In this Issue...

  • Northwest Update
  • Finding Good, Cheap Hotels
  • Car Rental Rates to Increase in April?
  • Cancel Fees Harder to Avoid
  • Sky-High Drop Fees
  • Free Car Rental Special Report
  • Lufthansa Biz Class Sale
  • Big Savings on 2012 Cruises
  • Bob Bestor's Europe Travel Notebook

Dear Europe Traveler

Though I know we're in for another 6-8 weeks of off and on weather here in the foothills of the Cascades in Southern Oregon, we've turned the corner. One can now play golf until after 7pm. In our town of Ashland, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has been underway for a month. So far, four of the season's 11 plays have opened with strong reviews for "The Imaginary Invalid," "Measure for Measure," and a less enthusiastic response for "To Kill a Mockingbird." "Julius Caesar" opened this past weekend.

There's 160 inches of snow on Mount Ashland, and a new restaurant in town, Coquina—if a judgment can be rendered after two visits—promises to rise above all the others in this food-fickle town.

Over on the coast, in our getaway town of Florence, burly, buoyant Kurt Hargin's new Maple Street Grill has become our first choice. Haut cuisine it ain't, but the ingredients are all fresh and cooked to order. Dishes such as juicy flat-iron steak; mac and cheese with a dollop of mango chutney; talk-of-the-town pot roast; satisfying, made-on-the-premises soups; and hearty pasta dishes, have put MSG in the forefront of Oregon Coast restaurants. My suggestion for a great weekend evening in Flo-town? Check-out the live music at Traveler's Cove between, say, 6-8pm and then amble one block to MSG for dinner. Call first for a table. Now that I'm convinced summer will actually arrive, let's talk Europe...

FINDING GOOD, CHEAP HOTELS

The big—and not so good—news for Europe travelers is the recent drop in the U.S. dollar. A euro now costs $1.41 and a Swiss franc $1.10, an all-time high for the latter. It appears 2011 is going to be a time to roll-out the cost-cutting strategies for Europe-bound travelers. Which is exactly what we did in the March issue of Gemütlichkeit, our subscription newsletter. We've posted the part about finding less expensive hotel rooms on this Website.

Thoughts on Renting a Car in Europe

Rate Increase in April?: March is European car rental month in the sense that more rentals cars are booked now than any other month of the year. One reason is that rates typically go up in April. In addition, this year there's been a rise in the value of the euro and we are waiting for the other shoe to drop in the form of increased U.S. dollar rental car prices. Hint: book now, you can always cancel.

Cancellation Fees More Prevalent: I say "you can always cancel." That's not 100% accurate. Things have changed this year and rentals booked online are almost sure to extract a fee if plans change close to the time of rental. With many online brokers, including the hundreds of websites that use CarTrawler software, such as Ireland-based Argus, the fee is 25 euros if cancellation is more than a week after making the booking. Cancel within 48 hours of the start of the rental and you'll pay for 3 full days of the rental. One of the most lenient is Auto Europe's policy regarding Internet rates. Cancel within 72 hours of the rental's commencement and the fee is $75. Of course if you book with Gemut.com there are no cancellation fees, except in the rare instances when we quote an "Internet rate."

Sky-High International Drop Fees: The open jaw—fly into one country and fly out of another—is attractive, but before committing to do so, travelers should be aware of the rising cost of International one-way car rental fees—especially if travel involves Italy or Spain, and to some extent, former eastern bloc countries. Here are a few examples of one-way fees our car rental department has quoted in the past few days:

  • Paris-Amsterdam: $332
  • Frankfurt-Florence: $644
  • Dubrovnik-Zürich: $1343
  • Rome-Barcelona: $1182
  • Milan-Munich: $601
  • Munich-Amsterdam: $92
  • Stuttgart-Prague: $512
  • Munich-Prague: $340
  • Nürnburg-Trieste: $912
  • Nice-Zürich: $337
  • Innsbruck-Munich: $171
  • Lyon-Frankfurt: $169
  • Prague-Budapest: $311

Don't Miss Our Free Car Rental Guide

Sales gurus preach that in order to be an effective sales person you have to believe in what you're selling. Well, I'm such a believer that I can't understand why we ever lose a car rental booking. We guarantee the lowest rate and our 'person-to-person' pre- and post-rental service and advice is second to none. Why anyone books anywhere else baffles me. For example, there's nothing I'm aware of that comes close to our free special report "What You Should Know About Booking a Rental Car in Europe." It may be a little self-serving—we do plug our own services—but nowhere else will you find the information that's in this 16-page document. Call 800-521-6722 x 1 or get a written email quote.

Lufthansa Puts Business Class on Sale

With peak summer fares ranging from $1200 - $1700 in economy class, it may be the summer to consider flying business class. Through our air ticket manager, Laura Riedel, you can book Lufthansa's current high-season business class specials. New York to Frankfurt has a base biz class fare of $1538 to $2278, not including taxes and fuel surcharges which can total $500 to $600 per ticket. Fares are valid for U.S. departures from June 28 to September 2. Travel must be completed by September 8. Buy tickets at least 60 days in advance of travel but no later than May 31. Call Laura at 800-521-6722 x 2 or get an email quote.

Book Now for Big Savings on 2012 River Cruises

There are two great times to book a cruise; at the last minute and right now for next year. Uniworld has just posted its schedule for 2012 and is offering pay-in-full savings from $800 to $2400 per couple on next year's sailings. The offer is good until June 30, 2011. Savings vary based on itinerary and cabin category. There are two new itineraries for 2012; the 8-day "Gems of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands," Cologne to Brussels, includes a visit to Floriade, a world horticulture festival staged every 10 years in the Netherlands. Also new is the 17-day "Grand Treasures of Europe" from Brussels to Prague. Call 800-521-6722 x 2 for info.

A EUROPE TRAVELER'S NOTEBOOK

Cheapest Country to Rent a Car?: On the Continent, it's still Germany. This table compares the cost of an intermediate car for one-week, including tax:

  • Germany: $264
  • France: $315
  • Austria: $414 Italy: $479
  • Switzerland: $338
  • Holland: $338
  • Czech Republic: $398
  • Spain: $303

Changing Dollars to Euros: Your ATM card is still the best.

• Great, Practical Travel Clothing: 25% off on quick-drying (2-4 hours), odor-resistant, lightweight, breathable Ex-Officio underwear at https://www.travelessentials.com/search.aspx?find=Ex+Officio+Underwear

• Best, Most Overlooked, Free Europe Travel Info Source: List of tourist office websites of 18 European countries with mailing address, phone and URL.