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Expedia Half-Off Hotel Sale and Europe Vacation Packages

SmarterTravel

The Deal Detective is now sleuthing out bargains every week. Look for a new case each Thursday in SmarterTravel.com’s Deal Alert newsletter.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I’m now exposing and dissecting “good” deals along with solving your travel conundrums. This week, I’ve chosen to shine my magnifying glass on Expedia’s Half Off Hotel Sale. The discount is available at more than 125 participating hotels for stays of four or more nights. Plus, you’ll receive a $75 voucher for free gas. You must book by September 2, and travel by September 30, 2008.

So, let’s take a closer look at this deal. The first thing I noticed is that most of the hotels featured in the sale are mega-chains—Days Inn, Howard Johnson, and such—and the pickings for each city are pretty sparse. Some popular destinations don’t have any half-off options, including New York City. However, you can find hotels with different sales on the website, including rooms up to 30 percent off. But, I digress—back to the deal at hand.

I compared prices on Orbitz and Expedia for four nights in September at the Riviera Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (rooms start at $119 per night through the hotels’ website for these dates). I found that rooms cost an average of $48.58 per night, or a total of $194.30, with Expedia’s half-off sale, whereas it cost $58.96 per night, or a total of $280.32, with Orbitz. Don’t forget, Expedia also gives you $75 to use for gas, which you should apply to the overall discount. The total savings may not equal exactly 50 percent off an already discounted room, but you will end up spending less, and that ain’t half bad.

I’d give this deal a general thumbs-up, especially if you plan on staying someplace more than four nights this September.

Dear Deal Detective:

My girlfriend and I, both in our late 20s, have never been to Europe. I know the current economy doesn’t exactly make right now the cheapest time to go, but we’d LOVE to see London and Paris, maybe take in a show, walk along the Seine, drink coffee in a cafe, see the Eiffel Tower, go shopping at Piccadilly Circus, see the Tower of London, etc. Can you tell I’ve thought long about all this? I get excited just thinking about seeing these places. How can I do this affordably? Is a package deal our best bet, and if so, got any suggestions? We have a decent budget ($2,000 per person, maybe more if necessary) and can put up with so-so (but clean!) accommodations if it saves us money to spend while there. Please help, Deal Detective!

—Spalco

Dear Spalco,

I too have felt that same yearning to sit in a cafe along the Seine or walk in the shadow of Big Ben. And even though this isn’t exactly a financially ideal time to go, where there is a will, there is a way. We know you have the will, so let’s find you the way.

First off, you were correct to consider a vacation package. Several providers offer discounts on Paris and London city getaways, and oftentimes you can’t beat the bundled air-and-hotel prices. The one thing I will say, however, is you’ll probably have to travel in the off season if you really want to save money. Visiting Europe in the fall and winter may be a bit chillier, but the amount you’ll save and the crowds you’ll avoid will more than make up for the lack of sunshine.

With this knowledge, I priced packages through two separate providers for travel at the beginning of November (note: all prices include tax and fees). First up is EuropeASAP’s six-night multi-city excursion, which starts at $2,718 for two ($1,359 per person), and includes round-trip airfare from New York City, three nights at a basic hotel in each city, a flight to Paris, and continental breakfast each morning. Book before September 8. Next is go-today.com’s packages that start at $2,561 for two ($1,280.65 per person), and also include round-trip airfare from New York, six nights at a budget hotel in each city, and transportation in-between. You can choose to upgrade hotel options or tack on activities and transportation from either website, but the price rises with each additional alteration.

Both packages make it easy to plan a trip with very little effort, but you may want to do a bit of your own research before booking. To play a bit of devil’s advocate, let’s see how much it would cost to forego the package and build your own itinerary. I was able to find flights for the same dates from New York City to London, and returning from Paris back to New York that started at $1,242 ($621 per person). Flights from London to Paris start at $100 ($50 per person).

The total cost for transportation would be $1,342 ($671 per person), which means you could spend $1,219 on a hotel for three nights in each city before you matched the lowest price for a package. I recommend reading other traveler’s reviews on our sister site [% 72034 | | TripAdvisor %] to find a hotel that fits your needs and budget. Remember to always check with XE.com for the most current exchange rates when planning.

Whichever way you choose to get there, you’ll end up spending less for the basics than your original budget of $2,000. My best advice is to always compare prices and do your research before booking to make sure you’re getting the best deal. For ideas on what to do and ways to save when you get there, read our Paris and London travel guides.

I hope this helps, and please enjoy a cafe au lait for me! If any of you other readers have tips or recommendations on how to save in Paris and London, please add your comments below.

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Editor’s Note: SmarterTravel.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com.

All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.

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