A guest room at Il Borro country estate in Italy. (Il Borro )
Winter is the cheapest season to visit Europe, and with Italy's Tuscany region on sale for less than $1,500 a week, including air and luxury lodging, why not go? After all, popular places such as Pisa can be downright bearable in winter, with average highs in the 50s.
The deal: Sceptre Tours' "Luxury Tuscan Package" includes round-trip airfare from the U.S. to Pisa; six nights at the well-regarded Il Borro estate in the Tuscan countryside; and a rental car. Prices from New York or Newark start at $899 per person plus tax, based on four people traveling together, according to the tour company's website.
From Los Angeles, figure on adding $200 or more per person, depending on the travel dates, a Sceptre Tours spokeswoman said.
When: Good for selected departures Nov. 1 through Feb. 20, except for Dec. 18 to Jan. 2. Prices will be higher around some holiday periods, such as Thanksgiving.
Tested: On the Sceptre Tours website, I tried booking the package for a Dec. 5 departure from Los Angeles (LAX). The total for four people, including taxes, collision damage waiver for the rental car (required) and the company's trip protection plan (optional), came to $5,692, or $1,423 per person. Flights were on Lufthansa.
By comparison, round-trip airfare alone for the trip dates was running about $1,000 per person, including taxes, when I priced it on Lufthansa's website. So for about $400 more, you're getting a luxury hotel, a rental car and trip protection, which is a nice deal. And of course, it's a lot less expensive than going in summer.
A word on the trip protection plan, which totaled $372 for four: It was automatically added to the total when I priced the package online, but I was also given the option to uncheck the box and decline. Among other coverages, the plan allows you to cancel for any reason up to three business days before departure and receive a voucher for future travel, the company says.
The rental car in the package was manual transmission; for an extra fee, you can upgrade to automatic.
Caveat: This is a nonrefundable package. So to cover the unexpected, I would suggest that you buy either the company's trip protection plan or a travel insurance policy from a third party.
Contact: Sceptre Tours, Lynbrook, N.Y., (800) 221-0924. Or contact a travel agent.