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Looking to expand your travel horizons this summer or fall? We’ve got the deals for you. From Bonaire to Bali to Bulgaria, travel outside the usual domestic or Caribbean destinations and head somewhere truly special this season – and still save in the process. Read more
Scandinavia sure is pretty, but she ain’t cheap. After doing a little deal-hunting detective work in the region’s dynamic capitals, however, I’ve happily determined that it’s entirely possible to set out for a budget break here, without breaking the bank. Whether you’ve set your budget-savvy sights on Oslo, Stockholm, or Helsinki (tip: though the latter gets a bad rap on value, it’s actually considerably cheaper than its Swedish and Norwegian neighbors), herewith some finds on fun free things to do, public transport “tours” to check out, and money-saving travel cards to help take the expensive edge off your outings. Read more
I arrived in Stockholm for what would be the start of a seven-week journey through Europe. I figured I would start up north and make my way to warmer climates in the days ahead. Stockholm in summer is terrific because the days are long and the way the sun hits the city makes its colors come alive.
However, when planning a summer trip to Stockholm, it is important to bring along some sweaters and a jacket. I have made this mistake before in packing shorts and t-shirts thinking the Baltic countries are just like the rest of Europe. Not so. The weather can be quite rainy and cool, so be prepared.
Stockholm can best be summarized as civilized. In my opinion, Sweden is probably the most civilized country in the world. Everyone is incredibly friendly and helpful. And unlike in some cultures where they are friendly and, rather than not give you any information, they sometimes give you wrong information, the Swedes are very precise and accurate. I grew to love this in my five days exploring the city.
Stockholm is a city set on 14 islands and surrounded by nature – locals in chest-high waders even fish for salmon midstream in front of the Royal Palace! But it’s also a city of splendid architecture, fascinating history (don’t miss the hulking wooden remains of the Vasa, a 17th-century gun ship that sank in Stockholm Harbor in 1638 and remained under water for 333 years until being raised and placed in a visually striking museum) and chic, contemporary design (IKEA may be Sweden’s most notable home décor export, but there’s plenty more individual ingenuity on display). I recently spent a few days in Stockholm, which I must warn you is one of the priciest cities in Europe these days for American tourists, and had a chance to compare two hotels, one less than a year old and among the city’s trendiest, and one a waterfront legend with 133 years of history. Both offer romantic settings – just of a different kind. Here’s a quick comparison:
Fresh from a $25 million facelift that gave its staterooms a glamorous dash of retro-meets-modern panache, eight-year-old Crystal Serenity embarked on a series of cruises through the Baltic Sea. Onboard for the most recent 11-day “Jewels of the Baltic” segment, I sampled the award-winning hospitality, service, and cuisine for which Crystal (www.crystalcruises.com) is renowned – all while visiting a half dozen fascinating and historically romantic cities, from Stockholm to St. Petersburg to Copenhagen (shown above at left).
Crystal’s cruise product is luxurious from aft to stern (and, accordingly, Serenity fares start at about $675 per person per day), but the line’s attention to quality is evident in everything from the chic new stateroom decor to the delicious and ambitious menus in the seven dining outlets. At 68,870 gross tons and 1,070 passengers, Crystal Serenity (shown at right) is larger than most of its luxury competitors (many of whose ships accommodate 300 to 700 passengers) and it strikes a nice balance between a small and large-ship experience. The crew’s top-notch service gives Serenity a feeling of intimacy while its size gives it recreation options (two pools, two Jacuzzis, paddle tennis courts, and a walking and jogging track that encircles the Promenade Deck) that smaller ships lack.
Spring usually means the arrival of warmer weather, blooming flowers, and higher airfare to Europe. Fortunately, KLM is breaking tradition and slashing rates on flights to London, Venice, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rome, Barcelona, Helsinki, Oslo, Prague, Madrid, Zurich, and Stockholm! This sale coincides with the start of festival season in Europe, so why not pop over to Budapest for the Palinka food and wine festival, Barcelona or Madrid for May Day fiestas, and Stockholm for the popcorn film festival? Fly now through May 15 from Chicago, New York, Dallas, or San Francisco for rates as low as $278 one-way.
Sample Fares (O/W)
• New York City – Barcelona: $278+
• Dallas – Amsterdam: $313+
• Chicago – London: $336+
• Miami-Budapest: $374+
• Washington – Oslo: $379+
• Houston – Venice: $384+
• San Francisco – Madrid: $419+
THE VALUE: Fares to Europe in April and May are often close to $500 each way, so this sale saves you an average of $400 round-trip.
THE CATCH: Taxes and fees are not included, and these one-way prices are based on round-trip purchases.
THE DETAILS: Click here to book your flight with KLM.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the best hotel deals in Europe.
One holiday down… a season to go! And if there’s one thing we made sure to give thanks for at our table yesterday, it’s the bevy of queer cheer Europe provides this time of year – two Pink Christmas festivals alone.
Kicking off December 1 with a World AIDS Day gala (TicNet.se), Stockholm brings the festive flavor all month long with parties, shows, and seductive Santas. Highlights include a mondo lesbian party December 11 at Södermalm clubs Momma and Roxy and an all-night affair celebrating Saint Lucia, the queen of light, on December 12. If last year’s festivities are any indication, different bars will take a non-traditional slant on the theme before Lucia “herself” drags it up, dressed in white with a crown of candles before dawn on the 13th. For more info on Pink Christmas and the whole Pink December festival, check out QX magazine (QX.se/gaymap) or Stockholm’s LGBT blog (StockholmTown.com/gay-lesbian), which will have all up-to-date info as it’s released.
American Airlines and Air Canada are in talks with the TSA regarding the launch of a trial program that would allow passengers to print and tag their own luggage for the first time in the U.S. The trial, if approved, would debut at Logan International Airport in Boston, and airlines are hoping to give it a whirl ahead of height of the busy holiday season. During the check-in process, customers would be able to print tags from a self-service kiosk and affix them to their own bags. An airline agent would then check IDs, scan the bar code, and place the luggage on a conveyor belt. In the future, airlines hope to fully automate the luggage tagging process.
According to airlines, the self-tagging procedures will not affect security since bags are scanned for explosives behind the scenes by the TSA. In fact, self-tagging is already common in some foreign airports. According to the International Air Transport Association, 32 airlines worldwide allow self-tagging. In Amsterdam and Stockholm, passengers print tags and drop off bags without ever having to see an agent.
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