We are a mere day away from the time — Oct. 25 is the usual date — when package operators to European capitals reduce their prices to less-costly winter levels. The price leader, Go-today.com (www.go-today.com), lowers the rate for its six-night stay in London (round-trip air from New York, and six nights of hotel accommodations with daily continental breakfast) to $699 per person, and remains at that figure until Dec. 15, then spikes upward for the holiday period, but reduces again to an even-lower winter floor of $649 starting Jan. 10 and continuing until the end of February. Prices from other U.S. cities are only slightly higher.
A similar air-and-land package to Paris that spends six nights at a modest hotel in the French capital generally costs from $100 to $150 more than the London arrangements.
It pays to remember that government taxes and fees add about $185 to those package costs; and that the tour operator automatically imposes another $75 or so for optional insurance (which you will probably want to turn down). So if you also are careful about rejecting such other optional costs as airport-to-hotel transfers (take the far-less-costly London "underground" or subway from Heathrow Airport to a stop near your hotel), you should be able to keep the costs of your flight to Europe and accommodations for the first six nights of your stay to approximately $900 per person. While that expense is higher than in previous years, it's a relative value available to you for most dates in the period from Oct. 15 until the end of February.
And then there's winter travel to what has probably become the "hottest" current European destination. Pacha Tours (tel. 800-722-4288; www.pachatours.com), the leading U.S. tour operator to Turkey, has just released its 2011 catalog, and its prices are nothing short of amazing. For departures during the three-month period from Jan. 1 till the end of March, Pacha has priced its most popular tour, the 14-day escorted and all-inclusive "Turkish Delight" (visiting every major sight in Turkey: Istanbul, Ankara, Cappadocia, Konya, Antalya, Pamukkale, Ephesus, Pergamum, Troy, Canakkale and Gallipoli), with first-class hotels, nearly all meals, transportation throughout, guided sightseeing and all entrance fees, at $1,350 from New York, $1,420 from Chicago, and $1,770 from Los Angeles, including round-trip air to Turkey on Turkish Airlines.
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But that's just for starters. For people who pay in full for their tours prior to Dec. 31, 2010, Pacha will grant a $250 discount per couple, reducing the price for its popular Turkish Delight tour to only $1,225 per person from New York, $1,295 from Chicago, and $1,645 from Los Angeles — again including round-trip airfare. Your only additional expense: government fees and taxes on the airfare, of an unspecified amount.
Considering that people who book Turkish Delight are driven throughout Turkey over a two-week period, staying at first-class hotels, receiving nearly all meals, daily escorted sightseeing, entrance fees to museums and attractions, and the services of an experienced guide throughout, those prices make Turkish Delight one of the most remarkable values in travel. The tour operator also restricts its groups to no more than 34 people per departure.