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Dear Deal Detective:
My family is planning to be in London from approximately December 20-30, 2008. Brrr! What suggestions do you have to make this a memorable trip while keeping expenses down? The oldest member of the trip will be 70 while the youngest will be 11.
There’s no denying that December in London can be a bit brisk—average highs reach 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t let the cooler temperatures dissuade you from exploring the city, however, especially since most activities take place indoors and are oh-so-affordable.
If you haven’t already booked your airfare and hotel, go-today.com is offering a Christmas in London package that includes airfare and six nights’ lodging starting at $1,184 per person. Consider package deals like this one to help keep your airfare and hotel costs down.
December is a particularly busy month for London, and the city is lavishly decorated for the holidays. You can take full advantage of the festivities by strolling along the colorfully lit streets and partaking in good cheer at local restaurants and pubs.
If you’d like to tour some of the city’s major attractions during your stay, the London Pass offers entrance to 55 of the top sights with a one-time payment. Prices depend on how many days you think you’ll need to see everything you want. For example, a one-day pass costs £38 (about $75 US; check XE.com for current exchange rates) for adults and £22 for kids. Though this may seem steep at first glance, you can actually save quite a bit with proper planning. If you use it to see the Tower of London (admission £16.50), Shakespeare’s Globe Theater (admission £9), and Kensington Palace (admission £12.30), then the pass will have paid for itself. Plus, you’ll also receive discounts and special offers on dining, shopping, and entertainment.
And, finally, it wouldn’t be proper to discuss London activities without mentioning the theater. If you’re flexible and in the mood for a performance, you can get half-price tickets the day of the show at tkts kiosks in Canary Wharf or Leicester Square.
No matter what you decide to do, London in itself is a memorable city and will leave its impression, but these activities are sure to make anyone from 11 to 70 smile.
Letter of the week
Last week, I posted this question from reader Pam: “I am a single mother with a teenage daughter. I have never traveled much, but I would like to take her on a trip for her summer vacation. We would both love to see Europe, but I’m worried about the rising value of the euro compared to the dollar. I want to give her a great experience before she goes off to college, but I don’t want to remortgage my house just to afford the trip. We can fly out of any New York City airport. Can you help?”
Fellow traveler and reader, Peter Melville of Rotterdam, suggests Pam and her daughter take a cruise. “I know of cruises in the East Sea, in both the East and West Mediterranean, and one from Rome, along the coasts of Spain and Portugal and via England, to Holland. There are others; I am only mentioning a few I have considered taking myself.
“The advantage of taking a cruise is that your meals are included in the price, which keeps the cost down. Another is that you don’t have to haul your luggage around: your room travels with you. The drawback is that a teenage daughter might get lonely, as most of the other travelers will be retired folk (which in Europe means 60 and over).”
If a cruise doesn’t seem right, Melville also recommends “rent[ing] a holiday home or apartment on the Dutch coast and mak[ing] day trips. The Dutch speak English, Holland is less expensive than England, and there is a great variety of things to do and see at a short distance from wherever you are. Even trips to London and Paris are easy and cheap from Holland. I would gladly give detailed suggestions about where to stay and what to see, should Pam and Julie be interested in visiting the Netherlands.”
Become a Deal Detective
Now it’s your chance to become a Deal Detective. Below is one of the questions from the past week that I wasn’t able to research for this week’s column. Can you help? Email me your suggestions for these readers and I’ll publish the most helpful ones in an upcoming column. You will, of course, get full credit for your efforts.
Cindy writes: “I am planning a college graduation trip for my daughter and myself. We are planning to travel in September. We thought a seven-day Mediterranean cruise would give us the best of both worlds—relaxing on the ship at night and sightseeing by day. My daughter has expressed an interest in Italy and this seems like a good and economical way to do it. Which cruise lines would be entertaining for a college-age traveler as well as a nice ship? Any other thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated.”
Can you help? Note that I’ll print your full name unless you ask me not to. And of course I’ll never share your email address with anyone.
Have a question for the Deal Detective? Please send your request using the “Submit your own comment” box below. Be aware that due to the volume of requests I receive, I cannot personally respond to every email. The more compelling your question, the better the chance you’ll be selected for an upcoming case.
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.