This month, our featured fare is a remarkably flexible one, packed with options and possibilities. One that lands you in one of Europe’s great capitals and flies you home from another even richer. Like all open jaw tickets, it is ideal for those who want to specifically explore both cities (in this case London and Athens), but is just as perfect for anyone wanting to see everything in between England and Greece, or, as much of Europe as possible.
An open what? What is an open jaw ticket?
Before we get into everything you can do with a ticket like this, let’s first take a look at what you’re getting for the fare. An open jaw ticket, named as such for the route’s resemblance to an actual 'open jaw' when drawn on a map, is a return ticket that flies you into one city and brings you home from another, leaving you to get between the two as you please. In this case, the flight between London and Athens is not included in the fare, leaving you with ample options to connect the dots.
Getting there (and back) with Air Canada
Have you seen Air Canada’s recent makeover? To help commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday, our national carrier has a new look and feel, complete with redesigned (retro) livery, flight attendant uniforms, and even a new onboard coffee supplier!
The airline’s extensive European network, combining both the airline’s mainline (scheduled) service as well as Air Canada rouge flights, offers plenty of non-stop options to London (both Heathrow and Gatwick Airports) from across Canada throughout the year. In fact, the airline has over 20,000 seats per week!
Flights to Gatwick Airport are handled by rouge aboard Boeing 767 aircraft, featuring Economy and Premium Rouge cabins. Heathrow Airport is serviced by Air Canada proper, on a variety of aircraft, including the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner, with Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class options on board.
Athens is currently a seasonal destination for Air Canada, running daily from Toronto and 6-times weekly from Montreal in the summer months only. At all other times of the year, Air Canada routes through London, Paris or Frankfurt using its Star Alliance partners onwards to Athens.
Whether you are travelling on Air Canada rouge or Air Canada (proper), Aeroplan points are earned on all legs.
Great, but how do I get from London to Athens?
This is the best part. And the answer is, it’s completely up to you. For anyone needing ideas, keep reading.
For those that are coming for London and Athens and not much else, the quickest and cheapest way between the two would be to take advantage of the year-round cheap tickets available departing from any of London's airports. Great fares can be found with both scheduled airlines (British Airways or Olympic Air) or with one of Europe's many discount carriers such as Ryanair.
Low-cost airlines will often depart from one of London's secondary airports so do make sure to look at Gatwick, Stansted and Luton Airports, as well as Heathrow, of course. A recent search with Ryanair found one-wayfares as low as 36GBP between Stansted and Athens!
For anyone that enjoys the freedom of getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road, renting a car and driving everywhere you want to get to can easily be done. Ever since European countries opened their borders to each other, getting from one to another is seamless, often marked by a simple sign on the side of the road. If you can drive ‘stick’, it’s a fairly economical option too. In Europe, standard transmission vehicles are almost half the cost of renting an automatic car.
The tricky part is one-way rentals, which can sometimes be expensive. Generally, picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another city, let alone another country, can be quite pricey. Chunnel Tunnel crossings (the underwater 50km tunnel linking the UK to France) using a rented car may also not be allowed by some car rental companies.
To avoid this, grab the Eurostar train from London to either Paris or Brussels. In mainland Europe, Hertz allows for one way rentals from Paris to Athens – without a drop fee!
As a sample, I priced the following:
A basic 2-week rental - picking up in Paris, France on May 15th and dropping off in Athens, Greece on May 29th.An economy 2-door (Opel Corsa or similar) with unlimited kms came in at $286.98USD (or $20 p/day!), including the Value Added Tax (VAT).
Not a bad price for freedom, I’d say!
Rail Pass anyone?
If you’re like me, the idea of driving on my holiday isn’t relaxing - far from it actually. Luckily, Europe’s incredible network of railways make getting anywhere by train possible and affordable. Rail Europe offers just about every point-to-point train ticket on the continent as well as value added rail passes, combining countries that can take you from France straight through to Greece.
Rail Passes are priced according to the number of countries you choose to travel through, the duration of the pass (number of days), as well as the class of service. To get from France to Greece, and to see just about everything there is to see in Europe, I would recommend the following pass.
Eurail Global Pass: Unlimited rail travel in 28 countries: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Rep., Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Rep., Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey.
The continuous pass is good for 15 or 22 travel days, or 1, 2 or 3 travel months. The Flexi-Pass option allows 5 or 7 travel days within a month or 10 or 15 travel days to be used within a 2 month period, with your choice of consecutive or non-consecutive travel days. All travel is First Class unless you’re under 26 years of age, where you qualify for a youth pass, travelling in Second Class. If 2 or more adults are travelling together, a Saverpass is the way to go for a discount. Up to 2 children (ages 4-11) ride FREE with each adult traveller!
Adult passes (1st class) start at $684 and Youth (2nd class) at $448 for 5 days of travel over a 15 day period.
*Certain trains will require seat reservations at an extra cost, booked locally.
Finally, for the most relaxing European experience of all, you simply can’t beat an escorted motor coach tour. All local transport is taken care of (and super comfortable!), your itinerary, sightseeing and admission to sights arranged, and all hotel nights, as well as many meals, included. Tour leaders and their local tour guides immerse you fully into a country's culture, customs and
history with insightful anecdotes and local lore, answering any questions you may have along the way (often in a handful of languages too!). Sightseeing is often front-of-the-line, saving groups hours from waiting in queue at popular museums, galleries, places of worship and other points of interest.
Keep in mind that not all tour companies cater to the same clientele. There are low-cost versions of many higher-end tours that differ by simply using hotels that aren't as central as their more expensive counterparts. There are more adventurous and active tour companies too, like The Backroads Touring Company, where getting from A to B is done by bike in a particular European region like Tuscany or Provence.
There are more fun-focused tours companies too; Contiki, Topdeck Travel and Geckos all cater to the 18 to 30-something crowd and their tours often result in lifelong friendships between those that have met on one of their adventures.
Then you have the more mainstream touring companies, top-quality tour providers and leaders in the field like Globus, Trafalgar, Cosmos and Insight. Each has decades of experience and offer the full European experience. Tours range from those that focus on a specific region, sometimes even within a country, as well as full-on panoramas that can literally take you from London to Athens to catch your flight home. Combine shorter tours to create one epic adventure or break it up with a European river cruise. As you can see, the options really are endless.