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.
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.
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’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.
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.
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
Today, we’re excited to launch the Travel + Leisure Quick Tips video series. Each week, we’ll offer ideas for how to travel better, from where to dine in London to the best rain gear for your travels. Want to save money when you hit the road? Our weekly series tackles affordable travel, too, with tips straight from Travel + Leisure editors.
Airport/Terminal: Istanbul Atatürk, Departures (pictured) How to Get In: Star Alliance first or business international ticket, or Gold status. The Space: Ottoman chic, with dramatic arched entryways. The Food: 35 stations with meze (tabbouleh; zucchini salad), flatbreads, house-made pastries, and wine. Great Dish: Spicy menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs).
If a fear of international flights has long kept you from exploring China's Great Wall or visiting Xi’an’s famed terracotta soldiers, it's time to reconsider your boycott on traveling abroad—a high-speed railroad may soon connect Beijing to the United States.
The Bejing Times reports Chinese officials are currently in talks to construct an 8,000-mile railway connecting north-east China to the United States. The proposed route would cross Siberia, and then cut through Alaska and Canada before entering into the continental US. With trains traveling 220 miles per hour, it would take passengers approximately two days to complete the full trip.
That’s a picture of my boarding pass for a recent flight from Fort Lauderdale to New York. I printed it out in the lobby of my beachfront hotel just before racing to the airport. I felt great that I was cleared for expedited screening in the TSA PreCheck lane, but not so great when the TSA agent frowned and said, “This boarding pass is no good.”
UPDATE: Whether you live in the Deep South, the Midwest or along the East Coast, you're likely to experience severly stormy weather today. According to CNN, 75 million Americans, or a third of the country, are under threat of severe weather, which may include tornadoes, high winds and hail; the Deep South has been the hardest hit, with a powerful spring storm system overtaking Mississippi and Alabama. The risk of severe weather is expected to continue through Wednesday, and may affect Americans living between the Great Lakes and the Gulf Coast, and through the Midwest and the East Coast.
This one falls in the “Are you kidding?” category: Just as East Coasters from New Jersey to Massachusetts are coming back online and picking up the pieces after the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, a nor’easter is threatening to wallop the same area this Wednesday or Thursday. Named for the direction the storm travels, this type of weather typically has many of the same characteristics as a hurricane—fierce winds, heavy rains or snow, and—brace yourselves (again) coastal residents—tidal flooding.
While this new storm is not expected to be pack the same intensity as Sandy, it is worth watching—especially in the Carolinas. Whether you live in its projected path, are planning a trip East, or just want to have smart weather forecasts in your pocket, there are five Webby Award-winning apps that should be on your Doppler radar:
Booking a hotel these days can be overwhelming: new names are appearing alongside established ones, and they’re competing for your attention, your dollars, and, above all, your loyalty. T+L has the scoop on the latest trends to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Hotel Brand Trends
A closer look at the innovations that will shape your next hotel stay.
Tech-Friendly Retreats: Starwood’s Aloft is piloting Apple TV’s at its Cupertino, California, property and will soon offer remote mobile check-in at dozens of its hotels. Not to be outdone, Conrad is raising the bar with its Conrad Concierge app, which lets guests book hotel services remotely, be it airport pickup or the timing of their dinner. Mandarin Oriental will soon be rolling out DVR’s and HD Internet TV’s in its guest rooms. Peninsula, meanwhile, remains unmatched for its customized in-room tablets, introduced at the Hong Kong flagship, with everything from temperature controls to flight schedules.