By Barney Gimbel

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Vacations should start on the plane. So if you're planning a trip to Europe soon, consider upgrading from coach. During the summer, airlines often run out of cheap seats early but have a glut of space in the front of the plane. Why? There are fewer business travelers and tons more tourists waiting to climb the Eiffel Tower. If you plan ahead--usually more than 60 days--airlines like Continental, United, Lufthansa, and Air France have business-class fares that aren't a whole lot more than a coach ticket.

Take the popular New York--Paris route. For a typical week's vacation in July, business class on Continental is $1,798 (normally it's more than $6,500); Dallas to Amsterdam on Air France is $1,982; Charlotte to Brussels on Lufthansa is $2,484; Phoenix to Zurich on United is $2,198. Eos and MaxJet, two new all-business-class carriers, are also cutting summer fares from New York to London (fares start at $2,950 on Eos and $1,398 on MaxJet). While all prices are about double the cost of coach, you'll get double the legroom--and on long flights, every inch counts.