The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations, breakfast daily, and hotel taxes and service fees.
When: Through Dec. 11, 2008; Jan. 8-Mar. 25, 2009.
Gateways: New York City; Chicago, D.C., L.A., and other gateways are available for an additional fee, depending on the destination and travel dates chosen.
The fine print: Does not include fuel surcharges, taxes, and security fees, ranging between $140 and $185 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplements vary, but are generally around $200. U.S. citizens need a passport to travel to Europe. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: Sept. 18, 2008; for London packages, the book-by date is Sept. 24. Note that the packages will be available afterward, but for about $75 to $100 more per person.
Contact: Virgin Vacations, 888/937-8474, virgin-vacations.com.
Why it's a deal: Flight cutbacks and price hikes are part of the forecast for airlines in the coming months—which means air-inclusive package deals like these from Virgin only become a better value. Virgin has obliged by extending the booking deadline for these featured Europe packages (and will likely extend it again beyond September 18). For comparison purposes, we priced out airfares on Kayak for round-trip flights from New York City to Europe in early October and compared them with Virgin's air/six-night packages. We found a $618 fare for London (Kuwait Airways); consider that for an additional $131, before taxes, you can book London At Its Best. We found a $770 flight for Paris (Iberia); for an additional $29 before taxes, you can book Paris At Its Best. We found a $749 flight for Rome (Iberia); if you book Rome At Its Best, you'll pay an additional $150, plus taxes. And for Dublin, we found a $654 flight (Air France); for $295 more before taxes, you can book Dublin At Its Best.
Trip details: Virgin Vacations has extended the booking deadline for a few of its six-night deals to Europe. The Paris At Its Best package starts at $799 for Comfort Hotel Davout Nation. Rome At Its Best starts at $899 for Hotel Taormina. Dublin At Its Best starts at $949 for Mespil Hotel. Then there's a four-night vacation to Venice that starts at $779 for Hotel Arlecchino.
To demonstrate how these city getaways can work, we asked for details about the 6-Night London Fling. Flying out of New York City, the package starts at $749—with an additional $175 in taxes (single supplement starts at $180).
You'll stay in the 139-room Bayswater Inn in Central London. You can take advantage of free breakfast, a garden, and a bar; the hotel is close to Kensington Gardens, Madame Tussauds, and Piccadilly Circus.
There are a bunch of hotel upgrade options, such as the Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum for $240 extra per person and the Hilton London Hyde Park for $420 extra per person. You can also add nights at the Bayswater Inn starting at $51 per person per night.
Generally, the lowest rates for these European packages are in November and January—when cities like London and Paris are chilly; temperatures are often in the 40s, and it rains about half the month. But there can be something romantic about foggy, damp Europe—plus, you'll beat the tourist crowds and save a bundle.