Big Discounts on Europe Hotels This Fall

PHOTO: Hotels in Prague, and others across Europe, are down 37 percent.

Travelers know the fall is one of the best times to visit Europe: Cheaper than summer, less crowded than summer and still-great weather for sightseeing.

But some experts say this fall in particular is ripe for deals in Europe. It may in fact be the best time for Americans to visit Europe in years.

Hotel prices across the continent are down, in some places, close to 40 percent compared to last fall. Pierre-Etienne Chartier, vice president of the Hotwire Group, said this fall's hotel rates are the lowest in years.

According to Hotwire booking data, 20 of Europe's most popular destinations have had a drop in hotel rates compared to last year, three-quarters of those in the double-digits. Cities like Prague, Geneva and Budapest are up to 37 percent less expensive this year than last.

Popular European cities like Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Rome are seeing their lowest hotel prices on Hotwire in more than five years. Average room rates in Prague, Budapest, Glasgow, Seville, Lisbon, Dublin, Valencia and Athens are all under $100 per night.

Chartier said the drop in prices could be, at least in part, attributed to the summer games. It wasn't just London that created more hotel rooms. Nearby European cities, anticipating an influx of travelers pre- and post- Olympics did the same -- to the tune of f 11,000 rooms. Those travelers didn't materialize and now the hotels are hoping to fill rooms through discounting.

Another reason for the price slashing is the European debt crisis. Locals, said Chartier, are being "more frugal with their money and discretionary spending," he said. With fewer Europeans traveling domestically, more hotel rooms are sitting empty, prompting hoteliers to discount room rates on travel booking sites.

For the past few years, Americans, Chartier said, have been in recovery mode and were starting to increase their spending. "Now," he said, "that trend is reversing."

But for Americans who do want to travel to Europe, "It's been a while since the opportunities were this good."

Airfare too, is showing signs of softness. Hotwire said airfare to Europe is about level with last year, though a few destinations are cheaper. Berlin, Dublin, Helsinki and Valencia are all cheaper to fly to this fall than last.

Travelocity air booking data showed that overall, airfare from the U.S. to Western Europe is virtually unchanged from last fall. Travelers can expect to pay about $1,060 round-trip, including taxes. Airfare is about 20 percent less now than it was during the summer months.

A search on Travelocity for vacations from New York to Prague in mid-October that included both flight and hotel resulted in several options that included four-star hotels for about $1,100 per person for a six-night trip. The same search parameters for a trip from Chicago to Paris yielded prices in the $1,600 range. The cheapest package to both cities was under $1,000 per person including all taxes and fees.

It's not all good news. While the euro hit a two-year low in late July, it's been on the rebound as of late. Still, your dollar is stronger versus the Euro than it was at this time last year. Travelers can save on the ground by choosing hotels that offer breakfast as part of the room rate and taking advantage of self-guided and other free sightseeing tours.

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