Let’s face it, most of the past eight years it was not exactly an ideal time to be a backpacker from the U.S. You faced a falling dollar, a president with very few fans, an unpopular war, and to make it worse, a booming economy (in the past five years) that kept hotels and flights packed to the limit. Then the price of oil spiked, making airlines resort to extra fee thievery and forcing even the cheapest bus companies around the world raise their prices. All of a sudden, we’ve got the reverse.
1) The dollar is sitting pretty. Sure, a trip to Europe is still going to cost you more than vacationing anywhere in the Americas, but considering it used to take $1.60 for a euro and now it’s more like $1.30, the rates are far less painful. Anywhere but Japan, the story is much brighter. The dollar is up 40 percent over a year ago in such diverse destinations as Mexico, Hungary, and South Africa. In many others the change is 25 to 35 percent to the upside. In other words, you can travel 12 months now on a budget that would have lasted you 8 months before.
2) It’s a buyer’s market for flights. As I’ve noted before on here, flight prices have been dropping like a rock. Some of the airlines are still tacking on fuel surcharges like we’ve got $150 a barrel oil, but otherwise there are some real steals out there. I’ve booked three domestic round-trip flights in a row now under $250 and I just got a Nashville, TN to Mexico City flight alert for $349 including taxes. Australia or New Zealand under $800 total from several cities in the U.S., which hasn’t happened for a looonnng time.
3) It’s a buyer’s market for hotels. Granted the real price elasticity is at the mid-range vacation hotel level, not the budget level, but reduced demand is reduced demand, so you have a lot more bargaining power now at cheap guesthouses as well. Now there’s less reason to book ahead at published rates instead of just showing up and looking around. (As always though, plan ahead for peak season in popular places.)
4) We have a popular president now. For travelers, it’s back to the glory days of Bill Clinton, though this time there’s the added shock that we elected someone doesn’t look like the majority of the population. “Maybe those Americans aren’t ignorant cowboys after all…” I’ve always said that being American doesn’t put you in any more danger, but it’s nice not to be hated by association.
5) Travel gear is on sale bigtime. A tough economy hits almost everyone who sells something, and this includes the companies selling travel gear. If you need a new backpack, shoes that will last a year, Teva sandals, or a bunch of cool travel gadgets and clothing, this is a great time to stock up. I’ve never seen such a variety of great gear marked down 50 percent or more. Check REI-Outlet, Sierra Trading Post, Backcountry.com, or Campmor.
And hey, if you’re not American it’s almost always a better time to be a backpacker than it is to be sitting in an office. We didn’t stop traveling when the dollar took a dive and you shouldn’t if your euro, Canadian dollar, or pound is down either. Just go to The World’s Cheapest Destinations…