Our World Europe 2018: How to get the best deals on flights, tours and cruises

Photo of Angie Tomlinson

If you want an excellent deal on next year’s European flight, tour or cruise, book now. Like, right now.

When it comes to 2018 European holidays, the early bird not only catches the worm, it flies there for free, feasts and feathers its nest, too. If you want an excellent deal on next year’s European flight, tour or cruise, book now. Like, right now.

“What seems to be happening this year is the offers are coming out earlier and the time frames are shorter, which means offers are being revised more often,” says HolidayPlanet marketing executive Brad Fox. “It’s very unlikely any subsequent offers will be cheaper than the first offer you see, though.”

This year has seen offers coming out and finishing earlier. Airlines are all but through the first round of earlybird fares, and Bicton Travel sales and marketing manager Barry Downs says the next round is likely to be higher with less availability. Mr Fox says that trend will continue through to mid-November, and maybe as late as Christmas depending on how well seats sell.

Flight Centre is running its Earlybird Airfare Campaign until October 25 with five major airlines, including Singapore Airlines, which has return economy flights to London from $1209 and to Barcelona from $1099, while Malaysia Airlines has return flights to London from $1199. 

As well as booking early, Mr Downs advises to look for Tuesday or Wednesday flights to avoid weekend surcharges and to check if the airline allows seat allocation upon booking. Some airlines are charging substantial fees to choose a seat, and those extras can add up.

Europe’s hotspots are selling out and Mr Downs says tours of Spain, Portugal, and Scandinavia need to be booked as soon as possible, and certainly before Christmas.

He says the booking cycle for cruises is reverting back to a year in advance, and this particularly applies to Northern Europe and the Mediterranean. “There are far fewer ships in the Med for 2018, so there simply isn’t the previous capacity and won’t be the volume of last-minute deals next year. If you have an itinerary, ship or preferred cabin you want, lock it in, because it won’t be around for long,” Mr Downs advises.

Flight Centre WA marketing manager Dani Luck says customers are booking cruises further in advance, many even two years ahead.

Cheaper shoulder-season pricing also seems to be less prominent, with some cruise lines and tour operators offering cheaper travel in July and August rather than in May or September. 

Tours

Earlybird Europe deals are flying in thick and fast.

Insight Vacations has return flights to Europe for $299 when booking one of its 12 European Discoveries 2018 before November 2. The deal covers the new 16-day Mediterranean Journey from London through Paris, Bordeaux, San Sebastian, Barcelona, Tuscany and Rome. The package costs from $6174 per person twin share (including return flights to Europe). And travellers can opt for any other 2018 Europe and Britain escorted journey and fly for $599 return.

Trafalgar is also offering cheap flights, with return economy fares to Europe for $699 on selected northern summer 2018 trips for bookings made before November 2. This includes the new 11-day Wonders of Italy guided holiday from Rome through Lucca, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice and Assisi from $3475 per person twin share.   

Globus celebrates its 90th birthday this year and is offering a 10 per cent discount on its new six-day Top of Switzerland tour. Now $1735 per person twin share for bookings before November 28, travellers will see Alpine landscapes, sample cheeses in Affoltern and enjoy views from Jungfrau Massif.

Collette is also offering a 10 per cent discount across its 2018/19 Europe brochure. It includes 68 tours, seven of which are faith tours, including the Pilgrimage to Poland from $1889 per person twin share, when booked by the end of October.

For those who want to experience Europe from both land and sea, CruisePlanet has put together a 22-day package, Grand Italy and The Greek Isles, Land and Sea Explorer, for March next year. Tour highlights include all the big names — Rome, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Italian Lake District, Venice, Bay of Naples, and Sorrento; while ship MSC Musica visits the ports of Venice, Brindisi, Katakolon, Santorini, Piraeus, Corfu, Kotor and Venice. The package costs from $5899 per person twin share, including return flights from Perth. 

Next year Intrepid Travel will run its first Cyprus tour. The eight-day itinerary visits castles and monasteries, swimming spots, shows traditional bread and cheese making and there’s a stay in a Cypriot village. Until October 13, it costs from $1224 per person twin share after a 10 per cent earlybird discount.

Until December 29, Beyond Travel is offering up to $500 in credit on Premium Escorted Tours in Europe, which include Croatia, Turkey, the Balkans, Eastern and Central Europe and Russia. The 20-day Moscow to Vienna tour has $500 travel vouchers per couple available. Priced from $5200 per person twin share, it visits Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic and Austria. Vouchers can be used on any of the operators’ products, including pre and post-tour accommodation, small-ship cruises and European stopovers.

Small-group specialist Back Roads Touring has 5 per cent off its 2018 European tours for payments made before January 15. This includes the 10-day Highlights of Britain tour exploring the back roads in the Cotswolds, Snowdonia National Park, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, which costs from $3704 per person twin share.

Pay a deposit on any Europe and UK small-group tour from Albatross by the end of the month and receive a discount of $350 per person. This includes the 15-day Through Bohemia and Saxony Tour, visiting Austria, Czech Republic and Germany, which is from $6599 per person twin share (before the discount).

After an active holiday? Until October 20, UTracks has up to 10 per cent off a selection of its guided and self-guided walking and cycling holidays priced under $2000. Walk the last section of the Italian pilgrim route, the Francigena Way, over 10 days from Orvieto to Rome from a discounted $1278 per person. There’s also a new eight-day, Best of Tuscany: Francigena Way from $1181 per person.

UTracks has also discounted its new self-guided eight-day Tuscany Cycle for Families to $1250 per adult.

Flight Centre allows greater flexibility with its $149 Captain’s Platinum Package for Europe add-on which is available until November 22. It allows travellers to lock in an airfare and tour deal, enjoy the Christmas holiday period and then formalise — or cancel — their plans next year if desired.

Cruising

Until the end of the month, Uniworld has free return economy flights to Europe, or an upgrade to business class from $4599, when booking a 2018 European voyage. Combine this airfare offer with the 10-day Tulips and Windmills river cruise and tour from Amsterdam to Antwerp from $5299 per person twin share.

Viking River Cruises also offers flight incentives for bookings made this year. Fly return to Europe for $495 per person when booking a 2018 European river itinerary of 13 days or more, such as the 15-day Grand European Tour from Amsterdam to Budapest. There are also return flights for $995 per person on itineraries of 12 days or fewer.

Evergreen Cruises and Tours offers a choice of earlybirds. Book a suite and fly for $995 per person, or “bring your own” flight and save $1200 per person. Full payments 12 months in advance attract savings of up to $800 per couple, and an extra $150 is saved when a deposit is paid within three days of booking. The offer ends on October 31 and includes packages such as the 15-day Splendours of Europe river cruise between Amsterdam and Budapest from $8045 per person twin share.

Can’t decide which river? With Avalon Waterways’ Iconic Rivers of Europe cruise you can experience three — the Rhine, Main and Danube. Avalon has savings of up to $3000 per couple on a selection of its cruises, including the Iconic Rivers of Europe. From the Netherlands to Romania, the 22-day cruise costs $10,232 per person twin share for bookings before November 30.

APT’s most popular cruise, Magnificent Europe from Amsterdam to Budapest, has been included on its earlybird promotion running until November 30. Discounted from $7395 per person twin share, the price includes an early payment discount and a choice of free flights or fly business class for $3495, plus a free cabin upgrade.

Scenic has also discounted its popular cruise — the 15-day Jewels of Europe from Amsterdam to Budapest. Full payments before the end of the month receive a $300 discount, bringing the price to from $6995 per person twin share. 

Visit Vernon, Caudebec, Le Havre, Rouen, Les Andelys and Mantes-la-Jolie on a round-trip cruise from Paris with this package from Bicton Travel. Priced from $3395 per person twin share, it includes return flights from Perth with Singapore Airlines and a nine-night cruise aboard aROSA Viva. Upgrades to a Juliet balcony from $845 per person are available and there’s flexibility to extend your stay in Europe. Or opt for a three-night London pre-cruise package, including four-star accommodation and a Eurostar journey to Paris, from $595 per person twin share.

Combine a cruise and bike ride with UTracks. It has earlybird savings on the eight-day Loire Valley Bike and Barge journey, where travellers spend their days cycling through the Loire Valley’s vineyards and country roads before retiring to a private barge in the evenings. The package is now discounted to $1431 per person twin share.

For those who prefer to steer themselves, self-drive boating company Le Boat has up to 20 per cent off selected 2018 trips for bookings made by November 30. It includes the Classic Nivernais Cruise in France from $1648 per boat for seven nights. 

Save up to 10 per cent on selected Adventure Cruise departures with Peregrine Adventures until October 14, including Cruising Croatia’s central coast. The eight-day round-trip cruise from Split, visits small villages and travellers will see the Dalmatian lifestyle using the near-new Royal Eleganza ship as a base. It has been discounted and costs from $2461 per person twin share.

Small-group tour company G Adventures has up to 20 per cent off its tours for bookings by the end of October, including sailing from Dubrovnik to Split, Croatia, for eight days from $1189 per person.

Book a selected Europe 2018 voyage before November 30 with boutique cruise line Azamara Club Cruises and receive a veranda stateroom for the price of an interior stateroom. Fares are from $5429 per person twin share for a 10-night Adriatic and Med Treasures voyage on Azamara Quest, departing Venice bound for Monte Carlo.

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