If you’ve put off a trip to Europe for a few years, consider 2012. The U.S. dollar is stronger against the Euro, making prices more affordable for Americans, and we’ve got six tips to help you find the value across Europe this summer.
Tip 1: Head to an off-the-beaten path location
Ditch the crowds in major Italian cities and set out for the Puglia region, about a five-hour drive south from Rome and 3 ½ hours from Naples. Mary Rossi gives a warm welcome to guests at Suite 68, a chic B&B in a private palazzo in the town of Lecce. You can lounge on the terrace overlooking rooftops and church spires, or hop on a bike to explore the narrow winding streets. From $120 per night.
Related: See more money-saving tips for Europe
Tip 2: Try a European chain hotel
The Hotel Du Vin chain includes 14 boutique hotels in U.K. cities. In Edinburgh, the hotel occupies an 18th-century stone building in the historic center and has 47 rooms with tartan throw pillows, freestanding tubs, and purple fleur-de-lis wall coverings. True to its name, the local Hotel Du Vin hosts wine tastings and serves up inventive Scottish dishes such as smoked haddock cassoulet. From $234 per night.
Tip 3: Stay in a small, boutique hotel
The Rue de Penthièvre in Paris is unexpectedly quiet for being just a few blocks from both the Champs-Élysées and President Sarkozy’s official pad. Among several hotels on this attractive street, Hotel D’Albion delivers by far the best value. The 26 rooms, though small, feel up-to-date and chic, aided by brightly patterned wallpaper. A charming breakfast garden is filled with potted plants, marigolds, and a chestnut tree. From $155 per night.
Tip 4: Go where airfares are lower
Iceland continues to be an affordable entry point thanks primarily to Icelandair, which flies from the U.S. to Continental Europe with stops in Reykjavik (recent round-trip fares were $600 including taxes). Make the Radisson Blu Saga Hotel your local base. Perks include free Wi-Fi and free room service for breakfast, and the spa offers a Lava Massage that incorporates hot volcanic rocks and herbal oils. From $160 per night with a 28-day advance purchase.
Tip 5: Visit a less expensive city
Americans were the second biggest growth market to Portugal in 2011, and rightly so: Eating out in Lisbon, for instance, costs a fraction of what it does in other European capitals. The 171-room Sofitel Lisbon Liberdade has a prime location for checking out the monuments in Belem or visiting the botanical gardens. At the end of the day, retire to the hotel’s Intra-Muros bar, complete with a library of art books and a drink list ranging from vintage port to absinthe. From $222 per night.
Tip 6: Rent a flat (or home or room)
Use a website like wimdu.com or 9flats.com that specializes in affordable peer-to-peer rentals in Europe. Both sites have lots of inventory throughout London, such as a chic, modern apartment that is just five minutes from Portobello Road in Notting Hill. While prices will be higher during the Olympics weeks, rentals are still a great option for that time period. From as low as $30 per night for a room or $44 per night for an entire flat.
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