Europe for Less

Europe for Less

Guy Billout Europe for Less Europe for Less
Europe for Less
Guy Billout Europe for Less
Europe for Less
The dollar may have reached a record low, but there are still ways to save. Here, four tips to help make your next trip abroad a reality.

This summer, traveling in Europe could wind up costing you more than you’d bargained for. At press time, the dollar had plummeted to an all-time low of $1.52 against the euro, and $1.98 against the British pound. Fortunately, even in the most expensive countries, it’s possible to avoid feeling the pinch.

1. Choose a Cruise

“Cruises are still the best value for your money,” says Mary Jean Tully, CEO of the Toronto, Ontario–based Cruise Professionals. “To stay at a top hotel in many countries in Europe right now, you’re looking at—and this is no exaggeration—a minimum of about 550 euros, or $800, a night.” Cruises, however, are immune to seesawing exchange rates, as they’re priced in U.S. dollars and set a year or more in advance, which means there are no surprises. “You know up front what you’re spending, and you pay before you go,” Tully adds, noting that all-inclusive daily rates can range from $250 to $600 per person and often cover everything from onboard entertainment to meals and cocktails. Fortunately for travelers, the competition is strong among cruise lines in Europe—so despite inflation in recent years, cruise rates have remained stable.

Cruise vs. Land-Based Trip

By Sea Part of the luxury line’s Value Collection, Crystal Cruises’ 13-day Epicurean Odyssey sails from Athens to London, with stops in Sicily, Málaga, Seville, Lisbon, Oporto, and Bordeaux.

Cost $4,995 per person for a 202-square-foot Deluxe Stateroom E, which includes meals, onboard entertainment, and nonalcoholic beverages (888/722-0021; crystalcruises.com).

By Land Creating a comparable 13-day itinerary would mean booking seven hotels, each offering the same five-star luxury as Crystal Cruises.

Cost Luxury hotels in the region covered by Crystal’s Epicurean Odyssey start in the $400-a-night range and can easily cost twice that. You would also need to pay for food, air between cities, and ground transportation, thus far exceeding Crystal’s average price of $385 a day, all-inclusive.

2. Fly Without Frills

The number of flights in Europe hit an all-time high last year—nearly 10 million—with the growth driven mainly by the 60 low-cost carriers operating in the region. “You can fly at ridiculously low prices if you’re willing to make a few modifications to your itinerary,” says F. Peter Herff II, chairman of the San Antonio, Texas–based Herff Travel, a T+L A-List travel agent. There are a few drawbacks to no-frills flights: Travelers need to factor in more time when flying into and out of secondary airports, where many of these airlines are located. Baggage allowances are often skimpy, so check the fine print for any extra luggage surcharges, which can significantly inflate the total fare. Most budget carriers sell directly to travelers online; check Flycheapo.com for a comprehensive list of airlines and routes. And keep an eye on airline Web sites for sales, when ticket prices can be reduced by up to 90 percent. Earlier this year, one-way Ryanair tickets from London Stansted to 21 European cities, including Barcelona and St.-Tropez, started at just 5 pounds ($10)—including taxes and fees.

Low-Cost Carrier vs. Traditional Airline

Ryanair From London Stansted to Montpellier, France, departing May 20 and returning May 27.

Cost $168 for one round-trip seat, including taxes and fees.

Air France From London Heathrow to Montpellier (via Paris), departing May 20 and returning May 27.

Cost $408 for one round-trip economy seat, including taxes and fees.


3. Opt for an Apartment

Fueled by high demand, Europe’s already steep hotel-room rates rose an average of 5.3 percent last year, with even bigger increases in cities like Moscow (14.9 percent) and London (9.5 percent), according to the latest HotelBenchmark Survey by Deloitte. Vacation apartment rentals may not offer all the amenities of a hotel, but they’re cost-effective, especially for groups or families planning to stay in one place for at least a week (the standard minimum). “The more people you are traveling with, the more it makes sense to rent rather than stay in a hotel,” says Suzanne Pidduck, founder of the Ventura, California–based Rentvillas, which specializes in villas and apartments throughout Europe. “Another advantage: you have a kitchen, so you don’t have to go out for every meal,” Pidduck says. “That’s a huge cost saver.” Janine Safer Whitney, a travel consultant with the New York–based Altour International, pinpoints London as particularly good for rentals. It’s the third most expensive city in Europe for hotels, but because it is a major financial hub, there are plenty of apartments geared toward business travelers, at a wide range of prices. “Ask for an apartment-hotel, where you can get some of the services of a hotel,” advises Safer, who recommends the Athenaeum (44-20/7499-3464; athenaeumhotel.com; apartments from $1,200), a row of Edwardian town houses connected to a hotel with 33 one- or two-bedroom luxury apartments, in the heart of London’s West End.

Apartment vs. Hotel in Paris

Apartment Van Gogh A 580-square-foot one-bedroom apartment in Paris’s Latin Quarter, accommodating up to four, with modern, all-white décor, a queen-size bed, a fully equipped kitchen, high-speed Internet, and cable (Paris Luxe Apartments; 800/708-7659; parisluxeapt.com).

Cost $2,900 a week.

Victoria Palace Hotel A 485-square-foot suite in the Sixth Arrondissement, with Louis XVI–style furnishings, a queen-size bed, a courtyard view, and high-speed Internet (33-1/45-49-70-00; victoriapalace.com).

Cost Up to $950 a night.

4. Ask for a Better Exchange Rate

“There hasn’t been much price erosion in the upper end of the hotel market, but when there’s any downturn in travel demand, one strategy for some hotels has been to offer Americans fixed U.S. dollar rates,” Herff says. “You can book and confirm certain hotels and fix the price at the time of booking.” Such deals are sometimes nonrefundable: “If you don’t show up, you might end up eating that price,” Herff says, “but you can get a significant discount.” Dollar-based promotions are currently offered by select members of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, such as England’s Cotswold House (rooms begin at $430, with a two-night minimum; the rate is good until the end of the year), and at nine Warwick International properties, including the Warwick Barsey Hotel, in Brussels. Starwood’s Welcome to Greece program allows U.S.-based travelers to stay at one of its Luxury Collection hotels, such as the Grande Bretagne, in Athens, for a guaranteed rate. These deals tend to be unadvertised, so ask an experienced travel agent, or inquire directly with hotels.

Euro Rates vs. Fixed U.S. Dollar Rates

The Destination The Merrion, in Dublin, a centrally located 143-room hotel converted from four 18th-century Georgian town houses.

Cost In July and August, the hotel is offering a matching dollar-to-euro rate (800/628-8929; merrionhotel.com; doubles from $575)—a savings of 35 percent off the rack rate.


Berlin

Cappuccino

$4.85 Café Einstein

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$2.20

Martini

$22.84 Hotel Adlon Kempinski

2-mile taxi ride

$11.63

Subway ride

Single: $3.08 1 day: $8.82

Room at the InterContinental*

$249

Helsinki

Cappuccino

$5.26 Café Ekberg

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$1.95

Martini

$17.68 Hotel Kämp

2-mile taxi ride

$12.37

Subway ride

Single: $3.00 1 day: $9.02

Room at the InterContinental*

$350 (Hilton Helsinki Strand)

London

Cappuccino

$3.98 Café Troubadour

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$2.91

Martini

$20.47 The Milestone Hotel

2-mile taxi ride

$9.43

Subway ride

Single: $8.00 1 day: $10.61

Room at the InterContinental*

$406

Madrid

Cappuccino

$7.20 Café Gijón

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$1.32

Martini

$22.10 Westin Palace

2-mile taxi ride

$7.82

Subway ride

Single: $1.47 1 day: $5.88

Room at the InterContinental*

$366

Paris

Cappuccino

$7.66 Le Rouquet

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$1.61

Martini

$30.95 Hotel Le Bristol

2-mile taxi ride

$9.23

Subway ride

Single: $2.20 1 day: $12.50

Room at the InterContinental*

$1,058

Rome

Cappuccino

$4.41 Bar della Pace

1 1/2 liters of Evian

$2.20

Martini

$25.05 Hotel de Russie

2-mile taxi ride

$8.46

Subway ride

Single: $1.47 1 day: $5.88

Room at the InterContinental*

$721

*Rack rate for a standard double in May

—Kaveri Marathe

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