Fancy a European fling? Now’s a great time to go. The European debt crisis is keeping the natives at home, so hotels throughout the continent are luring travelers with lower prices. The dollar is strong, the lines are shorter at bold-faced attractions and there are deals at restaurants. One caveat: Airfare prices haven’t got cheaper, but they’re typically hundreds of dollars less in May than in summer months. Here are five destination suggestions:
Why: Greece has been hit hardest by the debt crisis, and hotels are hurting. Choose an independent property rather than part of a chain, don’t be afraid of calling the hotel direct to negotiate, and keep an eye on the political and economic situation in the Greek capital by enrolling in the State Department’s STEP program.
Where to stay: Athens’ Fresh Hotel
Why: Portugal is the poorest country in Western Europe, and the low cost of living means prices are low on everything from restaurants and hotels to attractions and transportation. Lisbon is the continent’s second-oldest capital after Athens, and it has the looks to match: It’s a charming visual time warp with medieval village neighborhoods and vintage trams — and because it’s built on a series of hills you get scenic views from just about everywhere.
Where to stay: The five-star VIP Grand Lisboa Hotel & Spa, a hotel converted from the former head office of National Portuguese Television, has rates from $105 per night. Positioned between the historic center and the business district, it has a Zen atmosphere, state-of-the art technology, and those panoramic views.
Where to stay:The Tintin Family Affair package costs just $200 for not one but two rooms at the Hotel Amigo, representing a saving of 40 percent. The package includes 50 percent off meals and drinks for children under 12, family tickets to the Hergé Museum, a Tintin map of Brussels and more.
Minorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
Why: Unlike its Balearic neighbors Ibiza and Mallorca, Minorca is a sleepy Mediterranean island that hasn’t changed much in 200 years, with small, boutique inns and B&Bs, super fresh seafood and beaches that look straight out of the Caribbean. The entire island is a UNESCO biosphere reserve and it’s also scattered with prehistoric sites. While prices are high throughout the summer, they’re a steal in May.
Where to stay: The eight-room Hotel Tres Saints, a former manor house in the ancient town of Ciutadella with a fresh, contemporary look, has rooms from $184 in May based on two people sharing (or $118 if you’re traveling solo). Prices include daily breakfast, taxes and fees.
Why: We adore Paris, but it’s expensive in summer. Instead, get on your bike and head to Provence in the south, where you’ll find lavender fields, vineyards and Roman and Romanesque architecture.
How to do it:Bike Tours Direct’s Provence by Bike and Boat tour combines daily cycling with overnight accommodation aboard a river cruise ship. You’ll visit the Camargue, Saint Remy, Arles, Avignon and the Chateauneuf-de-Pape region for wine tasting. The seven-day trip costs $1,280 per person based on double occupancy, which works out at $183 per person per day, for everything: your bike, your bed, all meals, wine tasting and more.
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