Avila or Appenzell, Paris or Turku, there's a way
Yes, Europe can be expensive, and yes, the dollar is taking a battering against the euro. But, no, that doesn't mean there are not good deals on the Continent. Consider:
- A 7-Day Classic Spain & Portugal package from Gate 1 Travel starts at $1,529 including round-trip airfare from Boston and four-star hotels. The escorted tour visits Madrid, Segovia, Avila, and Salamanca in Spain, and Fatima and Lisbon in Portugal. Included are daily breakfasts and one dinner with wine, an air-conditioned coach, tour managers and local guides, two nights' lodging in Madrid, an overnight in Salamanca, and two nights in Lisbon. Departures are July 25 to Nov. 21.
Visit gate1travel.com or call 800-682-3333.
- An all-inclusive six-night guided hiking excursion in Switzerland's Appenzellerland is being offered by Ryder Walker Alpine Adventures Sept. 20-25, for $1,750, land only. The Säntis range towers over the village of Appenzell. Hikes average six miles a day, with ascents up to 3,000 feet. Overnights are in inns, berghauses, and a high mountain "hut," featuring down comforters and hot-water showers. The return to Appenzell is through forest and meadow with the last night in a first-class hotel on the town square. The price includes daily breakfast and dinner and transportation from Zurich.
Visit ryderwalker.com/appenzellerland.html or call 888-586-8365.
- A nine-day air/hotel package from Boston to London and Paris from Go Ahead Tours costs about $2,000-$2,500, depending upon the fall departure date. The price includes round-trip flights, transfers; services of a tour director; motorcoach transport; and seven nights' accommodation, along with daily breakfast, hotel services, charges and tips, and a ride on the high-speed Eurostar train.
Visit goaheadtours.com or call 800-590-1170.
- Independent seven-night King's Road Tour Packages to Helsinki and Turku, Finland, and Stockholm cost $1,370, land only. The package from Scanam World Tours includes three nights in Helsinki and one in Stockholm at first-class Scandic Hotels with breakfast, two nights at the Naantali Spa Hotel in Turku, and an overnight crossing from Turku to Stockholm in a seaside cabin with breakfast. Helsinki sightseeing, a train excursion to medieval Porvoo, and a private transfer from the Turku station to Naantali are included. The tour company also has a two-day Norway in a Nutshell package for $510.
Visit scanamtours.com or call 800-545-2204.
- Looking toward 2009, CIE Tours International is introducing a Scots Irish Tour combining four nights in Scotland with five nights in Northern Ireland and Dublin, and priced from $1,798 plus airfare. Departures start next April 30 and run every other week until Oct. 26. The price includes superior and first-class hotel accommodations for nine nights; full Scottish and Irish breakfasts daily; eight dinners including a Scottish cabaret dinner in Edinburgh and dinner-show in Dublin; all admission charges; motorcoach transport; all local taxes and service charges, and other amenities.
Visit www.cietours.com see a travel agent, or call 800-CIE-TOUR (243-8687).
- Observant readers may have noted that the above offers are tours of one sort or another, and there is a reason for that. The US Tour Operators Association says such trips can save travelers about 30 percent over the cost of making their own arrangements because tour operators negotiate long-term contracts and buy airfare in bulk. One example: Image Tours' 15-day Heart of Europe Summer Special tour costs $2,990 with airfare from New York and visits Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and France. The tour includes hotel accommodations, transportation within Europe, 22 meals, sightseeing, tips, and service charges. The same itinerary, if bought on your own, would have these approximate expenses: hotels $1,280; airfare $1,400; car rental, insurance, and parking fees $500; sightseeing $200; meals $900; and tips and service charges $200 - for a total of $4,480. The price difference is surely an incentive to try a tour. I find that an occasional group trip can be fun, but if you feel freer on your own, the extra cost and trouble may be worth it to you.
For a lot of information on European travel, including accommodations, weather, and even electronic greeting cards, go to visiteurope.com.
- As we note at the end of this column every week, taxes and fees can increase the cost of a flight, sometimes by quite a bit. Accordingly, the European Parliament has approved rules, to take effect early next year, that will require airlines to reveal all costs - those taxes and fees plus baggage, seat, and other charges - at the start of booking. That may not lower the price but it should eliminate the jolt some travelers get when the extra costs suddenly appear.
Eastern Mountain Sports stores and White Mountain Exploration in Plymouth, N.H., have launched an outdoor adventure program that includes zip-lining, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, geocaching, and guided hikes. Prices vary.
There are also multiday packages such as a Kids and Teens Mini Weekend Adventure with three days of activities, meals, accommodations in chaperoned new rustic yurts, and movies and games. The cost is $295 a person. A Couples and Friends' Two-Night Adventure Package, meanwhile, includes lodging in a new luxury yurt, a day and a half of guided activities, one Zip Line Canopy tour pass, boxed lunches, activity gear, and daily transportation for $710 per couple and $220 for each additional person.
For these and other packages, visit whitemountainexploration.com or call 888-289-1020.
Those arty waterfalls
Olafur Eliasson's "The New York City Waterfalls," the $15.5 million display comprising four man-made waterfalls in New York Harbor (and featured on Page M5 in last week's Travel section) is drawing a lot of attention, and various hotels in the city are making it easy to see the art installation, which is situated along the shorelines of Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Governors Island.
Apple Corps Hotels, for instance, has a Sail Along the Falls package, featuring accommodations in the heart of New York and a 25 percent discount for two on Circle Line's two-hour NYC Waterfalls sailing. Breakfast is also included, and children under 13 stay free when sharing their parents' room. Rates start at $257 a night. (Visit applecorehotels.com/promos/waterfall.)
The Shoreham hotel's Waterfalls package includes accommodations at the boutique property, an hourlong luxury boat tour of the Waterfalls, continental breakfast for two, two all-day NYC Metrocards, and a pocket-sized NYC guidebook. Rates start at $299 a night. (Visit shorehamhotel.com.)
The New York City Waterfalls package at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, meanwhile, includes overnight luxury accommodations, two tickets for a 60-minute cruise to view the Waterfalls with Circle Line Downtown, one-way luxury car service to the South Street Seaport departure point, and breakfast for two. Rates start at $825 a night. (Visit ritzcarlton.com.)
For the military
The Soldiers', Sailors', Marines', Coast Guard and Airmen's Club in the Murray Hill section of New York provides accommodations for both active military and veterans and their families for about $47 a night. The club says the lodging is safe and convenient.
Visit ssmaclub.org or call 800-678-8443.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.