BOSTON (TheStreet) -- When the dollar is strong and you have the means, the world is your mall.
Debt troubles in Europe have pushed the dollar to its highest point against the euro since 2008. The dollar's gains against the Japanese yen and the British pound have jetsetting Americans packing their bags again after spending $6.6 billion less on international travel in 2009 than in 2008, according to the United Nations' World Tourism Organization.
In February, the last month for which figures are available, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says the number of passengers traveling abroad on U.S. airlines rose 1.7% from a year earlier. After a 5.6% drop in international passengers for domestic and foreign airlines between 2008 and 2009, any reprieve is welcome.
But where do you go? A burgeoning dollar is allowing connoisseurs to go straight to the source for luxuries like couture, tech toys and whisky. High-end tour company Abercrombie & Kent offers these five destinations for your international spending spree:
Couture in Paris:
Abercrombie & Kent hasn't let ripples in the global economy jostle its approach to luxury travel, and its Parisian holiday packages are still as lavish as they were in the days of house flipping and Hummers. While many of its river cruises and train tours make Paris only a stopping point, those willing to splurge for the bespoke Tailor Made France tour can make Parisian shopping the largest push pin on their map.
"We generally don't do shopping-focused Itineraries, though we have planned shopping excursions as part of a larger itinerary," says Jean Fawcett, spokesperson for Abercrombie & Kent. "In Paris, we hosted a couture day for a group of fashion-savvy women, with insider access to the three most exclusive Paris haute couture houses --
Yves Saint Laurent
-- which is virtually unheard of."
Chanel's haute couture director gave guests a tour of the private salons and that years' collection. Fawcett says one of the tourist's daughters was allowed to try on a haute couture dress. They received a similar reception at Dior, where several "responsables de boutique" gave them a private tour of the recently redecorated fashion house and invited them for tea and Laduree macarons in a private salon.
$4,300 to $39,000 per person for seven-day river tours, $10,995 for the 10-day Signature France tour and a negotiable fee for a Tailor Made France tour, which lasts eight days.
Bazaars in Istanbul:
Turkey hasn't joined the eurozone yet, but that doesn't mean there aren't deals to be had in one of the longest-standing centers of retail commerce.
Istanbul's Grand Bazaar has been in service since 1461, when it was the hub of the Ottomans' rejuvenation of the city after its conquest in 1453. It has grown into a maze of booksellers, kebab stands and rug dealers. The big-ticket item is the gold sold by merchants lining the bazaar's main thoroughfare -- the Kalpakcilar -- and earning it the nickname "the gold street."
"The only thing on sale that is actually made in the bazaar is gold jewelry," Fawcett says. "Gold is still the traditional investment tool, and gold bangle bracelets or coins are the standard wedding gifts in Turkey."
An 11-day look at "Signature Turkey" costs $9,150 per person, while a 13-day historic outing costs $9,670. You can make Istanbul one stop on a 10-day tour of ancient capitals that also includes Rome and Athens, but it'll cost you $10,530.
Scotch in Scotland:
You can play golf on the old sod at St. Andrews for $2,500 a round or buy a kilt you'll likely never wear if you're not Scottish, but Scotch is Scotland's one export that can keep giving for a lifetime.
This is how
can justify charging $14,000 for a 55-year-old whisky and why true lovers of the drink make annual pilgrimages to its distilleries. Three- to eight-day trips aboard the Royal Scotsman railway offer not only views of Inverness, the Isle of Skye and Ballindalloch Castle, but also a stop at the Dalmore distillery for a few sips of a wee heavy whisky. A seven-day cruise on the Caledonian Canal aboard the eight-passenger Scottish Highlander takes tipplers to the 185-year-old Ben Nevis Distillery, one of Scotland's oldest licensed distilleries.
Trips aboard the Royal Scotsman vary from $3,610 per person for a three-day trip to $10,680 for an eight-day excursion. By comparison, seven days aboard the Scottish Highlander cost a comparatively cheap $3,490 per person.
Imbibing in Burgundy and Bordeaux:
From the rivers and canals that run through France's wine region, visitors can sample vintages before setting sail on lavish liners regrettably called "barges."
La Nouvelle Etoile has its own kitchen, herb garden, exercise room, Jacuzzi and cabin suites with oversized showers, televisions, e-mail access and American voltage outlets. It floats its eight passengers through the Burgundy and Champagne regions and by wineries such as Domaine Leflaive, Domaine Roulot, Champagne Salon and Champagne Delamotte.
The Fleur de Lys carries six passengers through Burgundy and Beaujolais on a ship built for 22 and allocates its extra space to a heated pool, lounge, library, grand piano, television and three oversized suites. If Chablis and chocolate are more your speed, La Belle Epoque takes groups of up to 13 through the wine region and to the town of Flavigny, where the film
A $4,990 seven-day trip on La Belle Epoque has been cut to $3,990, while a charter trip on the Fleur de Lys starting at $46,600 is available for either a $5,00 discount or with a free night at the Le Meurice Hotel in Paris. Le Nouvelle Etoile will set travelers back $6,500 per person.
Tech in Tokyo:
The city's Akihabara Electric Town offers almost every device the cool kids are playing with. Abercrombie & Kent plays Japan's tech culture a bit of lip service as part of larger tours, but other tour companies make it the centerpiece.
Geeks On a Plane
, for instance, gathers bloggers, techies and entrepreneurs for annual fact-finding trips to Beijing; Seoul, South Korea; Singapore and, in June, Tokyo. This is how sites like ThinkGeek get started and stock up.
JTB Global Tour
offers a seven-day July package around the
World Cosplay Summit
in Nagoya. While this is good news for people who dress up like characters from
, it's even better news for techies who can spend the first two sightseeing days buying media players and absorbing pop culture in the Akihabara and Harajuku districts.
Abercrombie & Kent's "Japan: Cool Culture, Timeless Tradition" package costs $9,545 per person. JTB USA's World Cosplay Summit 2010 Anime and Manga package costs between $2,145 and $2,650 depending on point of departure. Geeks On a Plane has not yet announced the cost or itinerary of its June trip.
-- Reported by Jason Notte in Boston.
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.