Summer getaways to Europe can be crowded and expensive, but a quick jaunt to one of these European capitals can give you that dose of international flavor without the overwhelming price tag. Each of these sojourns comes in at less than $1,000 a person and while all include airfares, taxes and accommodations, some also include breakfast and tours.
The golden city of Prague is one of Europe's most beautiful and accessible. Known for the historic architecture of its UNESCO World Heritage listed Old Town and its central European cultural prowess, it is still surprisingly affordable. Gate One Travel (www.gate1travel.com) is known for putting together discount package deals to Europe and beyond, and this summer won't disappoint with a six-day "Value Vacation" to Prague priced from $679 plus $127 in taxes for departures on August 19 and 26, 2009 (plus there is a sneaky $42 airfare supplement that seems to appear when you go to make your booking). You won't be staying at a quaint historic hotel right in the city center, but the three-star Ibis Mala Strana is comfortable and relatively well located for public transport and is a 15 minute walk to Old Town. The package includes round-trip airfare from New York (flying Air France and Northwest Airlines), airline fuel surcharges, four nights' accommodations and daily breakfast. Of course you can choose to add on tours and special events, like a half day panoramic city tour for only $19 or a full day tour to the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary for $77. All of the above (including the add-on tours) will set you back $944 per person based on double occupancy.
Bulgaria's capital city is considered the continent's cheapest. Sample traditional Bulgarian cuisine, walk through ancient ruins, and discover one of the lesser visited European cities oozing with charm. You'd be hard pressed to find a pre-bundled vacation package to Sofia as it is not yet considered a major travel destination. You'll also need to fly via another European gateway as there aren't any non-stop flights out of the U.S. (which means that airline taxes will be higher than a single sector flight), but don't let that detract from the city's appeal. You can fly on Malev Hungarian Airlines (www.malev.com) to Sofia via Budapest for $490 round-trip plus taxes of $397 midweek during the month of August (through www.vayama.com). Once in Sofia, accommodation is almost "non-European" in price with four-star properties ranging around the €40-60 per night for two people and guest houses for even less. Search hotel website like www.venere.com for choices like Hotel Gorubliansko Hanche for $51 per night for two people or the centrally located three-star Bulgari Boutique Hotel for $77 per night. Meals and drinks are also low priced -- a three course dinner might set you back $20 and a local beer is still under $1.
You may be asking yourself how London can ever be considered affordable. Well if you're willing to hold off until Labor Day weekend (still technically summer), then Virgin Vacations (tel. 888/937-8474; www.virgin-vacations.com) has a great way to celebrate the end of another great summer season. Virgin's three-night "Labor Day London Fling" (departing September 3 and returning September 7, 2009) is priced at a super low $669 per person based on double occupancy, plus taxes of $157, making your grand total $826 and that includes round-trip airfare from New York (add $10 for Boston departures, $20 from Washington DC or $30 from Chicago) flying Virgin Atlantic, three nights accommodations at the budget class Apollo Hotel in Kings Cross and breakfast daily. At that price you can still afford to see plenty of the sites in London and take advantage of the fact that the pound is a tad under $1.60 (a lot better than its peak of $2.00 this time last year). You could get really touristy and do a Jack the Ripper and Thames Terror Cruise tour for $35 per person and get our of town and do a full day bus tour to Stonehenge, Windsor and Oxford for $121 and still have change out of $1000. There's also plenty to do in London for free (see www.visitlondon.com/attractions/culture/free-london).
Dublin is one of those quintessential walking cities and even if you're strapped for cash, there's a lot to see and do. From magnificent castles and cathedrals to traditional Irish pubs and nightly live music, a Dublin getaway will never disappoint. Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com)has a four-night "Dublin Escape "package that is priced from $944 per person (based on a mid July departure form Boston) for midweek summer departures (July 1 to August 27, 2009) out of either Boston or New York. This price includes round-trip airfare with taxes, airline fuel surcharges, four nights' accommodations at the tourist class Jury's Inn Customs House Hotel, hotel taxes and breakfast daily. When going to book this package I noted that there was actually a flight discount given (rather than a surcharge) at checkout. Add on a half day Dublin Bay and Castle Tour for $35 per person and you'll still scrape in under $1,000.
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