Royally betrothed Charles and Camilla have yet to announce whether they will forgo Her Majesty the Queen's Birthday Parade, as she will their impending wedding. Thousands of loyal subjects, however, wouldn't dream of missing the live bands, pageantry, and Queen's salute, on June 11, in London; crowds are even expected at the rehearsals on May 28 and June 4. If you eschew pomp and circumstance, maybe the humbler glories of the Chelsea Flower Show (May 24 to May 28) will lure you to The Smoke in May or June, which is considered the "height of the London season." Other highlights at this time of year include Derby Day (June 4), one of the world's great horse races; the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition (June 7) a main event in the London art world; and the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships (starting June 20) the last Grand Slam Lawn Tennis tournament actually played on grass.
By June, high-season prices rear their heads, but in May, a number of bargain package deals are still to be had. Go-Today's (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) London Supersale features airfare from New York and six nights in a London hotel for an unbelievably low $399 through May 31. The lead hotel is the budget Central House Hotel, near the West End. An upgrade to the elegant, four-star Corus Hotel Hyde Park is still less than $100 a night including airfare, starting from $549. For travel in June through August, the London Supersale price nearly doubles, to $699, with lodgings at My Place Hotel, which doesn't get the best reviews on Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com). An upgrade to the three-star Ramada Jarvis Marylebone Hotel, which fares far more favorably, is $799. Tickets must be purchased by March 31 (the website says March 17, but they're extending the deals through the end of the month). Go-Today's fares include transfers but not air taxes and fees between $40 and $200 a person dependent upon your point of departure. Alternate departure cities are available at additional cost (from Boston it's $100 extra; $240 more from Chicago; and $250 more from Los Angeles).
For a shorter stay, Gate 1 Travel's (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) Memorial Day weekend-only sale offers round-trip air from New York and three nights in London for $399. This price is good only for May 27 departures, and spots are limited, so act fast. The lead hotel is unusually good for the price -- the four-star Holiday Inn King's Cross, within walking distance of the British Museum and St. Paul's Cathedral. The discount price doesn't include transfers or air taxes and fees between $50 and $200. Alternate departure cities aren't available.
If you want to build your own trip, consider renting a furnished London flat from Coach House London Vacation Rentals (tel. 44-20-8772-1939; www.rentals.chslondon.com). This option is cheapest for parties of four or more, but a handful of rentals sleep just two people economically. Coach House lists beautiful, comfortably homes whose owners are temporarily away from London. Sample properties include an authentic Victorian coach house for $60 a person a night, including a full English breakfast. A studio flat in Chelsea (Ref: JUB), with a private terrace, sleeps two or three for $180 a night total ($90 or $60 a person). A modern, open-plan house in old London (Ref: THD) sleeps six for $350 a night. Most properties have a five-night minimum stay. Since these are private properties, Coach House requires a security deposit against potential damages and strongly recommends travel insurance. See the website for further details.
Airfares to London from New York are running at about $400 in mid-May and $700 in mid-June. (From Wednesday May 18 to May 25, British Airways (www.britishairways.com) is flying direct from JFK to Heathrow for $411, including taxes. Through One Travel (tel. 866/567-3594; www.onetravel.com), Chicago-London is $536. Through Cheap Seats (www.1800cheapseats.com) Los Angeles is $557 on Air Canada.
June airfares rise considerably. From Wednesday June 15 to June 22, on British Airways, New York-London is $700; Chicago-London is $883; and Los Angeles-London is $903.
Visit London (www.visitlondon.com) is a great resource for "what's on" in town during your stay. Coach House London Rentals also publishes an informative, bimonthly newsletter with event listings as well as rental options. See the website to subscribe.
Talk about what to see and do in London on our Great Britain Message Boards today.