As the author of a book on the cheapest places to travel in the world, naturally I talk a lot about where you can really stretch your travel funds. As I’ve mentioned, some of those have gotten cheaper still. But there’s another big bonus to the strong U.S. dollar if that’s the currency you’re earning: expensive destinations won’t hit you so hard this year.
As I write this at the end of February, 2015, the following attractive travel destinations are looking a lot more reasonable if your debit card is connected to a dollar account.
I wrote back in late 2012 about how crazy expensive Chile seemed last time I was there, but since then the greenback has gone from fetching 466 Chilean pesos to 620—a 33% increase in buying power.
With the Andes mountains running the length of the country, the Atacama Desert and Patagonia at the two ends, this is one of the world’s great adventure destinations. It’s also a great place to go skiing in our summer and tour vineyards in valleys all over the country.
LAN Airlines, based in Santiago, is part of the One World alliance, so you can cash in American Airlines points for a more comfortable alternative.
It’s still the most expensive destination in Latin America, but thanks to a rising dollar it has gone from “outrageous” to “not totally painful.” At the beginning of 2013 a buck got you 2 real. Now it gets you 2.8, so that caipirinha will cost you at least a third less this year. You’ll still have to cough up that $160 reciprocal visa fee if you’re American though, so plan to stick around for a while. It’s a very large country anyway, so don’t just go to Rio and that’s it.
Azul Airlines, founded by the guy who ran Jet Blue before it got sucky, has big plans to increase connections between our two countries. In December they started flying out of Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando in Florida.
While we’re in this hemisphere, you probably know Mexico has gotten cheaper lately, but it was already a bargain. Canada has, for many years, been our pricey European-priced neighbor to the north. As soon as you crossed from one side of Niagara Falls to the other, or took the train from Seattle to Vancouver, you got hit with harsh sticker shock. Now that the two dollars have gone from par to 25% off par, however, it’s looking a lot more reasonable in the Great White North. If you’ve been holding off on that trip to Banff or Quebec City, this might be the summer to make it happen.
I often write about the rare European bargains like Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania—countries that don’t use the euro. Maybe soon Greece will be added to that camp as well. But the typical exchange rate between the euro and the dollar until recently was $1.35 to 1. Now it’s hovering around $1.13 and most of the currency bets right now are on it dropping another 10 percent at least. This doesn’t mean Copenhagen, Paris, and London are suddenly going to be a great deal of course. And Italy is still going to have 100% hotel occupancy in the summer keeping rates high. But this is the best window we’ve had for close to a decade for the classic destinations of Western Europe. Get away from the capital cities and you might find you’re spending about what you would have in the USA.
The kicker on Europe is always the flights, especially when they keep raping us with fuel surcharges after the price of oil has dropped by more than half. Even when you use mileage you could pay hundreds of dollars for that “free” flight. So avoid Heathrow and other airports that sock it to you. Also check prices at alternative airlines like Norwegian, Air Berlin, and Iceland Air. Naturally, avoiding the summer will help a lot too.
You’d have to go back many decades to find a time when it was cheap to travel to Japan, so don’t hold your breath for great bargains there. With the dollar fetching around 120 yen though—compared to 90 at the beginning of 2013—we’re near the top of the historic range. With some judicious planning, some countryside excursions, and care about where you eat, you can tour around Japan without being a millionaire.
It’s next to impossible to find a cheap flight to Tokyo, but it’s a frequent layover stop on flights to other parts of Asia. So combine it with a trip to Thailand, Vietnam, or Korea—or get a “Circle the Pacific” flight to build in more stops. With flights often topping $1,000, this can be a good time to cash in those airline miles with a nice Asian airline partner in your program.
African Safari Destinations
Take a dash of currency devaluation, combine it with a big heap of ebola, and you’ve got half a continent on sale. Safari bookings have plummeted this year and operators have been running fire sales to keep the Land Rovers rolling. Despite their best attempts to show that Madrid is closer to Sierra Leone than Tanzania or Botswana are, people who can’t read a map hear “Africa” and automatically say, “No way!” You’ll get an especially good safari deal if you can show up and book an adventure locally. You’ll have a lot more negotiating power.
Flights to Africa are expensive in general, but they’ve been getting a bit less so lately as fuel prices and demand have both dropped. Plus the value of the South African rand has nosedived against the dollar, making a trip to Cape Town or Kruger a much better deal than it’s been for a very long time.
See Vayama for the greatest range of international flight options, including on mixed carriers.