Off-season deals to the U.K. provide double-digit savings

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NEW YORK -- Off-season travel to the U.K. has many advantages, among them fewer crowds and lower prices.

With Great Britain the No. 1 international leisure destination for U.S. travelers, summer visitors can expect to wait in lines at attractions and museum exhibitions, and they often must choose from a substandard selection of all but the most pricey theater seats.

Not so in the autumn and early winter, when thinner tourist crowds give visitors a better sense of the local atmosphere.

And U.K. weather during this time of year is only marginally more unpredictable than it is in spring or summer. After all, most seasoned travelers bring a raincoat to London regardless of what month it is.

A view of Parliament, from the south bank of the Thames, in London. On the price front, many operators that offer programs through winter routinely cut their rates -- sometimes to the tune of nearly 40% compared with the high season.

The discounting tradition gives agents a prime opportunity to pitch an off-season trip to budget-minded clients, especially families.

Take BritRail and Cosmos, for example -- two well-known industry names offering different travel experiences.

At New York-based BritRail, the published price for a six-night Heritage Secrets package falls by about 28% from the high season to the low season.

The plan covers roundtrip air, a four-day FlexiPass for unlimited rail travel, two nights in London and four nights in the client's choice of heritage cities, which are Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Chester, York and Edinburgh.

The high-season price from New York is $1,499 per person, double; the same package booked for travel from Nov. 1 to Dec. 14 and from Dec. 26 to 31 costs $1,089.

The company's six-night Elusive London package offers even greater savings -- about 37% off the high-season rate of $1,179. The low-season price from New York is $739.

The program covers air, hotel, some sightseeing vouchers and airport transfers.

At Littleton, Colo.-based Cosmos, off-season travelers can realize savings up to 35% if they hold off their trip until October or November.

Cosmos' six-night London at Leisure plan offers roundtrip air, accommodations, host service, a London Visitor Travelcard, a voucher booklet and a half-day tour of St. Paul's Cathedral.

Summer travelers paid $1,239 per person, double, while November travelers will pay $788.

The discounting extends to Cosmos' escorted tours; its eight-night British Panorama itinerary was offered to August travelers at $1,391 per person, double; November travelers will pay $1,017 for the identical tour.

The program includes roundtrip air; a tour director; lodging; most meals; private motorcoach, and tours of popular tourist attractions in England, Scotland and Wales.

Destinations visited include London, Sheffield, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Wrexham and Cardiff.

Featured attractions include Hampton Court Palace, Stonehenge, the Wye Valley, the Cotswolds Hills, Lake District National Park and Northumberland National Park.

Both BritRail and Cosmos products can be booked in the CRSs.

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