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ON A BUDGET

Bargains to Europe make fall alluring

August 31, 2003|Arthur Frommer | Special to The Times

Transatlantic fares to London dropped earlier this month to just above $400 round trip from LAX for November flights. While the booking period for this fare has now expired, fares are still available for less than $500.

Some of the lowest rates are from British Airways, www.britishairways.com, and Virgin Atlantic, www.virgin-atlantic.com. They can be booked on the airlines' Web sites.

Will such low fares continue? Obviously. For decades, the airlines have offered their best prices for the late fall and winter, usually starting in October. How can you be assured of learning about such sales? First, through the newspaper; fall/winter transatlantic bargains are heavily advertised. Second, through my Web site, www.budgettravel.msnbc.com, which makes a point of covering the airfare wars in a daily electronic newsletter, Budget Travel Today. Third, you can usually snare the cheapest transatlantic airfares to every European destination by phoning the major airfare discounters. Below is a sampling:

* To London or Dublin: New York's Ireland U.K. Consolidated, (800) 577 2900.

* To Paris or the Riviera: California's Air Travel Network, (888) 346-5795 or www.airtravel.net.

* To Germany or Russia: Mill-Run Travel, (800) 645-5786 or www.millrun.com. (Can be booked only through a travel agent.)

* To Athens or to Istanbul, Turkey: Massachusetts-based Metro Tours, (800) 221-2810 or www.metrotours.com.

* To Scandinavia: Virginia's Scantravel, (800) 283-5023.

* To Poland, Berlin or Prague, Czech Republic: New York's Varsovia Agency, (212) 529-3256 or www.varsovia.com.

* To Italy: Portland, Maine's Destination Europe, (800) 359-3876 or www.autoeurope.com.

Also, package rates (price includes round-trip airfare and six nights' hotel accommodations) for October, November and thereafter have been announced by three major Internet tour operators: Go-Today.com, Offpeak traveler.com and VirginVaca tions.com. From all three and using London as the yardstick, the price is $609 to $639 per person in October, $579 in November and the first half of December, and $329 from Jan. 12 to Feb. 23. You get midweek round-trip airfare from LAX, accommodations with continental breakfast daily at a modest hotel for six nights and hotel taxes and service charges, if you book online.

Fall package rates to Spain, Hungary and the Czech Republic, the Baltic capitals, Athens and Italy are among the lowest in recent travel history.

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