Getting the best out of a city break continued

By Fred Mawer, Mail on Sunday

Last updated at 15:31 17 February 2003

Choice limits

Some operators will not take accommodation-only bookings for peak times, such as bank holidays, and many insist on a two-night minimum stay.

Optional extras

You'll be offered fewer perks than on a package. The complimentary city guidebook is often excluded, sometimes the 'free night' offers do not apply and some operators will not arrange elements such as transfers or theatre tickets.

Who to book with

Here are ten city-break specialists which welcome accommodation-only bookings. Bookings are bonded and, unless otherwise stated, offer access to a 24-hour duty office.

Cresta (, tel: 0870 333 3303) has an accommodation-only brochure, Hotel Reservations, due out in April. Meanwhile, you can use its Cities and Short Breaks brochure. Booking fee: £30.

Crystal (, tel: 0870 160 3070) brought in its dedicated brochure last year. Booking fee: £15 per person, maximum £30.

Inghams Eurobreak (, tel: 020 8780 7700) includes guidebooks, cruises and free night offers as for full packages. No set booking fee, though extra charges are factored in.

Kirker (, tel: 020 7231 3333) includes its own restaurant and sightseeing guide and will book extras such as transfers, but free night offers do not apply. Booking fee: up to seven per cent of cost.

Osprey (, tel: 0870 560 5605). Booking fee: £20 (£30 for US cities).

Sovereign (, tel: 0870 576 8373). Booking fee: £30.

Superbreak (, tel: 01904 689611) offers overseas hotels solely on an accommodation-only basis. No dedicated helpline - call reservations if there's a problem - and no bookable extras or free perks. But a big database of hotels (more than 800) will take one-night bookings. No booking fee.

Thomson (, tel: 0870 606 1476). Booking fee: £15 per person, £30 maximum.

Time Off (, tel: 0870 584 6363). Booking fee: £15 per person, £30 maximum, for Europe; £50 per booking outside Europe.

Travelscene (, tel: 0870 777 8840). No booking fee, but a muddled stance on any accommodation problems, with the brochure saying one thing and a spokeswoman telling me another.

Having it all

Some operators - for example, Crystal, Inghams, Osprey and Thomson - will book flights with the major no-frills airlines, giving you the benefits of a package but with budget air fares.

Inghams promises the same fares as if you booked direct with the airlines and no extra administration charges. Osprey also levies no mark-ups, but you do pay the accommodation-only booking fee.

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