With my first ever ski holiday approaching fast, the time had come to start researching some cheap flights to Europe. I’ve always been under the impression that if you want a good flight deal, then you go straight to the easyJet, Monarch and Ryanair websites, and do a labour intensive search through all of London’s airports, on all three websites.

This has been my default setting up until now, and I generally end up booking a slightly cheaper flight at some awkward hour and later realizing that I’m going to have to get up at 4.30am on the first day of my holiday and I saved the grand total of £14.50. Taking into account that I’ve written off day one of my trip by being a sleep-starved wreck, and drunk far too many European coffees (adding up to well over £14.50 no doubt), the deal is never quite as sweet as I originally thought.

Things to bear in mind when researching budget flights

At the weekend I was sitting down with the MadDogSki team ready to book our ski flights to Europe, and off I went straight to that familiar, overly-orange, budget flight booking site that I know so well. Happily I was with the ski trip planning pros, and discovered that for finding cheap flights to many European ski destinations, the big three budget airlines are not necessarily the best way to go.

If you’re flying to Geneva, for example, the best budget flight deals often come up with SWISS Air or British Airways. I was surprised to find their flight prices coming in substantially cheaper, and that was the case for flights from both London and Manchester. Add to that that these airlines don’t charge you extra for baggage, and will often serve up complimentary snacks and drinks during your flight, then it’s a real no-brainer (plus you don’t have to put up with all that nasty orange colour everywhere).

And it’s not necessarily a case of just finding the cheapest flight either. When it comes to flying to Europe from London, it can also make a big difference which airport you choose to fly from. The MadDogSki team are big fans of London’s City Airport for their ski trip flights, as it’s extremely quick and easy to get to. There’s no slogging for miles out of town, and no extra travel costs either. All you need is your Oyster card and the usual hour that it takes to get anywhere in London – genius!

Consider taking the train to Europe instead

If you’re busy searching for a cheap flight to France or Switzerland, then you might also want to consider taking the train to Europe. Often you’ll be able to find budget-friendly Eurostar offers, depending on the season. For example, this month Eurostar are offering a return to Switzerland for just £119. You can spend the money you saved on a nice bottle of champagne and pack a Eurostar picnic to enjoy as you cruise through the French countryside (much more civilised than Ryan Air).

In the end, after checking out both BA and Lufthansa, for our ski trip to Austria, easyJet did turn out to offer the cheapest flights for our dates. But, it’s good to know that this is not always the case, and one day soon I’ll escape the cheap flight monopoly of the big three, and especially that dreaded orange.

Over the next five weeks I’ll be documenting my experiences of learning to ski here on the MadDogSki blog, so stay tuned for a first-hand account of the highs and lows of the journey and all the beginner ski tips that come out of it.