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If you read or listen to any media you already know that the US dollar is very strong against the euro compared to where it has been for the last 12 years or so. In fact, that currency exchange rate is just the start of how you can travel to Europe for less this summer than has been possible for quite some time.
Here are 10 tips to Travel to Europe for Less This Summer
1. Take advantage of the strong dollar and the current exchange rate of 1 euro = 1.08 dollars. Just a year ago that exchange rate was roughly 25% worse for those of us paying with dollars, so it is essentially like Europe put up a 25% off sale compared to last year’s rates, at least in those countries that utilize the euro. This one change along can save you hundreds of dollars per week on hotel costs, cabs, train tickets, meals, attractions, etc.
2. Jump on airfare sales that can be found for around $600 round trip in economy. My family just got back from a trip to Spain where our airfare was in the $600 round trip range on a major US carrier. Anything below $1,000 round trip to Europe used to be very rare, but I am spotting those sort of fares with some regularity in recent months. Follow @theflightdeal and move quickly when you see airfare that falls in your price range. Just today I saw flights to Europe for $440 round trip on US Airways from Philadelphia – Frankfurt.
3. Consider low cost carriers WOW Air and Fly Norwegian to save on airfare. If you can’t find low fares on your traditional carrier, WOW Air has had fares for as low as around $99 each way to Iceland and Europe, and while I don’t see $99 fares to Europe right now, they still have some very low prices. Be aware that you are charged extra for everything beyond an 11 pound carry-on, but if you want to get to Europe this summer for less from Boston or BWI, this is a good option to consider. Fly Norwegian operates from additional US cities, so check them out as well. I see round trip options to Europe on these carriers under $500 on select days this summer.
4. Save on hotels as the 2015 TripAdvisor Hotel Pricing Reports states that “The average European hotel rate has fallen nine percent since 2014 to a current 2015 average of $121, which is less than current U.S. average of $127 per night.” This means that on average a night in a European hotel is going to cost you less than one close to home here in the United States. While low gas prices might make a traditional American road trip interesting, be aware your hotel costs may actually be less in Europe!
5. European hotels are costing fewer hotel points than before. In additional to costing less using cash, many European hotels require fewer hotel points for award nights than in recent years. For example, in the annual category adjustments put out by SPG we saw solid European hotel options such as the St. Regis Rome, Le Méridien Vienna, W Paris, and Le Méridien Budapest all drop in points cost.
6. Flight award availability is still out there for summer travel. Along the lines of using points for hotels, you can still use airline miles for summer travel to Europe. I searched yesterday for a family of four traveling to Europe this summer and found many options still out there with good routings from major cities in peak months like June and July. In my example searches Star Alliance (airlines like United) seemed to offer the most award options, but I saw availability for a whole family on multiple airlines. As always, you will have the most success with award flights if you have date and/or destination flexibility. You can always use the train system or book a flight on a low cost carrier to hop around Europe once you get there.
7. Head to countries where your money goes even further. In some European destinations you can get even more for your euro or the local currency, so look to places like Spain, Portugal, Budapest, Istanbul, Prague, Ukraine, Bucharest, etc. if you want to not only take advantage of not only the strong dollar, but also of a local economy that stretches your cash even further. During our recent trip to Spain I was taken back by how affordable everything was from meals to taxis to train tickets compared to our trip to France just a year ago, so your location selections in Europe can also result in big savings.
8. When booking train tickets or similar be sure you are getting the lowest price by going directly to the operator’s website. When we bought train tickets for travel in Spain we saved about 50% by not buying the tickets on the first website that came up in a google search, but instead going straight to the renfe website and purchasing some of the discounted ticket types that were available directly from that website.
9. Pay in euros with a credit card with no foreign transaction fees. While in Europe pay in euros, but do so on a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees. There are many cards out there without foreign transaction fees these days, but two of my favorites are the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card that also awards 2x points on all travel and dining charges and the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® which awards 2x on all purchases and has a chip + pin feature that makes the card very useful at train kiosks and similar throughout Europe.
10. Get a cell phone plan that won’t cost you a fortune to stay connected. If you want to stay connected while traveling in Europe without paying huge roaming fees, then consider a plan like the T-Mobile Simple Choice that offers unlimited international data & text in over 120 countries and destinations, at no extra charge. This can be a huge savings over traditional cell phone plans if you plan to regularly use your cell phone abroad.
There are so many great adventures to be had in Europe, and now is a very affordable time to plan a trip and go explore! What are your favorite ways to save on European trips given the current exchange rate?
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.