Contrary to what the cruise industry or Mr. Mouse in Florida might have you believe, if you vacation in January, you don't have to don a bathing suit and sip umbrella drinks. Just because it's winter doesn't mean you can't make the best of the chilly sports and warming foods presented by the season. After all, the thrill-seeking chef-writer Anthony Bourdain recently traveled to a cold place (Iceland) when it is cold (January), with hilarious yet freezing televised results. In some ways, you get the most authentic experience of a place by seeing how the people there deal with, day in and day out, the circumstances and conditions that shape their very essence. We've found some good deals to Scandinavian countries for late-fall and early wintertime -- when the temperature drops, so does the price.
There are plenty of deals -- and reasons -- to visit Scandinavian countries: special seafood and fish dishes, charming architecture and great conversation. Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) is running at least a dozen specials, some that combine several cities, such as Copenhagen and Oslo from $629 plus tax for travel between November 1 and December 15, and January 6 and March 23; the deal is priced for departures from New York and Newark, NJ and includes six nights, daily continental breakfast. There's a "Hans Christian Anderson Getaway," to Copehagen, tied into the 200th anniversary of this popular fairytale author's birth in his home country. This air-inclusive three-night trip is running at $649 right now until October 31 and then drops $200 for travel November 1 through December 15 and January 6-March 23, from $449 plus tax. The package includes continental breakfast daily, hotel taxes and service charges and rates are based on New York and Newark, NJ, departures; other cities can of course be added such as Chicago for $100, Los Angeles for $200, and Atlanta for $300. They're also offering land-only packages, including the Copenhagen stopover for three nights from $329 plus taxes; purchase deadline is October 12 and it's good for travel between now and October 31.
Go-Today is also running a mess of specials to Stockholm, Sweden, including an air-inclusive, fly and drive special that's a stunningly low $449 to start for two people interested in an economy car with manual shift. The rate is good for travel November 1-December 15 -- travel before then starts at $639. Considering the price of gas these days is skyrocketing, this is a great opportunity to see the country at your own pace. The package includes round-trip airfare to Stockholm (departure city is Newark, NJ), seven-day Hertz car rental and unlimited mileage, local taxes. Airport taxes and fees are excluded. You can upgrade the car all the way to a manual station wagon but the cost goes up nearly $200 -- you'll need it for gas. For accommodations, you are on your own. The purchase deadline for all of these Go-Today deals, unless otherwise indicated, is September 22.
The truly adventurous and cold-weather loving sort might be excited about the prospect of staying in an igloo for five days and four nights in Finland. Scandinavian Travel runs a winter tour (tel. 800/545-2204; www.scandinaviantravel.com/finlandWtours.html) between December 1 and April 30 2006, (excluding December 23-26.) It's not a cheap endeavor -- $1,625 per person, and that's not including airfare. The trip includes accommodations in log cottages with fireplaces and saunas, one night in an igloo made of snow, half board (four breakfasts and dinners), airport transfers between Ivalo airport and Hotel Kakslauttanen, and a dog sled safari and reindeer safari. Excursions include dog sledding, visiting a reindeer farm, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. They're also running a Polar Safari for three nights and four days in Lapland, full of snow, blue twilight and the Northern Lights. Visit two towns, Kemi and Rovaniemi (the latter is almost on the Arctic Circle), meet Santa Claus, take an arctic cruise on an icebreaker. There are departures available between December 1 and April 19. The price for double occupancy room is $1,280 per person; airfare is not included but they suggest "calling for air inclusive rates from U.S. or Helsinki" and they are open to customizing the trip.
Another wintertime trip run by Scandinavian Travel is the "Norwegian Winter Wonderland Culinary Tour" (www.scandinavianculinarytours.com), priced at $1,260 per person for a four-day trip that runs December 1, 2005-March 30, 2006. Start with a train trip from Oslo to Flam and stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall. Stay in the Fleischer's hotel in Voss, an historic wooden hotel. Enjoy chef created dinners and either a day trip for skiing or a food heritage excursion that includes local food preservation techniques, local produce, and a Norwegian dinner of reindeer, meatballs, rice, smoked salmon and more. If you want to start your trip earlier and spend more time in the city, Scandinavian Travel can arrange for two nights at the four-star Hotel Bristol in Oslo, with breakfast, local taxes, a city tour and round-trip airfare from Washington DC/Dulles or Newark, on SAS airlines, starting from $1,895 per person. The total trip would then be seven days, six nights and some blackout dates would apply. Other departures can be accommodated for an additional fee.
Currently, Nordic Saga (tel. 800/848-6449; www.nordicsaga.com) has put together a few specials including a three-night, four-day "Helsinki Winter Escape," starting from $549 for Newark, NJ departures. It includes round-trip airfare, three nights at Aurora Hotel or similar, daily breakfast and hotel taxes and services charges. Valid dates of travel are November 1-December 15; January 1-March 31 2006; booking deadline is October 14. Also on the same web page, Nordic Saga is running a "Copenhagen: The Way the Locals See It" trip for five days/four nights including round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, a 72-hour Copenhagen card that gets you around town on public transit and also offers discounts or free admission to many major attractions. The trip includes a dinner with a Danish family -- talk about legit!
For air travel, Scandinavian Airlines (tel. 800/221-2350) is running a special two-for-one promotion for any SAS operated U.S. gateway to any SAS operated destination in Scandinavia and Europe. You must book by calling -- it can't be reserved online -- by March 4, 2006. Travel must take place after October 1 and finish by March 31, 2006; a Saturday night stay is required. Some restrictions and blackout dates apply.
Iceland Air Holidays (tel. 800/779-2899; www.icelandair.com/norway) is running a sale to Norway. The "Oslo Fly and Hotel" from $499 per person, double occupancy, includes round-trip airfare from New York-JFK, Baltimore, Boston, and Orlando; Minneapolis or San Francisco require additional $65. The deal is good for travel between November 1 and March 27, 2006 and two nights accommodations at the Rainbow Munich Hotel; others are available for higher rates. The airline is also running a bunch of add-ons, including "Fjord Sightseeing" priced at $39 per person, and a "Grand Tour of Oslo" for $96 per person.
Finally, the travel blog Europe on Sale (www.europeonsale.com) has a posting about a round-trip Stockholm to Newark fare on sale from $269 on Malaysia Airlines for travel departures on Monday, Thursday or Saturday between November 1, 2005 and March 27, 2006; some blackout dates apply. The total cost, including taxes and fuel charges, is $406.85 per person.
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