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Forget the Royal Wedding Hype, Travel Bargains Abound

The wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton is expected to be the most televised event in history with an estimated 2 billion people watching the ceremonies live. Hotels have rolled out over-the-top packages.
  • The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park is offering a special five-night package -- for about $19,000, that includes dinner with a royal prior to the wedding. (Translation: if there really is an available royal prior to the wedding, my guess it's the Earl of Inebriation or the Duchess of Pork).
  • For about $4,800 the Swisshotel will treat your daughters to what they call the full princess experience, which includes a ride in a horse-drawn carriage to Westminster Abbey and a dress with matching fur cape, glitter shoes and a silver tiara.
Amidst all this excess, is there really a silver lining for travelers? Yes. In fact, there are plenty of bargains.

Don't believe me? Let's do the math. Approximately 1.1 million tourists are expected in London this week. How many hotel rooms will be filled? About 70 percent, which is higher than they would normally at this time of year, but they're not full. And the three weeks after, even more empty rooms are expected.

According to business intelligence data from Travelclick overall occupancy this weekend is down 9.6 percent compared to the same weekend last year, based on a sampling of approximately 75 hotels and more than 16,000 rooms.

Therein lies opportunity, and value. London and other European capitals are open for business and eager for it.

On my flight to London earlier this week I counted 60 empty seats on my plane from New York. A check of other airlines from and to major U.S. gateway cities revealed similar availabilities and prices to match.

The key for business travelers is to navigate through this haze of royal hysteria. According to my hotel sources, average prices for hotel rooms in London right now are actually about $183, lower than they've been in months. That trend is expected to continue through the middle of June, not just in London, but throughout Europe.

The date of April 29 is an awkward scheduling choice for this event for overseas travelers (especially when compared to the summer wedding of Charles and Diana). It's after Easter and before schools are out for the summer, therefore, a real shoulder period.

Smart business travelers can benefit greatly from traveling during this time. As of Monday, May 2, it's a buyers market throughout Europe. For the next three weeks, airfares on Kayak are pricing from mid-$700s to mid-$800 range, before climbing back up to well over $1,000 in June.

So leave the tiara at home, but crown yourself with the award for good timing. And with all the money you save by traveling now, you can even buy yourself a deeply discounted commemorative royal wedding plate. Just don't send it to me!

Do you plan to travel to Europe this spring in advance of the high summer tourist season?

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Photo credit: Copyright 2010 Mario Testino
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