A festive-looking main square of Nuremberg, Germany. The town is part of… (Insight Vacations )
Airfares to Northern Europe drop with the temperatures, and that’s welcome news for winter travelers. You may not be splashing in fountains or dining alfresco. But winter on the Continent has its charms, such as colorful Christmas markets that sell all manner of food and gifts. Think of them as the original pop-up stores. An escorted tour can be a great way for shopaholics to sample the wares — or just gawk at the glitter in cities celebrating the season.
The deal: The nine-day German Christmas Market tour from Insight Vacations takes you to Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden, Nuremberg, Rothenburg and Munich. Among the holiday markets you’ll visit is the centuries-old Reiterlesmarkt, set amid cobbled streets and medieval buildings in Rothenburg. Guided tours of the cities’ major landmarks are included, along with hotel stays, airport transfers, coach transport, admissions to major sites and some meals, capped by a festive dinner in Munich. Prices start at $1,725 per person, double occupancy. Airfare is extra.
When: Tours depart Nov. 26 and Dec. 1, 3, 8, 10 and 15.
Tested: On Insight Vacations’ website, I requested the Dec. 3 departure of this tour. My request generated a message stating that I would be contacted by a tour specialist within 48 hours. In fact, within a couple of couple of hours, I was contacted by a representative from a travel agency that works with Insight, San Diego-based Avoya Travel, offering to quote a price and book the trip. Good to know they called back so quickly.
But in the meantime, I had already obtained a quote, for $1,725 per person, double, from an Insight representative by calling the company’s toll-free number, (888) 680-1241. I asked her what the company would charge for airfare from Los Angeles to Berlin and back from Munich to Los Angeles. She quoted $1,255.72 per person. She said that sometimes the Insight airfare is higher, sometimes lower, than what you may be able to book on your own. And in fact, when I checked the travel website Kayak, I was able to find fares for the same dates that started at $834 per person.
In any event, I would recommend two steps: Plan to arrive no later than the day before the tour steps off and buy travel insurance for the entire trip, including airfare, from a third party so that if your flight is late and you miss part of the trip, you may be still be covered for expenses (making sure, of course, that your policy covers that). An extra night at the Berlin hotel is not included in the tour price, but the Insight agent said it could be added for $114 per person. If you arrive the night before, you will also have to pay your own way from the airport to the hotel because you will miss the tour-provided airport transfers the next day.
The bright side: Your flights will probably cost a lot less than if you were going in summer and a bit less than in fall. On Kayak.com, for instance, fares for the L.A.-Berlin-Munich-L.A. itinerary for Aug. 20-28 recently started at $1,183 per person and $884 for Sept. 10-18. (Fares may have changed since I checked them.)
Info: Insight Vacations, (888) 680-1241. Or contact a travel agent.