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Cruel Summer? Imagine Winter in London for Less

July 11, 2003 -- During winter, fares to Europe often plunge down to sub-freezing levels. It may seem odd, in the middle of summer, sweltering with your air conditioner cranked up, but airlines are already thinking about those winter fares -- and if you're the type who plans ahead, you can cool yourself down by booking a cheap trip for November or December right now.

The latest winter fares come from Virgin Vacations, an arm of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. Flying Virgin has always been one of the most enjoyable ways to get across the Atlantic, so these fares are even more impressive when you combine them with the airline's renowned service.

The most frigid fares are for Nov. 1 to December 17, and you can book any time before Dec. 12 if you want to wait for other sales. You can fly from New York City to London for $265 roundtrip, midweek and not including the usual $100 or so in tax; from Boston for $270, from Washington, D.C. for $335, from Miami or Orlando for $370, from Los Angeles for $395, from San Francisco for $415 and from Las Vegas for $555. Simply put, those are great fares.

Low fares are also available for the Christmas season, for New Year's and even for fall; the September/October fares of $370 roundtrip from Newark, $390 from Boston and $540 from LA (midweek, plus tax) are still pretty good. Especially useful are the late booking dates -- you can book all of these fares pretty far in the future. Check out all the fares, and book at

Not Just For Virgins

Other travel agencies are beginning to offer winter fares as well. has packages both for the end of 2003 and for (gasp) the beginning of '04. A three-night trip from November 1-December 14 starts at $379 per person from New York or Boston for double occupancy and midweek travel, plus the usual $105 per person in taxes. Add-on costs of up to $250 may make this package look less attractive to West Coasters. (Last week I stayed at Go-Today's second-cheapest hotel, the one on their $399 package. It was well-trodden, and the quality of the rooms varied wildly, but it was decent.) See details and book at (

For January and February, Go-Today offers a very weirdly restricted package -- only Monday-Wednesday departures -- but heck, it starts at $379 for six nights. Tack on your $105 per person in tax and it's still a deal. Check it out at (