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Friday, May 14, 2010

Day 1 Hometown - Paris

Paris From 8:00am - 8:00pm our driver will pick you up at the CDG and ORL airports at the "luggage claim" area, then transfer you to the hotel for you to check-in.
Hotel: Express by Holiday Inn Paris Porte d'Italie or Novotel Orly Rungis or Hotels offering similar standards of service.

Day 2 Paris - Versailles - Paris

Versailles Today we'll enjoy the sightseeing tour which includes the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees and many more sites. We will drive along the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde, where the royal and many aristocracy members were guillotined during the French Revolution. Then we will drive up to the Hotel des Invalides, where the Tombean de Napoleon 1er (Napoleon the First?s tomb) is located. Later, we'll feature the incredible ascent of the Eiffel Tower, and a relaxing scenic Seine Cruise featuring such highlights as the Notre Dame Cathedral and Pont Alexandre III. Afterwards, our drive takes us to visit the glorious Palace of Versailles, built as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII, and then it took on full royal power by Louis XIV. It was the residence of the royal family from1722 until the Revolution of 1789. Then, after dinner, we will transfer you to your hotel. Overnight in Paris or nearby. (If you are interested in visiting the Splendid Paris or Seine Cruise after dinner, our tour guide would be pleased to arrange it for you.)
Hotel: Express by Holiday Inn Porte d'Italie or Kyriad Joinville Le Pont or Hotels offering similar standards of service.

Day 3 Paris
Paris This morning we will visit one of the world's greatest art museums - The Louvre. Enjoy the works of Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace (also called Nike of Samothrace) and the most famous painting by Leonardo da Vinci - the Mona Lisa. Later, the coach will transfer us to the Place d' Italie for lunch. After lunch the tour leader will take the group for a ride using Paris ?underground metro. You will then have some leisure time and can go shopping near the Opera. After dinner, meet with the tour leader and coach and transfer to the Hotel. Overnight in Paris or nearby.
Hotel: Express by Holiday Inn Porte d'Italie or Kyriad Joinville Le Pont or Hotels offering similar standards of service.

Day 4 Paris - Lucerne (650km)

Lucerne Today we will drive from Paris to Switzerland. During our drive to Switzerland, we will travel through France and Germany, prior to driving through Basel, Switzerland. We will arrive in Lucerne in the early evening and overnight in Lucerne or in a city nearby.
Hotel: NH Lucerne or Flora or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 5 Lucerne - Milan - Verona - Venice (200km)

Milan After breakfast, we will drive to the world's most famous fashion city - Milan. We will enjoy a city tour which includes Sforza Castle, the Duomo, the 19th century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the "La Scala" opera house. After enjoying the gorgeous architecture, our driver will take us to Verona, a city full of historical buildings and romance. We will tour on foot and visit the Roman amphitheatre - Verona Arena, and will pass by cobblestone streets. We will also see the setting of the story of Romeo and Juliet, the short passageway leading to the balcony is covered with slips of paper with signatures on it. Then we will transfer to Venice, the "city of canals". We will stay overnight in Venice or a nearby city.
Hotel: Hotel Holiday or Park Villa Fiorita or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 6 Venice - Rome (550km)

Venice After breakfast, a waterbus will take us along the canals past many marvellous buildings and beautiful churches, to San Marco Square. Here we will see the Basilica di San Marco, one the best known examples of Byzantine architecture in the world. Also we will visit The Bridge of Sighs which connects an old prison to the interrogation rooms in Doge's Palace. Then after witnessing a demonstration of Murana glass-blowing, perhaps a gondola ride to the Grand Canal would be hard to resist. In the afternoon, transfer to Rome or a nearby city for an overnight.
Hotel: Holiday Inn Roma Fiano or BW Park Hotel Rome Nord or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 7 Rome - Vatican - Florence (280km)

Rome After breakfast, we will be transfer to a tiny sovereign state, the Vatican, which heads the largest Church in the world but is located in the smallest country in the world. St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican was built as a great basilica by Emperor Constantine in AD 324 after he officially recognized Christianity. It was rebuilt in the year 1506 and was completed in 1615, and the basilica in itself is an artwork composed of many artistic elements by many famous architects and artists included. After lunch, we will enjoy our sightseeing which includes The Coliseum, built in the year AD 72 for gladiator combat against each other or against wild animals to the death. We will also visit The Arch of Constantine, The Pantheon, which was originally built as a temple to all gods, but has been a Christian church since the 7th century. Then why not make a wish at the Trevi Fountain like in the film "Three coins in the Fountain", and take a photo on the Spanish Steps. Later, transfer to Florence or nearby for overnight.
Hotel: Unaway or Florence-Arezzo Minerva or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 8 Florence - Pisa - Genoa (550km)
Florence After breakfast, we will visit Florence, a city which is often considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It is also famous for its fine art and architecture. Afterwards, enjoy the panoramic view from Piazzale Michelangelo. We will also go on a sightseeing tour on foot which features the Ponte Vecchio overlooking the Arno River, the Duomo and Campanile Tower (by Gitto), and also the Uffizi Gallery- one of the finest art galleries in the world. After sightseeing, why not look for your favorite leather goods during your leisure time, as Italy?s famous leather industry was originally started here. Later, our drive will take us to Pisa; enjoy a tour on foot and take photos of the Leaning Tower. The Duomo (Cathedral) and the Baptistery are also very beautiful. Later, we will head to Genoa or a nearby city in order to spend the night.
Hotel: Hotel Miramarem or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 9 Genoa - Monaco - Nice - Cannes - Avignon (450km)

Nice This morning we continue our journey along the Mediterranean Sea to Monaco. Enjoy the breathtaking scenery and visit a small country with a big attraction, by visiting the grand palace and famous casino in Monte-Carlo. Then we will stop briefly in Nice for a short tour. Later we will drive to Cannes and on our way will pass by a famous perfume town. A visit to the Fragonard Perfume Factory is also included. After the perfume factory, we will arrive in Cannes, a city which has given out prestigious film awards. Stop for a photo at the Palais des Festival and enjoy a relaxing drink near the beach. Tonight we stay in Avignon or a city nearby overnight.
Hotel: Novotel or Express by Holiday Inn or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 10 Avignon - Paris (700km)

Versailles Our day begins by driving back towards Paris. Enjoy the scenic drive and the beautiful scenery as we leave Italy. At night, we will arrive in Paris. Overnight in Paris or nearby.
Hotel: Express By Holiday Inn Paris Porte d'Italie or Novotel Orly Rungis or Hotels offering similar standards of service.
Day 11 Paris - Hometown

Paris Transfer to Paris CDG and ORL airports, and return home.

Special Notes

* If you would like us to arrange a hotel extension, please make a note of it on the checkout page.
* The Cancellation policy:
7 Days Prior to Departure Date - 100% of Reservation Cost
8-14 Days Prior to Departure Date - 50% of Reservation Cost
15-29 Days Prior to Departure Date - 25% of Reservation Cost
30 Days or more Prior to Departure Date - 10% of Reservation Cost
* In Spring/Summer, we recommend you to wear lightweight clothing and comfortable shoes.
In Fall/Winter, we recommend layered clothing to ensure comfort in cold weather.

Reservation Process and E-Ticket
1.Immediately after submitting your reservation you will receive a Receipt of Reservation via email.
2. Within one to two business days of submitting your reservation you will receive a confirmation email from us. If you need to book an airline ticket, we recommend that you do so after you receive a confirmation of your tour reservation from us.
3. An E-Ticket will be sent to you via email as soon as details of your reservation is confirmed or your supporting information is received by us. We will provide you with all detailed information about your tour on the E-Ticket. Contact information for local tour provider will be included on E-Ticket for your convenience or re-confirmation purpose if re-confirmation is required.
4. Simply print your E-Ticket and present it with your valid photo ID on the day of your activity to your tour guide. Please remember E-Ticket is your proof of purchase.
Terms and Conditions

- Your purchase does not guarantee confirmation. Your purchase will initiate a reservation process. We will confirm with you via email within one to two business days.
- Prices may vary due to availability. We reserve the right to make price adjustment without prior notice.
- Please refer to our Standard Amendment, Cancellation and Refund Policy before you make reservation.
- Please refer to Customer Agreement before you make reservation.
- Local tour provider reserves the right to make modifications to tour arrangements including order of tour activities, hotel and its location if deemed necessary.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Niagara Falls Day Trip from New York by Air

Discover the beauty and awesome power of Niagara Falls on a day trip from New York. You'll fly to Upstate New York, tour the falls on both the US and Canadian sides (don't forget your passport!), see all the sights, including a ride on the historic "Maid of the Mist" boat or the Journey Behind the Falls. And at the end of an amazing day you'll take an evening flight back to New York.

* Likely to Sell Out
* All entrance fees included
* Roundtrip airfares
* Lunch included
* Tour is wheelchair accessible
* All taxes, fuel surcharges and service fees included

After being collected from your Midtown Manhattan hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Upstate New York (approximately one hour). On arrival, you will be met by your guide for the day to board the bus to Niagara Falls.

After lunch, it's time to board the famous "Maid of the Mist" boat for an up-close Niagara Falls experience. The 30-minute cruise takes you through the foaming waters to the base of the American Falls and the basin of Horseshoe Falls. You will get close enough to the falls to feel their cool mist on your skin.

The "Maid of the Mist" operates only in the warmer months, from May to October, so if you are traveling from November to April you will visit the Journey Behind the Falls instead. An elevator takes you behind the great sheet of Niagara Falls for a thunderous up-close view of Niagara Falls.

This tour is likely to sell out! The Niagara Falls Day Trip from New York by Air regularly sells out weeks in advance, so book ahead to avoid disappointment!

Please note: due to new TSA policies, each passenger's date of birth, passport name, number, expiry and country is required at the time of booking. You MUST include this information in the special requirements field within the booking process. Failure to include this information will result in your reservation not being completed.

Special Offer - Book by May 31, 2010 and save over 20% off the recommended retail price - BOOK NOW!

United States of America Travel Guide

Mickey Mouse, Miami Vice, Sleepless in Seattle... thanks to cinema and TV we all have impressions of the United States of America. Yet nothing can prepare you for your first glimpse of Manhattan's unforgettable skyline, your first ride in a yellow cab, the ubiquitous hamburger joints, the vast expanses of prairie, the sweet strains of New Orleans jazz or the neon-lit excesses of Las Vegas.

The USA is a huge country to explore, with 50 states to choose from, flanked by two oceans and covering an incredibly varied terrain. For five centuries, since the 'New World' discoveries of Christopher Columbus, people from every corner of the globe have come here in search of 'the American Dream'. Between them, they have created the richest, most powerful country on earth, and a fascinating melting pot of cultures and traditions.

Vast plains, snow-covered mountain ranges, forested rolling hills, deserts, strange rock formations, soaring skyscrapers, stunning coastlines, impressive national parks and a thriving cultural scene; the USA has it all, plus some.

Before the arrival of Christopher Columbus initiating trade routes to the Americas in 1492, the northern continent was inhabited by peoples thought to have been descended from nomadic Mongolian tribes who had travelled across the Bering Sea, between Russia and Alaska. The first wave of European settlers, mainly English, French and Dutch, crossed the Atlantic in the 17th century. The restrictions on political rights and punitive taxation imposed by the British government on American colonists led to the Boston Tea Party and the ensuing American War of Independence (1775-1783), with the Declaration of Independence being signed in 1776. The American Constitution resulted from the states' Declaration, a governing format emulated by many other countries.

By 1853, the boundaries of the USA were, with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii, as they are today. Economic activity in the southern states centred on plantation agriculture dependent on slavery. Attempts by liberally-inclined Republicans, led by Abraham Lincoln, to end slavery were opposed. The election of Lincoln to the presidency in 1861 precipitated a political crisis in which 10 Southern states seceded from the Union, leading to the American Civil War - a war that focused primarily on states' rights. After the four years of war, the country entered a period of consolidation, building up an industrial economy and settling the vast interior region of America known as the Wild West.

Read more: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/country/292/country_guide/North-America/United-States-of-America.html#ixzz0nmnmrZCw

Las Vegas, NV

Shimmering from the desert haze of Nevada like a latter-day El Dorado, Las Vegas is the most dynamic, spectacular city on earth. At the start of the twentieth century, it didn't even exist; now it's home to two million people, and boasts nineteen of the world's twenty-five largest hotels, whose flamboyant, no-expense-spared casinos lure in thirty-seven million tourists each year.

Las Vegas has been stockpiling superlatives since the 1950s, but never rests on its laurels for a moment. Many first-time visitors expect the city to be kitsch, but the casino owners are far too canny to be sentimental. Yes, there are a few Elvis impersonators around, but what characterizes the city far more is its endless quest for novelty. Long before they lose their sparkle, yesterday's showpieces are blasted into rubble, to make way for ever more extravagant replacements. A few years ago, when the fashion was for fantasy, Arthurian castles and Egyptian pyramids mushroomed along the legendary Strip; next came a craze for constructing entire replica cities, like New York, Paris, Monte Carlo, and Venice; and the current trend is for high-end properties that attempt to straddle the line between screaming ostentation and "elegant" sophistication.

While the city has cleaned up its act since the early days of Mob domination, it certainly hasn't become a family destination. Neither is Vegas as cheap as it used to be. It's still possible to find good, inexpensive rooms, and the all-you-care-to-eat buffets offer great value, but the casino owners have finally discovered that high-rollers happy to lose hundreds of dollars per night don't mind paying premium prices to eat at top-quality restaurants, while the latest developments are charging room rates of more like $300 than $30 per night.

Although Las Vegas is an unmissable destination, it's one that palls for most visitors after a couple of (hectic) days. If you've come solely to gamble, there's not much to say beyond the fact that all the casinos are free, and open 24 hours per day, with acres of floor space packed with ways to lose money: million-dollar slots, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette wheels, and much, much more.

Taking Your Children to Europe

by Rick Steves
Resources for Traveling with Kids in Europe

Common sense and lessons learned from day trips at home are your best sources of information.

Take Your Kids to Europe is full of practical, concrete lessons from firsthand family-travel experience, and the only good book I've seen for those traveling with kids ages 6–16 (by Cynthia Harriman, Globe Pequot Press, 8th edition, 2007).

The best book I've found on traveling with infants is Lonely Planet's Travel with Children (5th edition, 2009), which covers travel worldwide, including Europe.

For families interested in hiking, biking, and sailing abroad, pick up Adventuring With Children: An Inspirational Guide to World Travel and the Outdoors (by Nan Jeffrey, Avalon House, 1995). Cadogan offers many worthwhile books in its Take the Kids series, including books on London, Paris, Ireland, and more.

Also consider:

* Fodor's Around London with Kids, Around Paris with Kids, Around Rome with Kids, and Family Adventures.
* For solo parents, there's Brenda Elwell's Single Parent Travel Handbook (Globalbrenda Publishing, 2002).

European families, like their American counterparts, enjoy traveling. You'll find more and more kids' menus, hotel playrooms, and kids-go-crazy zones at freeway rest stops all over Europe. Your child will be your ticket to countless conversations. Traveling with an infant or toddler can be challenging, but parents with a babe-in-arms will generally be offered a seat on crowded buses, and sometimes be allowed to go to the front of the line at museums.

Grade-school kids are often the easiest travelers, provided you schedule some kid-friendly activities every day. They're happiest staying in rural places with swimming pools and grassy fields to run around in.

High-schoolers feel that summer break is a vacation they've earned. If this European trip is not their trip, you become the enemy. They crave the bright lights and action of the big city. Ask for their help. Kids can get excited about a vacation if they're involved in the planning stages. Consider your child's suggestions and make real concessions. "Europe's greatest collection of white-knuckle rides" in Blackpool might be more fun than another ruined abbey.

My kids are young adults now, but I remember what it was like taking them to Europe. In this chapter, I've included the lessons I've learned from parenting in Europe, along with tips collected from readers on this website's Graffiti Wall.

International adventure is a great foundation for a mountain of memories. The key to a successful family trip is making everyone happy, including the parents.

You'll need the proper documents. Even babies need passports. If you're traveling with a child who isn't yours (say, a niece or grandson), bring along a signed, notarized document from the parent(s) to prove to authorities that you have permission to take the child on a trip.

It's a good idea to take extra passport photos with you. Since infants and toddlers change so quickly, carry photos that were taken for the passport, as well as ones taken close to your departure date. For children at any age, take an official copy of his or her birth certificate, along with a photocopy of the child's passport. Keep these separate from your passports — these documents will allow you get a replacement passport for your child quickly and easily.

Most parents hold onto their kids' passports, but if you have older children that will be out on their own, you might get them a money belt or neck pouch for carrying their cash and ID.

You'll find that because you are in a foreign country, your kids are more likely to stick close to you. But if you're worried about your younger children getting lost, consider ordering dog tags with contact information (see www.dogtagsonline.com). Give each child a business card from your hotel so they have local contact information. Another option is a ID Inside wristband, with a hidden pocket that holds a disposable, waterproof ID card. You can easily switch out the ID card, updating your hotel name and contact information as you travel. Or try the Lost & Found Temporary Tattoo, a washable tattoo with a space for you to write a contact phone number.

At home, encourage your kids to learn about the countries, cities, sights, and people they'll be visiting. Even simple Wikipedia articles can provide enough background to pique a child's curiosity. Read books such as The Diary of Anne Frank for Amsterdam or The Thief Lord for Venice. Watch movies together, such as The Sound of Music for Salzburg, The Red Balloon for Paris, or The Secret of Roan Inish for Ireland. Your hometown library can be a great resource for age-appropriate books and movies.

Get a jump on foreign phrases, learning the top 20 or so before you leave home. Capitalize on whatever hobbies your kids have or games they play that may relate to the history of the places you're visiting, especially if your family has some sort of connection to the "old country." Give them the chance to try out foreign specialties in advance by eating at ethnic restaurants, or get a cookbook and make meals together at home. Many US cities host celebrations of different cultures — look for Greek, French, Italian, Hungarian, or other European festivals in your town for your family to enjoy.
What to Bring

The amount of gear you need depends on the age of your child. Since a baby on the road requires a lot of equipment, the key to happiness is a rental car or a long stay in one place. If you're visiting friends or family, give them ample notice, and they may be able to borrow a car seat, stroller, and travel crib so you won't have to pack it. If you have older kids, let them know they will be pulling their own roll-aboard luggage through airports and down cobblestone streets. Pack as light as you can, but if you figure you'll need it (based on your experience taking trips near home), trust your judgment.

For young kids, it's helpful to have a stroller and a baby backpack. The light umbrella strollers can easily navigate cobblestones — just make sure you spend a little extra on a solidly built one that can take the bumps, such as Peg Pérego or Maclaren. Backpacks are great if you need to keep your hands free, and when you're traveling on subways and buses. Prepare to tote more than a tot. A combo purse/diaper bag with shoulder straps is ideal. You can always stow it in your stroller's basket if you tire of carrying it yourself. Be on guard: Purse snatchers target parents (especially while busy and off-guard, as when changing diapers).

Some parents bring a travel bed, although hotels can usually supply a crib (ask in advance when you reserve the room). One travel model — PeaPod Plus — is a pop-up tent with an air mattress, sleeping bag, and hand pump (www.kidco.com). Other parents use a portable playpen as a bed for their child. Bringing a travel bed means your child never has to sleep in a "strange" bed — avoiding possible sleeping problems. However, carting around a travel bed or playpen makes more sense if you'll be traveling by car.

Drivers should bring a car seat, buy one in Europe, or see if the car-rental company can provide one (usually the most expensive option). Pack along a car-seat clip in case you need to secure the car seat to the shoulder-strap seat belt. In addition to being required safety equipment while driving, a car seat can be a stress-saver when traveling by plane, train, or bus. Although it may seem like a bulky carry-on, a car seat is more comfortable for your child to sit in than a seat designed for an adult, and is a familiar place for a nap. Kids are used to car seats and know how to behave in them.

If your child uses formula, consider bringing your own supply — the formula offerings in most of Europe are very different from those at home. Before you fly away, be sure you've packed acetaminophen, diaper rash cream, a thermometer, and any special medications your baby may need (keeping in mind the air travel rules about liquids).

For older kids, today's technology can make the difference between a dream trip and a nightmare. Splurge for a portable DVD player or iPod. Load it with movies and TV shows, and get a splitter so two kids can watch at the same time. There's nothing like a favorite show to help calm your kids before bedtime. A Nintendo DS or other handheld game system can fill hours traveling between destinations. Consider giving each of your kids his or her own digital camera or cheap video camera. They can take pictures and make movies from their own perspective. Along with their journals, it will help them remember more about the trip. Bring the family laptop or netbook; you'll find that your teens will use it (more than you) to stay in touch with friends back home.

You can easily buy toys and sports equipment in Europe. For the athletic child, a Whiffle ball and bat guarantee hours of amusement with newfound friends. A rubber ball lets kids play soccer on foreign turf. When you're in France or Italy, consider purchasing a set of boules or pétanque balls (called bocce in Italy); this popular form of outdoor bowling is played on public squares. (The balls are heavy, though, so only get them if you're staying in one place or traveling by car.)

For quiet time in the hotel room, buy a set of Legos once you're in Europe — the popular building blocks are excitingly different from those found in the US. A small indoor Frisbee is fun.

But don't overdo it. One family of four reported taking three suitcases, two backpacks, and a stroller to Spain. European taxis are much smaller than American ones, so every time they traveled between cities, they had to use two taxis to transfer to the airport or train station. Even with kids, you can pack light. Make the older ones carry their own bags. Do laundry more often. If there's a sudden cold snap, buy an extra sweater in Europe rather than bring one along.
In the Air

Your cute gurgling baby might become an airborne Antichrist as soon as the seat-belt light goes off. You'll pay 10 percent of the ticket cost to take a child under the age of two on your lap for an international flight. The child doesn't get a seat, but many airlines have baby perks for moms and dads who request them in advance — roomier bulkhead seats, hang-from-the-ceiling bassinets, and baby meals. (Note, however, that many child-safety experts advise against holding a baby in your lap on the plane, and suggest that you buy a ticket and strap your child into his or her car seat instead.)

After age two, a child's ticket typically costs 60–80 percent of the adult fare — a major financial ouchie (some sale fares do not allow any discounts for kids). From age 12 on, kids pay full fare.

For long flights, choose a red-eye when possible so your child (and hopefully you) can sleep while you travel. Pick flights with few connections; nonstop works best. Decide if you want to sit near the aisle or window. A window seat gives your active child only one escape route, plus the added entertainment of the window. However, a toddler who needs frequent diaper changes and sits quietly may be more comfortable by the aisle.

Tire out your tykes before boarding the plane. If you fly at night, consider having your child skip that afternoon's nap. While you're waiting to board, get your kids up and moving as much as possible. Finally, when you're on the plane and it's time for sleep, follow normal bedtime routines. Change your child into pajamas, tuck her in with a blanket, and read a story or two.

Be prepared. The batteries might go out on your DVD player or iPod. For younger kids, make sure to have lots of toys and surprises, such as a Mini Slinky or stickers. Bring snacks (such as raisins and granola bars), activity supplies (washable markers, paper, various activity books — mazes, connect-the-dots, Mad Libs), books for reading, and small stuffed toys.

Be warned — jet lag can be kiddie purgatory. If you can tolerate some — OK, maybe a lot — of crankiness on the first day, keep young children awake until a reasonable bedtime. After junior passes out from exhaustion, hopefully the whole family will sleep through the night and wake up when the locals do. Take it easy at the beginning (maybe even starting with a rural destination), allowing a couple of low-impact days to get over jet lag.

Some kids do better staying in an apartment or house than in a hotel. Self-catering flats rented by the week or two-week period, such as gîtes in France and villas in Italy, give a family a home on the road. To cut costs, try home-sharing services that let you swap houses with a European family (see a letter I received that's full of House-Swapping Tips). Many families prefer settling down this way and side-tripping from a home base. Not only is it cheaper, but you get to spend time together cooking, watching movies, and just hanging out. It's a cultural experience just to see European TV together. But be aware that European standards on televised sex and nudity are much more relaxed than in the US; you might stumble on some uncensored movies, or even soft-core porn, next to the Nickelodeon channel.

If you're traveling with older kids, consider hostels. Families can hostel very cheaply, especially in high-priced Scandinavia. Family membership cards are inexpensive, and there's no age limit. Many hostels have "members' kitchens" where the family can cook and eat for the price of groceries. Some hostels also offer family rooms.

If your kids love camping, rent a camper van or small RV. Kids and campgrounds — with swings, slides, and plenty of friends — mix wonderfully. Suddenly your family and the French kids over at the next tent are best buddies (see my article on Camping European Style).

Most hotels, especially those catering to business travelers, have large family rooms. London's big, budget chain hotels allow two kids to sleep for free in their already reasonably priced rooms. A swimming pool is a bonus at these chain hotels.

In some countries, you may need to know the necessary phrases to communicate your needs. If you have a family of four and your children are young, request a triple room plus a small extra child's bed. Traveling with teenagers, you may need two rooms: a double (one big bed) and a twin (a room with two single beds). In much of Europe, a "double" bed is actually two twins put together. These can easily be separated.

Be careful about staying in small hotels or B&Bs with a baby. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, you're going to wake up everybody else. Some B&Bs won't take even children, or impose an age limit (such as no kids under 8); ask before booking.

Choosing lodging close to your daytime activities is smart in case your little traveler needs to return for a nap or supplies. Request quiet rooms away from the street and bar downstairs. If your child is used to sleeping in his or her own space, look for rooms with a partition, large closet, or other area in which you can separate your child when it's bedtime (baby can even sleep in the bathroom).

If you have young children, childproof the room immediately on arrival. A roll of masking tape makes quick work of electrical outlets. Place anything breakable up out of reach. Proprietors are generally helpful to considerate and undemanding parents.

With a toddler, budget extra to get a bath in your room — a practical need and a fun diversion. (Some showers have a 6-inch-tall "drain extension" and a high lip to create a kid-friendly bathing puddle.)

Keep children fed. Even with a big breakfast, don't expect them to "power through" to a late lunch. A short snack break will help in the long run. Make sure to pack along or stop to buy high-quality food as often as possible — a real sandwich, pasta, or yogurt.

Buying bread, cheese, fruit, and drinks in the morning means you can picnic anytime, anywhere. Kids find that foreign grocery stores are an adventure, so bring them along and let them help shop. Get take-away food from one of the many (usually cheap) food stands in big cities — French fries, bratwurst or Currywurst, crêpes, or a sandwich.

Eat gelato, croissants, or chocolate every day (gelato should be twice a day) — whatever is a "specialty" treat of the country you are in. It's a cultural experience and a great way to get off your feet and take a break.

At home, you may try to avoid bribes, but the promise of a treat can make a huge difference to everyone's cooperation when you're out and about — and don't have space for a "time out."

An occasional Big Mac or Whopper between all the bratwurst and kraut helps keep the family happy. You'll get your food relatively quickly, and the kids will almost always eat hamburgers, fries, or chicken nuggets. As much as adults love eating at European restaurants, kids get restless. The pacing is slow, and it can be stressful. Plan ahead and bring something for your child to do while waiting for dinner (or the check) to arrive.

Eat dinner early (around 6–7 p.m.) to miss the romantic crowd. Skip the famous places. Look instead for relaxed cafés or pubs (kids are welcome, though sometimes restricted to the restaurant section or courtyard area). Don't expect high chairs to be available; use your stroller in a pinch.

In restaurants (or anywhere), if your infant is making a disruptive fuss, apologetically say the local word for "teeth" (dientes in Spanish, dents in French, denti in Italian, Zähne in German), and annoyed people will become sympathetic.

At fancier hotels, you can get babysitters, usually from professional agencies. The service is expensive but worth the splurge when you crave a leisurely, peaceful evening out.

Review the day's plan at breakfast with the entire family. It should always include a kid-friendly activity. Hands-on tours, from cheesemaking to chocolate factories, keep kids engaged. Go to sports or cultural events, but don't insist on staying for the entire event.

Kids need plenty of exercise. Allow time for a few extra runs on the luge. Small towns often have great public swimming pools, and big cities have recreation centers or water parks (check out Paris' Aquaboulevard). Mountain bikes are easily rentable (with helmets), suddenly making the Alps cool. Local TIs can help you dig up these treats.

Let your kids make decisions: choosing lunch spots, deciding which stores to visit. (The cheapest toy selection is usually in the large department stores.) Turn your kid into your personal tour guide and navigator. If you use my guidebooks, have your child lead you on my self-guided walks and museum tours.

Europe is full of kiddie discounts, but you have to ask. Many activities — most importantly train rides — are free for infants and toddlers. School-aged children often fall into the reduced fare category, but sometimes they ride free, too. Some museums are free for kids under a certain age. When adults have to pay to eat breakfast at hotels, their kids sometimes eat free — worth a whole lot of money, especially when you're in Scandinavia.

Since a trip is a splurge for the parents, the kids should enjoy a larger allowance, too. Provide ample money and ask your kids to buy their own treats, gelati, postcards, and trinkets within that daily budget. In exchange for the extra allowance, require them to keep a daily journal or scrapbook. Expect older kids to carry and use the currency. If you don't want your younger child to carry cash, Mom or Dad can be the "banker" and keep a tally of expenses.

Help your kids collect and process their observations. If you buy the actual journal at your first stop, it becomes a fun souvenir in itself. Kids like cool books — pay for a nice one. The journal is important, and it should feel that way. Encourage the kids to record more than just a trip log...collect feelings, smells, tastes, reactions to cultural differences, and so on. Grade-school kids enjoy pasting in ticket stubs or drawing pictures of things they've seen.

Young kids will do better in museums if you let them buy postcards in the gift shop first and then have a scavenger hunt to find the artwork on their postcards. "I spy" games are also a fun way to get the kids to pay attention when they start to get bored. Have the younger ones count how many babies they can find in all the paintings in the room — or dogs, or crowns. Follow my crowd-beating tips on easy entry to major sights — kids despise long lines even more than you do.

Older kids enjoy audioguides available at the museum or my free podcasts. Audioguides let your kids feel independent in their sightseeing. They also allow you a few moments to learn about the artwork, too.

Try a guided walking tour. Some parents are leery of group tours because they're afraid their kids will be the most disruptive members. But your kids will listen to a guide more than they will listen to you. Being in a group of adults can tone down even the wildest child.

Consider visiting an amusement park as an end-of-trip reward — the promise of Legoland in Denmark, Blackpool in England, or Disneyland Paris can keep your kids motoring through the more mundane attractions. In parks, look for puppet shows, pony rides, merry-go-rounds, small zoos, or playgrounds. Paris's Luxembourg Gardens is renowned for its toy sailboat rentals at the main pond (and they'll even let your kids play on the grass — usually a no-no at French parks).

At least every other day, take an extended break. Return to your hotel or apartment after lunch for two hours for napping, reading, or listening to the iPod. What you lose in sightseeing time you will gain in energy levels.

It can be hard for kids to hang around grown-ups all day, so help your kids connect with other children. In hot climates, kids hang out on the squares (in cities and villages alike) when the temperature begins to cool in the late afternoon, often staying until late in the evening. Take your children to the European nightspots to observe — if not actually make — the scene (such as the rollerbladers at the Trocadéro in Paris or the crowd at Rome's Trevi Fountain).

Just a few phrases spoken by your kids will open many doors. Made a point of teaching them "thank you," "hello," and "good-bye" in the country's language. You'll find nearly everyone speaks English, but small phrases out of the mouths of babes will melt the cool of surly museum guards or harried shop clerks.

Internet cafés allow kids to keep in touch with friends at home and European pals they meet on their trip. These days, blogging is popular and accessible even for kids (see my artcle on Communication over the Internet). Or, for a few euros, kids can purchase an international phone card and chat cheaply with friends back home. If you're traveling with a mobile phone, your kids can use it to text or send photos back to their friends in the US.

Getting somewhere can be more fun than touring a sight. Your son might not care about the Crown Jewels, but he may go nuts riding the double-decker bus getting there. Kids love subway maps, train schedules, and plotting routes. The Paris Métro is especially fun, as many stations have boards that light up the route when you press the button for your destination. Even the automated ticket kiosks are entertaining. Allow time for all of this, rather than just rushing onto a subway train or bus. After a teaching run, let your child actually lead the family on subway journeys — kids love the challenge.

In a crowded situation, having a unique family noise (a whistle or call, such as a "woo-woop" sound) enables you to easily get each other's attention. Consider buying cheap walkie-talkies in Europe to help you relax when the kids roam (don't bring walkie-talkies from home, as ours use a different bandwidth and are illegal in Europe). Or consider buying a cheap "pay as you go" mobile phone for them in Europe (explained in my article on Mobile Phones in Europe); this can also be helpful in case of emergencies.

When using public transportation, have a backup plan for what to do in case you get separated in the crowd or if one of you gets off the Metro before the other (for example, plan to meet at the next stop — or, if all else fails, plan to reconvene at the hotel — make sure everyone has a hotel business card).

Public WCs can be hard to find. Try department stores, museums, and restaurants, particularly fast-food places.

This is not the United States of Litigation. Europeans love children, but their sense of child-proofing public spaces is vastly different from ours. You may find a footbridge across a raging river has child-sized gaps between the railings. Windows in fourth floor hotel rooms may be easy to open and unscreened. The hot water may scald you in about 30 seconds. Don't judge. But do pay attention.
Leave the Kids at Home?

When parents tell me they're going to Europe and ask me where to take their kids, I'm tempted to answer, "to Grandma and Grandpa's on your way to the airport." It's easy to make the case against taking the kids. Traveling with kids is expensive. (Starting at age 12, they fly for full fare. Out of exhaustion and frustration, you may opt for pricey conveniences like taxis and the first restaurant you find with a kid-friendly menu.) And two adults with kids spend twice as much to experience about half the magic of Europe per day that they might without. Also, older kids would very often rather stay home to enjoy their school break with friends.

If you and your partner have 20 days for a family vacation, are on a budget, and are dreaming of an adult time in Europe, consider this plan: Go for 10 days without the kids and really enjoy Europe as adults rather than parents — the savings from leaving them at home will easily cover top-notch child care. Then fly home and spend the other 10 days with your kids — camping, at a water park, or just playing with them at home. (If your kids have a "cool" but responsible young-adult relative somewhere else in the US who they'd enjoy getting to know better, offer to pay to fly them there and watch your kids while you're gone.)

Some parents won't bring their kids until they are old enough to enjoy the trip. They should be able to stand a day of walking and be ready to eat what is in front of them — and sleep where you stay. They should be able to carry their own daypacks with some clothes, journal, and a couple of toys. It's about the same age as when a child is ready for a long day at Disneyland.

You'll find your European trips will definitely change with children, but many parents wouldn't dream of leaving their kids behind. Your vacation will be much more about playgrounds and petting zoos than about museums and churches. Some of your best memories may be of your son playing in a sandbox with the girls who live next to your rental cottage, or your daughter going on a zip line at the local playground. Traveling with kids, you'll live more like a European and less like a tourist. And, if done well, you'll take home happy memories that you'll share for a lifetime.

Timing your Trip: Travel Throughout the Year

By Rick Steves

In travel-industry jargon, the year is divided into three seasons: peak season (roughly June through August), shoulder season (April through May and September through October), and off-season (November through March). Each has its pros and cons.
Peak-Season Strategies

Except for the crowds and high temperatures, summer is a great time to travel. The sunny weather, long days, and exuberant nightlife turn Europe into a powerful magnet. I haven't missed a peak season in 30 years. Here are a few tips to minimize the crowds and help keep your cool:

Arrange your trip with crowd control in mind. Consider, for instance, a six-week European trip beginning June 1, half with a Eurailpass to see the famous sights and half visiting relatives in Scotland. It would be wise to do the Eurail section first, enjoying those precious last three weeks of relatively uncrowded shoulder season, and then spend time with the family during the last half of your vacation, when Florence and Salzburg are teeming with tourists. Salzburg on June 10 and Salzburg on July 10 are two very different experiences.

Seek out places with no promotional budgets. Keep in mind that accessibility and promotional budgets determine a place's fame and popularity just as much as its worthiness as a tourist attraction. For example, Geneva is big and famous — with nothing special to offer the visitor. The beaches of Greece's Peloponnesian Peninsula enjoy the same weather and water as the highly promoted isles of Santorini and Ios but are out of the way, underpromoted, and wonderfully deserted. If you're traveling by car, take advantage of your mobility by leaving the well-worn tourist routes. The Europe away from the train tracks is less expensive and feels more peaceful and relaxed. Overlooked by the Eurail mobs, it's one step behind the modern parade.

Hit the back streets. Many people energetically jockey themselves into the most crowded square of the most crowded city in the most crowded month (St. Mark's Square, Venice, July) — and then complain about the crowds. You could be in Venice in July and walk six blocks behind St. Mark's Basilica, step into a café, and be greeted by Venetians who act as though they've never seen a tourist.

Spend the night. Popular day-trip destinations near big cities and resorts such as Toledo (near Madrid), San Marino (near huge Italian beach resorts), and San Gimignano (near Florence) take on a more peaceful and enjoyable atmosphere at night, when the legions of day-trippers retreat to the predictable plumbing of their big-city hotels. Small towns normally lack hotels big enough for tour groups and are often inaccessible to large buses. So they will experience, at worst, midday crowds.

Be an early bird. In Germany, walk around Rothenburg's fortified wall at breakfast time, before the tour buses pull in and turn the town into a medieval theme park. Crack-of-dawn joggers and walkers enjoy a special look at wonderfully medieval cities as they yawn and stretch and prepare for the daily onslaught of the 21st century.

See how the locals live. Residential neighborhoods rarely see a tourist. Browse through a department store. Buy a copy of the local Better Homes and Thatches and use it to explore that particular culture. Get off the map. In Florence, for instance, most tourists stick to the small section of the city covered by the ubiquitous tourist maps. Wander beyond that, and you'll dance with the locals or play street soccer with the neighborhood gang.

Plan your museum sightseeing carefully. Avoid museums on their monthly free days, when they're most crowded. Because many Parisian museums are closed on Tuesday, nearby Versailles, which is open, is predictably crowded — very crowded. And it follows that Parisian museums are especially crowded on Monday and Wednesday. While crowds at the Louvre can't be avoided altogether, leaving home with a thoughtful itinerary can help. And for some top museums, you can reserve your visit in advance to avoid the lines entirely. (For more tips, see Museum Strategies.)

Arrive at the most popular sights early or late in the day to avoid tour groups. At 8:00 in the morning, Germany's fairy-tale Neuschwanstein Castle is cool and easy, with relaxed guides and no crowds. And very late in the day — when most tourists are long gone, exhausted in their rooms, or searching for dinner — I linger alone, taking artistic liberties with some of Europe's greatest art in empty galleries.

Prepare for intense heat. Europeans swear that it gets hotter every year. Even restaurants in cooler climates (like Munich or Amsterdam) now have ample al fresco seating to take advantage of the ever-longer outdoor-dining season. Throughout Europe in July and August, expect high temperatures — even sweltering heat — particularly in the south.

Be aware of the exceptions. Although Europe's tourist crowds can generally be plotted on a bell-shaped curve peaking in July and August, there are odd glitches. For instance, Paris is relatively empty in July and August but packed full in June (conventions) and September (trade shows). Business-class hotels in Scandinavia are cheapest in the summer, when travel — up there, mostly business travel — is down.

In much of Europe (especially Italy and France), cities are partially shut down in July and August, when local urbanites take their beach breaks. You'll hear that these are terrible times to travel, but it's really no big deal. You can't get a dentist and many launderettes are shut down, but tourists are basically unaffected by Europe's mass holidays. Just don't get caught on the wrong road on the first or 15th of the month (when vacations often start or finish) or try to compete with all of Europe for a piece of French Riviera beach in August.
Shoulder Season

For many, "shoulder season" — generally April, May, September, and October — combines the advantages of both peak-season and off-season travel. In shoulder season, you'll enjoy decent weather, long-enough daylight, fewer crowds, and a local tourist industry that is still eager to please and entertain.

Because fall and spring bring cooler temperatures in Mediterranean Europe, "shoulder season" in much of Italy, southern France, Spain, Croatia, and Greece can actually come with near-peak-season crowds and prices. For example, except for beach resorts, Italy's peak season is May, June, September, and October rather than July and August. Paris has its own surprising patterns (see above). Conversely, the Scandinavian countryside (such as the fjords of Norway) is a special case, with an extremely brief tourist season--basically from mid-June to late August. Avoid Scandinavia outside of this window.

If debating the merits of spring versus fall, consider your destination. Mediterranean Europe is generally green in spring, but parched in fall. For hikers, the Alps are better in early fall, because many good hiking trails are covered with snow through the spring.

On a budget note, keep in mind that round-trip airfares are determined by your departure date. Therefore, if you fly over during peak season and return late in the fall (shoulder season), you'll still pay peak-season round-trip fares.
Off-Season Europe

Each summer, Europe greets a stampede of sightseers and shoppers with eager cash registers. Before jumping into the peak-season pig pile, consider a trip during the off-season — generally November through March.

The advantages of off-season travel are many. Off-season airfares are often hundreds of dollars cheaper. With fewer crowds in Europe, you'll sleep cheaper. Many fine hotels drop their prices, and budget hotels will have plenty of vacancies. And while many of the cheap alternatives to hotels will be closed, those still open are usually empty and, therefore, more comfortable.

Off-season adventurers loiter all alone through Leonardo da Vinci's home, ponder in Rome's Forum undisturbed, kick up sand on virgin beaches, and chat with laid-back guards by log fires in French châteaux. In wintertime Venice, you can be alone atop St. Mark's bell tower, watching the clouds of your breath roll over the Byzantine domes of the church to a horizon of cut-glass Alps. Below, on St. Mark's Square, pigeons fidget and wonder, "Where are the tourists?"

Off-season adventurers enjoy step-right-up service at banks and tourist offices and experience a more European Europe. Although many popular tourist-oriented parks, shows, and tours will be closed, off-season is in-season for the high culture: the Vienna Boys' Choir, opera, and the Lipizzaner stallions are in their crowd-pleasing glory.

But winter travel has its drawbacks. Because much of Europe is at Canadian latitudes, the days are short. It's dark by 5 p.m. The weather can be miserable — cold, windy, and drizzly — and then turn worse. But just as summer can be wet and gray, winter can be crisp and blue, and even into mid-November, hillsides blaze with colorful leaves.

Off-season hours are limited. Some sights close down entirely, and most operate on shorter schedules (such as 10 a.m.–5 p.m. rather than 9 a.m.–7 p.m.), with darkness often determining the closing time. Winter sightseeing is fine in big cities, which bustle year-round, but it's more frustrating in small tourist towns, which often shut down entirely. In December, many beach resorts shut up as tight as canned hams. While Europe's wonderful outdoor evening ambience survives year-round in the south, wintertime streets are empty in the north after dark. English-language tours, common in the summer, are rare during the off-season, when most visitors are natives. Tourist information offices normally stay open year-round but have shorter hours in the winter. A final disadvantage of winter travel is loneliness. The solo traveler won't have the built-in camaraderie of other travelers that she would find in peak season.

To thrive in the winter, you'll need to get the most out of your limited daylight hours. Start early and eat a quick lunch. Tourist offices close early and opening times are less predictable, so call ahead to double-check hours and confirm your plans. Pack for the cold and wet — layers, rainproof parka, gloves, wool hat, long johns, waterproof shoes, and an umbrella. Dress warmly. Cold weather is colder when you're outdoors trying to enjoy yourself all day long. And cheap hotels are not always adequately heated in the off-season. Use undershirts to limit the washing of slow-drying heavy shirts.

In the winter, most hotels are empty and charge less. To save some money, arrive late, notice how many open rooms they have (keys on the rack), let them know you're a hosteler (student, senior, artist, or whatever) with a particular price limit, and bargain from there. The opposite is true of big-city business centers (especially in Berlin, Brussels, and the Scandinavian capitals), which are busiest and most expensive off-season.

Regardless of when you go, if your objective is to "meet the people," you'll find Europe filled with them 365 days a year.

Flying Within Europe

By Rick Steves

For most of my traveling life, I never would have considered flying point-to-point within Europe. It simply wasn't affordable. But today that kind of thinking seems so 20th century.

With the deregulation of airlines and the proliferation of extremely competitive discount carriers, suddenly Europe's vagabonds are jet-setters. More new no-frills airlines take off every year, and even some of the well-established carriers are following their lead. Before buying a long-distance train ticket, first visit a few budget airlines' websites to compare prices. You might be surprised.
Flight vs. Train?

With the abundance of cheap flights within Europe, travelers can choose how to connect far-flung cities: hop a flight, or ride the rails?

Flying can save both time and money, especially on long journeys. A cheap flight can help a light sleeper avoid spending the night on a rattling train. In fact, the availability of inexpensive flights is changing the way travelers plan their itineraries. A decade ago, it would be folly to squeeze Italy and Norway into a single two-week trip. Today that plan is easy and cheap.

But if you're focusing on a single country or region, and connecting destinations that are closer together, the train is still more practical. Europe's high-speed train network is getting faster and faster, covering even long distances in a snap. From London to Paris, the Eurostar Chunnel train can be faster than flying when you consider the train zips you directly from downtown to downtown (www.ricksteves.com/eurostar). Train and car travel, unlike flights, keep you close to the scenery, to Europe, and to Europeans. Ground transportation is also less likely to be disrupted by bad weather, mechanical problems, or scheduling delays.

If you're environmentally-minded, you already know that the greenest way to move your body around Europe is by train. Taking the train leaves a carbon footprint that's 70 to 90 percent smaller than if you'd flown. For that reason alone, some travelers choose to spend more time and money to ride the rails.
Budget Airlines

Most of Europe's low-cost airlines operate user-friendly websites with interactive flight maps and straightforward online booking. To get the lowest fares, book long in advance. The cheapest seats sell out fast (aside from occasional surprise sales), leaving the pricier fares for latecomers.

Many budget airlines offer flights between major European cities for about $100, but you can find some remarkable deals if your timing is right. A tour guide on my staff recently booked an easyJet flight from London to Amsterdam for less than $50. Ryanair routinely flies from London to any one of dozens of European cities for about $20. And you might occasionally find it-must-be-a-typo promotional flights for less than €1. Even after adding in taxes and airport fees, these flights are a great value.

While new budget airlines are continually being launched (see below), a handful of them have been around long enough to be considered old-timers, including easyJet and Ryanair. But there are plenty of other options. The best strategy is to select an airline that uses either your starting point or your ending point as a hub. For example, for a trip from Dublin to Oslo, I'd look first at Ryanair, which has a hub in Dublin, and Norwegian, which has a hub in Oslo. Several Britain-based "leisure airlines" specialize in connecting the British Isles to Spain, Portugal, and other popular holiday destinations in southern Europe. If this fits your itinerary, try Monarch or Thomson.

Not sure where to start? Some websites search routes on multiple (but not necessarily all) cheap airlines: Skyscanner.net is the best, but you can also try Kayak, Mobissimo, and wegolo. Because some of these sites focus on budget airlines, they can miss just-as-cheap promotional offers on major carriers; to find the right connection, you may need to search several sites. Other budget-airline information sites — which have destination maps and recent airline news — include flycheapo and attitude Travel.

Europe by Air is another good budget resource (tel. 888-321-4737). They work with 20 different European airlines, offering flights between 170 European cities in 30 countries. Using their "flight pass" system, each coupon for a nonstop flight costs $99 plus tax (which can range from $50 to $90). Note that if you make a connection through one of Europe by Air's many hubs, you pay double — $99 for each flight to and from the hub.

When exploring low-cost airlines, be creative. For example, let's say you need to get from Amsterdam to Rome. After a quick search, you may not find quite the flight you need, but you discover that a low-budget airline flies from Brussels to Rome for $130). It makes good travel sense to take a three-hour train ride from Amsterdam to Brussels ($45 second-class) to catch the two-hour flight to Rome. The train from Amsterdam to Rome would have wasted 19 hours of your valuable vacation time, and cost you $325. The train-plus-flight connection gets you there in half the time (including transfers) for nearly half the price.

All of these low-cost European airlines offer one-way flights without a cost increase or penalty. Consider linking cheap flights, either with the same or different airlines. But be very careful to leave plenty of time for the connection — since you're on your own if the delay of one flight causes you to miss another flight. This is especially risky if that "other flight" is your transatlantic flight back to the US. If you're using a budget carrier to connect to your US-bound flight, allow time to absorb delays — maybe even an overnight. Advance check-in deadlines are strictly enforced.

It seems these cheap flights are here to stay — and it's not just tourists taking advantage of the low fares. On a recent easyJet flight from Paris to Nice, I was the only American on a plane filled with European business travelers.
What's the Catch?

With cheaper airfares come new pitfalls. These budget tickets are usually nonrefundable and nonchangeable. Many airlines take only online bookings, so it can be hard to track down a person to talk to if problems arise. (Read all the fine print carefully, so you know what you're getting in to.) Flights are often tightly scheduled to squeeze more flying time out of each plane, which can exaggerate the effects of delays. Deadlines are strictly enforced: If they tell you to arrive at the check-in desk an hour before the flight, and you show up 10 minutes late, you've just missed your flight — and have to buy a new ticket for the next flight. And, as these are relatively young companies, it's not uncommon for budget carriers to go out of business unexpectedly — leaving you scrambling to find an alternative.

Since they're not making much money on your ticket, budget airlines look for other ways to pad their profits — bombarding you with ads, selling you overpriced food and drinks on board (nothing's included), and gouging you with fees for everything, whether paying with a credit card, checking in at the airport, or carrying an infant on board. There are also expensive baggage restrictions. For instance, Ryanair charges a $25 fee for each checked bag (less if you pre-book online). If your checked bag weighs more than 15 kilograms (about 33 pounds), you'll also pay $20 per extra kilo. To avoid unpleasant surprises, read the baggage policy carefully before you book.

Another potential headache: Budget airlines sometimes use obscure airports. For example, Ryanair's England hub is Stansted Airport, one of the farthest of London's airports from the city center. Ryanair's flights to Frankfurt actually take you to Hahn, 75 miles away. Sometimes you may wind up in a different (though nearby) country: For example, a flight advertised as going to Copenhagen, Denmark, might actually go to Malmö, Sweden, while a flight bound for Vienna, Austria, might land in Bratislava, Slovakia. These are still safe and legal airstrips, but it can take money and time to reach them by public transportation.
Budget Flights on Major Airlines

Faced with all this new competition, some major European airlines (including British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, SAS, KLM, LOT, and Croatia Airlines) are getting into the discount-airfare game. In some cases, they simply sell a few seats on certain flights at a deep discount. In other cases, you must buy your transatlantic flight from the airline in order to take advantage of its intra-Europe budget fares. But it can be worth an extra $100 for an overseas flight in order to save on other flights within Europe. In some cases, you purchase an "air pass" (for $300–400) — a set of three or more flight coupons, each good for one nonstop flight. Be aware that with any air pass, a flight will "cost" two coupons if you need two connecting flights to reach your destination. Check with a travel agent for details.
Budget Airlines Within Europe

These are just a few of the many budget airlines taking to the European skies. To discover more, check out www.skyscanner.net, or simply use Google.com to search for "cheap flights" plus the cities you're interested in. Note that new airlines appear — and old ones go out of business — all the time.

Airline Contact Information Hub(s)
Aer Lingus

US tel. 800-474-7424
Irish tel. 0818-365-000

Dublin (and other Irish airports)
Air Berlin

US tel. 1-866-266-5588
German toll tel. 01805-737-800

Multiple German cities
bmi (and its subsidiary, bmi baby)

US tel. 800-788-0555
British tel. 0800-788-0555

London (and other British airports)
Brussels Airlines

US tel. 516/740-5200
Belgian tel. 090/251-600

Cimber Sterling

Danish tel. 70 10 12 18

Multiple Scandinavian cities

British toll tel. 0871-244-2366
From the US, dial 011-44-870-600-0000.

Multiple cities including London, Berlin, Paris, Liverpool, Geneva, Basel & Milan

German toll tel. 0871-702-9987

Multiple German cities

Irish toll tel. 0818/303-030
British toll tel. 0871/246-0000

From the US, dial 011-353-1248-0856.

London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Dublin, Shannon, Brussels, Frankfurt, Milan, Pisa, Rome, Stockholm, Barcelona

From the US, dial 011-420-255-700-827
Czech toll tel. 900-166-565


Spanish tel. 902/131-415

US tel. 888-545-5757

Madrid, Barcelona

Dutch toll tel. 0900-0737
From the US, dial 011-46-850-522-255.

Amsterdam, Rotterdam

German toll tel. 01805-757-510
From the US, dial 011-49-511-2200-4713

Multiple German cities

Spanish tel. 902-333-933

Barcelona, Madrid
Wind Jet

Italian toll tel. 08-9965-6565

Multiple Italian cities

Polish toll tel. 0703/503-010
Hungarian toll tel. 0690/181-181

Budapest, Warsaw, Katowice (near Kraków)

For other options, consider airBaltic (Baltic capitals), Air One (Rome, Milan, and Turin), Baboo (Geneva), Blue1 (Helsinki and Stockholm), Blue Air (Bucharest), Condor (Germany), Estonian Air (Tallinn), Flybe (southern England), Helvetic.com (Zürich), Meridiana (Turin, Verona), NIKI (Vienna), Norwegian, (Oslo and Bergen), Thomson (Britain), VLM (London City Airport), Widerøe (Oslo), and XL Airways (Frankfurt and Paris; site in German and French only).