Got To Get Away: Stretch Your Vacation Dollars
With the dollar receiving an old fashioned beating from the euro right now, vacations to popular European destinations like England, France and Spain have become quite pricey. Not to fret though, with a little planning, you can still enjoy your European vacation without breaking the bank.
Not flying across the pond for some R&R? You can still save cash by traveling smart, regardless of your vacation destination. Read on, oh wandering soul.
Prevent your wallet from getting euro-trashed
If you’re heading to Europe, prepare yourself financially. While Paris and London are must-sees for the vacationing Yankee, they can put a hurting on your billfold. Vacations in Western Europe today cost 35 to 40 percent more than they did as little as two years ago. Why? It’s all about the exchange rate. The euro rules the day over our weakened dollar, meaning you’ll have to pick and choose your spots when it comes to traveling abroad.
Before you book, research your options. Purchasing a vacation package (airfare & hotel) through an online travel broker like expedia.com or travelocity.com could save you big bucks. If you’re planning on staying long-term in one place, look into renting a house or apartment. It’s cheaper than a hotel room, sleeps more, is roomier, and you’ll be able to cook your own food instead of eating out every day. Also, many vacation packages will allow you to “lock in” a rate well before your travel dates. If the dollar continues to fall against the euro after you book, you’ll save big and look like a genius. If the dollar rallies, however, you lose.
Remember, Europe is more than just England and France. Consider visiting some of the Eastern Block countries like Hungary, Poland or Lithuania—you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Gone are the Cold War misconceptions of these countries. Instead, travelers will encounter friendly natives, stunning views, and vibrant nightlife. What’s more, these countries have yet to adopt the euro, meaning your dollar will go a lot farther.
But if it’s Western Europe or bust for you, you can still ease the pain that the mighty euro brings. Book your trip early to ensure you get the flights and hotels you want. If you want to see a lot of Europe, consider a cruise. If you’re on a budget, consider a short three or four day stopover and tackle only the sights you absolutely have to see. Finally, when traveling about the European countryside, always set a daily limit on your spending.
Destination: anywhere? Money saving travel tips.
Regardless of where you vacation, following a few simple rules will minimize the impact on your bottom line while maximizing your fun. Always remember to:
1. Shop around. Just like anything else, deals are to be had if you know where to look. Check online resources for the best deals.
2. Only use a travel agent for big trips to far away places. You can handle the details of a weekend getaway.
3. Travel in the off season. Find out when your desired destination’s peak tourist season is, and don’t go then. Off season prices are much more acceptable.
4. Flexibility is key. Changing your travel itinerary by just a day or two can save you big.
5. For cruises, book early to take advantage of big savings. If using an agent, get one who’s a cruise expert. She can save you money and probably secure a few perks along the way.
6. When renting a car, only get the smallest possible one you can handle. It’s cheaper and so is the gas. At the counter, ask for a free upgrade; it doesn’t hurt to try. Always refuel your rental before you return it to avoid getting gouged by the return lot. Never rent a car at the airport, rates are better elsewhere. Finally, if you can understand the city’s public transportation, use it instead of renting a car.
7. When on the road, carry a cooler full of drinks and snacks. By stopping at a grocery store and loading up on supplies (e.g., aspirin, water, sunscreen, film) before you wander the countryside, you’ll avoid being taken to the cleaners by roadside tourist traps.