For travelers, currency fluctuations have put a summer trip to Europe closer in reach, but you’ll still need to be smart about booking and spending to reap the savings.
The euro’s value against the dollar has weakened in recent months, driven largely by the launch of the European Central Bank’s 1 trillion euro quantitative easing program last month. On Thursday, $1 U.S. bought 0.94 euro, up from 0.72 a year ago, according to OANDA.com. That’s like paying $213 for a 200 euro hotel room, instead of $277, or about 23 percent less.
Savings aren’t universal. “Don’t expect every European country to be a value,” said Brian Kelly, founder of ThePointsGuy.com. Countries that aren’t on the euro, including Sweden and the U.K., won’t have the same currency advantage, although there may be other deals. (See chart below for some popular destinations where prices have dropped year-over-year.) Destinations like Greece, Portugal and Spain may have even better pricing due to economic woes, he said.
Travelers can snag even better deals if they’re able to travel during the shoulder season of April and May, or in early September, said Jeanenne Tornatore, a senior editor for Orbitz.com. “That’s always advantageous for pricing,” she said. “Summer, of course, is high season for pretty much all European destinations.” With that in mind, it’s best to book early if you’re aiming for a peak-season visit, she said. Regardless of where currency rates may go, demand tends to push up prices as cheap airline seats and hotel sales fill up.
Load your wallet to maximize savings during your trip. Credit and debit cards tend to offer the best currency exchange rates, Kelly said. But look into the fees. Almost two-thirds of credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of roughly 3 percent to process charges made abroad, according to a new CreditCards.com survey. Make sure yours isn’t among them.
“It would be a shame to save 5 percent on the currency and then lose 3 percent on a dopey credit card fee,” Kelly said.