Spring is in the air even if it seems like winter will never leave us.
And now is the time to be thinking about your vacation plans for this summer, and if you are considering a European holiday, the earlier you book the better.
Europe continues to be the top pick for Canadians; but with family in tow — unless you know exactly where you want to go and/or you have friends and family to visit — you really need to think about what you want.
Europe is a big place with something unique to offer in every country. Years ago many of us travelled with little planning – bought an airline ticket, traveled by train or rented a car on arrival and off you went to explore unknown lands. Now, most of us like to do some planning in advance, have an idea of the cost, and ensure we cover our “must do’s” and “must sees”.
Tours, package holidays and cruises have been growing and getting better for European travelers every year. They can typically save you up to 50% of the cost for hotels, excursions and entrance fees to some of the main attractions and are convenient and reliable for families. Consider
- Most prices are fixed so you know what you are paying in advance
- Gas prices are predicted to be at $7 gallon this summer
- The experts do the planning for you – AIR MILES works with a range of suppliers that have been “fine tuning” European travel for years
Package holidays are a great choice even if you book a package for a part of your journey. The package usually covers flights, transfers to a well located hotel, breakfasts and some tourist highlights. Transat Holidays has been expanding their packages to Europe and offers holidays to all the favourites – London, Paris and Italy, but you can also get some great deals to Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain and Greece!
Here’s a sample of what they offer:
London England Package from Vancouver or Calgary for 7 nights/8 days
Including flights, accommodation at the President Hotel***, daily breakfast and transfers from $1499 per person (based on double occupancy, taxes and fees are an additional $207)
City Package to Madrid from Toronto for 7 nights/8 days
Including flights and accommodation at the Petit Palace Plaza del Carmen ****, daily breakfast and transfers from $1539 per person (based on double occupancy, taxes and fees are an additional $219)
OK, it’s Tuesday so this must be Belgium. Forget the boring and predictable bus tours of old. Tour companies, like Trafalgar Tours and Insight Vacations, have refined their holidays to meet the needs of today’s traveler. Not to say that I think this type of vacation is best suited to families, and especially those with very young children, but I would go with my husband or even a couple of girlfriends. Many offer stopovers for a couple of nights in one place, and with the diversity of fellow passengers, it’s a great chance to meet people from around the world. There are wine tours or you can learn how to cook in France or Italy.
Or visit more exotic locations such as Morocco.
Here’s the Best of Morocco package offered by Insight Vacations:
10 days from $2790 per person this includes flights, first class accommodation, numerous excursions and sights, Quality dining and First Class Services.
Most cruise lines have a lot of ships in Europe for the summer and offer some very unique experiences. For families, I think this would be something to consider as you can explore Europe by day, and then be on the cruise at night for dinner and entertainment. Cruise lines also offer exceptional kids programs and I know from personal experience, you and your partner can relax and enjoy some time on your own. My daughter went to the kids program every night for dinner, then they would be taken to the shows and given VIP seating and then taken back to the club for games and snacks (we had to beg her to have dinner with us once and a while). Programs are specialized and staffed by full-time trained employees.
Personally, I think Holland America Line is superior when it comes to the Mediterranean. Europe is their main focus for the summer and they offer some of the most unique itineraries and choice for everyone. They are little smaller and offer 5 star service and exceptional clubs for the kids.
Because this product is in such high demand, I have blocked cabins on 3 Mediterranean cruises this summer/fall at better prices than you can get direct, to ensure we can offer AIR MILES Collectors this product at good value.
Here are the details of the 3 cruises:
Sailing from Rome on August 25th onboard Holland Americas “Noordam”
10-day Mediterranean Enchantment visiting Florence, Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Mallorca, Carthage/Tunis, Palermo and Naples.
Starting from $1799 CDN per person, cruise only in a category H, based on double occupancy and not including taxes of $379. You can add a 3rd or 4th person for as little as $399 per person.
Sailing from Venice on September 17th onboard Holland Americas “Zuiderdam”
12-day Mediterranean Empires visiting Venice, Split Croatia, Athens, Istanbul, Mykonos, Kudasi, Santorini and Katakolon.
Starting from $1899 CDN per person, cruise only in a category K based on double occupancy and not including taxes of $450. You can add a 3rd or 4th person for as little as $399 per person.
Sailing from Rome on October 1st, onboard Carnival’s “Freedom”
12-day Grand Mediterranean Voyage
Starting from $1399 CDN per person, cruise only in a category 6A based on double occupancy and not including taxes of $350. You can add a 3rd or 4th person for as little as $399 per person.
Of course, this is just a small sample of what is out there for Europe this summer, but I hope I have given you some things to consider. Please feel free to call one of our Package Vacation & Cruise experts at 1-888-AIR MILES (247-6453) or in Toronto 416-226-5171 to discuss your European or other vacation needs. (You do not need to be an AIR MILES collector.)