Forget the blazing bonfire that seems to be the European banking system. Europe has started its annual fire sale for fall travel, and North American travelers are set to be the major beneficiaries. As the season shifts from summer to fall, savvy travelers are primed to save on shoulder-season airfare through most of the major transatlantic carriers, not to mention discover lower prices (and slimmer crowds) at local hotels and eateries throughout the continent. Here are some ideas for a last-minute hop across the pond.
Go North Before the Lights Go Out
Scandinavian Airlines has extended its fall sale booking window till September 5, with reduced fares to northern European gateways including Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Stockholm, and Gothenburg. Enjoy a region that's filled with fall colors, dramatic outdoor landscapes, and seasonal highlights like West Sweden's annual lobster harvest. Iceland is another accessible spot with decent shoulder-season deals through national carrier Icelandair. This rugged glacial splodge in the North Atlantic boasts volcanic landscapes, huge waterfalls, thermal springs, and an edgy vodka-fuelled nightlife. (This year also marks a peak in a decade-long solar-flare cycle that means Iceland's aurora borealis will burn even more brightly this fall and winter.)
Make Yours a Guinness
Ireland might be taking its austerity medicine, but travelers needn't suffer unduly. Earlier this summer, the Irish government announced a 4.5 percent reduction in the country's value-added tax for tourism-related businesses as a part of a jobs-growth package. This spells cheaper lodging and entertainment for travelers throughout the Emerald Isle. Check the Aer Lingus website for fall sales and packages, with Dublin and Shannon both being within easy range of most major U.S. and Canadian gateways. If you're in Ireland through September and October, don't miss the opportunity to hit the local pub and watch Ireland's national rugby team compete in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which is being hosted some 11,000 miles and 11 time zones to the east in New Zealand. Sure, you'll be starting the craic at 7 a.m., but isn't that why Guinness has all that iron?
Riots, What Riots?
Call us mercenary, but you know that the British tourism industry will be doing all it can to move beyond the looting and rioting this past August and focus eyes back on the 2012 London Olympics. More immediately, the U.S. dollar is tracking more strongly against the pound from its nadir in late 2007. That means more pennies to put towards pints, West End shows, and good deals on hotels throughout the capital. Speaking of which, you can always save big on packages to major cities like London by grouping a hotel with your airfare purchase from booking sites, including Away.com's sister site, Orbitz.com. Also, there's no shortage of seats to London on U.S. and international carriers, including Delta, American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and British Airways—with fall and winter being the times to fly for less. The VisitBritain website lists some of the better current offers on its deals page.
Turkey in October...
OK, Turkey's not officially part of Europe—yet—but North American travelers shouldn't wait to discover a destination that's been pulling in increasing numbers of Euro travelers in recent years. Sparkling Mediterranean beaches, rugged mountains, and vivid history, cuisine, and culture await. Already nominated Europe's best airline by the users of airline-review website Skytrax, Turkish Airlines is making a push into the North American market with expanded direct services to Istanbul from hubs including Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles. No current fall sale fares are advertised, but keep an eye open for last-minute deals to beat the recent $600 round-trip offer for travel to Istanbul from Washington, D.C.
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