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Traveling Abroad on a Weak Dollar

Updated on February 19, 2014

Have passport, will travel - some place I can afford!!

Yikes!! Have you priced a trip to Europe lately? Even closer-to-home stand-bys like Canada aren't looking like too much of a bargain thanks to the weakened dollar - unless you want to take a cut-rate trip and who wants to wonder if clean sheets are included in the cost of the hotel? As the dollar drops against other major currencies, the relative prices in Europe have risen, making that dream vacation touring the castles and museums just a little out of reach.

Since my dreams of Italy this year have started evaporating, I started looking for a place to visit where the dollar is still strong and I can get - if not a bargain - at least luxury at a reasonable rate. Travel Leisure magazine choose the following as among the best places to consider as an alternative to that traditional Western Europe trip if you still want to go overseas.

Several of these places are appealing to me, not only because of the potential travel value, but also because one of my favorite TV shows - The Amazing Race - has been to many of them, so I've had a sneak peek at what awaits.

Eastern Europe * Hong Kong * Vietnam * New Zealand * The Mediterranean * South America * The Bahamas * Mexico * Western Europe Rivers * London

Your Best Local Guide

My favorite guidebooks are the line from Lonely Planet because they include so much information on things outside of the norm for tourists. So while I've included other guidebooks on this page, I've highlighted the main Lonely Planet one you'd need for the different destinations.

What's your favorite guidebook?

See results

Eastern Europe

1For those of you having trouble with directions, this would be the part of Europe that used be referred to as the Soviet-bloc states. Former Communist countries have opened up over the last 20 years and tourists are discovering great beauty and value in the Baltics.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: These non-euro nations have been value central for Americans for a long time-and these days they're even more so.

Where to Stay: To see just how hot (and hip) Croatia has become, check out the sleek Arcotel Allegra in Zagreb, where rates start at $126 a night. For a classic old-world experience, stay at the Imperial Hotel in Prague, an Art Deco jewel that was recently refurbished; a nightly rate including value-added tax (VAT) starts at $191 (420/246-011-600;

What to Buy: For all the money you're saving, treat yourself to a future heirloom: crystal is an excellent buy in this part of the world-especially in Prague, where you can buy cut-crystal vases or bowls for as little as $40.

Fancy lazing on the beaches of the stunning Adriatic coast? Want to be awed by Soviet architecture in the former Eastern bloc or live it up in hedonistic cities from Tallinn to Tirana? Eastern Europe is changing fast so keep pace with this, the only guide to the whole of the region. This guide covers: Albania, Belarus, Bosnia & Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia & Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine.

Fun Fact:

45.8% of Americans intend to take a vacation in 2008, down just a tad from 46.4% a year ago.

Hong Kong

2Considering my main exposure to Hong Kong is via Jackie Chan movies and The Amazing Race, I'm not sure I have an accurate picture of what a vacation here would be like. I'd expect lots of kung fu and car chases, when it'd probably just be lots of great shopping.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: This city has always been Western-friendly in terms of culture, and with its dollar and the Chinese yuan both loosely tied to the U.S. dollar, it's economically friendly too.

Where to Stay: Overlooking the South China Sea, Hong Kong Island's Le Meridien Cyberport has that oh-so-Hong Kong mix of elegance and techno-hipness, with rates starting at about $200 a night. If you crave those stunning harbor-and-skyline views, the Peninsula-known for its cool airport transfers-offers a "Value Experience" package that starts at $410 a night, which includes a daily fruit basket as well as breakfast for two every morning in its aristocrat-worthy lobby.

What to Buy: You'll roll your eyes at tea bags once you've sampled good Chinese tea here, made from loose leaves or hockey-puck-like cakes. Tea salons here offer tastings the way wineries do in Napa, but the prices are better. You can bring home a flavorful green, oolong, or pu-erh tea for less than $10.

There are so many ways to look at Hong Kong. Get up on the Peak to take in a shimmering panorama of city lights, get down in the streets to trace the layers of its history, watch the streets from over the rim of your noodle bowl. Then head to Macau to see what happens when Chinese and Portuguese cultures meet. Guide includes all points of interest in Cantonese script to help with asking directions, coverage of Macau and instructions for gaining entry to private kitchens.

Fun Fact:

63 million Americans travel abroad each year

New Zealand

3You've seen it in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - home to beautiful landscapes, lots of sheep, decent wine and adventure sports. When I think of New Zealand, I think of zorbing (from season 5 of The Amazing Race), which looks like amazing fun. Might be worth going to try that.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: This South Pacific nation has been hot for years, but it still hasn't gotten too pricey; one New Zealand dollar costs Americans just 77 cents.

How to Go: With lush rolling hills, fjords, and glaciers-terrain that Lord of the Rings-lovers know as Middle Earth-this is a great country to take in by foot. U.S.-based outfitter Country Walkers offers a 10-day "South Island Splendor" trip; you'll hike, kayak, and taste local wines; rates start at $4,198, with all meals included (800/464-9255; If you come here solo, it's hard to argue with Hotel So in Christchurch. Rooms may be petite, but they're enticingly crisp and contemporary in an IKEA sort of way, with flat-screen TV's and free wireless-plus rates start at a staggering $68 a night for a double (64-3/968-5050;

What to Buy: New Zealand greenstone-a semiprecious stone called pounamu by the native Maori-resembles jade, and goes for about $15 for a simple necklace. If you really want to dazzle (or freak out) folks back home, bring them some merinomink gloves for about $20. They're incredibly warm, thanks to the fact that they are made of, yes, local possum fur.

The sun shows up here first for a reason. Come for bracing light or caverns underground, glacial valleys or black volcanic sand. Tour every landscape on earth, all rolled into one country. Dig for pipis on the beach, or sample oysters on a platter. Savour solitude with a view, or city culture. Things are never just black and white in New Zealand.

Traveling on a weak dollar

General tips for finding a great place to visit while the dollar is weak

  • Note that the exchange rate may make the actual charge to your credit card higher than what you booked a hotel or excursion for.
  • Look for a country with a more forgiving exchange rate than the Euro or pound.
  • Buy American for your trip - book with a U.S. based tour company or cruise line so you can pay everything up front in dollars.
  • Generally, the best overseas value is with cruising, especially river cruising in Europe.
  • Package trips help you nail down a lot of costs up front, again by pre-paying in dollars.
  • Look for unconventional locales (if you can handle the unbeaten path).
  • Don't choose your destination based solely on exchange rates. You can also make a trip affordable by getting a great deal on airfare or hotel rates.
  • Value is what you're looking for. If the dollar is strong but the country still developing, the amenities and service might be poor and your security might be an issue. Saving a few dollars isn't worth the unnecessary stress. (This is supposed to be a vacation, after all!)

(Want a few more tips? Check out this post on Guerilla Shopper.)

Fun Fact:

International hot spots for '08 include Beijing; Central America; Italy, Eastern Europe and Lisbon, Portugal.


4I have to say I'm of two minds about traveling here. The country certainly looks beautiful (as seen on The Amazing Race, of course), but I'm not sure what the draw actually is. Obviously requires further research before choosing or nixing this country.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: Like most currencies in Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese dong is still cheap compared with the U.S. dollar.

How to Go: Especially for first-time visits, a package tour can offer good structure and compound your value. Globus (866/755-8581; offers a 14-day Vietnam-and-Cambodia tour starting at $3,119. If you want to go a little more upscale, check out Asia Transpacific Journeys' four 17-day itineraries throughout the year, starting at $4,995 person; you'll be put up in plush hotels like Hanoi's T+L 500 winner Sofitel Metropole and kept busy hiking, riding bikes, and sometimes even meeting with former royals (800/642-2742;

What to Buy: The silk trade here puts a special emphasis on beautifully embroidered-and wonderfully affordable-clothing. You can buy a quality silk scarf for as little as $5, or have a jacket made for about $20.

Want cities? Slurp down steaming pho in a street stall, toff up in a tailored suit, negotiate head-on traffic in a flimsy cyclo. Want nature? Get your fill of green in endless rice paddies, cool down in the mountains, laze on South China beaches. Want the best on Vietnam? Get yourself this guide. Includes interviews with locals, tips on how to escape the tourist trail and a special chapter on hill tribes with information on how to travel responsibly.

Fun Fact:

Lonely Planet, the guidebook publisher, picked the U.S. as its No. 1 destination for 2008.

South America

5A language I can understand, lots of great wine, opposite weather to ours - there's much I could love about traveling to South America. After seeing The Motorcycle Diaries, I definitely see the appeal to traveling down this way.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: These nations' currencies-particularly Argentina's, Chile's, and Brazil's-have stayed within reach of the dollar.

How to Go: If you equate "group tour" with "herd," check out Globus's Monograms trips, which lay out your vacation but then set you free: the 11-day "South American Selection" trip hits Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, and Buenos Aires, and prices start at around $1,600 per person (866/270-9841;

What to Buy: In Buenos Aires, leather goods are gorgeous, plentiful, and surprisingly economical: you can find good gloves for as little as $10, or have a jacket custom-made for about $150.

Cheer at a heart-racing soccer match then tango till dawn at a steamy milonga. People-watch from a century-old cafe and feast on the most succulent beef imaginable. From the most authentic parrillas to the hippest shopping streets, our native-born author un-covers all the local secrets. Get the inside scoop with this smart, stylish guide to the 'Paris of the South.'

Fun Fact:

The State Department issued a record 18.4 million passports in fiscal year 2007, compared to 12.1 million in 2006.

The Mediterranean

6This might just be the best way to see Italy right now, as long as you don't mind missing the major inland cities like Florence and Milan. But you get to take advantage of paying in dollars in advance and see a lot of the the country, as well as Greece, in style. Might be a good bet for an adventure-challenged traveler.

That said, Wendy Perrin at Conde Nast Traveler recently took exception to the idea of cruises as a bargain (or good) way to see Europe. She makes some great points. You decide.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: If you travel the area by cruise ship-one of the best ways to see it anyway-you'll prepay in dollars and then pop into both euro- and non-euro-based countries.

How to Go: Plenty of cruise lines serve the Mediterranean, but Holland America offers a 10-day "Roman Empire" cruise that starts at $1,399 per person; it includes, of course, Rome, along with Greece, Sicily, Turkey, and Croatia. And during periodic "View and Verandah" sales, you can get a free cabin upgrade (877/724-5425; You can usually even find deals with the high-end cruise lines: Silversea, for one, is offering a 30 percent discount on its Athens-to-Venice itinerary, which has you docked in Venice for the better part of two full days (starts at $4,546; 800/722-9955;

What to Buy: In Greece, pick up a Panathenaic amphora-a ceramic jug modeled after those once awarded at the Panathenaic games (an ancient alternative to the Olympics). These classic vessels go for anywhere from $25 to $250.

Who can resist the lure of the Mediterranean? The brilliant hues of sun, sea and sand in the Ionians, sangria sipped under the stars in Barcelona or the gastronomic delights of the Cote d'Azur. Sample the Mediterranean lifestyle with this inspirational guide to southern Europe. This guide covers: France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Morocco.

Fun Fact:

Thirty percent of Americans now hold passports, up from 27%.

Making Your Travel Plans - Find airfare, hotel, cruise and package deals at Travelocity

One of my first steps in doing any travel planning is to get on Travelocity to check fares, hotel options and book travel. I've found over the years that it's a great place to find package deals. One year, we went to San Francisco on a package that got us airfare and three nights hotel for only $20 more than the cost of the airfare alone. Can't beat that!!

How do you make your travel plans?

See results


7Yes, as always, our neighbor to the south provides great value for the traveler, particularly if you head to the less visited spots. Of course, I've never been to some of the more traveled ones - like Cancun - so who knows?

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: The peso is doing better than it used to-but, well, it's still the peso, so deals abound.

Where to Stay: Ixtapa's Club Med-the area's first resort when it opened in 1982-has now been renovated with bold, contemporary decor, and lots of family-friendly amenities (including a circus school for kids-trapeze lessons, anyone?). When a renovation is completed in March 2008, there will be nearly 300 rooms and 60 family suites, with all-inclusive packages starting at $200 a night per adult, and up to 70 percent off for kids. Other packages give kids a free pass altogether (888/932-2582;

What to Buy: Guerrero, the state where Ixtapa is located, is a veritable silver mine-and you can buy a piece of jewelry starting at $5.

Sensuous and seductive, Sensuous and seductive, Mexico's rich cultural traditions and raw, untamed natural beauty transcend the ages. Trample through jungles and high-plains deserts, explore ancient rites at mysterious Maya and Aztec ruins, or simply stretch out on a honey-kissed beach until manana comes - find your own 'querido Mexico' with this informed, comprehensive guide.

Fun Fact:

Travel by U.S. residents in the first nine months of this year was up 8% to Central America and 7.6% to South America, according to the Commerce Department.

The Bahamas

8OK, I'll admit I'm weird. The Bahamas probably have the least appeal to me of any place on this list, mostly because they're so - ordinary. Tons of people go there every year, lay on a beautiful beach, never see the country, and come back raving. Not my idea of great travel. But it might be yours.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: Their dollar is pegged to our dollar, and in some spots you can even use greenbacks. To keep your bottom line really steady, stay at an all-inclusive resort, where you'll prepay for meals and even some drinks.

Where to Stay: Our Lucaya on Grand Bahama is actually two resorts in one-a Sheraton and Westin that share three pools, two golf courses, a kids' club, and seven-plus acres of sandy beach. If you want extra value (and more all-inclusive options), stay on the Sheraton side (866/837-4186;, where all-inclusive nightly rates start at $295 per couple.

What to Buy: Cuban cigars have long been a treat for visiting Americans, with the sad hitch that you can't bring any back to the U.S. For an embargo loophole, look for Graycliff cigars ( while you're here: they cost up to $20 each and are made by Cuban craftsmen who live in the Bahamas, making the stogies a perfectly legal souvenir to tote home.

Discover the treasures of these storied islands, where Columbus first landed and pirates once plundered. Sail glowing turquoise seas, kayak through mangroves, swim with docile stingrays or take a romantic stroll along a pink-sand beach. Our inspiring guide brings you beyond the tourist resorts to deserted cays and friendly fishing villages for an authentic island experience.

Fun Fact:

Travel to Asia by U.S. residents was up 8.6% the first nine months of 2007. China was the 10th most visited country in 2006 by Americans traveling abroad, according to the Commerce Department.

Western Europe's Rivers

9I've actually talked with two different people in the past year about these kinds of trips - one a woman I work with who takes them all the time with friends and another with a guy in the shuttle on the way to our Alaska cruise. They sound like a fabulous way to really see France and Germany and not just Paris and Berlin. Arthur Frommer apparently agrees.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: Gliding down the waterways of Europe lets you take in all the scenery and culture while keeping most of your expenses in dollars.

How to Go: Avalon Waterways covers Europe by way of the Danube, the Moselle, the Rhine, and the Rhone. This spring the small-ship line is launching a new 138-passenger ship, the Scenery-which, despite being petite, offers travelers the obligatory pool as well as niceties such as Egyptian-cotton sheets and flat-screen TV's. Its 11-day "Flavors of Burgundy and Provence" goes from Paris to Nice along the Rhone, and includes hotels at each end as well as stops in Arles, Avignon, and the Chardonnay area; passengers also receive onboard wine tutorials to help guide onshore tastings. Rates start at $2,059 per person (877/797-8791;

What to Buy: While ashore in Burgundy or Provence you can try wines so local, or "small," that they typically don't get imported to the U.S.-and you can often bring them home for $20 or less.

Whether you dream of lazing on golden Mediterranean beaches, exploring centuries-old Bavarian streets or nursing a pint in a snug Irish pub, Western Europe always inspires with its variety and volume of iconic attractions. With so much to choose from, this insightful and comprehensive guide enables you to find your perfect multi-country trip. This guide covers: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Fun Fact:

Travelocity bookings to Western Europe over the Thanksgiving holiday were down 4.4% in 2007 compared to 2006. But bookings to Eastern Europe are up over 25%.


10My eyebrows went up at this one making the list too, considering the pound is around $2. But the basic advice of buying American and planning well can still make London affordable. They say. We'll see. So far all I've seen of England are the cows and fields between Gatwick and Heathrow. I'd like to see more than that some day.

What Travel+Leisure has to say:

Why It's a Bargain: Yes, London. If you shop for airlines' vacation packages, the pound doesn't seem so heavy anymore. You can bundle your costs up front-sometimes including meals and activities-and often get an impressive discount.

How to Go: Continental Vacations (800/301-3800; offers a wide variety of hotels and many values, including hotel stays with free breakfast-or even free nights. We found an eight-night package with accommodations at the Thistle Victoria (, a stately neighbor of Buckingham Palace, for $1,300 per person (based on double occupancy)-a savings of $1,600 compared to separate hotel and air bookings.

What to Buy: Street markets like those in Portobello, Camden, and Greenwich are great places to find arts and crafts, antiques, and local curios like English toast racks. Treasures can be had for as little as $10.

London is a city of stories, some well-known, others waiting to be written. Where will yours play out? In one of the hundred theatres? At Borough Market? Down a Soho side street or on the dazzling rooftop of the Tate Modern? Choose your own London adventure using this book's pull-out map, special chapter on London's architecture and information on walking tours that take you off the beaten track.

Fun Fact:

Italy was named the No. 1 international destination by the U.S. Tour Operators Association for 2008.

Travel+Leisure Publications

This list of great places to travel while the dollar is weak came from the January 2008 issue of Travel+Leisure magazine. If you're a travel afficionado, you might want to look into get a subscription or check out their annual publications on the best travel spots, trips and hotels.

Travel + Leisure
Travel + Leisure
TRAVEL + LEISURE reveals the best travel destinations in the world! Readers discover where to find the best hotels, the best shopping, the best food, and the most fun. With Travel + Leisure, readers discover hot deals on vacation travel and get tons of insider travel tips to help them save money, reduce travel headaches and enjoy every trip more than ever!

Is the weak dollar keeping you close to home this year or do you have a great adventure planned? Share here and let us know your great ideas for traveling while the dollar is weak. Or just let me know what you think of the lens in general. Thanks for stopping by!!


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