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Get the best value for your Europe vacation

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Trafalgar Square fountain in London (Photo: Britian on View)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on April 10, 2006. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Contiki, destination, Europe, Gate 1 Travel, Go-today, Molly Feltner, student travel, vacation package.

Kara Simard, a law student at Suffolk University in Boston, was skeptical about what she and a friend would get when they booked a $750 six-night airfare-and-hotel deal to London and Paris for March travel, even after paying extra for higher-class hotels.

In the end, however, she was pleasantly surprised with the results: "I was very pleased. The hotels were excellent and we did not have a single problem with our flights. If I had arranged my own air and hotel I would have spent a lot more money. The last time I went to Europe, I paid more just for airfare."

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With countless travel companies selling Europe packages and tours, it's sometimes hard to know which provider will offer you the best value for your particular needs. What's more, marketing ploys and less-than-honest advertised prices by some vacation providers can make it difficult to tell the good deals from the bad.

We can help. Use our list of top-value vacation providers to find the the best bargain for your next Europe vacation.

Airfare-and-hotel packages

Airfare-and-accommodations deals can save you a lot of money if you find the right deal. When various travel products like airfare and hotel are bundled together and sold under one price, the travel providers do not have to reveal the exact cost of each element, and can therefore undercut their published rates. You may lose the flexibility to choose the exact flights and hotels you want, but the savings can make booking a package a better option. You can avoid being disappointed in the package accommodations by doing research on the hotel choices before you book.

Best value vacations

SmarterTravel.com tracks the best Europe package deals in our Vacation section, and over the past several years we've seen the best deals for travel to major European cities come from online vacation discounters, particularly Go-Today, Gate1Travel, and Europe ASAP. All three offer a variety of package types (airfare-and-hotel, fly-drive, escorted) to top European cities, with a selection of hotels ranging from budget to deluxe, and the option to add extras like airport transfers, attractions passes, and city tours.

No one package seller consistently has the cheapest deals, so to find best package for your itinerary, you'll have to comparison shop. For example, Go-Today, Gate1Travel, and Europe ASAP are all offering sale prices on six-night London and Paris vacations this spring that include round-trip airfare, three nights' accommodations in each city, and tickets on the Eurostar for travel from London to Paris. We priced trips from all three including May 1 departures from New York, accommodations in similar tourist-class hotels, and all taxes and fees. For this particular trip, Go-today had the lowest price ($1,054 per person), followed by Europe ASAP ($1,069 per person), and Gate1Travel ($1,085 per person). Since there's not much difference in price, the decision about which provider to choose boils down to which package includes the most appealing hotels to you.

Whatever the case, you'll save more with any of these packages than by booking flights and hotels individually. To see how much you could save by booking Go-Today's package rather than doing it yourself, we priced all the package elements separately for the exact same travel dates and hotels, and got a per person total of $1,246. Thus, with the Go-Today deal, you'll get the best package price and you'll save $192 per person over the do-it-yourself cost.

To find more deals from these discounters, go to the Go-Today, Gate1Travel, and Europe ASAP websites.

Other package sellers

Beside the airlines and big online travel sites, you can also book affordable Europe packages through Tour Crafters, Picasso Tours, and Liberty Travel. Visit the SmarterTravel.com vacation section to find the latest package deals.

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