Photos: London calling

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  1. A view from the top in London

    London is home to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held July 27 to Aug. 12, 2012. Visitors will be able to see all this wolrd-class city has to offer in the summertime - -everything from plays in Shakespeare's Globe Theater to bird's-eye views of the city on the London Eye. Pictured here, a passenger travels on the London Eye observation wheel which stands 135 meters high and is the tallest such wheel in Europe, on Oct. 22, 2010 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Millennium Bridge

    Pedestrians cross the Millennium Bridge, spanning the River Thames in London, on Feb. 15, 2012. (Stefan Wermuth / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Double-decker bus

    A double-decker bus travels through Piccadilly Circus on March 19, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Buckingham Palace

    At the end of The Mall is Victoria Memorial and Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty The Queen resides. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Great Court

    Visitors walk in the Great Court of the British Museum on Feb. 22, 2011 in London. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Treetop walkway

    A woman walks across the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop walkway, with a view of the Temperate House behind, at Kew Gardens in London on May 22, 2008. The 18-meter high structure gives visitors the opportunity to view the tree canopy at Kew. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. St. Paul's Cathedral

    Tourists look towards St. Paul's Cathedral while riding on an open-top bus through central London on April 15, 2012. Despite a short-term tourism boom at the time of the Olympics, economists are warning that it won't be enough to prevent a sharp slowdown in the economy this year. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Inside St. Paul's Cathedral

    A verger pauses to look at one of the statues in St. Paul's Cathedral after its recent major restoration, in London on June 16, 2011. The St. Paul's Cathedral program of cleaning and repair cost 40 million pounds, has taken 15 years and is the first time in its history that the building has been comprehensively restored inside and out, it was reported on the Cathedral website. (Paul Hackett / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Oxford Circus

    Traffic at the Oxford Circus junction at the intersection of Oxford Street and Regent Street on May 1, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Trafalgar Square

    Tourists enjoy the sunshine in front of the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square on March 28, 2012 in London. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. The Tower of London

    The Tower of London is a historic castle that early in its history served as a royal residence. It's probably most well-known for its use as a place of imprisonment. King Henry VIII executed two of his wives there, and before she became queen, Elizabeth I was held captive there by her half-sister, Queen Mary I. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. River Thames

    An aerial view of the River Thames in London, with the Shard at left and Tower Bridge in the foreground, on September 5, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tate Modern

    Visitors to Tate Modern walk through sunlight shining through the windows, in London on July 30, 2009. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Walking across the bridge

    People cross the Millennium Bridge in wet weather in front of the newly-restored St. Paul's Cathedral on June 16, 2011 in London. A prominent feature in the London skyline and one of the world's most beautiful buildings, St. Paul's Cathedral was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th Century, and is celebrating its 300th anniversary with the completion of a 40 million pound restoration project. (Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Graffiti art

    A woman walks past an ornately-painted building in the Shoreditch area of London on Jan. 14, 2012. Ornate graffiti appears on many buildings and structures in areas of the east London borough of Shoreditch. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Time for soccer

    People play soccer during a warm autumn weather spell on Hampstead Heath, with the City of London in the background, on Oct. 29, 2009. (Jas Lehal / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Fish and chips

    Chelsea soccer fans eat fish and chips outside The Cafe Fish Bar in west London on May 13, 2012. Deep-fried fish in a crispy batter, with fat golden chips, is still as popular as ever with the British public, ranked alongside roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and chicken tikka masala as the nation's favorite dish. (Eddie Keogh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Shopping spree

    Selfridges department store is illuminated on Oxford Street on December 5, 2011 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial

    An aerial view of the Royal Albert Hall and Albert Memorial on July 26, 2011 in London. (Tom Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Shakespeare's Globe Theater

    Actors Dominic Rowan and Miranda Raison perform as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in Shakepeare's "Henry VIII" at the Globe Theatre in London on July 6, 2010. William Shakespeare's Globe Theater, on the south bank of the River Thames, burned to the ground during the staging of a play about Henry VIII in 1613 and was rebuilt in the late 1990s. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Westminster Abbey

    A view of Westminster Abbey on Nov. 19, 2010 in London. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. The Shard

    The Shard towers over St. Thomas Street, on July 5, 2012 in London. A new addition to the London skyline, It is the European Union's tallest building. (Peter MacDiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Borough Market

    A woman walks through Borough Market in London on Dec. 9, 2011. (Luke MacGregor / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Houses of Parliament

    A car travels along Westminster Bridge past the Houses of Parliament on March 27, 2012 in London. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A classic pub

    Patrons drink at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in London, on Dec. 19, 2011. This is one of London's oldest pubs and one of Charles Dickens' favorites, alluded to in "A Tale of Two Cities." (Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. London's West End

    Cars travel at night, along Shaftesbury Avenue past West End theatres, on March 29, 2012 in London. The city's West End is synonymous with theater productions, containing over forty venues showing plays, musicals and operas. The theaters typically play host to over 14 million spectators that view over 18,000 performances each year. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. The 'Gherkin'

    The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' is pictured in the City of London on August 12, 2010. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. A day in the park

    Visitors enjoy summer sunshine as they row boats on the Serpentine in Hyde Park. One of King Henry VIII's former hunting grounds, the 350-acre park in the middle of London features more than 4,000 trees, a lake and a meadow. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Bouquets of flowers

    A woman carries sunflowers at the Columbia Road flower market in East London as summer weather hit the United Kingdom on May 24, 2009. (Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Street art

    A woman walks past street art by Banksy on Pollard Street on Nov. 1, 2007 in London. Recent works of art by Banksy have been bought for hundreds of thousands of pounds by celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The Tower Hamlets Council recently said that they had a duty to remove all graffiti in the area, including anything done by Banksy. However, the public in Bristol recently voted over 90 percent in favor of keeping a piece of graffiti art by Banksy as it was deemed so popular. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A tribute to a princess

    The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park opened on July 6, 2004, in London. The fountain was designed by American Kathryn Gustafson as a tribute to the former princess, who died in a car crash in 1997. (Scott Barbour / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A famous crossing

    Tourists pose for a photograph on the pedestrian crossing at Abbey Road in St. John's Wood, North London on Dec. 22, 2010. The crossing, sited outside Abbey Road Studios in North London and made famous by The Beatles, was designated a site of national importance by the British government. (Andrew Winning / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Brick Lane

    Signs for businesses on Brick Lane, which is synonymous with curry restaurants, on March 16, 2011 in London, England. (Oli Scarff / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. The heart of London

    Summer crowds gather in Trafalgar Square in front of the National Gallery. At the center of Trafalgar Square is Nelson's Column, which commemorates the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A cultural center

    A view down Camden High Street on March 31, 2012 in London. Camden in North London has been one of the city's cultural centers since the 1960s, and is home to the famous Camden Market. The borough is rich in musical heritage with a variety of theatres, art galleries and world famous musical and comedy venues. (Dan Kitwood / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Official timekeeper

    The historic Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is the home of Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian of the world, making it the official starting point for each new day and year. (Visit London) Back to slideshow navigation
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By
updated 5/8/2009 1:16:04 PM ET 2009-05-08T17:16:04

If you think we've seen a buyers' market for travel lately, wait till summer. What with the economic crisis that has devastated business travel, airline overcapacity forcing carriers to cut fares, the low price of oil (which allows airlines to drop fares even more), the epidemic of empty hotel rooms (made worse by a glut of brand-new hotels), and the strength of the U.S. dollar, experts say that we're looking at a onetime confluence of events that will spell much greater bargains than we've seen in the past few summers.

But travel won't be discounted to the same degree everywhere. There will be pockets of opportunity—certain destinations and methods of booking that will yield the greatest value for your dollar. Carpe diem.

Airfares to Europe
"Summer fares to Europe will be the cheapest in recent history," says Rick Seaney, CEO of the fare-monitoring site FareCompare.com. That's because last year, U.S. airlines moved many of their planes from domestic to transatlantic routes—right before Europeans stopped coming.

"While there will be really good discounts in coach," adds Joe Brancatelli, publisher of JoeSentMe.com, the online bible for business travelers, "there will be even bigger bargains in business class: An advance-purchase business-class fare this summer will cost no more than a last-minute walk-up coach fare cost last year—say, $1,500 to $1,700 round-trip."

England, especially London
"There probably hasn't been a better time to travel to the United Kingdom since the summer of 1985," says Brancatelli. London is still an expensive destination, of course, but it's 35 percent cheaper than last year, thanks to the weak British pound; furthermore, "the hotels are empty and discounting heavily."

Look for airfare-plus-hotel packages—such as British Airways' recent low fare that included two free nights in London—and check out VisitBritain.com's offers of free entry to many museums.

Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco, and other U.S. cities that normally draw convention-goers
"The convention business is a fraction of what it's been in the past," says Heather Leisman, senior director of merchandising for Orbitz. "Las Vegas and other cities that have lost business are putting rooms that were previously convention rooms back into the leisure market."

In New York City, the big summer sales have already begun—such as consolidator Quikbook's promotion of 25 percent off its already substantially discounted rates at some of Manhattan's most popular small hotels.

As for San Francisco, not only have room rates dropped but so have airfares on flights to and from the East Coast, thanks to Virgin America's entry into the market. I just paid $300, including taxes and fees, for a New York-San Francisco ticket over the Fourth of July that in past years has cost me $450.

Luxury hotels that normally draw corporate meetings, especially in Hawaii, Arizona, and Florida
Large high-end resorts that cater to groups are the hardest-hit segment of the hotel market. "It's the AIG effect," says Brancatelli. "Right now you don't want the word Ritz on your expense account." Rather than lowering their daily room rates outright, these hotels are offering added-value incentives such as free nights, free meals, and free massages. Four Seasons properties, for instance, have been offering three nights for the price of two, and Ritz-Carltons have been including hundreds of dollars in free resort credits.

Scott Berman, principal and hotel analyst for the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, advises seeking out deals that combine both free nights and resort credits. The best places to find these, he says, are at brand-new hotels as well as in highly competitive markets such as Las Vegas, Hawaii, and Orlando.

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Another good place to look is in second-tier cities that are trying to draw weekend business. Berman also recommends stay-five-nights/get-two-free deals, which provide a week's vacation at 30 percent off. According to LuxuryLink.com president Diane McDavitt, resorts in Hawaii and Arizona are so anxious for business that they've lowered the minimum bids at which auctions start to 35 percent of the regular rate as opposed to the usual 50 percent.

Online auctions and (name-your-own-price sites
Auctions are "a way for a hotel to fill rooms without putting a very discounted rate on its Web site," says McDavitt, which may be why LuxuryLink.com has seen a 23 percent increase year to year in the number of properties that are offering packages—either for auction or at a fixed price—on the site.

Hotels have been reducing blackout dates, she says, adding that they probably won't have blackout dates this summer. If you're headed to a city where any number of hotels would do, consider Priceline or HotWire. Savvy Priceline shoppers have been reporting winning bids of 50 to 60 percent off retail rates for four-star and three-star chain hotels in big U.S. cities.

All-inclusive resorts
Unlike luxury hotels—which avoid discounting rates for fear they won't be able to raise them again—some all-inclusives are lowering prices by huge percentage points. In the Caribbean, Sandals and Beaches resorts have been slicing 55 percent off their rates—and that was during high season! McDavitt adds that LuxuryLink.com has seen a 53 percent increase in the number of all-inclusive properties offering packages at auction within the past year.

African safaris
Travelers who book through the right safari specialist—one who has negotiated exclusive, confidential rates with lodges—can save 30 to 40 percent in South Africa and 25 to 30 percent in East Africa. At press time, Nina Wennersten of Hippo Creek Safaris had just booked clients a seven-night trip to Kenya, in small four-star camps and lodges, for $4,000 per person, including airfare. Cherri Briggs of Explore booked a 10-night trip to Zambia—at the top owner-run lodges—for $3,400 per person.

Australia and New Zealand
"As we go into the summer," says Leisman, "I think we'll start to see three-digit fares that are comparable to fares to London or Paris," due to increased airline service from the United States. And once you land in Australia or New Zealand, your dollar of course goes 30 percent further than it did last year.

Last-minute deals
Travel companies have been unveiling their biggest discounts at the last minute. "The smart consumer with flexible travel dates who doggedly checks prices online will be rewarded," says Berman. One way for travelers to get a sense of the last-minute hotel deals available in a city is to do a "dateless search" on Orbitz. If you type your destination in without typing in a date, you'll get results that show the lowest prices at available hotels within the next 30 days.

Frequent-flier-mile redemption
It's relatively easy these days to get a free domestic plane ticket in exchange for only 25,000 miles (as opposed to 50,000). Condé Nast Traveler readers are even reporting success with that holy grail of point redemption: free tickets to Hawaii. However, it's important not to waste miles by using them for tickets that would otherwise be cheap. "Don't cash in an award that pays you less than a penny per mile," advises Brancatelli. "Try to get at least two cents per mile."

© 2013 Condé Nast Traveler

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