8 Places to Travel Before the Fall


8 Places to Travel Before the Fall

Vacation in Europe and Asia while the dollar’s still strong.

Rumors of the dollar’s collapse have been greatly exaggerated -- at least for now. In fact, the greenback has risen against many foreign currencies, making overseas travel cheaper. Couple that with a weakened travel industry offering big deals in airfares and hotel rates and you have a nice selection of overseas vacations at bargain prices.


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But given record deficits and a still-shaky economy, the dollar might not hold up long. So get abroad while the getting’s good. Here are eight affordable picks:

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Europe on Sale

For the past several years, the dollar has cowered before the euro. But in the past year it’s strengthened by about 10%. A year ago you had to pay $1.57 for a euro; now one costs just $1.40.


Plus, airfares across the Atlantic are drastically lower. During peak travel months in the summer of 2008, round-trip flights to Europe from various U.S. cities were hitting $2,000, says George Hobica, founder of Airfarewatchdog.com. But this year, fares to Ireland, Germany, and Spain, in particular, “have been unusually low,” says Hobica. In late June, using Kayak.com, we found round-trip flights for August and September from the Washington, D.C., area to Dublin, Munich and Madrid for less than $500, including all taxes and fees. And Hobica’s seen fares from the states to many European destinations closer to $400.

Signing up for airlines’ rewards programs and opting to receive their promotional e-mails can help knock even more off those fares, says Hobica. For example, registering at the British Airways Web site (www.ba.com) could get you discounts of $100 off any round-trip flight worldwide, or $250 off a round-trip flight to London.

You can score great lodging deals in the United Kingdom, as well.Bob Jones, travel expert with BookingWiz.com, says, many chain hotels are often offering free nights lately. Select Hilton hotels, for example, are selling two nights for the price of one through August 31 (you must book by August 17). At the four-star Hilton Olympia in London, this deal produces rates as low as $89 a night.

Jones calls the U.K. a premium destination because the dollar has strengthened against the British pound over the past year -- it’s up 17% versus the pound since June 2008.


But that’s just one quarter the extra bang for a buck you’ll get compared with going to Iceland. Recent financial distress there has ravaged the value of Iceland’s krona. Over the past year, the dollar’s value has gone up nearly 60% against the local currency.

Icelandair, the country’s airline, is even giving away visits to its homeland. If you take the airline for trips to or from any country in Europe, you’re invited to stop over in Iceland for as long as you want at no additional charge. (See www.icelandair.us for details.) If you’d like to make Iceland your only destination, the airline’s also offering discounted getaways through October for round-trip flights and hotel stays of at least two nights. In late June, we found a package including two round-trip tickets from Seattle to Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, and a seven-night stay for two at the four-star Hotel Loftleidir in mid August for $3,550 including estimated taxes and fees.

Far East, Deep Discounts

The dollar continues to stand strong against the Japanese yen. After dropping in value at the end of 2008, the dollar has climbed back up about 7% since January.


On top of the favorable exchange rate, Jones says airfares from the U.S. to Tokyo cost about half what they did last year. Using Kayak.com in late June, we found round-trip flights between San Francisco and the capital of Japan starting at $700, with taxes and fees, for trips in late August to early September.

You can drop that price a bit lower by heading farther south to Hong Kong, where the greenback has held steady against the local currency over the past few years. Round-trip flights in early September from San Francisco start at about $650 per person, including all taxes and fees, on Kayak.com.

Bundling in a hotel stay makes for an even better vacation value. Through Travelocity.com, we found a package deal offering similar flights plus a nine-night stay for two at the four-star Gold Coast Hotel, located away from the bustling downtown on the shores of the South China Sea. The total cost for two, including all taxes and fees: $2,054, which is $84 less than the cost of booking the flight and hotel separately.


Across the South China Sea, you can make like chef and author Anthony Bourdain and explore the culture and cuisine of his beloved Vietnam. But if you’d rather not slurp up a still-beating cobra heart, you can grab some less intimidating food on the cheap at many restaurants and markets. Vietnam’s most popular market is Ben Thanh, in Ho Chi Minh City, where shoppers can find everything from fresh seafood to clothes and electronics. Just remember that you have to haggle hard. You’ll have an edge, though -- a dollar is worth about 7% more in the local currency than it was a year ago, and 14% more than five years ago.

On Travelocity.com, we found a package from Boston to Ho Chi Minh City including two round-trip plane tickets in late August and nine nights for two at the three-star Hotel Equatorial for $3,185 with all taxes and fees. For an even better deal, try staying at a hostel -- backpacks and bunk beds not required. The Vy Khanh Guesthouse earns top marks from reviewers on Hostelworld.com, and a private room for two with a double bed and bathroom en suite runs just $16 a night, for a nine-night total of $144, including taxes and fees, . For the same dates, flights alone cost about $1,000 per person from the American east coast and $800 to $900 from cities on the west coast.