Euros
Euros

You’ve probably seen the news recently about the Euro hitting a 12-year low and what that means in the economic world. The U.S. dollar is strengthening, the Euro is falling… but what does that all mean for us International travelers?

Lucky for us, it means that now is a great time to book that European vacation we’ve been meaning to take.

Over the past several years, budgeting for a trip to Europe has been difficult for U.S. travelers who are trying to stretch their dollar as far as possible. Just a few years ago, the exchange rate from Dollar to Euro was as high as $1.48, making it difficult to afford to travel there. But now, with the rate sitting as low as $1.06, we can finally see our vacation dollars stretch further in Europe. There have even been rumblings of the Euro falling more, to possibly reach an even exchange rate with the dollar. Whether that happens or not, it’s absolutely time for travelers to start setting their eyes on Europe.

Let’s look at some numbers. In a popular city like Paris, the average hotel room costs €250. Two years ago, this would have cost us $370. Now with the lower exchange rate, that same €250 room costs just $265.  Expand that to cover the cost of your entire vacation and you will pay an average of 28% less than you would have 2 years ago. What would have cost you $2500 would now cost only $1800.

I think we can all agree that with these prices, Europe is suddenly a lot more affordable.

How to get the best rates

In order to get the best exchange rate, you need to steer clear of expensive exchange bureaus and agencies, usually found inside the airport or in major tourist hubs, who jack up the rates and add additional fees. I know it’s convenient, especially when you arrive in a new country and need to get cash quickly, but there are certainly more advantageous ways of getting money.

A surefire way to ensure you’re getting the best exchange rate is to use your credit card whenever possible, though be sure to use a card with no foreign transaction fee or you’ll pay an additional 3% for each use. By the way, if a merchant asks if you’d like your purchase charged in the local currency or in U.S. Dollars – a practice called Dynamic Currency Conversion – always opt for the local currency to avoid additional rate hikes and fees.

For cash, use an ATM. While there will be a small fee to use the ATM, it won’t cost nearly as much as the poor exchange rate from a bureau will cost. We take cash out in one or two transactions (depending on the length of the trip and how much we need) so we get both a favorable exchange rate and minimum fees.

Where should you go?

Not sure where to go in Europe? We can help narrow down the choices.

Remember that prices in the U.K. and other countries that don’t use the Euro won’t be affected by the new low rate.

A few countries in the EU may have lower prices and deals for travelers due to their current economic status. It’s always good to look around for deals in these areas. Also consider places where you’ve been holding off on going to a major event due to high prices. Now’s your chance to experience top European events.

Here are a few options to consider:

Greece

Santorini, Greece
Santorini, Greece

Don’t be afraid to travel to Greece in 2015, despite their economic troubles. It’s just as safe to travel in Greece as it ever was and the current status is expected to have very little effect on tourists. If anything, you may find some really good deals, especially when you factor in the lower cost of the Euro. There have been rumblings that Greece might leave the Euro system, but so far that hasn’t occurred. Whether you’ve always wanted to see the Acropolis in Athens or rekindle a romance on one of the many picturesque islands, now is the time to go to Greece.

Portugal

Porto, Portugal
Porto, Portugal

Portugal really has it all when it comes to great vacation destinations, from the city life in Lisbon to the beaches of Madiera and on to the incredible food and wine in Porto. You’ll also be glad to hear that vacationing here is often cheaper than in other top city/beach/wine destinations.

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland

St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland
St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin, Ireland (CC2.0 Photo by William Murphy)

There’s something alluring about spending St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland. If you’ve been waiting for the prefect time to check this off your bucket list, now is the time to do it! Head to Dublin to celebrate at the 3-day annual festival, then take the rest of the week to explore the incredible things that make Ireland so unique and charming.

Oktoberfest in Germany

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany
Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Oktoberfest is the world’s largest celebration of beer and it’s held in Munich, Germany every September. In 2015, they will hold their 182nd event, drawing well over 6 million people to 16 days worth of fun, alongside some serious beer drinking.

Run with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain

Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain
Running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain (CC2.0 Photo by Abir Anwar)

You may not want to attempt the actual running part, but I’m sure you’ve thought it would be fun to see the annual Running of the Bulls festival in Pamplona, Spain. Now is a great time to go to Spain, as prices for hotels have dropped recently. Plan a trip to see the running of the bulls in July, then head to nearby San Sebastian or Rioja for pinchos and vino!

If you thought it was too expensive to go to Europe in the past, you can finally put that excuse to bed and book the trip you’ve been wanting to take. While it is always possible that the exchange rate becomes even more favorable for us, why tempt fate? At a nearly 30% discount already, now is definitely the time to travel in Europe. I don’t know about you, but I am definitely going to take advantage and visit some of the spots in Europe I’ve been holding off on.