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How to Save Money on Your European Vacation

cheap European vacation

A perennial favorite for American travelers, Europe can also be one of the most expensive places to travel. First and foremost, you need to find a good transatlantic ticket, which can be challenging, since taxes, fees, and carrier charges can easily tack an additional $600 onto the average fare. In “How to Find the Best Fares on European Flights,” I outline strategies for landing the best flights. Here are some other ways to find value in Europe.

Pick the right destination.

Your dollar goes further depending on where you are—and what currency you’re using. The best values usually lie outside the euro zone. According to Hotels.com’s annual Hotel Price Index, Warsaw had the most-affordable luxury hotels in Europe in 2013, with an average room rate of just $124 a night. Budapest, Istanbul, and Prague also all had top rooms for less than $250 a night. (By contrast, Paris’s luxury rooms went for $504, on average, and London’s for $430.) This squares with the Economist’s Big Mac Index, which offers a quick (and playful) look at the relative cost of countries by charting the price of the ubiquitous McDonald’s burger around the world. According to this metric, the Polish zloty is undervalued by a full 35 percent against the U.S. dollar; the Czech koruna (undervalued by 25 percent), Turkish lira (19 percent), and Hungarian forint (17 percent) also offer bargains for Americans.

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Affordable (and Stylish) European Hotel Chains

European Hotel Chains: Radisson Blu in Stockholm

Though they’re less known to American travelers, these design-conscious brands have surprisingly well-priced rooms. Plus: A few of our favorite up-and-comers.

Room Mate

Presence in Europe: 15 hotels (11 in Spain)

Rates From: $95 (Madrid, Istanbul); $136 (Amsterdam, Florence)

This Spanish company, cofounded by former Olympic horseback rider Enrique Sarasola, is known for its futuristic-looking hotels (origami-like furniture; neon lights). It recently opened outposts in Istanbul’s chic Beyoğlu district and on a man-made island in Amsterdam; Milan and Rotterdam debut in 2015.

Scandic

Presence in Europe: 154 hotels (76 in Sweden)

Rates from $114 (Oslo); $177 (Stockholm)

Based in northern Europe, Scandic blends contemporary design and cutting-edge technology; it recently became the world’s first hotel chain to offer brand-wide online checkout (through smartphone or computer). British star chef Jamie Oliver creates menus for each property and is bringing his own restaurant to Stockholm’s Scandic Anglais this fall.

Radisson Blu

Presence in Europe: 182 hotels (25 in Germany)

Rates From: $147 (Madrid); $319 (Paris)

Radisson Blu’s pedigree can be traced to its first European hotel: Danish architect Arne Jacobsen’s 1960 Royal Hotel in Copenhagen. The company continues to attract homegrown talent, including François Champsaur, who worked on Paris’s Le Metropolitan. Look out for new locations in Belgrade and Oslo.

Novotel

Presence in Europe: 248 hotels (113 in France)

Rates From: $85 (Athens); $110 (Berlin); $124 (Barcelona)

Though established in 1967, France’s Novotel brand stays current with redesigned rooms and a virtual concierge service via on-site kiosks and a smartphone app. Among the latest arrivals are a location near London’s Wembley Stadium and a 360-room property in Moscow that’s a short drive from the Kremlin. Next up: Rotterdam.

Meliá

Presence in Europe: 65 hotels (45 in Spain)

Rates From: $205 (Vienna); $286 (Capri)

Expect well-located, city-center hotels that embrace local design from Majorca-based Meliá. Consider its two most recent openings: Meliá Vienna sits in the city’s tallest building (a glass tower by Dominique Perrault), while the 19 rooms at the Villa Capri are outfitted with Murano chandeliers and Poltrona Frau and Cappellini furniture.

Ones to Watch

This month, Scandic Hotels debuts the stripped-down brand HTL ($) in Stockholm; 20 more are planned by 2019. The Millennial-focused Citizen M ($)—with free movie streaming and self check-in—opens in Paris later this year. 25Hours Hotels ($) recently headed to Berlin for its seventh property. The arty, edgy company Nhow ($) has launched in the culture-rich cities of Berlin, Milan, and Rotterdam.

Hotels
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000

Restaurants
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Related Links:
Europe's Best Affordable Hotels
Guide to Hotel Loyalty Programs
Trend: Boutique Hotels from Big Hotel Chains

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@timeinc.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Plan a Last-Minute Memorial Day Getaway

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

More than 36 million Americans will hit the road Memorial Day weekend, according to AAA. There's still time for you to join them, thanks to these holiday weekend deals. 

Washington—The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel

No one does a national holiday quite like D.C. This summer marks not only the 150th anniversary of Arlington Cemetery but also the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, and D.C. is kicking off the season with events including the National Memorial Day Parade (Monday, May 26) and Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally from the Pentagon to Lincoln Memorial (Sunday, May 25). If you want to be near the action, book at room at The Mayflower Renaissance Hotel. First opened in 1925, the historic property is an easy five-block walk to the White House, and just a mile away from the National Mall (from $179/night). marriott.com


Kennebunkport, Maine
—Cape Arundel Inn & Resort

Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to visit the coast of Maine—before the crowds of the busy summer season arrive. This oceanfront property offers activities for the whole family from scotch and wine tastings to painting lessons and bocce ball courts. Just steps away, Old Fort Estate is surrounded by 15-acres of lawn and woodland, and the newly renovated on-site Club House features luxe leather sofas, a grand fireplace, and a vintage pool table (from $199/night, 3-night minimum stay). capearundelinn.com


New Hampshire
—Mill Falls at the Lake  - rates from $160/night

Much like the coast of Maine, Lake Winnipesaukee is popular tourist destination in the summer. Get a jump-start on the season by heading there this weekend. Go for a canoe ride and try your hand at paddle boarding at the hotel’s Lake Activity Center or get your om on at the Sacred Waters Yoga Studio (from $160/night). millfalls.com


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
—Landmark Inn

Calling all history buffs! With its 62 antique-filled rooms and a notable guest list that includes the likes of Amelia Earhart and Louis Armstrong, the Landmark Inn offers visitors a getaway that’s steeped in American history. This weekend, celebrate Memorial Day in the property’s own English-style pub or visit one of Marquette's three microbreweries (The Vierling, Black Rock, and Oredock). And if hiking’s more your style, take the 10-minute drive to Sugar Loaf Mountain for a spectacular view of the city and Lake Superior (from $139/night). thelandmarkinn.com


Scottsdale, Arizona
—Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The Copper State has warm weather with plenty of sun, and now’s the time to visit before temperatures rise in the peak of summer. With two 18-hole golf courses, five swimming pools, and seven tennis courts, The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess truly has something for everyone. Through May 26, check out Arizona Spring Restaurant Week with prix fixe dining at top restaurants throughout the state (from $149/night, 3-night minimum stay). fairmont.com/scottsdale

Los Angeles—The Grafton on Sunset

This holiday weekend, why not go where you’re almost guaranteed sunshine? Located right on the Sunset Strip, with fun, funky rooms (think zebra bedspreads and Hollywood themed suites), The Grafton on Sunset offers guests close proximity to L.A.’s great shopping, restaurants, and attractions like the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Chinese Theatre, and The Viper Room (from $199/night). graftononsunset.com

Travel For Teachers Program Offers Discounted Stays for Summer Break

201405-hd-travel-for-teachersjpgWith the school year winding down, kids of all ages are counting the days until summer vacation. But when the last bell rings, no one’s more deserving of a little rest and relaxation than the teachers.

For the second year in a row, Austin-based website bedandbreakfast.com is honoring these educators’ hard work by offering them a host of discounted summer getaways.

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Jet-Set Like Brangelina Without Breaking the Bank

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, andnews about the economy

May Vacation Deals

201405-hd-dealsjpg

Germany: 44% off at the Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt

Bavarian Luxury package includes:

• 2 nights in a Deluxe room at the Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt, a 135-year-old resort on the banks of the Tegernsee, near Munich
• Round-trip transportation to the Tegernsee Forest Festival, a traditional summerlong Alpine celebration with beer, bratwurst, and live music, or to the Tegernseer Bräustüber, an ancient monastery that brewed the region’s first beer
• An hour-long carriage ride through the Bavarian Alpine landscape, with beer and pretzels
• A 3-course dinner at a choice of 3 on-site restaurants, including Egerner Bucht, a specialist in Alpine cuisine

Cost: $1,080 ($540 per night)

Book now for travel between June 20 and September 7.

For more information or to book, please visit Althoff Seehotel Überfahrt

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April Vacation Deals

Topping Rose House

Napa Valley Wine tastings. A Provençal cooking class. Dinner from a celebrity chef in Mexico. This month’s exclusive deals are guaranteed to make you hungry.

Hamptons: 35% off Greek Revival manor house

Customized Culinary Experience tour includes:

• 2 nights' accommodations in a king room at Topping Rose House (pictured) in the Hamptons, a Greek Revival manor house with 4 ultramodern cottages and a Tom Colicchio restaurant
• Scour the property’s farm to create a dinner menu suited to your tastes

Cost: $1,000 ($500 per night)

Book now for travel through May 31.

For more information or to book, please visit Topping Rose House.

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Book It! How to Get the Best Hotel Rate

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Planning a trip soon? Keep these tips handy. Travel + Leisure’s Mark Orwoll shares the best tools to get you the best deals on your next hotel stay.

March Vacation Deals

Westin Hilton Head

Want to practice your photography skills in Mexico or cruise the Mediterranean? This month’s deals have you covered.

Art & Culture

Beijing and Shanghai: 36% off insider’s tour

Springtime in China package includes:

• 6 nights' accommodations, divided between Fairmonts in Beijing and Shanghai, provided by Kensington Tours, a bespoke outfitter with global expertise
• Explore the M50 art district, Shanghai’s action-packed creative hub, with an in-the-know local
• Airport meet and greet
• Private guided tour of Beijing including stops at Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and the Great Wall
• Private excursion in Shanghai, including visits to Jade Buddha and Yuyuan Garden
• Internal flights and chauffeured transfers

Cost: From $1,750 ($292 per night)

Book by April 30. Blackout dates apply: April 18–May 1.

For more information or to book, please visit Kensington Tours.

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February Vacation Deals

Lexington Hotel

Art & Culture

Chicago: 30% off historical blues package

Windy City Blues package includes:

• 2 nights' accommodations in a standard room at Kimpton’s Hotel Allegro, with mod-retro rooms in the theater district
• 2 tickets to Buddy Guy’s Legends blues club, owned by the iconic artist himself
• Admission to Chicago’s History Museum to see the “Crossroads of America” exhibit on the history behind America’s Blues Capital

Cost: $270 ($135 per night)

Book via telephone only for travel between February 1 and March 31.

For more information, please visit Kimpton’s Hotel Allegro; to book, please call (800) 643-1500 and use booking code BLUE14.

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