Travelers simply can't get enough of London these days, thanks to Prince William's April 29 royal wedding. With that in mind, this week's Smart Deal comes from Virgin Vacations (tel. 888/737-8474; www.virgin-vacations.com) and puts you in London for four nights, from $849 with round-trip airfare.
We need to address the price before we go any further, because a discerning reader will notice that the lowest price is based on fall travel. Admittedly, this is a long time after the royal wedding; the trip's April 27 departure, two days before the wedding, starts from $1,349. However, spring travel in May is within reach, as the May 4, 11, and 18 departures start from $869, and prices slowly escalate through summer -- as you would expect. The package is available through October.
This London package includes four nights at the Queens Park Hotel, in Bayswater. It's a tourist-class property with compact rooms outfitted with TVs and private bathrooms. (Traveling on a budget doesn't have to mean sharing bathrooms at a hostel.) The hotel is close to the Queensway Tube stop, and not too far from Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, Royal Albert Hall, and Portobello Market.
What do the savings look like? A four-night stay at the Queens Park Hotel in late October comes out to £335 for two people (or about $547), with taxes. The airfare on a Virgin Atlantic flight for an evening departure on October 25 from New York-JFK to London Heathrow is priced at about $839, with taxes and fees. If booked independently, expect to pay at least $1,112 per person, including airfare and four nights' hotel. Based on these price comparisons, the $849 London package (about $1,051 after taxes) would then net you a savings of about $60 per person. Not impressed? Keep in mind that airfare prices fluctuate and could easily become more, considering that gas prices are out of control with no end in sight.
Trip Type: Air-inclusive; independent
What the Quoted Price Gets You: Round-trip airfare from New York-JFK or Newark to London; four nights in Queens Park Hotel; breakfast daily; and airline fuel surcharges.
What Else You'll Have to Pay: $203.23 for airport taxes and fees
Book By: As soon as possible to ensure availability
When: April 27 (from $1,349); May 4, 11, and 18 (from $869); June 1 (from $1,149); June 8 (from $1,169); June 15, 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20 (from $1,189); July 27, Aug. 3, 10, 17, 24 (from $1,169); Oct. 26 (from $849)
Other Details: Travelers can upgrade to several other hotels, including Central Park Hotel (add $20 per person) all the way up to Le Meridien Piccadilly (add $500 per person).
If you'd like to take a day trip, Virgin offers a few full-day tours you can add to the tour, including a behind-the-scenes London tour (add $153 per person); Bath, Windsor, and Stonehenge (add $118 per person); and Oxford, Stratford, Warwick and the Cotswolds (add $114 per person).
Other Gateways: Boston (add from $80); Los Angeles (add from $112)