The Real Deal: Fourteen nights' accommodations, rental car, and on-site support services, from $570 per person—including taxes.
When: Jan. 2, 16, 30, Feb. 13, 27, Mar. 12, 2008. There is an air-inclusive version of this package (see Getting There below for details) that is available for all of these dates except Jan. 2 and Mar. 12.
The fine print: The starting rate is based on quadruple occupancy; add $228 per person for triple occupancy and $529 per person for double occupancy. There are no lodging taxes. Rental car taxes are included. If you book the air-inclusive package, which starts at $1,353 per person (based on quadruple occupancy), airport taxes and fees are included; fuel surcharges are about $50 per person. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Untours, 888/868-6871, untours.com.
Why it's a deal: The package price represents savings of $400 off the typical rate—and covers 14 nights in an apartment and the rental car for 14 days for about $40 per person per day. Plus, you get the convenience and reassurance of booking with a reliable operator that has English-speaking staff on hand, plus an orientation session and a group dinner.
Trip details: The package includes a 14-night stay in a fully furnished two-bedroom apartment in Nafplio, a lovely town about two hours southwest of Athens on the Peloponnese peninsula. An English-speaking staffer will greet travelers upon arrival and provide a two-hour orientation session.
Nafplio's harbor is dominated by three fortresses; the Archaeological Museum and the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation are among the local sites. There are shops selling handicrafts and cafés for lazy afternoons, and the surrounding mountainous terrain is well-suited to hikes.
A manual transmission rental car is also included (Avis), and the city makes an ideal jumping-off point for exploring World Heritage sites like Epidaurus, home to a 3rd century amphitheater, and Mycenae, cited in "The Illiad and The Odyssey"and chock-full of ruins and artifacts. Other day trips include the coastal towns of Vivari and Monemvasía as well as Corinth and the island of Hydra. Complimentary driving maps and guides are included; upgrade to an automatic transmission for an extra $171 per person.
By traveling to Greece in the bargain off-season, you'll see another side of the country—one that doesn't involve bathing suits and mobs of tourists. In Nafplio, most businesses remain open during the winter. Expect weather that's cool but still pleasant for sightseeing; temperatures are typically in the 50s Fahrenheit. Before you go, check the weather forecast, the exchange rate, and the local time at BudgetTravel.com.
Getting there: Keep in mind that Untours offers an air-inclusive version of this package starting at $1,353 per person, based on quadruple occupancy—savings of $300 off the typical rate ($1,544 per person for triple occupancy, and $1,629 for double occupancy). Departures are from New York City on British Airways. Add $28 for Boston; $127 for Miami; $150 for Chicago; $275 for L.A.; additional U.S. gateways available. It's worth doing some price comparisons to see which version of the package will be a better deal—it will largely depend on your group size and gateway city.
For instance, we searched for round-trip fares between New York City and Athens in mid-January on Kayak, and the lowest was $627 (multiple carriers). If you're traveling in a group of four people—which has the lowest land-only rate of $570 per person—you would each save $156 by purchasing the airfare independently (spending $1197 each instead of $1353 for the air-inclusive package).
However, if you're traveling with just one other person—making the land-only cost $1,099—the combined total (with airfare of $627) would be $1,726 per person. In this case, you'd save about $100 by booking the $1,629 air/hotel package instead.