London, is there anything one can't do? With your Beatles, Shakespeare, interesting feats of architecture (don't miss the Millennium Bridge), many locations of Lush cosmetic stores and chic foodie television stars (Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver, natch), there are more than enough things to see, do, and buy in the city that invented the tabloid. It's always worth a visit to the Tower of London and a gawk or two at Buckingham Palace, flanked by those famously unflappable guards. Americans and Brits have an interesting relationship to say the least -- and that's without even bringing politics into it: the recent purchase of Manchester United by American businessman Malcolm Glazer sparked some serious protests. Madonna, regretfully (at least from this American's viewpoint), seems to think she's a native of the very cosmopolitan city. Peculiarities aside, there are a few deals for London in fall, but it's advisable to keep checking as the season approaches because there are bound to be some updates.
The simply named 1-800-Fly-Europe just announced a "London Fall Air" deal (tel. 800/359-3876; www.1800flyeurope.com) for departures between September 1 through October 31, for round-trip airfare to London from New York City starting from $292; other cities, such as Washington, D.C. ($362), Chicago ($433), and Los Angeles ($456) are available. One other deal they're currently running is the "London Air and Hotel" package that's unbeatable, good for travel between September 1 and October 26, with three accommodation options: London Hotel 65 (two star) from $427; Barkston Gardens, three star from $499 and London Chelsea Village, four star starting from $539. Hotel taxes and continental breakfast are included and hundreds of other departure cities are available for separate rate. Move fast, though, because the purchase deadline is May 31.
At the official website for London, Visit London (www.visitlondon.com), there are some specials on accommodations and links to items such as the London Pass, which gets you ten percent off admissions to over 60 popular tourism attractions, such as St. Paul's Cathedral, guaranteed entry tickets to Buckingham Palace, and Shakespeare's Globe Theater Tour & Exhibition, from 12 pounds a day. The only caveat is that for some of these specials, such as the Hyatt Regency London: The Churchill offer, you need to register on the site (it's free) in order to see the details of the deal. The package includes two tickets to the new Churchill Museum, membership to the International Churchill Society, a full English breakfast, a bottle of Pol Roger champagne, and a signed copy of Michael Dobbs' bestseller, Churchill Hour. The deal is only available to registered users, and the rates start at £185 per night, exclusive of VAT, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday night stays, depending on availability. The deal runs through December 31.
At the other end of the economic spectrum, the Travelodge chain is running a special through December 31, with rooms from 26 pounds per room, per night -- not per person, as is the usual fare in budget U.K. accommodations. There are seventeen locations to choose from, including six in central London. Even if you wind up booking elsewhere, it is worth it to register with the site just for the access to other last-minute and limited-time only deals, such as (at press time) two-for-one admissions to a museum, ten percent off theater tickets, and a spa opening's special offer.
Virgin Atlantic, the airline of daredevil millionaire Richard Branson, has its own travel arm, called Virgin Vacations (tel. 888/937-8474; www.virgin-vacations.com). There are a handful of ongoing deals to London, but the best deals span the late summer and fall months. Virgin's 3-night London Flings starts at a low $529 for travel between September 6 and October 31 (book by October 24), drops down to $429 for travel between November 1 and December 15, including airfare. Prices are from New York-JFK or Newark (other cities are available too -- add $30 for Boston, $200 for Los Angeles, etc.), and include round-trip air, three nights in a handful of hotels with breakfast, airline fuel surcharges, hotel taxes and service charges inclusive. There are plenty of opportunities to upgrade the hotel -- all rates are based on double occupancy -- choose from more expensive and luxurious options such as Landmark London Hotel (from $1109) or Royal Garden Hotel (from $849), but the majority of accommodations range between the $529 rate to upwards of $700. Be warned though: Full payment is due within one day of booking. If you simply cannot wait until fall, there's a deal running from June 1 through September 5, starting from a steeper but still reasonable $789, with a booking deadline of August 29.
For a six-night stay, Virgin's package from June 1 through September 5 starts at $889 and the September 6 through October 31 package dips down to $629 and goes even lower between November 1 and December 15 -- from $509. The same hotels, fees, services and options are covered, and the same purchase deadlines apply as those in the three-night deals. Virgin is also running a handful of other deals that include London, such as London-Brussels Fling, London-Dublin fling (although the Irish would take issue with that sort of arrangement, I'm sure), London-Paris and London-Hong Kong -- and that's just a sampling.
British Airways Holidays (tel. 877/428-2228; www.baholidays.com) periodically offers excellent deals, but they're also a good place to book hotels from budget to luxury. The Mercure London City Bankside, near the River Thames, is available in early September starting from 64 pounds per night, and comes with a complete breakfast. Considering the crappy dollar exchange rate for U.S. travelers to the U.K., it's probably not a bad idea for travelers who are on a precise budget to investigate the airline's hotel deals. Some even have a bonus offer, such as a fifteen percent discount on hotels, car hire and site seeing at the Strand Palace (a three-star hotel), near the Theater district and Covent Garden. For those interested in flying to London via First class or Club World (the BA business class) and who are in possession of a British Airways visa card, the "Free Companion Ticket" offer has been extended; purchase the ticket by December 31, 2005 for travel completed by March 31.
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