Editors' pick: Originally published Feb. 16.
If you're thinking of doing some international travel in 2017, there's no time like the present to book that trip.
After the Federal Reserve's latest rate increase in December, the value of the dollar rose to its highest level in 14 years. And the strength of the greenback has been sustained this new year. While that isn't entirely great news, it's what U.S. travelers were used to in the late-'90s and have been waiting for since the early 2000s.
Also, now is one of the best times of year to travel. Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel advice and pricing site FareCompare.com, calls the weeks between New Year's Day and Valentine's Day the travel season's "dark weeks." Folks who haven't managed to accrue enough vacation days early in the year or who are wiped out by holiday travel are steering clear of the airports, leaving a lot of empty seats and great fares in their absence. And that lull in travel continues throughout February.
That's why things get interesting and cheap in a hurry. Roughly 52 million passengers took trips aboard U.S. airlines last January, according to the Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation statistics. That's up almost 3 million passengers from January 2015, but still well below the 57.9 million passengers who caught holiday flights a month earlier in December and not close to the 66.1 million who fly during peak season in July. The only month when folks travel less is February, with a scant 51 million passengers putting up with foul weather and delays during that month.
The folks at travel site Hopper have been charting average airfares throughout the season and, despite "dark weeks in early December, average airfare in the U.S. still hovered between $215 and $220." Those holiday travel price hikes end comes January.
"The good news is that the best flight prices of the year are right around the corner," says Hopper data scientist Patrick Surry. "Historically, flight prices bottom just after the holidays in January at $211 round-trip."
However, there is any number of factors that can outweigh the dollar's strength in a hurry. Just about any U.S. presidential transition makes markets jittery, but this one, in particular, has folks at home and abroad a bit nervous. Both the United Kingdom and European Union are still dealing with the fallout over the Brexit vote, Canada is still feeling out Justin Trudeau's early days in office and fears of both war and terrorism are weighing heavily on the minds of both nations and travelers.
While all of the above makes a long escape seem like a good idea, you still have to pick your vacation destination of choice wisely. While not every country is offering a deep discount, there's a complete itinerary of countries that are. With some help from folks at TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals, we came up with a few destinations where the U.S. dollar is buying far more than it did even a year before: