Departures

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The Independent Travel
Phoney war

TOUR operators and the main travel agency chains have been making robust claims about the rapid sale of 1994 summer packages. For those who have not yet taken a 1993 holiday, it must seem curious that so much energy is being devoted to next year's sales.

The big operators, Thomson especially, have been anxious to persuade the media that they are on the verge of a price war (Thomas Cook last week referred to a 'bloodbath') and that people should book now to take advantage of bargain deals that are selling out fast. With reports of people queuing outside agencies last weekend, it seems as if the hype has succeeded.

In fact, there is little evidence so far of any battle. Thomson is keen to attract more early bookers than it did this time last year, but the amount of discounting for 1994 is hardly substantial compared with its prices for this summer, which it revised in January. As always, operators like early bookings because the deposits provide an invaluable boost to the company's cash flow.

If there is to be any serious price war, it will come in January, when it becomes clear whether packages are selling in required numbers.

Musical offerings

SUPERBREAK (071-278 0383) is offering a one-night package to see Phantom of the Opera in Manchester for pounds 89.95 per person including bed and breakfast at the Britannia Hotel and a ticket for the evening performance. A one-night package to see Les Miserables in Edinburgh on 6, 13 or 27 November costs pounds 79.95 per person including B & B and theatre ticket.

Vine time

A FIVE-NIGHT holiday to the grape harvest in the Moselle Valley is being sold by Moswin Tours (0533 714982). The holiday, which departs on 24 October, costs pounds 362 including return flights from Heathrow, half-board, coach excursions and river cruises on the Rhine and Moselle. The holiday features visits to vineyards where travellers can participate in the harvesting.

QE2 specials

CUNARD (071-491 3930) is offering QE2 packages to New York at prices which it says are the lowest ever. The packages include a five-day transatlantic crossing, two or three nights' accommodation in New York and a transatlantic flight, with prices starting at pounds 595. Five crossings are available in each direction up to December.

Disney deals

KEITH PROWSE International (0232 232425) is now offering tickets for Euro Disney in Paris. The tickets, which can be bought direct by phone or through high-street travel agencies, cost from pounds 23.60 ( pounds 16.80 children) for a one-day ticket. Prowse also sells tickets for the Disney theme parks in Florida and California.

Fear of flying

ON 6 NOVEMBER, Britannia Airways (0582 424155) is running a 'Flying with Confidence' course at its training centre at East Midlands airport, near Derby. The course is designed to help first-time air travellers or people apprehensive about flying. The full-day course, which ends with a 90- minute flight on a Boeing 757, costs pounds 95 including the flight and lunch; or you can take the flight only, for pounds 49.

Trainspeak

IF YOU were on a train in Bulgaria and wanted to exchange seats, would you know how to make the request?Thomas Cook Publishing has come to the aid of rail travellers with the European Rail Travellers' Phrasebook ( pounds 3.95), which contains more than 300 phrases in nine languages, with phonetic spellings. Also invaluable on the Continent is the Thomas Cook European Timetable ( pounds 7.30), which is updated monthly, not only with timetables but also a guide to the European rail system. Both publications are available from Thomas Cook agencies or by post from: Thomas Cook Publishing, PO Box 227, Peterborough PE3 6SB.

Travel bookshelf

BEST US guidebooks:

1. USA: The Rough Guide (Rough Guides, pounds 12.99)

2. Let's Go USA (Pan, pounds 14.99)

3. California and West Coast USA: The Rough Guide (Rough Guides, pounds 9.99)

4. The Time Out New York Guide (Penguin, pounds 9.99)

5. Budget Dining & Lodging in New England (Globe Pequot Press, pounds 7.95)

6. The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 1993 (Prentice Hall, pounds 8.99) by Bob Sehlinger

7. Journey to the High Southwest: A Travellers Guide (Globe Pequot Press, pounds 13.95) by Robert Casey

8. Frommer's New Orleans City Guide 93-94 (Prentice Hall, pounds 8.99)

9. Boston Access (HarperCollins, pounds 9.99)

10. The Smithsonian Guide to Historic America: The Deep South (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, pounds 10.95)

Information supplied by The Travellers' Bookshop, 25 Cecil Court, London WC2N 4EZ (071-836 9132)

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