Updated: Sep 28
Flying overseas is often costly and lets face it – it is a long haul, often with one or two layovers that have you waiting around airport terminals, eating junk food, and feeling lethargic.
Once you arrive at your destination, you feel tired, and your energy is sapped and it may take a few days to get you back into the swing of things and actually enjoy your vacation.
But it doesn't have to be this way. You can find exceptionally good deals online and ways to make your stopover a vacation of its very own.
Iceland Air is the first airline to market to North America, as a viable, safe airline, with decent pricing and a stopover vacation. They have been doing this since 1960 and offer some deals every now and then.
More recently, Portugal's National Airline TAP, has been offering up much the same but with some greater deals and options.
TAP flies out of 35 major US airports and only one Canadian airport, so we will focus on both JFK airport in New York City, and Pearson International out of Toronto, Canada, just too keep things simple.
Doing a quick online search, a direct flight to most European cities using any other airline ranges from $700US to well over $3200. Direct flights are convenient but you end up paying a premium and that is why Iceland Air and TAP Portugal offer direct flights to their distinct countries, but offer up amazing deals with Stop Overs in each particular country.
Basically, you fly into Portugal, have a layover from one to five days exploring the country, including free excursions, free wine, discounted hotel rooms, and sometimes free, yes, free domestic flights within the country.
First, we'll look at the initial costs to fly to Portugal, then we'll discover the layover options and then we'll talk about TAP specifically and what to expect.
Currently, on TAPS deal web site, we can find many options to fly directly into Portugal. Below are the costs as of publication:
Toronto to Lisbon - $271 CND
NY to Lisbon - $210 USD
Toronto to Porto - $276 CND
NY to Porto - $215 USD
Now let's look at the costs to fly to other popular destinations in Europe:
Toronto to Paris $291 CND
NY to Paris $226 USD
Toronto to Amsterdam $291 CND
NY to Amsterdam $ 226 USD
Toronto to Barcelona $291 CND
NY to Barcelona $226 USD
Toronto to London $304 CND
NY to London $236 USD
Toronto to Prague $359 CND
NY to Prague $279 USD But here is the really cool part. Portugal is an amazing place to visit, and offers up some great deals for travellers. TAP and the ministry of tourism of Portugal want you to experience the country before or after you visit other places in Europe and they make a decent offering.
You can stay up to five days in Portugal, at no extra cost. Basically, you get a virtually free vacation with a lot of perks.
So what are these perks?
The first perks are what they call Experiences. You can get free wine at any partner restaurants in Lisbon, take a guided historical tour of the city, or hop on a Tuk Tuk and discover Belem with coffee and pastries.
Next, you will save between 20 to 40% on hotels in any of the cities that participate.
There are other great offers as well, including discounts from 10 to 30% off tours and attractions like the Zoo and Aquarium, historic castles and museums.
And it gets better.
TAP sometimes offers free, yes, free domestic flights, if you book a stayover. So if you fly into Lisbon and then want to check out Porto, it is possible!
Flying TAP is pretty basic. It is a no-frills airline that reflects the cheap price you pay upfront. According to the 2011 JACDEC Airliner Safety Report, TAP is considered the safest airline in Western Europe, and the fourth safest in the world, so even though it is a budget airline, they seem to be spending money on maintenance and flight crew, something I like them to focus upon.
TAP flies the Airbus A330 with one business class and two economy cabins. Nearly all of their jets were purchased in 2016, so they are all relatively new. One of the most common complaints is the seat comfort in the TAP Portugal Airbus. They are more padded than United, or American Airlines but are far less comfortable than any other airline flying overseas.
Two meals are served on the flight, and yes, they aren't that impressive but Beer and Wine are included. I would suggest picking up some airport snacks and drinks before departing to fill in those moments of need.
If you are in luck, you can find yourself, in an upgraded seat.
Here is the trick.
TAP recently launched an auction style upgrade system. With Plusgrade, after making a reservation, and up to 36 hours before the flight, passengers can bid on upgraded empty seats. You can also use miles to upgrade as well. For those who know about this bidding, you can score a decent upgraded seat with better service at little additional cost.
A lot of people don't know about this option, because they rarely check their emails coming from the airline thinking that it is just marketing junk and someone who just spent as little as possible getting a flight, isn't usually keen on hearing the words “Want to Upgrade at a cost?”
But consider this, you find an upgraded seat and service for an extra $5 – aren't you glad you are part of Experience This 360?
I hope this helps you make your trip to Europe more affordable, more enjoyable and with more adventure.
Did you enjoy reading this article? Consider tipping us and buying a cup of coffee for our hardworking independent travel journalists. Who knows, the life you save, may be your own.