Whether you’re thinking about April in Paris or May in Lisbon, now’s a great time for a European vacation. Here are a few things to consider before you book:
Deals are Abundant–If You Know Where to Look
It makes sense that the European countries in the most economic trouble would be offering the biggest bargains right now. While France and England are still able to charge top dollar, deals on packages and airfare abound to Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Romania, and Bulgaria. And while hotel rates may be through the roof in London and Geneva, below-market and even budget prices can be found in Madrid, Rome, Lisbon, Athens, and Eastern European cities such as Prague and Budapest.
London is Hoppin’
While it may not be as cheap as some other destinations, London is brewing with excitement in advance of three big events that are sure to keep tourists pouring in for the next year and a half. First up are the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton next month, which will turn the English capital into the biggest wedding party in the world. London is also gearing up for two more big celebrations in 2012: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee (celebrating her 60 years as queen) and the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. You can already catch a glimpse of the nearly complete Olympic Park in East London, and take advantage of some of the city’s new green transportation efforts, including a fleet of 6,000 rental bikes.
Rely on High-Speed Rail
Traveling from city to city in Europe is a snap these days thanks to the EU’s extremely efficient and successful high-speed rail systems. It’s been 30 years since the TGV made its first lightning fast trip from Paris to Lyon, and the line has been transporting passengers all across France ever since. Other European high-speed lines include ICE (Germany), AVE (Spain), X 2000 (Sweden), Eurostar Italia (Italy), Eurostar (Britain, France, Belgium), Thalys (Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne), and Italy’s new NTV. For information about any of these lines, including details about new routes from Paris to Stuttgart, Madrid to Valencia, and Perpignan, France to Figueres, Spain, check out raileurope.com.
Apps Are the New Maps
The days of frantically attempting to ask a taxi driver for directions in a foreign language are over—at least for anyone traveling with a smart phone. With more than 17,000 travel apps available, tourists can be sure that whatever they want to do—book a flight or hotel, navigate a city, locate an off-the-beaten-path café, or translate a road sign—there’s an app for that. Most popular travel publishers offer country- and city-specific apps, including Time Out, which just released digital versions of its popular city guides to London, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, and Zagreb, Croatia.