The euro hit a four-year low yesterday over fears of a mounting debt crisis in Europe. It was valued at $1.23, down from $1.43 at the beginning of the year. One year ago, it was worth $1.35. Not to be outdone, the British pound has declined rapidly as well, reaching a 13-month low of $1.44.
So far today, the euro is up a little bit, but the pound is still down. This news may likely be a sign of tough times ahead for Europe, but for the immediate future, it could be a boon to American travelers. With the dollar surging abroad, this may be the best time to plan a vacation to Europe, but there are a few things you should know.
“All eyes have been on the greenback over the past few days, and this is making travelers break out their calculators to determine just how cheap a European vacation will be this summer,” Jennifer Gaines, a contributing editor at Travelocity, told MainStreet. “A stronger American currency does equal savings on the ground in Europe, but travelers should expect to pay more for their airfare and hotel stays this year.”
Travelocity crunched some numbers and found that the average cost of airfare right now to and from Western Europe is $1,322, compared with just $1,059 last summer. (It’s worth noting that this isn’t unique to Europe. Orbitz.com found that the average price of International flights outside North America has increased $200 from the same time last year.) Similarly, even the cities with the best hotel deals still show a price increase of anywhere from 9% to 22%.
Still, Gaines argues Europe is a great deal right now, all things considered. “In terms of airfare and hotel rates, last summer was the year of rock bottom prices to Europe, but this year is still a fantastic bargain when you compare travel costs to prices in 2008,” she said.
While the prices may seem steep, the currency devaluation certainly helps. “If you traveled to Europe six months ago, a 5-night stay in a hotel room at a rate of 100 euros per night would cost 500 euros or about $750. But if you travel there now, that same stay would cost you only $620,” CNN Money reports. With the extra money, you could buy yourself a lot of delicious food and souvenirs, which, as Gaines noted, will likely be cheaper now.
If you are interested in trying to book a European vacation in the next few weeks to take advantage of the currency change, certain destinations are more affordable right now than others. According to Travelocity, airfare is cheapest right now to Barcelona, Lisbon and Dublin in particular. In fact, a spokesperson for Travelzoo argued that Ireland may be the biggest bargain in Europe, thanks to a flood of great summer deals like this getaway which is discounted an extra $1,000. USA Today also noted the trend and mentioned a round-trip flight from New York to Dublin for just $519.
Or you could make your way over to London, where hotel rates are at their lowest price in five years, according to Taylor Cole, a spokesperson for Hotels.com. Cole recommends two 5-star hotels, the Park Lane Hotel and The Langham, which are both offering significant deals right now.
Besides these, some of the best countries to travel to are, not surprisingly, the same ones that are in the midst of a fiscal crisis right now. A spokesperson for Orbitz told us that some of the cheapest cities to visit in Europe are the Spanish cities of Valencia, Mallorca and Barcelona, not to mention Athens. In fact, Greece has actually gone so far as to set up a tourism crisis committee to lure travelers after a wave of cancellations over concerns about the debt crisis and riots that have ravaged the country.
That said, prices are only likely to go so low. “These destinations attract millions of visitors each year from cooler parts of Europe. Unless there's a European meltdown that causes northerners to stay home, accommodation and tour prices aren't going to fall,” the Sydney Morning Herald notes.
Of course, what goes around does come back around. According to the Las Vegas Review Journal, if the euro continues to lose value, Europeans would be less likely to spend money traveling to America, which could hurt our own economy down the road.
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