The largest-scale invasion of Europe ever mounted commences just a few days from now, when the first cadre of American tourists crosses the Atlantic to begin a record-breaking summer season.
Those visitors will contribute to a total of nearly 10 million Americans expected to visit the Old World in 1998, a record. Is there anything left to say about how they should manage the stay? I have several last-minute suggestions:
Camping in comfort. For a trip of several weeks, consider renting a car and camping. This may well be your cheapest possible means of lengthening the trip beyond the one or two weeks that most people schedule.
Britain's Eurocamp company contracts with more than 180 well-located campsites throughout the continent. Eurocamp offers accommodations in modern, comfortable canvas tents for as little as about $590 for 14 nights' accommodation in June and July--and that's not per person but for two adults and up to four children. What's more, the large tents come equipped with double and twin beds with foam mattresses, refrigerators, gas stoves, even electric lights--and all kitchen needs. We've been especially impressed with a site on an island in the Seine, in a Parisian suburb with ready access to the city.
A single warning: August rentals soar to a high of about $1,485 before plummeting to $365 for September. For more information, phone the company's U.K. number at telephone 011-44-1565-62-62-62.
Rent a flat. Consider renting an apartment for your stay in Paris. Paris Sejour Reservation (PSR), founded in 1985, rents studios for as little as $75 a night, one-bedroom apartments for from $100 to $250, two bedrooms from $140 up. Minimum stay: five nights. All units have fully equipped kitchens and direct-dial telephones, color TV, washing machines and weekly housekeeping service. For details, phone PSR/USA at tel. (312) 587-7707, or fax the agency at (800) 582-7274.
World's Fair detour. Think about a trip to Lisbon for the last World's Fair of the century (now until Sept. 30). Its theme: the ocean and its environment. Featured is a permanent Oceans Pavilion ("Oceanarium"), Europe's largest aquarium. A Portugual specialist called Travel-Go-Round, tel. (800) 293-0076, fax (516) 746-4094), is an excellent source of hotel arrangements.
Dollar days in London. Forte Hotels--Britain's largest hotel group--has extended until Sept. 3 its willingness to accept payment for stays at their 18 London hotels at a rate of one British pound to one U.S. dollar. That's almost a 40% savings.
Among Forte's hotels in London from deluxe to moderate: Cavendish, Cumberland Hotel, Excelsior Heathrow (airport), Forte Crest Heathrow (airport), Grosvenor House, Le Meridien Waldorf, Le Meridien Piccadilly, Posthouse Bloomsbury, Posthouse Gatwick (airport), Posthouse Hampstead, Posthouse Heathrow (airport), Posthouse Kensington, Posthouse Regents' Park, Regent Palace, Russell Hotel, Saint George's Hotel, Strand Palace and (not yet opened) Posthouse World Trade Centre.
B&B; listings. For travel outside London, bed-and-breakfast accommodations in private homes are the best value. The 16-year-old Bed & Breakfast (GB) organization has hundreds of affiliated hosts in England and Scotland that charge as little as $25 per person per night, breakfast included. For a brochure, call the agency at (800) 454-8704. By booking through Bed & Breakfast (GB), you also qualify for significant discounts on cars rented through Eurodollar.
A Nice Web site. The Web site operated by the city of Nice (http://www.nice-coteazur.org) contains just about the best hotel finder we've seen yet, chockablock with hotels priced perfectly for anyone on a budget.