver's River Rock Casino, a few SkyTrain stops away (Canada line, Bridgeport Station) from the airport. The three-hour trip adult fare is $69 or $43 one-way. The Sky Train fare is $5 Canadian. That adds up to less than $100 plus an extra three hours of your time. Driving your own car and parking (Nearby secure lots offer reasonable weekly and monthly rates) is another option. Obviously it's not worth it if the difference in air fares is small, but from my experience, it's totally worth it for a savings of several hundred dollars. Remember you are leaving from another country and different rules regarding carry-on and checked luggage may apply. Check with your airline on size and weight restrictions. 

One more finding: If you happen to have European friends thinking of visiting the U.S. this spring, they are in luck. Fares on the reverse routes (Rome/Seattle, Paris/Seattle, London/Seattle) are much lower. For the same March dates, Delta's quoted a Rome/Seattle round-trip fare $632. British and American quoted $645. Go figure. 

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