MONEY-SAVING MOMENT: Every spring, I get the calls from people planning to go to Europe in the summer or fall. This year. they’re really dealing with sticker shock.
There are a few factors working against you: The dollar has declined versus the euro; jet fuel is more expensive; there’s a lack of competition among carriers; and if you rent a car, prices for gasoline in Europe are the equivalent of $8-$10!
But there is one buyer’s market right now and that’s cruises within Europe. The cruise industry positioned too many ships in European ports and demand has been soft. USA Today reports they’re starting to reposition their ships, but even that can take a half a year or so.
So I’m recommending you use a ship as both your transportation around Europe and as your hotel. There are a couple benefits to doing it this way right now: You can pay in U.S. dollars, and you may get a preferential airfare to Europe through the cruise line’s airfare partners. (And if you have frequent flier miles, going international — not domestic — is the best use of them. Try going front of the plane if possible.)
While you can usually find the best deals on cruises online, I encourage inexperienced cruisers to sit down with a cruise expert at travel agency to book. You may not get the best price, but you want to be sure to match up your interests with the right cruise. That’s where a cruise expert comes in handy.
One final thought: If you are going to stay on land (not on a cruise ship) in Europe, you might want to look at fly/stay packages right now. Usually I don’t advise these combo tickets, but this year they may actually save you money. But a word of warning as you’re doing your research: The star ratings are inflated. Go to TripAdvisor.com and check out the hotel to see if the preponderance of other travelers like it before you book.