Ten cheap spring Europe vacations

Spring is the ideal time to visit Europe: The weather is pleasant, the summer crowds haven't yet arrived, and best of all, everything's affordable. I've compiled 10 of the best Europe vacation deals for travel in the upcoming months, with accompanying photos that will leave you daydreaming about your spring vacation.

1. Paris in the springtime (and fall)

Air France Holidays' Presenting Paris vacation package is an affordable option for exploring the City of Lights. Round-trip airfare on Air France and six nights' accommodations at the Comfort Gare de L'Est Hotel are included, with extras such as a Bateaux Mouches river cruise, a city map of Paris, continental breakfast, and hotel taxes and service charges.

The base price of $799 is based on spring departures from New York City between April 1 and May 15, and again from September 8 through October 25. You can customize this package based on your departure city. For example, Philadelphia departures are an extra $30, and Washington, D.C., departures are an extra $70.

2. Live like royalty in a Scottish castle

You'll see a different side of Scotland's famous castles with go-today.com's Edinburgh and Scottish Castle package. Starting at $1,259 per person for April 1 through May 14 departures, the deal includes round-trip airfare from New York City or Newark to Edinburgh and three nights in the city.

After your first two nights in Edinburgh, you'll pick up a Hertz rental car and spend three days exploring the countryside, staying in castles. Options include Culcreuch Castle Hotel in Fintry and Tulloch Castle Hotel in Dingwall. You'll get a final night in Edinburgh before flying home. The rental car includes local tax and unlimited mileage, but rental fees and surcharges are not included.

Like all of go-today's packages, airfare from other cities can be substituted at an additional cost. In this deal, an extra $140 will be charged for Atlanta, $160 for Chicago, and $210 for Seattle.

3. Experience la dolce vita in Italy

Florence and Rome are featured in this five-night vacation package offered by Gate 1 Travel.

Starting at $899 for departures on April 7, 21, and 28, and May 5 and 12, this deal includes round-trip airfare from New York City, three nights in Florence at the Hotel Meridiana and two nights in Rome at the Donatello Hotel, as well as train transportation between the cities. This package can be customized with departures from other airports.

Activities such as guided tours and daytrips are also available from Gate 1 Travel at varying prices. For instance, a city tour of Florence costs an extra $66, while a trip to Naples and Capri from Rome is an additional $169.

4. Sample three destinations in Greece

The Greek Island Hopper package offered by Virgin Vacations is a nice way to sample several of Greece's most popular destinations. You'll fly from New York City (JFK) or Newark to Athens, and spend one night in the capital city. From there, you'll hop a high-speed ferry to Mykonos for three nights before ferrying over to Santorini for another three nights. The trip concludes with a ferry back to Athens for a final night before your return flight to the U.S. Continental breakfast at each hotel is included.

The Island Hopper starts at $1,249 for departures from May 1 through 24. Other departure cities are available at higher prices: Washington, D.C., departures cost an extra $50, flights from New Orleans are an additional $350, and San Diego departures tack on an extra $450. You can also choose to fly to and from the islands for just over $100. Book by March 31.

5. Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague by rail

You can get a taste of three different cities—Amsterdam, Berlin, and Prague—with Austrian Air Vacations' Train Trio package.

For $1,999, this deal is based on departures from April 1 through May 31, or from August 31 through October 25. Summer departures are an extra $300. Round-trip airfare to Prague on Austrian Airlines from New York City (JFK) or Washington, D.C. (Dulles) is included, with return flights from Amsterdam. You'll travel by rail between Prague and Berlin, and Berlin to Amsterdam. Three nights' hotel in each city is included in the price, with daily breakfast at each.

6. Six nights in London

For $649, Virgin Vacations' Value London offer includes round-trip airfare from Chicago to London and six nights' accommodations at My Place Hotel in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Departures from other cities are available at higher prices: Boston costs an extra $50, Los Angeles is an extra $90, and Houston is $330 more. The listed price is available for travel through May 24.

Daily continental breakfast is included, as is a £10 Oyster Card, which can be used on the Tube and buses.

You'll have to act fast to snag this deal — it expires on Monday, March 30. If you need more time, however, don't worry. Virgin Vacations typically extends booking deadlines, so there's a strong chance this offer will still be around in the next few weeks (though prices may change).

7. Explore Ireland at your own pace

Set out on Ireland's open roads with go-today.com's Fly-and-Drive Package. This flexible package costs just $489 and includes round-trip airfare to Dublin from Washington, D.C., and a seven-day Hertz car rental with unlimited mileage. The rental includes local tax, but CDW and rental fees are extra. Not surprisingly, the base price is based on four people in a small two-door manual car, but upgrades are available for as little as $10.

Departures from March 31 through April 29 and September 30 through October 21 cost $489; April 30 through May 15 costs an additional $10. Although Washington, D.C., departures are cheapest, you can choose to fly from many other cities at varying prices. Boston and New York City cost $40 extra, Orlando is an additional $170, and Oakland is $190 more.

Prefer a package that includes accommodations? Try Aer Lingus Vacations Store's Emerald Package, which includes six nights' bed-and-breakfast accommodations, airfare, and a rental car for $979 in April.

8. Big savings in central Europe

If you're looking for a budget-friendly getaway, consider heading to Prague and Budapest. Not yet using the euro, these Central Europe cities have cheaper in-country costs than their Western counterparts. TatraTravel's Prague & Budapest deal offers terrific value.

Starting at $979 from New York City, the package includes round-trip airfare, three nights in each city with daily breakfast, flights between both cities, round-trip airport transfers, and a half-day sightseeing tour of both Budapest and Prague with an English-speaking guide.

Although the base price is based on the Orion Hotel in Prague and the Sissi Hotel in Budapest, upgrades are available at an additional cost.

9. A reality TV-style race across Europe

Are you a fan of The Amazing Race? If so, Competitors' team travel competition tours may be the vacation for you!

Two-person teams compete for a grand prize over eight, 10, or 14 days. Each day, teams will choose from eight to 10 tasks, and will film the challenges and submit their videos for judging by an evening deadline. Teams will get a half-day's notice to plan their next destination. The top team at the end of the trip is eligible for a grand prize including hotel nights and plane tickets.

Challenges include silly tasks such as "Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and recruit and videotape 15 other tourists to do a 30 second rousing rendition of the French national dance, the can-can," or "Visit a Viking Ship Museum in Oslo and with the knowledge you've gained, shoot a 30 second mock commercial pitching a 9th century Viking Ship as a vacation option for a 21st century family."

Destinations remain secret until the day before, but include a cross-section of cities and towns across Europe. Competitours says destinations range between mainstream (e.g., Budapest, London, Rome), niche (e.g., "under the radar cool spots"), timeless (e.g., rural villages), and awe-inspiring (e.g., hiking the Alps, biking through wine country, or summer skiing).

The budget package costs $1,995, and prices for longer trips go up from there. The price includes round-trip airfare to Europe, accommodations, and a Eurail pass. Not included is mandatory travel insurance, meals, admissions, local transport, or game-related technology such as a video camera, a cellphone, or a computer. Note that Competitours requires payment four days after the conclusion of the trip.

10. Introduction to Spain

This simple airfare-and-hotel deal is an affordable way to visit Spain's capital city. The Madrid City Break package offered by EuropeASAP includes round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations at the Principe Pio Hotel, and daily breakfast.

Spring departures are available at $1,159 per person from April 1 through May 14, and you must book by April 27.

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